How Anti-paparazzi Clothing Works

Snapping pics of your favourite celebrity is now getting harder with the help of anti-paparazzi clothing.

Paparazzi (rightly or wrongly) are constantly trailing celebrities, aiming to grab a shot that will result in a big paycheck. Photos of celebrities having a bad hair day, wearing a mismatched outfit or just out and about can (and often do) end up on the cover of magazines.

Anti-paparazzi clothing has been around for a while and it works by using retro-reflective materials to bounce light back into the camera sensor.

Different companies including Betabrand offer Flashback Photobomber and ISHU has the anti-paparazzi scarves available commercially. The materials include textiles, plastics and metal that create the reflective effect.

Nick Jonas wearing the ISHU anti-paparazzi scarf

Flashes that are used by paparazzi usually use TTL (through the lens) automatic mode. When the shutter button is pressed the flash will emit a small flash of light known as a ‘pre-flash’ which bounces off the subject. The light then enters the camera through the lens which then tells the camera how much light it needs for a ‘correct’ exposure. The flash increases the power to match what the camera requests.

Anti-paparazzi clothing tricks the camera into thinking the scene is brighter than it actually is. The reflection that is sensed during the ‘pre-flash’ reduces the flash strength resulting in underexposed subjects. While the camera believes it is exposing correctly, you still end up with a dark and often unusable shot. The experience is similar to taking a photo of someone standing in front of a window, where the camera exposes based on the bright background rather than the subject, resulting in a silhouette.

Betabrand Flashback Photobomber hoodie

To get around the effect your camera needs to be using manual flash and camera settings, not use a flash at all, or move the flash further away from the lens (this has the added bonus of creating more natural lighting and minimising the chance of a red-eye effect). Fortunately for celebrities, and unfortunately for paparazzi, all of this might slow down, or ruin the chances of getting the perfect shot.

Until the paparazzi have worked out how to get around these new clothing gimmicks, we can expect to see a lot more celebrities wearing these. If you’d like to order your own piece, you can preorder ISHU scarves or ties here and a jacket from Betabrand here.

ISHU anti-paparazzi scarf.