These simple guidelines can help you make your decision.
What Not to Wear for Your Legal Portrait
Clothes convey more than many of us are willing to admit. But sooner or later we all see someone whose clothing either sticks out like a sore thumb or undermines them—neither of which is great for a legal portrait. Some clothing choices are wrong no matter what your goal is.
For a professional portrait appearance, avoid:
- Very trendy clothing. You might love it now, but it will look dated in a year. Clothing that’s too trendy can also undermine your professional image.
- Bright, loud prints. They may not look good on camera and can be distracting.
- Any color that is very close to your skin tone. You’ll look washed out—and possibly like you’re not wearing anything at all.
- Heavy jewelry. Men should avoid all jewelry except for a wedding ring. Women should stick to understated studs and small necklaces. Anything more risks looking gaudy and overdone in photos.
- Seasonal styles. Your portrait will be in use all year round so your outfit should reflect that. Choose a color palate and wardrobe that is appropriate for any season.
- Sleeveless dresses. The legal field is still conservative and a little skin may alienate some clients. It’s best not to take the risk and choose a dress or jacket that will appeal to everyone.
Choose Professional, Conservative Attire
You’ve probably heard the old adage to “dress for the job you want.” Your headshot is often the first impression a potential client will have of you and people really do judge books by their covers.
Potential clients will use your headshot to decide if they want to work with you. When you speak at CLEs or on panels, your photo may be the first thing attendees see. So select conservative, professional attire that’s as dressy or slightly dressier than what you wear everyday.
Men can’t go wrong with a well-cut suit and tie. Women will stand out in suits or a dress and blazer. Select cuts that are current, but not too trendy. A super-skinny tie, for instance, will quickly look dated. If you’re not sure, try asking for help at a local suit shop. The professionals are experts at helping their client look pulled-together.
Pick Cuts and Colors That Are Flattering
Now’s the time to splurge on something that you know looks great. The way you feel about your appearance can affect how comfortable you look in your photo. So keep searching for an outfit until you find something that you feel good wearing.
A few simple guidelines can help you choose the right cut and color:
- Your clothes should be tailored and well-fitting–neither too tight nor too loose.
- Avoid unusual necklines and distracting accessories. Turtlenecks tend to look strange in photos.
- Know how much of your body the headshot will include. If you’ll also be taking a full-length photo, invest in great shoes and a well-fitting pair of pants or skirt.
- Know Your Background
- Ask about the background that will be used for the photo ahead of time. The quality of the suite won’t matter if you don’t take the setting into consideration. Consider, for example, how a sharp red dress might look against a maroon background. Choosing colors that complement or contrast with the background can help your image pop.
Know Your Client Base
You know your clients best. Appealing to your ideal client might mean deviating from these recommendations. For instance, a lawyer who works in entertainment law may need to wear trendier clothing—and update their headshot more frequently as a result. Alternatively, a necklace with a cross might be appropriate for a religious lawyer who works exclusively with churches. Consider what your clients might be looking for. Then ask yourself how you can give them that, and whether your fashion choices might alienate anyone.
We’re Here to Help
When in doubt, talk to your photographer. They’ve shot hundreds or thousands of portraits and they know what works. You might need to try something a bit different from what you’re used to but trusting the expertise of a skilled photographer can help you create a timeless, beautiful portrait.