It's not about dressing up...
It’s not about dressing up…

We get this question all the time.  As much as camera technology has advanced over time, there are still some important things to understand about how light is processed through a lens and what your choice of attire can do to mess it up.

Our eyes are still better at adjusting to many things than a camera is. The color and the patterns we see will look different through the lens. When it comes to TV, you really want to dress for the camera to look your best.  Some people worry too much – but it is good to have a little knowledge as to WHY we are asking you not to do certain things.  I have divided these tips that I generally share into a couple of simple categories to make this as easy as it really is.

1. Color

Bold colors can do a lot to project certain traits of your personality but how they are paired with other items can make a big difference.  If you are wearing a bright red tie over a very neutral shirt, the color could easily bleed.  This can also make your face look flush as the camera attempts to balance everything in the scene.  The challenge is in high contrast images.

This is why we often say NOT to wear all black or all white shirts.

The camera looks for the predominant value in the scene so it can balance everything else.  A lot of black can cause an over exposure of other, brighter colors.  All white forces the camera to seek a middle value as base for the other colors and consequently under expose them.   Any of these can then costs a loss of detail and often make it hard to get skin tones looking good.

This is why you will often see cool blues, natural tones and pastels.  It is always helpful to stay away from primary sold colors, bright red, blue or green, choosing off or light version of the colors is always better. Earth Tones are a great choice as well.

Any tie, jacket, shirt combination should be subdued.  Blues are probably the most camera friendly and this is why you often see us men abusing them as our ‘go to’ color when doing a video.

2. Patterns

Pinstripes, checks, herringbones and textured fabrics will wreak havoc for the camera. These patterns will interfere with the camera sensor and you will see a strange ‘swimming’ effect which can be distracting and dizzying.   After 300 or so videos, I get tired of wearing the same darn thing however and using a patterned shirt underneath a neutral jacket seems to work OK (“most of the time” added by Producer Steve who must be ‘accepting’ my jacket over busy shirt strategy more often than I realized)


Solids are your safest bet.

3. Reflections

As you would probably guess. There are (or should be) a lot of lights used within video.  A good video production will pay attention to the lighting of the background and the lighting of the talent (that’s you).  Basic lighting of a person includes at least three lights:

– Key light (main light directed toward the front of you),

– Fill light (control the amount of shadow thrown from the key light), and a

– Hair light (sounds gross…but not for your hotel room, this light is often behind you aimed at your head…it is great for getting separation from the background).

Shine On.

All of these foreground lights are directed at you so it makes sense to think about how reflective you are.   This is not usually an issue for guys as we don’t tend to wear much jewelry.  However, if you wear glasses and are doing a lot of video, a pair of glasses that has a NON-REFLECTIVE coating can be very helpful. This will cut down on the lights reflecting back at the camera, thus allowing  the audience to see your eyes.  And then there is makeup.  I don’t like wearing makeup any more than most guys but we are only wearing it to remove the shine.  Unless you have seen it, you just would not believe how shiny our faces can get under these lights.  It does not look good. A little anti-shine can go a long way in looking healthy.

4. Noise

Jewelry can always be a nice touch for anyone of course but beyond making sure it does not reflect in strange ways…be sure its not causing too much noise. I have worked with some people that show up dressed like a wind chime…and they sound like it too. Less a problem for men of course but we tend to mess this one up in two ways:  big class rings and watches.

Watches and rings tend to bang on stuff, especially lab tables, keyboards and any hardware demos based on my experience.  I sometimes punctuate a point by lightly banging my hand on the table and anything metal can make a sharp, distracting sound.  This is also one of the reasons it can pay to have a dedicated sound engineer monitoring your recording.  Part of their job is to identify extraneous sounds that are picked up in the recording and help the director determine if things should be redone to get a ‘cleaner take.’

My overall advice: Bring some options. 

Besides being prepared and listening to direction, one thing a Director/Producer will love is a person who comes with alternate shirts or outfits. You can never be too sure how your choice that day will look when put in front of certain backgrounds or when next to other presenters.  Don’t waste time trying to coordinate outfits in advance. Bring some options.

Be as original as usual.

My last tidbit here would be to still remain original. For those of us who work in a corporate atmosphere, we tend to give up on originality.  Most of us dress pretty much the same.  My shows are almost always casual. But if you wear a certain hat. Maybe you are a ‘vest’ guy…or just always wear khakis.  Then do it. Be yourself. I can’t stand video where the content is not ‘real’ and certainly if the people are not themselves.  I am a boring dresser.  If my wife does not pick it out…then chances are I have done a bad job matching it up.  I like to wear jeans and leave my shirt untucked. This is why you will see that in most of my stuff.   But don’t match me unless its you. I am good either way as long as you stay true to yourself.

Hope that helps a bit!


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PS.  I always hated turning my phone in airplanes as I never found any information about how that could possibly affect plane safety.  I know there is some effect, but if it were really an issue, they would have confiscated our phones a long time ago.  Turning your phone off while in studio however is very important – I will explain why in my next post!  Blog.techwisetv.com


Robb Boyd

Producer, Writer, Host