The Colors You Should Avoid If You Want To Look Good In Photos

We are living in the age of the selfie, and the accessibility of social media has placed a new importance on the quality of our glamor shots. Whether you're sharing candid group shots or professional photo sessions, everyone wants to look their best. That's why we see the proliferation of new makeup tutorials, lighting tips, and trending poses. On TikTok, for instance, the hashtag #selfiehack has over 21 million views.

But whether you're playing around with camera settings to get a trendy, wide-angle photo or having fun with a selfie throwback like the infamous duck lips, there's one thing that can make or break any photo sesh: your outfit. More specifically, your pictures are hugely impacted by the colors and patterns you choose to wear.

Of course, you always want images to display your personality and unique sense of style. But there are ways to use your wardrobe and makeup looks strategically for A+ photo content. So which colors should be avoided for best results, and which should be embraced?

Which colors and patterns should you avoid on camera?

Unless you're creating a very carefully staged and thematic photo shoot, simplicity and boldness are quick shortcuts to eye-catching images. As Lee Eiseman, executive director at Pantone Color Institute, tells Who What Wear, "Solid colors are always best, as opposed to patterns. Very pale pastels and whites can make the subject [look] washed-out. Cameras sometimes have difficulty adjusting between very bright contrasts, so it's best to keep brights as solid pieces as opposed to separates."

The image experts at Mike Glatzer Photography tend to agree, pointing out that distracting patterns, logos, and accessories can lead the eye away from the photo's real focus. They particularly recommend avoiding narrow stripes and checked patterns in headshots, stating that these intricate patterns don't perform well in cameras' sensors.

Colors can be a trickier topic, as it will depend on your surroundings and camera settings, not to mention your own natural coloring. But photographer Audrey Ann suggests that there are some hues that can be generally problematic, which she outlines in a video on her YouTube channel. Bright red, stark white, or intense black can easily lose depth, detail, and texture, so she recommends skewing into a less pure shade of these colors. And neons tend to cast color onto your skin in a way that can be quite unflattering. So while these color choices may look vivid and beautiful IRL, consider different options for photographs.

Which colors will help your photos pop?

As Eiseman intimated before, gravitating toward solids is always a good rule of thumb for clear, high-contrast photos. And if you're taking headshots or glamor pics, you'll probably want to choose something that compliments your unique skin tone. As Rob Greer Photography advises, a little investigation into your seasonal color analysis can reveal the perfect colors.

For wintery skin tones, the site suggests intense shades like black, red, and hot pink — although you may want to remember Audrey Ann's advice and pick nuanced shades that won't lose their depth on film. For spring tones, something a little more delicate may be in order, such as ivory, coral, or aqua. Summer skin tones play well with neutrals and pastels like powder blue, lavender, and butter yellow. And to bring out an autumn skin tone's golden hues, aim for warm, earthy shades from peach and camel to orange and dark brown.

There are also a few shades that are universally flattering, which is why they're colloquially known as "universal colors." These inclusive, go-to hues include teal, eggplant, navy, and soft pink (via Color Me Pretty). You may also see some sources touting red as an all-rounder and wonder why, since we know that primary red is a questionable choice. Radiantly Dressed offers clarity, specifying that the most universally complimentary shade is actually watermelon red, which is a little less harsh on the eye. So whether you want to dress for your seasonal color type or wow in photos with one of these tones that suits everyone, you've still got plenty of options to rock your next selfie.