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How to Look Good on TV

There is plenty you can do to make yourself look good on TV. Television takes a three dimensional world and reduces it to a two dimensional medium. As a result, light and images are manipulated to create the illusion of depth. Many average looking people appear stunning on TV. Likewise, many good looking people look quite bad on TV since they don't know how to use the principles of the television medium to their advantage. Here are some tips to make you look good on TV.

How to Look Good on TV

Understand the principles of lighting. It's very simple. Things that are lit well are seen well. Things that are lit poorly can't be seen well at all. The most important light is the key light. That is the main light source. It should be coming from behind the camera and should be in your face. If you are not looking into the brightest light then you are not lit well. Keep in mind that the key light could be the sun if you are shooting outside during the day. Another important light is the back light. This is a much smaller light that shines behind the subject. It defines the outline of the subject and separates it from the background. Be sure that you have a back light if the key light is very bright and you are against a dark background. Fill lights are also used as necessary to get rid of shadows or focus attention on something specific. Ask for fill lights if distracting shadows cover you. Many times the light is softened by placing filters or "gels" over the lights. Illumination can also be bounced off of walls and ceilings. If the light on you is too harsh ask for help to fix it. Keep in mind that you will be looking into bright light most of the time. That's how it is in television. Get used to it.

Be aware of focal length. It is often said that the camera adds 10 pounds. This is the result of a three dimensional world being squashed into a two dimensional medium. A television screen is flat so depth is an illusion. Television camera lenses play tricks with light. The closer you are to the camera the heavier you will appear. Never allow yourself to be photographed by a camera closer to you than 3 feet. The farther you are from the camera the thinner you will look. Back up to slim down.

Recognize which camera shots make you look your best. Most people look great on a head and shoulders shot. Some look good on a full body wide shot. No one looks good on a 3/4 shot that covers you from head to below the hips. Be aware of how you are being shot and adjust accordingly.

Cheat to the camera. Since depth is an illusion on television you should always strive to provide depth with your body. If the camera shoots you straight on you will appear to be wide and flat. Try to "cheat" to the camera by presenting your body at a slight angle. It's a simple matter of stepping forward a half step with one foot and keeping one shoulder slightly closer to the camera. You will appear to be three dimensional and more dynamic.

Use appropriate makeup. Lights wash out the skin. They can make you look pale and shiny. To avoid this use makeup. This applies to both men and women. Simple makeup can be powder or light foundation to take out the shine. This works fine for a simple TV news interview. If you will be doing studio work under a complex lighting set up then you will need more extensive makeup. Remember, the object is to give the illusion of depth. Eye shadow, blush and shading make different parts of the face more or less prominent. In general, the brighter the lights the more makeup is needed.

Always be aware of which camera is watching you. Many television programs involve multiple camera shoots. Different cameras will have different shots of different focal lengths with different lighting. You must be aware of everything that is going on at every second. If you study the show rundown you will be familiar with which camera is shooting you at any given time. During unscripted shoots you must casually recognize which camera light is on.

Tip

These tips will work for anyone regardless of the reason why you are on TV. Whether you are acting, on the news or on a reality show the principles are the same.

Warning

Sometimes the "talent" (term for anyone who appears on camera) is more aware of how they will look on camera than the technical crew lighting, shooting and directing the program. This can lead to conflicts. You must balance your desire to look good with respecting the work of those around you. Remember, it is your face on television so speak up when it is appropriate.

About the Author

Kent Ninomiya is a veteran journalist with over 23 years experience as a television news anchor, reporter and managing editor. He traveled to more than 100 countries on all seven continents, including Antarctica. Ninomiya holds a Bachelor of Arts in social sciences with emphasis in history, political science and mass communications from the University of California at Berkeley.