What type of emotion do you want your headshot to portray?
Red is the color of fire and blood, so it is associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power, determination as well as passion, desire, and love. Red is a very emotionally intense color. It enhances human metabolism, increases respiration rate, and raises blood pressure. It has very high visibility, which is why stop signs, stoplights, and fire equipment are usually painted red. In heraldry, red is used to indicate courage. It is a color found in many national flags. Since this is such a strong color, it is much more effective to use it in small amounts. When overused, red can really take away from the subject. A red background is discouraged.
Light red represents joy, sexuality, passion, sensitivity, and love.
Pink signifies romance, love, and friendship. It denotes feminine qualities and passiveness.
Dark red is associated with vigor, willpower, rage, anger, leadership, courage, longing, malice, and wrath.
Brown suggests stability and denotes masculine qualities.
Reddish-brown is associated with harvest and fall.
Orange combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. It is associated with joy, sunshine, and the tropics. Orange represents enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, and stimulation. To the human eye, orange is a very hot color, so it gives the sensation of heat. Nevertheless, orange is not as aggressive as red. Orange increases oxygen supply to the brain, produces an invigorating effect, and stimulates mental activity. It is highly accepted among young people. As a citrus color, orange is associated with healthy food and stimulates appetite. Orange is the color of fall and harvest. In heraldry, orange is symbolic of strength and endurance. Orange has very high visibility, so you can use it to catch attention and highlight the most important elements of your design. That’s why wearing the color orange for your headshot is often not a great choice unless used in small doses. The color demands attention, thereby taking away some from the face of the subject. Throwing some orange into the shot is great to add a bit of excitement and warmth to an image. Orange can be used in small stripes or designs in the pattern of clothing, but should rarely be used as the primary color of an inner or outer layer. An orange background is also not recommended, as it will distract from the face.
Dark orange can mean deceit and distrust.
Red-orange corresponds to desire, sexual passion, pleasure, domination, aggression, and thirst for action.
Gold evokes the feeling of prestige. The meaning of gold is illumination, wisdom, and wealth. Gold often symbolizes high quality.
Yellow is the color of sunshine. It's associated with joy, happiness, intellect, and energy. Yellow produces a warming effect, arouses cheerfulness, stimulates mental activity, and generates muscle energy. Yellow is often associated with food. Bright, pure yellow is an attention getter, which is the reason taxicabs are painted this color. When overused, yellow may have a disturbing effect; it is known that babies cry more in yellow rooms. Yellow is seen before other colors when placed against black; this combination is often used to issue a warning. In heraldry, yellow indicates honor and loyalty. Later the meaning of yellow was connected with cowardice. Use yellow to evoke pleasant, cheerful feelings. Yellow is very effective for attracting attention, so use it to highlight the most important elements of your design. Men usually perceive yellow as a very lighthearted, 'childish' color, so it is not recommended to use yellow when selling prestigious, expensive products to men – nobody will buy a yellow business suit or a yellow Mercedes. Yellow is an unstable and spontaneous color, so avoid using yellow if you want to suggest stability and safety. Light yellow tends to disappear into white, so it usually needs a dark color to highlight it. Shades of yellow are visually unappealing because they lose cheerfulness and become dingy. Yellow should almost never be used as the primary color because of how bright and attention grabbing it is. But if it is worn, it should almost always be used as an inner layer. When used as the primary color in a shirt, it will represent happiness and joy. When used as a smaller, less visible color, it then can have a range of effects, from deceit and cowardliness to money and danger. The effect it has will be based on what emotion the character is portraying in his or her expression. Yellow backgrounds typically signify happiness, but again should be used sparingly because of how much attention they demand and how bright they can be in the image.
Dull (dingy) yellow represents caution, decay, sickness, and jealousy.
Light yellow is associated with intellect, freshness, and joy.
Green is the color of nature. It symbolizes growth, harmony, freshness, and fertility. Green has strong emotional correspondence with safety. Dark green is also commonly associated with money. Green has great healing power. It is the most restful color for the human eye; it can improve vision. Green suggests stability and endurance. Sometimes green denotes lack of experience; for example, a 'greenhorn' is a novice. In heraldry, green indicates growth and hope. Green, as opposed to red, means safety; it is the color of free passage in road traffic. An outer layer of green in the picture often symbolizes stability and harmony in a character. However, when used as an inner layer, it can symbolize inexperience and jealousy. A green background often symbolizes growth and life giving any character in a picture a more energetic and happy feel. Dark green is associated with ambition, greed.
Dark green is associated with ambition, greed, and jealousy.
Yellow-green can indicate sickness, cowardice, discord, and jealousy.
Aqua is associated with emotional healing and protection.
Olive green is the traditional color of peace.
Blue is the color of the sky and sea. It is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven. Blue is considered beneficial to the mind and body. It slows human metabolism and produces a calming effect. Blue is strongly associated with tranquility and calmness. In heraldry, blue is used to symbolize piety and sincerity. As opposed to emotionally warm colors like red, orange, and yellow; blue is linked to consciousness and intellect. Blue is a masculine color; according to studies, it is highly accepted among males. Dark blue is associated with depth, expertise, and stability; it is a preferred color for corporate America. The color blue primarily gives off the feeling of professionalism and confidence, especially if it is in the top-most layer of clothing. Wearing blue underneath the top layer usually denotes peace and calm, especially if it is a paler shade of blue. Having a blue background will often denote sadness in the image.
Light blue is associated with health, healing, tranquility, understanding, and softness.
Dark blue represents knowledge, power, integrity, and seriousness.
Purple combines the stability of blue and the energy of red. Purple is associated with royalty. It symbolizes power, nobility, luxury, and ambition. It conveys wealth and extravagance. Purple is associated with wisdom, dignity, independence, creativity, mystery, and magic.
Light purple evokes romantic and nostalgic feelings.
Dark purple evokes gloom and sad feelings. It can cause frustration.
Pink symbolizes love and romance, caring, tenderness, acceptance and calm. It denotes feminine qualities and passiveness. Pink is a delicate color, mostly used for females. It typically denotes tenderness and playfulness, and should be worn as an inner layer. Too much pink, such as an entire outer layer, will likely detract from the face. Fortunately, combining pink with darker colors can bring more professional and mature look. Combining it with lighter pastel tones makes it even more playful! A pink background is highly discouraged as it will draw attention to itself and be a distraction.
Beige and ivory symbolize unification. Ivory symbolizes quiet and pleasantness. Beige symbolizes calm and simplicity. Beige is an interesting color because it acts similarly to a chameleon, taking on aspects and emotions of any color it is worn with. As an outer layer, beige will add conservatism and sophistication to any outfit. Wearing beige as an inner layer is not recommended because it usually looks strange against skin tones. Beige pants work well, however.
Brown color symbolizes earth, stability, hearth, home, reliability, endurance, simplicity, and comfort. As a more casual color than black, brown can be worn to signify warmth and honesty. It is usually used to make other colors appear brighter and richer, bringing out the emotions of them more. A brown background will usually give the viewer a feeling of wholesomeness and makes the subject appear trustworthy and loyal.
Gray combines security, reliability, intelligence, staid, modesty, dignity, maturity, solid, conservative, practical, old age, and sadness. Usually worn as an outer layer, gray adds a bit of professionalism to image and neutralizes brighter colors. Of course, the effect is much more subtle than black, and as the shade of gray gets lighter, the effect becomes even less pronounced. Darker gray is best worn on men and lighter gray on women. Wearing gray as an inner layer typically doesn't work because it feels awkward having a colorful outer layer and non-colored inner layer. The only case in which it works is if the client wears a darker shade of gray on the outer layer. One must be careful however of overusing the color gray, as it can become boring and depressing quite easily. Light backgrounds give an image a dingy and boring look, so they are not recommended. If a gray background must be used, the darker the better.
White is associated with light, goodness, innocence, purity, and virginity. It is considered to be the color of perfection. White means safety, purity, and cleanliness. As opposed to black, white usually has a positive connotation. White can represent a successful beginning. In heraldry, white depicts faith and purity. White should be used sparingly because it can attract attention and can sometimes be overexposed. Flat white backgrounds works well to remove any distracting elements from the image and will give the image a high-key, happy feel. Wearing a white shirt underneath a suit jacket works very well for a look. But more white than that can become distracting.
Black is associated with power, elegance, formality, death, evil, and mystery. Black is a mysterious color associated with fear and the unknown (black holes). It usually has a negative connotation (blacklist, black humor, 'black death'). Black denotes strength and authority; it is considered to be a very formal, elegant, and prestigious color (black tie, black Mercedes). In heraldry, black is the symbol of grief. Black gives the feeling of perspective and depth. An all-black background gives a feeling of professionalism and or mystery, depending on the lighting in the picture. A black suit or dress can make you look thinner. When designing for a gallery of art or photography, you can use a black or gray background to make the other colors stand out. Black contrasts well with bright colors. Combined with red or orange – other very powerful colors – black gives a very aggressive color scheme. Wearing a black outer layer typically denotes a feeling of elegance and sophistication. It can bring out a professional feel in any outfit and sometimes even lends a sense of mystery to a character, especially if it's worn underneath the outer layer. When black is the only color worn, it winds up bringing out a sad feeling, because mourning is usually symbolized by the color black. I don't recommend wearing black with another dark color, especially if the colors are close to each other because they may blend together and look muddy and unprofessional.