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Spinning the Color Wheel

By August 29, 2018Blog

A friend of mine decided to simplify her wardrobe a while back. Her entire closet is now filled with clothes that are all black: black pants, black sweaters, black jackets. Sure, she might have a contrasting colored blouse or camisole for a pop of color, but those alternatives are few and far between.

If she were asked to appear on camera, she would have a distinct challenge because basic black can be complicated for the camera to read.

Cameras have come a long way in their ability to detect detail, but when black is the primary color of your clothing, it can be hard for any camera to tackle. Black clothes can suck all the light out of the shot, and they can also end up looking like one dark blob. Black can be even more problematic if someone who has a light skin tone is wearing it. The camera cannot make sense of the high contrast and overcompensates by throwing off skin color.

Other color no-no’s include white and bright reds. Unless you want to appear ethereal, you should avoid wearing white as your primary color. Your white clothes will glow, reflecting way too much light.

Certain reds can also be too vivid for the camera. A tomato red may blow out the color balance on your camera and blow away any chance that your audience will pay attention to your message.

So What Colors Do Work Well On Camera?

When showing up for a shoot, I always arrive with at least five blouses in an array of colors, but I easily could have brought just one.

I hold up the different tops for the producer and, inevitably, he or she chooses this one particular blouse that’s a shade of cerulean blue leaning towards turquoise.

Blue is a solid color choice for anyone on camera—pick the shade that you like best. But blue isn’t the only color option. Jewel tones can help to liven up the shot and usually play well with most background colors.

Some video producers advocate wearing only pastels. However, if you are pale-skinned, you can end up looking washed out.

The majority of us are drawn to colors that complement our complexions and make us feel good when we are wearing them. That will serve you well as you consider what color to wear on camera.

Solids: A Solid Choice

When it comes to deciding between solids or patterns for your on-camera wardrobe, solid colors are by far a better choice. This is because patterns can produce what is called the moiré effect, which makes your clothes appear to be perpetually dancing.

According to Nasim Manurov, a professional photographer and founding author of Photography Life, “Moiré pattern occurs when a scene or an object that is being photographed contains repetitive details (such as lines, dots, etc.) that exceed the sensor resolution. As a result, the camera produces a strange-looking wavy pattern.”

The moiré effect can be produced by a variety of textures and patterns in clothes. Tweeds, small checks, and stripes are always suspect, but even some woven textures in a solid color can dance.

Keep It Safe

As I have emphasized before, when you’re on-camera, you want the focus to be on what you are saying, not your clothing… or the color of it. Stick with basic pieces that are in a solid color – so your message sings and your clothes don’t dance.

Learn More: On-Camera Coach

If you found this information valuable, check out my book, On-Camera Coach: Tools and Techniques for Business Professionals in a Video-Driven World, now available from Wiley Publishing. On-Camera Coach aims to take the mystery out of communicating through the camera and provides specific tips and techniques that can make your message sing—and you, the messenger, feel confident in a job well done.