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Lesson 10 from: How to Photograph and Flatter Skin Tones

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

10. Makeup

Next Lesson: Retouching

Lesson Info


If you can work with makeup artists, awesome, actually if you, by the way if anyone out there wants to hire me for portraits, I do fashion style portraits but you can't hire me without a makeup artist. It is not an option, because I've had too many shoots where people didn't like what their hair and makeup looked like, and then they didn't spend the money. I still had to spend the time, you know, and I think it brings out the concept a lot more. So if you can work with a makeup artist you should, but I always tell my clients these things, no spray tans near your photo shoot, don't do it. Next one, if you're waxing, make it several days before this, okay, 'cause otherwise you've got a bright read forehead and all that stuff. Don't try any new products, no new lotions, nothing that you think, oh I need a new night cream before so I have fresh eyes, and then they look crazy. So no new products. Typically go matte with what you're putting on, avoid glossy or really luxurious moisturizer, '...

cause then you just look shiny and greasy. So that doesn't work. Make sure they're applying makeup where they can actually see in the light, instead of with the overhead light in the bathroom where you can't see, and then usually go heavier than usual on photos. I am going much heavier right now, because I know that these lights are gonna wash it out, and then also it's for recording on film or on camera. This is not what I normally wear in everyday, unless I'm trying to impress somebody. So, for oily skin, what you wanna keep in your studio is you want something called blotting papers, or in your space, blotting papers you can get at CVS really cheap, and what they do is you put them on shiny or sweaty spots and it absorbs the oil. Definitely wanna do that, and so what I usually say if someone's super greasy, I don't wanna be like oh guess what you're greasy, I need to wipe you down. I go, man I'm so sorry, my lights are making you look shiny, do you mind if I just blot lightly, or would you just blot around your face. So I just blame it on the lights so I'm not like, hey, you're shiny. The other thing that I keep is that I use translucent powder, it's something called HD powder. You can get HD powder at CVS, you know, corner drug store, or if you wanna go with a nicer brand, and it's HD like high definition, like HD being film. And so what it does is you put the powder on shiny spots and it just mattes it down a little bit, and so it's neutral, doesn't matter your skin tone, but it just gets rid of shine. Alright, for very dark skin, I make sure there's a lot of moisturizer available because when the light hits dark skin, if it's a little bit dry, it ends up looking a little bit gray, so I am moisturizing people. I do bring a blotting film, and I usually use, you know it depends on glowing I want their skin. If I were photographing somebody who's darker skin toned and photographing their body, I usually have coconut oil or something so that it actually picks up some of the highlights and it shapes the person's skin and body a little bit better. One of the questions I get, and I have a lovely subject over here that I'll be photographing, questions I get is, what's the difference between photographing light skin tones and dark skin tones? Part of me wants to say nothing, because creatively I can make every different lighting thing I do work for both light and dark skin tones, but here's how I think about it. If you light super pale me, very, very, very pale, and I have a highlight on my forehead, even if that highlight's really white, I'm really white, so you don't see the highlight quite as much. But if you have someone with darker skin right next to me, and they have the exact same highlight, no difference, no difference in the skin as far as shininess or greasiness, but the exact same highlight, but it's now on darker skin tone, you see it more. And so, harder light, or more contrast ends up having brighter highlights and darker shadows, which is emphasized on darker skin. So I tend, most of the time, to go with larger light sources and a little bit closer. And on the shadow side, if I don't actually want the shadow side of a darker skinned person's face to fall to solid black, I will bring in a white reflector. It's not like the white reflector lights them and fills in the shadows and eliminates them, it just gives a little bit more detail if I perhaps lost that detail because it's a shadow on darker skin. So that's the differences, but that being said, I've used all different modifiers on all different people.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Skin Tones Keynote

Ratings and Reviews

Amy Vaughn

The topic is too big to cover all the solutions in depth in such a short amount of time, but this seems like a great overview for beginners to understand the range of problems with making skin look good in photos. Lindsay does a great job of making her class topics easy to understand.

Frank Gutierrez

I just love Lindsay's work! It's so impressive; especially the sampling photos captured of the elderly gentleman. It brought all she taught throughout the video together seamlessly! I'm so going to watch this over and over again!


Great primer on skin tones, lighting, and considerations for different types of skin. One of the few teachers that discusses dark skin tones!

Student Work