Pay Attention to How Clothing Reflects Light and Causes Color Casts

When you're shooting portraits, whether in studio or outdoors, you're probably used to controlling your lighting to avoid undesired casts, but there's a potentially surprising source of such casts you might be missing. Check out how much what your model wears and what even what you wear can affect your final images.

Coming to you from the Koldunov Brothers, this interesting video examines how the choice of wardrobe for your subject can reflect light back onto them or even cause a color cast. The issue doesn't stop there, though: what you're wearing as the photographer can also have an appreciable impact on the image. In particular, notice how the yellow shirt not only reflects light back onto the subject, reducing contrast, but also leaves a fairly noticeable color cast on the face. This is the reason people on film sets typically wear dark clothes. It goes beyond just clothes, however: if you frequently shoot portraits outside, you may notice things like green color casts from grass or the like popping up in yours shots. A lot of rhe time, changing the angle formed by the model to what's causing the cast to the light source will alleviate the issue. Just watch for them while you shoot, as they're a bit annoying to clean up in post. 

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Michael Yearout's picture

Alex: Oh, yes it does. I mostly wear black to minimize the effect.

But one trick I learned a few years back was if you are wearing white you can use yourself to bounce your flash off of.

I don't use the trick that much, but once in a while it is handy.

Alex Cooke's picture


Scott Cushman's picture

Bouncing off your own clothes is kind of brilliant. I'm not sure when I'd use it, but I want to try it now.

Working with fitness and sports photography, I end up shooting a lot of saturated, fluorescent colors that often look horrible on people's skin. People with really dark skin can usually get away with those vibrant colors, but we white people need to learn to avoid them unless they're necessary for safety.