Did you know that the worst-selling colour for clothes at online giant Asos is black?
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While a great percentage of women may love wearing black, it’s safe to say it doesn’t photograph well… hence Asos’s inability to sell many items in our favourite non-colour.
(I assume it’s still the case – I read it a while ago but can’t find the source… if you Google “asos black clothes sales” all you get is stuff about Black Friday. But I’d be surprised if it wasn’t still true.)
Something I’ve been asked a few times over the years when discussing shooting blog photos in my photo tips posts is how to photograph black clothes successfully. Black IS notoriously difficult to photograph, so here are my 6 best tips!
Do note that, as a rare wearer of black, I didn’t have a huge catalogue of photos to show as examples. I very, very rarely wear black head to toe (the nearest I think I ever got was black and navy), but hopefully these outfit photos, with some colour or neutrals thrown in here and there, will give you an idea of how to improve photos of black outfits.
And you don’t have to have a blog – so many of us take photos of what we’re wearing these days (often for Instagram or Facebook) that I’m sure the tips will still come in handy…!
Here they are…
6 tips to help you photograph black clothes successfully
1. Shoot on brighter days
Light is, and will forever be, your best friend when shooting anything. Get the light right and you’re 80% there.
I would almost ALWAYS recommend shooting a black outfit on brighter days; if you have a very dark, gloomy day and no light coming from anywhere, I’d say don’t bother. Very rarely will there be much you can do to resuscitate a picture of black clothes taken with no light.
Two things to note: this is when you can get away with shooting in bright sunshine. Standing in the shade on a sunny day will be your best bet, but sometimes strong sunlight on you will work if you’re wearing deep colours head to toe (white and pale colours will get bleached out).
Above: here we photographed on two different sunny days, but at different angles to the sun. On the left, the sun was slightly behind me so the jacket had lovely light edges and on the right, I stood in direct sun. However, it was pretty low and luckily didn’t cast unflattering shadows on my face.
Extra tip: face the light source. If it’s bright but overcast, still face where the sun is – you will pick up so much more light and therefore detail will show.
2. Shoot against a light background
Another very important tip, but this goes for all outfit shoots: have a contrasting background. Black looks infinitely better when the background is light. The way to tell if you’ve got the right background? Get the photographer to squint at what’s being shot. If you’ve blended into the background, it’s too dark. (Squint at the two images above – you’ll see just how much I jump out from the background.)
3. Wear lots of texture
The more texture that’s in your black or dark clothes, the better they’ll photograph. Although I had no choice but to shoot in front of a busy background (above, left), the sequins and contrasting jersey graphic t-shirt still stand out. And in the photo on the right, the sweater has a lot of detail that shows up beautifully (plus the brooch adds something that draws the eye in).
Plain black tops with plain black trousers will never look exciting in a photo (but then, I have to admit they don’t look that exciting IRL either)…
4. Strike a pose!
This is an error I see a lot in outfit photos – and it’s SO easy to rectify! It’s when black-clad legs end up looking like one solid lump.
So when I say “strike a pose”, what I really mean is “create negative space between your legs”. If you look through all the full-length examples I’ve given in this post, I’ve always got a little gap going on.
In the black jumpsuit image, above, I’ve shown a different way to stop the One Leg Lump, and that’s by using movement. It was a windy day so I actually took advantage of the wind flapping the wide leg trousers around and created shape and fluidity.
However you choose to pose, just ask the photographer to get you to move your legs (or change position) if your two legs have become one.
5. Get in closer to see detail
Black tends to photograph better closer up, as details and textures show up more. If the fabric is matte, like black jersey (above, left), then create movement if you can and bring in other details and colours.
Black leather photographs beautifully: face the light and let the light bounce off in every direction. Don’t be afraid to cut off heads or other body parts – look for the interest in the details.
6. Lighten shadows in post-production
Finally, if all else is lost, you can sometimes rescue your too-dark black clothes by tweaking your photos in post-production. If you’re editing photos on a computer, I’d always recommend getting Photoshop Elements (currently on a Black Friday deal for the very low price of just £54.99), or if you’re using photos on your phone, then you should definitely get the Adobe Lightroom app.
The main thing to tweak are shadows: always lighten them to stop black looking like a big black hole with no highlights or texture. You often only need to lighten them a tiny amount (lighten too much and you’ll end up with clothes that look grey or overwashed) to make a big difference.
Do you wear a lot of black – and if so have these tips helped you? Any other “shooting black clothes” tips you can pass on? Tell us in the comments (and don’t forget to link up ALL your posts – any subject – below)!
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