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Shoot: Dark Skin in Sunlight

Lesson 20 from: Skin 101: Lighting, Retouching and Understanding Skin

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

20. Shoot: Dark Skin in Sunlight

Lesson Info

Shoot: Dark Skin in Sunlight

we're shooting in awful light but it's also the best because it's sunny and I'm going to break down what I would do to photograph a darker skin tone can I bring you here for a second all right so here are the challenges that you run into when photographing a darker skin tone outside first and foremost this is an extremely contrast the light source like I'm squinting and everything and because it's contrast what happens is the highlights on the top of her head go very overexposed and the shadows go completely dark all right I just have to let you know one more thing is we're cheating a little bit because where we are right now is if you could look at the ground this is actually a nice reflector so often the shadows on the side of her face if we're shooting on this roof are actually going to fill in a little bit so the blacks won't be as dark in the shadows because we have this nice reflector but let's envision that we don't have that okay so the big challenge that you have first and for...

emost she's going have blown out highlights and too dark shadows now normally what I would choose to dio it's fine shade find jane is going to make a huge difference I'll put the subject in the shade because what that does is it evens out the exposure range meaning are going to be his bright highlights and won't be his dark shadows that kind of flattens everything in the middle and then what I would dio is grab a reflector or grabbing off camera flash and kick light into the scene so I would start to shape the light on her face when she's in the shade well we're on top of a roof with no shade anywhere in sight so I'm going to break down my thought process we're trying to photograph a little bit darker skin so one thing that I could do that be perfect on is one thing I could do is go ahead and bring over a diffuser thank you oh and I'm goingto go around this way okay okay so if you see that before oh yeah twenty whatever is whatever works best for you angle wise it might be a two person thing I'll try to do this part fast okay really contrast light on her face oh god forget okay can you kind of see what it does is it brings the highlights down and brings the shadows up so there's less dynamic exposure and mean there's less difference between the highlights and shadows so I'm going to shoot that really quick before they blow away way okay here we go great there looks almost great leaving good okay guys so this is what it looks diffused and then here's not defused pretty awful but photographing a really dark skin tone on location is not that hard if you have a diffuser except for if it's wendy what I usually do if it if it were just me is westcott makes stands that hold the diffusers andi could put a sandbag on it but it's not gonna happen if it's going to be this much wind another solution as well as westcott has a seven foot shoot through umbrella so it's it's basically diffuser you open it up you can have one assistant hold it out over your subject and it diffuses the light beautifully it's easier to hold in a reflector or in this case you know the round diffusers and it's also more manageable than a scrim so a scrim is a large frame it's uh six by six foot eyes one of the sizes and it can get larger and so if I were doing a commercial shoot where maybe it's his lifestyle and she's supposed to be with her boyfriend andre there sipping champagne on a rooftop and I wanted to be glowing and beautiful that's what I would use a scream to defuse the entire scene and be really beautiful but again that takes more production value so the diffuser is a great way to go but the next thing that I would do if I didn't have anything to work with is at least turn her around and so the light is not on her face to continue this way all right so I've got a little bit of split light keep turning this way a little bit all right so when I stand her here basically the light is just on the back of her head and I've got one bright highlight on the side of her forehead but at least it's not really contracting light on her face so I'm going to grab this real quick maybe not can you unhook me for a sec sorry thank you perfect okay great so stay right there great link what more perfect and as I'm looking at this what I usually do when I'm out on location if I don't have a diffuser if I don't have a reflector and I just got to try to figure out how to get a better exposure what I'll try to do when photographing a darker skin tone is analyzed my scene and put something darker behind her because right now if it's going to be a bald sky her skin is going to look even darker so maybe I could have a side of a building and shade or something to that effect so we'll just do that really quick right there great perfect and I'm a little of exposed me to one more than me tearing off her cheek one more I think you're blinking so looks good the problem that we run into is still going to be over exposed highlights I could bring a diffuser diffuser in and try teo darkened down those highlights a little bit that would be one route but instead what I'm going to do is I'm going to try to compress the exposure on the scene so as I said we're kind of cheating because this is all nice reflection so if you look at her face right now it looks nice and evenly lit it's pretty beautiful but let's say that you don't have that so all you did is you turned her around there's bright highlights everywhere and then it's really dark on her face so the whole the whole idea of compressing the exposure in the scene means you do what you can to bring the highlights down and do what you can to bring the shadows up so you're basically pulling in the highlights making them closer and bringing up the shadow so that the exposure is manageable the highlights won't be has blown out and the shadows won't be too dark there are a couple ways to do that so one way that I might dio is I might over under expose that say the background looks too bright I might under expose a little bit so that that background ms sharma manual here I'm going to try to under expose a little bit so that the background looks a little bit darker but when I go ahead and do that the highlight on her forehead got darker the background got darker but then she went solid black and there's little or no detail I think that's probably what a lot of you have run into and trying to figure out how to photograph the scene so as I said I did something to try to bring the highlights down I don't want the highlander forehead to be is right I know what the background to be is bright but now I have to bring the shadows up so may I have a silver reflector or weight or something all right well we can try on this side so to photograph me here and if you'll switch to silver while he's doing that he would have turned right towards me good I'm gonna move just a tiny bit good so what I'm doing is I'm grabbing the white and trying to kick a little bit of light back into her face because ijust underexposed everything so I'm trying to add a little bit more light so let's see how this goes a little bit more I think you blinked one more perfect so okay so in this instance what's nice about this is that the white is very soft so it's going to be really flattering on her skin tone but it's not quite enough for what I need so many silver because they said I gotta fill up those shadows because I tried to darken down the highlights so let's all right so a problem that I often see is that people do this do really bad okay he knows what I'm talking about all right so people will often do something like this where now we're using that silver really really close and angled straight at her if you're trying to catch a cz much light as possible that is way way too harsh on her skin so if I take a look at her skin here you will see a lot of texture and she has a gorgeous skin and even her skin picked up the texture because we were using the reflector so harsh and so close and it's so silver that is picking that up so what you actually want to dio is you actually want a feather the reflector you want to use it a little bit softer oh you're okay so I'm gonna bring you back this woman coming keep gun and great little less and of course we're in the wind maybe a little more this okay I have to hold it here so this is feathered good and actually got a little too much light in your face my attorney this way a little bit so what I'm having her do is them having her move because as she turns this way sunlight starts giving her cross light so those bright highlights are going to be really distracting so if I don't have a diffuser at least have returned her back to the son's a little bit more perfect had that silver one more time and I'm gonna look not catching the light fully but an edge of it so don't you think a half step back get let's try right there perfect that looks beautiful okay so the fundamentals of what I would do there if I had a whole current actually before you go john can I bring you in for one if I if I could I would diffuse over the scene that gives you nice even light then kate so I diffused over the scene if I could it gives you nice um more even skin tones okay then I can cut down a highlight if I do that so a little bit more yeah I don't know if this is possible it may not be possible oh perfect okay right there is perfect so I can cut down the highlight good and little bit or not your little short a little confused stand on kate side a little yeah you're okay and I'm gonna see you yeah good right there and let's see if I could get a little more light in then there you go right there perfect and let me open up just a little bit more good rape their perfect okay so you can take it from simple so I'm going to break that down one more time and then we're going to do a different setup so what I would do if they come to the scene and say okay if it's a middle of the day and I can defuse it that's going to be great if I can't at least turn her around so that hurt head her face is to the away from the sun the back of her head split by the sun if you have nice phil that'll be pretty good but you're still gonna have blown out highlights so I want to do is that we might want to under expose a little bit but then her face will be too dark I have the highlights now within range not overexposed but a face will be too dark so I've got to go ahead and pump some light into the shadows so I'll grab a reflector silver or white whites going to be more flattering it's a little softer less contrast but if it's not strong enough I'll switch to silver making sure that it's not catching the full power of the silver that's going to be too much contrast but instead making sure I'm using the edge we're feathering it if I have extra hands or if it's a bigger production what I would do is I compressed the scene further by diffusing the highlight which brings it down grabbing a reflector and bouncing light in which brings the shadows up so fundamentally it's called compressing the exposure so that everything can be exposed even if you don't have huge dynamic range on your camera that would be one approaching might take but you can also use off camera flash to do the same thing you can build up those shadows instead using a flash there a bunch of different modifiers that I recommend but what you want to keep in mind is that generally bare bulb doesn't work so well so just your speed light because we talked about before especially with dark skin tones if you're using a contrast the light source it is going to be to write in the highlights to darhk in the shadows so you want some type of lot of fire added on to your flash to make it a little bit softer so there's a couple that I might that you might consider one of them is if your one man show one person show is a rogue flash bender because it's lightweight it's easy and it doesn't require a lot of setup so I'm just gonna grab this to put my camera okay okay I I can just take it off the stand okay all right so we're in a little bit of wind that's not too bad so it could be the rogue flash bender and what it does is it takes your bears your bear stroke it makes it bigger and it makes it more diffused which are things that we like for skin tones we don't wantto have just that contrast he stroke so it's really nice it's very flexible it's easy to set up and you can hold it off camera if you have ah set up so I could just hold it here and shoot or you can put it on the stand and move it around I like because it's a lot it takes up a lot less footprint than having a soft box on location or other large modifier so you can hold it perfect thank you thank you we'll get that out of the way all right take a look at how we're doing here looks great okay so same thing if I'm not going to defuse out the highlights on her I'll at least turn her away from the sun so face me a little bit good and I still got that bright highlight that's all right I'm going to dio is I'm gonna add in strobe uh controller would be good right thank you kate all right so this takes us to another important situation another important thing is I could teach a whole class about this and maybe secretly I am okay get maybe um anyway um is using speed lights on location and I run into a problem you think speed lights because of something called my sink speed so I'll see you when you can relax for a second so here's how I would be thinking I'd say okay perfect she looks great let me shoo in manual and I've got to be at my think speed because beyond life think speed my flash and my camera won't talk you'll see the shutters so that won't work my thing speed from my camera is one to hundreds of the second ok great so I put my things speed there alright I look through and I'm meeting off of her and if I just do what my meter tells me gives me an okay exposure on her face but those highlights are still really blown out so if I want to go ahead and under expose those highlights because I don't want to lose those the speculum highlights which I definitely am now that I would have to go ahead and start closing down my aperture now it would be great if I could make my shutter speed go faster but I can't because I have a sinks the limitation so I'll say all right I need to make that whole scene a little bit darker and so I'm going to I'm spot me tearing off her forehead right now and to do that I've got to go to f nine let me take a look so at nine now I don't have those blown out highlights on her head but I can't see her face and maybe the background is a little bit too distracting f nine now here the background I'm shooting is about like a thousand feet away so it's still out of focus I would imagine that the background we're five feet behind her if I goto head toe asked nine it is in chris focus and it is extremely distracting I don't want to have to shoot after nine what I like to do is I like to shoot wide open I love shooting at two point age or four point oh because in the background goes beautifully soft it's not distracting anymore but I can't get that exposure down because I'm already at my sink speed so if I stay in my sink speed I have to if I open up I have to overexpose it I'm like fighting with this so that being said there's a setting on your flashes you need to know about and it's called high speed sync and what it lets you dio is it lets you set your flash so that it will talk to the camera over one two hundredth of a second are over whatever your sink speed is which is great because then I can open up my exposure and I can close down my art make my shutter speed really fast ah thousands of a second tooth one to thousands of a second so I can shoot wide open they're a couple of things to consider about this couple downsides when you're using high speed sync your batteries definitely die faster because what it's doing it's sending out little pulses of flash that you can catch it during that fast shutter speed so it's sending out sending out more pulses of light another downside is when you're using high speed sync it simply does not have the ability to kick out as much power so if you are trying to use high speed sync with your flash really really far away from your subject it's not gonna have enough juice to hit her so a lot of people when they're using high speed sync they're using multiple flashes one flash to flash three flashes together on a bracket so that they can shoot there a lot of fire with it far away from the subject will still be able to reach her so that's kind of the overview of why you might want to turn that feature on and a couple downsides of it but let's try photographing you with some high speed sync here all right so right now I am going to try to dark and down that highlight and we turn this off I have it off for a second so let's see if I go too two point oh I want our soo point eight I want that background to be nice and blurry in order to get that highlight on her head dark I've got to go to one sixteen one over like one one sixteen hundreds of a second which would not normally work but when I turned my flash on I'll make sure high speed sync is ready to go and it's turned on it's back on okay so let me just give us a quick test and how did that top to each other okay all right perfect and we had a nice close hold up perfect looks great so now if you look still maybe a little bit dark I might need to bump up my power a little bit but I'm an and that's cool I can I can adjust it over here yeah so if I want my light source if I'm looking at it here and I need to open up a little bit let me just do that a little bit more d'oh perfect okay and a little bit right on my end a little bit in this one tiny but it looks straight at me one more time recycle good right there okay great so what I'm looking at now is my flash bender it looks pretty good the quality of light on the face is pretty good the highlights still a little bit blown out but not too much but what you want is you want a large light source and you wanted to be soft so this is the rogue thie excel pros the flash bender xl pro you want bigger light sources and softer they do have a smaller one you don't want to go with the smaller one is not going to brought enough if you do have a small light source try to bring it closer the closer you can get the more diffuse that will be I'll try one more and around to the front just a tiny bit great and so little hi I'm shooting manual so back up this time of it good no recycle okay and face me just a little bit this way good beautiful so I have that I brought that light source really really close it is beautiful glowing light it's shaping on her face the highlights we're still a little hot but not bad because I could shoot high speed think too dark and down the highlights by using a fast shutter speed okay yes exactly all right so if you wanted to make it more complicated what you could do is try to darken down that highlight again so may I have the diffuser one more time and so yes so the whole time what I'm thinking is what can I do to darken down the highlights what can I do to bring up the shadows and yes it's windy okay and same positioning great guys perfect so now it is gorgeous light on her face that's great perfect every prove the point it's beautiful light on her face the highlights air not over exposed I have the ability by shooting high speed thing to shoot two point eight one one thousandth of a second that looks great and that flash better because it's so close I'm getting nice and soft light so I'm happy with that shot that looks wonderful

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Makeup Contour Reference
Retouching Checklist
Frequency Separation
Retouching Files
Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Gear Guide
Skin Retouching Action File

Ratings and Reviews

Aliah Husain

Lindsay is an INCREDIBLE photographer and teacher, and also seems like a wonderful person! This class is great for beginners and more advanced photographers, as well. She goes into tons of detail on all the technical stuff like lighting and editing, and it is fascinating to see her interact with and shoot her models, work with her equipment, and photoshop like a pro. Huge amounts of information for what you pay for. If you are looking to improve your skills in photographing and retouching people, purchase this class!!

Kirsi Todd

Lindsay is probably my favourite instructor (and that is saying a lot, as there are many incredible instructors). She is so clear in her teaching and she also seems like such a nice and humble person despite her incredible success. This course is one of the best courses I have ever seen. Thank you Lindsay and Creative Live!

Andrew Lederman

Great course. Lindsay Adler is one of the best instructors for any creative live classes that I have seen. Simple and easy to understand, clear workflow, very friendly and non condescending like some other instructors. Could you put a link (maybe I just didn't see it) to where to download the actions used in this tutorial?

Student Work