Lookin' Good for the Video Shoot

Looking Good

Whatever the budget, it’s important for talent (actors, interviewees, or other speakers in the video) to look good.

This means advance attention to clothing and make-up. We’ll assume for purposes of this article that the talent just needs to look natural, and that special effects make-up and dramatic or period costumes are not required.

The Director

Ideally there is someone with a vision directing traffic, i.e. a director. On lower-budget projects the director’s role is often combined with that of the producer. For very simple shoots, this role is often eliminated entirely. However, if these responsibilities are not consciously taken on by someone, the video will suffer. Someone in advance of the shoot must have a plan for the story or message the video will tell. Based on this plan, an overall look or style should be defined that supports this message. This look should be reflected in the set/environment/location where the video will be shot, the clothing and makeup worn by the talent, and the lighting and shooting style of the videographer. The director (or whoever is filling this role) should think this through and communicate it to the crew and talent in advance to allow them to prepare.


Clothing should support the desired style, be flattering to the wearer, look good on camera, and not create problems.

  1. Style, e.g., glamorous, upscale & sophisticated, “normal” dress, hip young & wacky, etc. In general, clothing should allow the viewer to focus on the message not compete for attention. It’s also best to avoid very trendy, conspicuous or flashy clothing as these can quickly date the video.
  2. Consider bringing one or more changes of clothing to provide choice/flexibility, allow for scene changes, protect in case of spills, etc.
  3. Color:
    • Pastels and earth tones typically work well.
    • Stick to colors near the middle of the brightness spectrum without a lot of contrast. Clothing that combines very dark and very light colors often doesn’t look good on video screens – the darks may fade into uniform blackness and the whites wash out, looking flat and overpowering more muted colors and skin tones.
    • Avoid deeply saturated colors, especially red, as these may bleed into other areas and overpower the rest of the scene.
  4. The set: Clothes should reflect the environment in the scene and not blend into or clash with the background and furnishings. For example:
    • If the set is casual, don’t dress in a business suit or glamour gown.
    • If the scene is shot against a white background, don’t wear white.
    • If the shoot is chromakey, e.g., blue or green screen, don’t wear the color of the background.
  5. Clothing should flatter: Video often tends to add pounds. Baggy clothing and clothing with horizontal lines tends to broaden and shorten even further. Warm colors and pastels tend to flatter as well.
  6. Avoid problems:
    • Tight patterns like checks, stripes, herringbone and hounds tooth tend to create moiré patterns on screen.
    • Fabrics that wrinkle easily and show sweat stains quickly.
    • Clothing and jewelry that will rustle, jangle or cause other noise problems.
    • Shiny jewelry and glasses (unless the glasses are absolutely necessary because people won’t recognize you or you can’t see and will squint without them).
    • Hats, because they cast shadows
    • Clothing and shoes that show brand names, logos, and images that may be copyrighted, as these will require permission before use.


Except in cases where special effects makeup is required, make-up should be undetectable to the viewer, look natural and improve your appearance. For most purposes, the daily makeup worn by most women is all that is needed. Women are usually used to applying and wearing makeup, but men will also benefit from its use, although they may initially feel uncomfortable with the idea.

  • Foundation covers minor skin blemishes, evens out skin color, and makes the skin appear smoother.
  • Powder and foundation help hide undesirable shine on the forehead, nose and receding hairlines.
  • Eyeliner makes eyes look larger.
  • A light blush emphasizes the cheekbones and the added color can prevent bright video lights from washing out skin tone.
  • Makeup can also hide facial imperfections, such as circles under the eyes, sagging chins, scars and misshapen noses. If you talent has these kinds of special needs, a professional makeup artist may be needed.

Final Check before Shooting

Before the shooting starts, do a final visual check using an external monitor if possible. Everyone on the set can help – the more eyes, the better. Make sure everyone understands that tiny details can sometimes make or break a video and are worthy of time and attention.

  • Look for smudged mascara, crooked collar, shiny forehead, fly-away hair, eyeglass reflections, wrinkled shirts, poor posture, etc. – anything that will detract from the finished video.
  • Look for ways the lighting should be adjusted, such as backlighting to keep the talent from blending into the background, changing the key light to flatter certain facial features, adding a gel to bring out warn skin tones, or accenting interesting elements in the background.
  • Do a final microphone test to make sure the lavalier is not rubbing against clothing, levels are in the correct range, the camera is set to external not internal mics, etc.
  • If this is a longer shoot with breaks and scene changes, someone needs to pay special attention to continuity. A woman’s hair should not be behind her ears in one sentence but wind-blown or flowing freely in the next sentence. A man’s collar should not be outside his jacket in one shot and inside in the next.

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