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Thread: Wardrobe Choices for Photography

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Wardrobe Choices for Photography

    I am reading a book on photography which has a lot of great low cost tips, but I am questioning the validity of the following.

    Wearing white helps reflect light on to your subject, and wearing black helps to deflect light...? ie; would it make a significant difference
    Last edited by Brownbear; 20th March 2013 at 03:02 PM.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Wardrobe Choices for Photography

    Carefully said, I understand where the book is coming from but I think it might be exaggerating the net impact. What it is saying that if you wear white, you are effectively wearing a white reflector and that can effectively impact your image, while if you are wearing black, you have a "negative" light source (much like using a black reflector).

    The reason I say this is only correct to a point is that unless the pose is done in such a way the light is falling and reflecting back onto the subject. If someone is sitting on the ground with a large light dress spread in from of them, bouncing the light back into the subjects face, yes that can happen. Try the same shot when the subject is back lit, and standing up, the dress would have minimal impact on the image.

    I find that white is problematic in photography for two reasons that usually outweigh the impact as a reflector. Our eyes are drawn to light colours, so from a compositional standpoint, everyone's eyes will be drawn to the white. If this is not the subject of the image, this can be a bit of an issue and must be handled with care.

    The other issue is that, depending on the shot, if there is too much white in the shot, it will mess up your exposure. I know a local wedding photographer who has had to deal with situations where the groom is a naval officer, as are the rest of the men in the wedding party and they all show up in their dress whites. Add the bride in white and the scene is anything but close to being 18% gray...

    Black can be problematic as well, but I find it is more forgiving to work with than white. It will show up dust and dandruff quite nicely, so it can increase your retouching time. I guess if you are shooting someone in a dark colour against a black background, you have to be careful with your lighting so the subject does not blend with the background. Time to bring out the rim light.
    Last edited by GrumpyDiver; 20th March 2013 at 05:05 PM. Reason: Typo correction

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Wardrobe Choices for Photography

    Thank you for a great explanation.

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    Re: Wardrobe Choices for Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina S View Post

    Wearing white helps reflect light on to your subject, and wearing black helps to deflect light...? ie; would it make a significant difference
    At the risk of appearing obtuse, are you referring to the subject's clothing or the photographer's clothing?

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    Re: Wardrobe Choices for Photography

    Hi Mike, I am referring to the photographers clothing... truly, I'm the thick-headed soul soon to seen only in black or white clothing, depending on the lighting conditions

    In the complete photo manual of popular photography

    Use clothes as reflectors.

    "The worlds simplest reflector? A white T-shirt. It bounces light onto subjects almost as well as the real thing. To absorb excess light, wear a black one while you shoot. "
    Last edited by Brownbear; 20th March 2013 at 10:41 PM.

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    Wardrobe Choices for Photography

    Black and white reflectors - correctly placed make a huge difference, but not photographer clothing.

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Wardrobe Choices for Photography

    Thank you Colin...

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Black and white reflectors - correctly placed make a huge difference, but not photographer clothing.

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    Re: Wardrobe Choices for Photography

    I do some food photography and I usually wear white to help with the fill light (key light usually umbrella or soft box to the rear (45 degrees). As the food is quite close to me I believe it can make a difference. And no I am not going to change shirts in the middle of a restaurant to show the difference (I don't have the body for it).
    Same for macro, larger subjects, no visble difference as the separation between reflector (shirt) and subject is going to be greater). Perhaps I should start to wear a silver shirt (bring back disco - or not).
    Graham.

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    Re: Wardrobe Choices for Photography

    Now that I realize that we're discussing the photographer's clothing, I'll mention that there are very particular, comparatively limited situations in which wearing a particular color of clothing (not necessarily black or white) can help prevent a reflection of the photographer from appearing in the photograph. Even then, there are better solutions.

    However, that fact is entirely unrelated to the photography manual's suggestion to wear clothing that makes the subject more attractive by adding or subtracting light.

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    Re: Wardrobe Choices for Photography

    I am starting to think that I should shoot nearly naked. At my age, I should fairly accurately represent an 18% grey card.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Wardrobe Choices for Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post
    At the risk of appearing obtuse, are you referring to the subject's clothing or the photographer's clothing?
    I had assumed you were referring to the subjects clothing; because as a photographer I am looking at how to get the best shot of the subject. I've never worried about what I wear because for the type of photography I do, I'm never that close to the subject where the color I'm wearing will impact the subject

    It is absolutely true that you can get "colour contamination" when reflected light falls on your subject. Try taking a picture of a white object positioned very close to a wall in a deep red-coloured room. I suspect, under the right conditions, in closeup work, you could have this issue. Use a tripod and cable release and step away; problem solved. I still think it is generally more of a theoretical than real problem.

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    Re: Wardrobe Choices for Photography

    White maybe of benefit if taking macro or flower photographs but in general unless the photographer is huge it will make little difference. It may also help to be in white if taking portraits in a room with a single window as the only light source but reflectors will be far more useful.

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    Re: Wardrobe Choices for Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by brannend View Post
    I am starting to think that I should shoot nearly naked. At my age, I should fairly accurately represent an 18% grey card.
    Thanks David - please remind me not to pixel peep at the eyes of any portraits you post on here in the future!

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    Re: Wardrobe Choices for Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina S View Post
    Thank you Colin...
    No worries. I have seen an on-camera flash bounced of a chap wearing a white shirt with good effect though.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Wardrobe Choices for Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    No worries. I have seen an on-camera flash bounced of a chap wearing a white shirt with good effect though.
    He was last seen wandering through nearby fields in a nearly blind state?

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    Wardrobe Choices for Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    He was last seen wandering through nearby fields in a nearly blind state?
    Dunno - it was in David Ziser's Captured by the Light book.

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