Using colour in your headshots

While an interesting headshot is important, I often place meaning and communication above that. Of course, I’m striving for both wherever possible because colours carry a myriad of associations depending on the context and application. The right colour can cause an instant reaction not only for casting but in business too, helping people see you as a viable candidate for the roles you’re right for, a master of your craft or the solution to their problem.

My clients have the luxury to shoot several looks are able to target more comprehensively and make bolder choices with colour. Ever notice the colour schemes in your favourite tv shows? Olivia Pope, Kerry Washington’s character on “Scandal,” often wears white dresses and coats? This is because viewers subliminally perceive white as a hero tone and Olivia Pope is positioned as a gladiator, a hero to be looked up to. White is a deliberate choice used to drive home this message to the audience. Similarly, Hank and Marie Schrader’s home in “Breaking Bad” is covered in purple pillows, purple couches, purple drapes, etc. Viewers subliminally perceive purple as a colour of passion and Hank is a detective with a passionate, almost neurotic obsession with Heisenberg.

Below is a run-through of colours, their meanings, and how each one can be used to effectively communicate something in your headshots. 

Black: Good for aging clients and increasing perceived depth. Helps convey a sense of timelessness or intelligence.

White: Hero/lead/innocuous/pure. Can be used to convey your ability to portray a pure soul, doctor, or leader.

Grey: I often think this colour conveys wisdom. Grey can also be used as an alternative to black. For people with long black hair, grey can be a more dynamic choice as it provides more tonal contrast.

Red: This is the colour of power and intensity. Use caution with this one because while it does get noticed, it sends a very clear message. While not versatile, if your strength and interest is the villainous archetype or a power figure, this is a great way to achieve it. Conversely, your favourite shirt may be red but if you’re targeting girl-next-door, you’ll want to take a different route.  

 Blue: Blue is tricky and depends on the context and expression in the photo. Typically, it comes off as trustworthy, depth, foreboding, or soothing. This is part of the reason I’m a big fan of this colour in people’s wardrobes.

Yellow: Vibrant, friendly, energetic (depending on the tone).  

Green: This one depends on hue. Forrest green can come off wholesome/natural, but a dusty olive green is very rugged. The connotations of some greens is military, while others like emerald green signal regalness and timelessness.

Purple: The colour of love and passion. Great if you’re targeting love interest roles but given the right expression, it can communicate intensity as well.

Pink: Innocent, reliant, young, inexperienced. This colour is a great tool if you’re aiming to age yourself down. If you’re one of those 24-year-olds who belongs on shows like “Glee,” pink could help you make a case for that!

There are a lot of tools our there to help you with choice too. Here’s one that I love to use:

This knowledge is power. You can tailor the colour of your clothing your specific look and goals in order to get noticed and communicate with your own voice instantly. Think of it as the difference between a tailored suit and a suit straight off the rack. When you put thought and measurement into your image, you make more of an impact on your surrounding.

Hi there! I’m Amanda Waschevski

I AM A HEADSHOT AND PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER BASED IN IPSWICH, QLD. I help people be themselves in front a camera.

Amanda Waschevski, Ipswich Portraitist

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Every couple of weeks I send out new photographs, stories and interesting links. No spam. Unsubscribe whenever you want.