Looking Good on TV – Part Two (Book Excerpt)

Viewers will size you up quickly and since TV is a visual medium, you (or your client) need to make sure to look good on TV — and it’s not just about the message. In my book, The Insider’s Guide to Media Training, I cover a lot of topics that are all part of the process to polish on-camera interviews.  Looking Good on TV – Part One of my book excerpt covered the basics of wardrobe guidelines for men and women. Now,  Looking Good on TVPart Two delves into the colors that work best on television and the ones to avoid.

Solid Colors – What Works Best and What to Avoid

Solid colors work best for television, but there are the good, the bad, and the ugly of color choices and that’s why you need to understand some basics about how colors look before the camera, whose lens captures their values and hues very differently than the naked eye does. One advantage to wearing solid colors is that your wardrobe won’t easily become dated since rich, saturated colors never go out of style.

You should choose colors that not only flatter your skin tone and hair color, but also work well on camera. In 1987, color consultant Carole Jackson, wrote Color Me Beautiful, a book that has become the gold standard for determining which colors work best for you. The book is still available through Amazon.   When it comes to color, you should also consider the set design of the show you’ll be appearing on since you don’t want to disappear into the background, but nor do you want to stand out from it in a way that is distracting.

Solid Colors that Work Best On Camera

Jewel tones are all the rage right now but make sure you choose a color that looks great on you, not just the hanger. The colors near your face will either drain you of life or highlight your best features, like your eyes, on camera. There’s a palette of colors that look best on each of us and look especially great on video. Go to MediaTrainingGuide.com and download my quick wardrobe tips that show you a palette of colors that the camera loves.

The safest color on TV is blue but there are many shades of blue and if you’re on a blue screen, then you should avoid this color in any shade.

Pastel shirts or muted colors work well on camera, but do require some caution since they may wash out if they are too soft and can appear more white than their actual color. One useful tip is that pastel colors layered with darker solids like suit jackets will not appear washed out. In fact, pastel colored shirts or blouses are preferred over white since there is no extreme contrast between the dark solid, but instead provide a flattering layer.

Pastels and jewel tones look good, but do avoid ‘glowing’ colors (i.e. neon, certain hues of blues, purples, and reds). Other good colors include beige, gray, green, brown and blue.

If you want to add visual interest with color, try layering two jewel tones in the same color family or two colors that complement each other. Another option is to layer a solid on top of a pattern to mute its effect on camera.

Solid Colors to Avoid On Camera

Certain solids should be avoided or worn with caution because they can be a little tricky. These are colors which the camera is particularly prone to capturing in a wonky way, or which create issues with lighting. Four colors to avoid are all white, black, red, and purple.

  • White: Solid white should be avoided whether it’s a suit, dress, jacket, blouse, shirt or pants. Why? It’s all about lighting. White glows and becomes the most noticeable thing on the TV screen and certain combinations with other solid colors in your attire will create a contrast of light and dark colors (i.e. black and white, dark blue and white, etc.) that make the camera lens go crazy (and the director of photography bonkers). Exceptions do exist and most often involve a chef’s uniform or doctor’s white lab jacket, but this is the general rule. Off white, cream, beige, soft yellow, light blue are colors that can all give a soft, lighter look without blowing out the lighting.
  • Black: Black isn’t a complete “no-no,” but you need to be careful when you wear it. Be aware that if you’re wearing an outfit that is solid black, that black will suck up all the light, causing your body to become invisible against many studio backdrops. So you certainly want to avoid wearing a black shirt under a black suit jacket, but you can wear a jewel or pastel tone shirt underneath as long as it’s not high contrast. Like whites, exceptions do apply and black can look good on camera, but it usually requires good lighting and makeup to add life back to your complexion. If you want to wear a dark color, navy is a better choice. Dark browns and blues are fine alone or combined with pastel colors or jewel tones. Women can also can accessorize with a colorful scarf to avoid an all black look.
  • Red, Purple & Orange: Certain shades of bright red can appear glowing orange and bleed on camera, so if you do wear red, make sure you choose a shade that is blue based rather than yellow based. Also, HDTV has largely solved the “purple” problem, but it’s still a tricky color for cameras to capture authentically. You’ll find your purple dress, blouse, or tie will look blue. Darker shades of red, purple, and orange usually work best.
  • Green: You only need to avoid wearing any shade of green (including some shades of blue) when you are working with a green screen and the control room is keying in the set background.

So that sums up what colors work best and the colors to avoid when it comes to making wardrobe decisions for on-camera interviews, but equally important are fabric patterns.

My next post?  Tune in for Looking Good on TV – Part Three for essential info on prints and patterns that work best on TV and how to avoid on-camera fashion disasters.

Now, I have a special invitation for you to join me and my community of positive minded people in my Facebook Group to Grow Your Business with Video . I can’t wait to connect with you there.

Follow Marianne on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Copyright © 2020 by Marianne Schwab. Excerpt reprinted with Permission. All Rights Reserved..

Author: marianneschwablive

Marianne Schwab is the author of "The Experts Guide to TV Talk Shows" and, as an Audience & Authority Accelerator, she is the go-to broadcast media expert to show you how to tell your story, get you booked on TV, and media coach you on how to ace your on-camera interview. Her producer credits include Live with Regis & Kathie Lee, Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, Runaway with the Rich & Famous, E! Entertainment Television ON E! Specials, and many more. She has worked in broadcast for over 25 years and is currently the Executive Producer for CMP Media Cafe, a company specializing in broadcast public relations where she provides customized media training services for clients.

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