When working with clients, I emphasize the importance of taking extra care to present the best camera-ready version of yourself. And to ensure that the way you “look” meets the expectations of your target audience and builds your credibility.
With video, everything counts. Everything your audience sees or hears on-screen either builds your credibility or detracts from it. You will create a more powerful impact if you take extra care when:
- Choosing your filming background
- Applying correct framing techniques
- Using persuasive camera angles
- Applying the right degree of makeup required for video work
- Choosing your styling and wardrobe (the topic of this article)
It’s About Your Viewer
Once you have clarified and defined who your target audience is, you then need to put yourself in your viewers’ shoes. You need to present an image that is congruent with the expectations of your audience. Your wardrobe, jewelry, and styling must add to your authority and credibility.
Think of yourself as an actor in a movie. You need to dress “the part” so that your viewer instantly “gets” who you are and what you are about within in the first few seconds.
Making the right first impression is crucial. Research findings from Harvard suggest that we have 3 to 6 seconds to either make or break a great first impression, and that is even before a word is spoken. A great way to test this is to watch yourself on video with the volume off. Do you look the part? Does your image look like the sort of character that your audience can identify with and trust? For example, I have seen videos created by a business leader trying to teach strategic concepts dressed in board shorts and wearing a beanie. This might have worked if the thought leader owned a skateboard shop in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, and was talking about how he made his business successful, but alas, this was not the case. Rather, the target audience was entrepreneurs in general, and the video series was not well received.
Dressing for success is a big topic and has an element of subjectivity. My intention with this article is to share universal styling rules for men and women appearing on video. (see also: On-Camera Styling Tips for Men and Women).
Everything your audience sees on the screen either builds your credibility or detracts from it
General Do’s and Don’ts
Clothing to Avoid:
- Loose clothing that makes you look larger i.e. large T-shirts, baggy or ill-fitting shirts, dresses
- Square or straight cut clothing styles (i.e. tunics) that don’t pull in at the waist. In fact, any item of clothing that does not outline or suggest a waistline should be avoided
- Clothing with horizontal stripes. The video camera (no matter what size you are) will add about 5-10lbs to your frame, and wearing any of the three types of clothing mentioned above will make you appear larger than you actually are
- Fabrics that wrinkle easily like linen, will show on the screen like ravines
- Silk shirts, which tend to rustle and cause sound problems. Plus they often show perspiration marks
- Hats, unless they are absolutely necessary. Hats can cast shadows that obscure your face and eyes. People are genetically programmed to look at faces. Don’t create a psychological barrier by obscuring half your face
- Trendy fashion clothing, unless you are promoting fashion. The latest fads will quickly date your video
In general, choose classic clothing styles that are tailored specifically for your body shape. Opt for cuts and patterns that are simple and elegant as these generally won’t date your look.
In general, choose classic clothing styles that won’t date
Colors to Avoid:
- Bright reds, oranges, and yellows tend to glow or bleed on-screen (although it can depend on the capabilities of your video camera)
- Black – it absorbs light and can be too dark for most video work and requires a lighting set-up to look good on-screen
- White – it reflects light and can dazzle the viewer. If you have pale skin, white makes your face look underexposed. If you have dark skin it can make you look darker
- Green – particularly if you are using a green screen for background effects
- High contrast patterns, pinstripes, checkered patterns, polka-dots, corduroy, and herringbone – these all create a wavy rainbow-coloured pattern called a moiré effect on video.
Colors to Use:
In general, solid colors work best on video and often won’t date your look. To check which colors suit your skin type try this. Pull up your sleeve and check the veins on your arms. If they look bluer you will probably suit cooler undertones i.e. bright greens, purples, pinks, and reds. If your veins look more green than blue then you will suit warm tones like yellow, peach, golds, browns, dark greens. Note: the reason your veins may look green or blue is due to skin coloration (olive or yellow tones = green etc – there is nothing medically wrong). Keep the vein test in mind when choosing or shopping for your wardrobe selection.
Rich earth tones like taupe, bark, olive, charcoal, coffee, mocha, cocoa browns, smokey grays, bronze, golds, or pastels (provided they are paired with a brighter color) all look great on camera.
If you love color (I do, and wear it a lot in my videos); magenta, limes, teals, quartz purples, emerald greens, mandarin oranges, sapphire blues, amethyst violet, burgundy, plums, topaz, and smokey grays all look great on screen.
Play around with contrasts. If you are dark-haired try wearing a light colored top and vice versa if you are fair-haired. Regardless of what you choose, check how it looks on the screen before you shoot. Also, check that your colors work well with your background setting; they should neither blend into nor clash with your background.
Fabrics that are matte are more flattering to the physique than shiny or metallic type materials which can bounce light at the lens, creating visual distractions. This goes for everything, including your background objects.
Bright Shiny Objects
Unless your business requires it, avoid wearing anything large, flashy and sparkling. Dangly earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and watches can sparkle under the lights and can be distracting for viewers and detract from your message. In women (and dependent on the subject matter) wearing dangly earrings can lessen their authority and credibility. They can also cause sound issues too. Statement pieces work well at networking events, but if worn on video (framed in a medium to close shot) they will often upstage you and your message on-screen. Choose subtle jewelry with matte finishes where possible.
Eyeglasses reflect the glare of the lights. There are some sprays you can buy to dull the shine on your lenses, but it is preferable to go with contact lenses when filming. Glasses hinder your audience from seeing your eyes, and your ability to make good eye contact with the camera.
What the Camera sees
Remember that the video camera “sees” things differently than the human eye. When dressing for your video presentations, the general rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Choose classic clothing styles in solid colors with no fine patterns and no distracting jewelry.
Unless you are in the business of selling clothing, you want your viewers to spend more time looking at your face (and hearing your message) than staring or wondering about your clothing choices.
Have questions about your own video presentations? Let me know about them here.