How to Photograph and Flatter Skin Tones


Lesson Info

Shoot: Dark Skin Tone, Male Model

The other thing is for her, if you look at this light source, there's a bright highlight on he forehead but you can't really see it. All right, so let's take this exact same light, exact same camera settings. (camera beeps and clicks) Oh, no fire. The same, perfect. Come in. It's thinking. So, see all the highlights end up being brighter on his cheek and on his forehead? It's because the highlights were the same it's just against a darker skin tone. And that was the exact same exposure between the two of them. That's kind of the difference between the two. I get asked that. So, it's going to emphasize highlights versus shadows when you're on darker skin tone, so I usually use a bigger light source. Next thing while I have him out here, I'm going to flatten the light for a second. So I'm bringing it around front. Great. And I put my camera on auto white balance. Switching it over to auto on purpose. Okay. (camera beeping and clicking) Okay. All right, so if we take a look at this, I'm l...

ooking at the back of my screen. That is not his skin tone. I mean, you guys can see it. That is not his skin tone. It's way too cool. And also, it looks kind of green. And I know the tint is off. And that's what I'm tell you about auto white balance. It's just reading the skin, his skin tone, seeing it as warm, and cooling it down. I also asked him to wear a gray shirt. Because the other color shirts, if you're wearing like a red one it would go even further the other extreme. Or if it was another tint would do the same thing. So, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna ask him, you hold this. And when you have them hold the gray card, do, not have them touch these cause these pigments will shift. It's not like these are printed on. They're actual pigment. So, you have to have them hold the edges, and hold it in front of their face. Could you do that for me please? Great. Perfect. It's perfect. (camera beeping and clicking) All right, so now I was still on auto white balance. Even putting that in front of his face it actually got a little bit better, because it was reading less of his skin tone. But we're gonna pop over ... Thanks, John. Into the develop module. I'm standing in front of this, sorry. And he's gonna grab the white balance eye dropper, and click on a gray point down in the middle. And so it shifts it a little bit. What's that? It went from 52 to 56. Yeah, so it did it a little bit. But John can you click back in the develop module with that color checker, can you pick on, next one up, and then pick further to the right. So, it's neutral but it warms it. So, that's the difference. You can neutralize and then go, "You know what? I want his skin tone to be warmer." And that's what that second row is all about is it can warm up the skin tone or cool it down. Perfect, so I like that warmth. Or at least on that screen. But probably a little too warm on this screen. These screens don't match. It's okay. But remember, color calibration, right? So, they have this screen, just to give you an example, the screen adjusted for the cameras, right? So, if I were actually looking at a monitor or screen saying, "Oh, yeah. That's the warmth I want." It's not accurate. And they did it on purpose for them, but you actually have to look at a color calibrated screen or it means nothing. All right, so let me take one more picture. You don't need that. I'll just have you, right here ... (camera clicking) And I can apply the same preset but what's nice is as I shoot I only needed one picture, thank you, of this color checker. Because now I can apply that effect for as long as I have the zoom reflector on. But once I switch, I gotta do it again. So, take a look, see if you're seeing texture on his face here and on his forehead. What we're gonna do is we're gonna switch it. We're gonna be a little bit more forgiving. So, could I have a soft, like maybe the octobox in the same position? So, we're gonna switch it over, and go for a larger light source but also diffused. Anytime there's diffusion it cuts down on contrast. So, we'll bring that in to roughly the same place, pretty much straight on. And when it's straight on, it de-emphasizes texture. It's when you're raking from the side that emphasizes it. So, we're going for softer and flatter in this instance. Thank you. Thanks, John. Great. All right, so now ... Perfect. So, in this case because we don't have boom arm we'll get as close to centered as possible. Somewhere around here. That'll be fine. Yeah. Good. All right, now I can hit the test button for you. Okay, let's see. 6.3. Okay. And eyes are 200? No, 100. Okay, great. Then I'll just pump it up a little bit. Great. (camera beeps and clicks) All right, I'm little over. What's your white balance? Oh, I'm still on auto because of that thing. Okay, so we're still on auto. So, it's much more forgiving. Like the difference between highlights and shadows are not as exaggerated. But we switch modifiers. So, as soon as we switch modifiers I have to take a picture of the gray card again. So, it's more like that but once you usually get the light you're not switching out modifiers every ten seconds, so you usually get it close to what you want and then shoot a bit. So, I'll take one more. (camera beeps and clicks) Great, thank you. All right, John, so if you'll grab the third or forth neutral one up on the top over. Yeah, and make the tether same as previous. I'm telling him for the tether, is if you apply same as previous, it means every shot that comes in will have that white balance applied so I don't need to keep going back and doing it. Even if you forget later on, I can always go back and do it again. Okay, great. So, now when I shoot ... (camera beeps and clicks) Okay. So, now when I shoot, it'll come in and it has improved white balance. All right, so flat light, super boring. Super, super, super boring. I don't think it shapes the face. It doesn't give any drama. So, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna pull the light off to the side. And I'm gonna raise the light up a bit. Ooh! John, sorry. (laughs) Can't do that in this dress. I'm just saying. Which way you wanna go. Just angle it down just a little bit. It's gonna pop out. Perfect. Thank you. Okay. Thanks, John. All right, so now I'm pulling the light off to the side. Can you try to bring it in a little closer to his face? Great, and then a little bit lower. Sorry. So, I'm bringing it in closer cause the larger the light source is relative to the subject the softer the light. So, one way to make the light softer is a bigger modifier. We went to bigger or bring it closer. When it's closer it makes it softer. Let's test. (camera beeps and clicks) It's gonna get more interesting. Okay, cool. More interesting light. Okay. I'm a little hot, but not too much. (camera beeps and clicks) Good. All right, so you will notice though that when I have the light right to the side, it does emphasize this a little bit more. A little bit more shape but it's a more interesting shot. Looking at the back of my camera, the shadow side of the face, however, falls a little bit to shadow. That's fine. But if you don't want it to be completely solid black. That's when you bring in a reflector. But I would do a white reflector, because a white reflector will fill in the shadows whereas the silver shows texture. So, you would see more skin texture instead of just opening up the shadows a little bit. So, I'm gonna go one more interesting. Can you turn three quarters this way for me? Perfect. John, can you short light him for me? Thank you. Great. All right so, normally I'm using my modeling lights to see what the light is doing. These are super bright so I can barely see it. We will test. Turn your chin up and to the right. Good, good. And look your eyes this way. Actually, turn your shoulders that way even more so you're not uncomfortable. Good. Great. (camera beeps and clicks) Oh, so pretty. But what you'll see is when I turn him to the side most of what you're seeing is a reflection. Most of what you're seeing is the reflection off of his skin towards you. You just kind of gotta know what's happening, if on the shadow side you want detail you can bring in that white reflector. I don't know if you guys will be able to see it too much. Can I have that? On my screen not adjusted for this, if you look at it, this right hand side of the face here is all shadow. So, if I don't wanna lose that detail I'm just gonna bring in a white reflector. Let's see right there. Looks great. (camera beeps and clicks) And it's just gonna open it up just a bit. So, that it doesn't fall into so much shadow

Skin is one of the most important things to flatter in your portraits and there are so many elements to consider! In this course Lindsay Adler will cover the most important ways she ensures that she flatters her subject's skin. She'll walk through every consideration leading up to your shoot from modifier choice, position of the light, white balance, color contamination, makeup, and more. Learn how to capture great skin in-camera so you can save time in your post-processing.



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