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Don't Let Your Outfit Cause A Color Cast

Did you know that what you wear may have a huge influence on the look or your images? In portrait, landscape, or sports photography, you will most likely be working far enough away from your subject that you won't notice the effects of your outfit on your subject. Let me show you what happened while shooting with a red shirt.

When shooting food or product, you will generally be working in a close proximity to your subject. Because of this, it isn't uncommon for your attire to reflect light from your light source back onto your subject. This reflection will cause a color cast onto your set and is most noticeable on light-colored or reflective backgrounds, props, and subjects. Below is an example of a white background with a metal reflective prop.


In both of these shots, I was shooting from an overhead camera angle with the light behind the subject. This camera position and lighting placement combined with my red shirt were the culprits of this color cast. Below are two set shots of my two different outfits.

I'm not bending over the subject like I was while taking the picture of the sausages, but you can still see how the metal pan picks up a colored highlight from my clothing.

So how can one fix this? Sure, you can place reflectors between you and the subject, or you can change your camera angle and lighting direction. You could shoot with an arm above the subject, or you could even fix the color cast in Photoshop, but the simplest option is to just change your outfit.

If you know that you will be working with food or a product at a shoot, avoid wearing bright colors that could leave color casts.

This color cast concept doesn't just apply to what you are wearing. There are other items on set that could introduce a cast. Restaurants often like to use bright and vibrant colors in their interior designs. Tables, drapes, booths, or other design elements could introduce a color cast into your dish shot. When finding the ideal location to shoot a restaurants dish, keep your surroundings in mind and find the location that will best prevent these color casts.

For more food photography tips, tricks, and techniques, check out photographing FOOD issues 1-8.

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cchdisqus's picture

Also - generally if you're doing this type of work, you want to be on a tripod. And for product or food shots where details are important, tethering is a strong suggestion. Generally if you're tethering, you can place enough distance between yourself and the object you're photographing. At that point, color cast wouldn't be as much of an issue. But for times when tethering isn't an option, this is a definite must!

Spy Black's picture

I dunno. If your flashes are fast enough, you'll be fine. Sometimes you need to move around to find a right angle. Generally speaking I will agree with you however.

cchdisqus's picture

very true! I typically "build" my compositions as I go, lighting and styling, etc. and like to have a shot of just the environment for a backplate for retouching later. Not moving the frame would be important in my case. But it's not the end of the world depending on the project.

Michael Comeau's picture

I've posted a fair number of negative comments on FStoppers, but I have to say, I really enjoy this series of food photography articles.

Matt Armendariz's picture

Glad to see this covered! Such a great observation and solution! I have to run away from the set when wearing bright colors but as cch mentioned luckily when shooting tethered it's not an issue (or with strobe). But being on location with bright color ceilings? UGH. :)

Spy Black's picture

I guess that's an appealing food shot...

pharmacy's picture

That's subjective. I don't think it makes much sense to have a huge red cast over your image just because. But that doesn't really matter, It's not something to be done in a regular shoot. If you're in the business you know you can't present that to a client.

Spy Black's picture

It was a sarcastic remark. The image did not look that appealing to me, regardless of color cast.

Andrea Tani's picture

I always wear dark gray or black attire while shooting any kind of photography (yes even wedding in july). My fist passion was still life and food photography and I learned this lesson the hard way: always mind reflections and color casts, even when it doesn't seem obvious.
Simple but great article

greg tennyson's picture

Can I tag along and eat the food when you guys are done shooting it?

Spy Black's picture

Something else I take from this, it may be a good idea to deliberately induce a color cast on your shot to enhance it.

Tony Carter's picture

Agreed, you can totally use a clean white t-shirt (or a large-bodied stranger with one on) as a makeshift reflector :)