Professional portrait photography is more than just pressing the shutter on an expensive camera. Producing a photo that your subject loves takes a lot of adjustments before and after the shot. Setting up the right lighting, camera position, camera settings, and more all help produce a quality shot. Once the shoot is over, a little tweaking may be needed through editing software. Unfortunately, not every photographer knows how to shoot for different skin tones. Adjusting your lighting and camera settings for your subject is vital to producing a photo that captures your subject properly. This article will discuss how we work to ensure that we capture the right skin tones in our photos.

The Myth that “Black Skin Tones are Harder To Photograph”

In the early years of photography, the majority of photography manufacturers were caucasian. Because of this, most photo labs had reference cards from manufacturers that were not calibrated for darker tones. For some labs, these calibration cards were used well into the 1980s. These types of calibrations are not used today. However, this skin tone bias is still prevalent in photography.

young woman dark skin tones with curly hair wearing a multi-colored dress  Camera Adjustments for Different Tones

Darker skin tones are not harder to photograph, they just require different adjustments to capture them well. Inexperienced photographers may try to capture a subject with darker skin tones the same way that they would someone with lighter tones. They may determine that they are simply harder to shoot. But, just like you adjust your camera for flowers of different colors, you should do the same for skin tones.

White Balancing the Camera For Your Subject

White balancing a camera is important to capturing a closer approximation of color in any photo. This allows the camera to record colors that are truer to the subject. White balancing the camera is necessary to produce a picture that presents the subject well.

Lighting Considerations for Various Skin Tones

Generally, light tones reflect more light, while dark tones absorb more light. Understanding how to adjust your lighting for the subject or subjects will help you create a better photograph. When photographing a group with various skin tones, your lighting can play an even more important role. Using reflective or diffused light can help you find the right light for your subject. It is important to adjust the lighting to help capture each subject’s natural tones. And remember, properly lighting a subject is not the same thing as making them look lighter, bit in the initial photo, and in editing.

Understanding Undertones

Additionally, it is important to understand the undertones of the skin. The undertones of your subject’s skin can be defined as warm, neutral, or cool. When you do not adjust correctly for the undertones of your subject, you produce photos that look unnatural. For more on skin undertones, check out this guide from a skincare company.

Woman with olive skin tones in a yellow dress on a park bench near a large bushBackgrounds that Suit Your Subject

Whether you are doing a field shoot or a studio shoot, your subject should work well with the backdrop. Their skin tone and clothing can both be a factor in choosing the right background for the photo. Be sure to consider the depth and shadowing when considering how to frame your shot. If you are shooting multiple subjects, be sure to adjust the lighting and their positioning to ensure that everyone looks good against the background. You don’t want to lose a subject’s features in the shadows.

Filters and Color Correcting For Various Skin Tones

Most filters on social media apps do not produce proper color correction for a variety of skin tones. Likewise, some photo editing software does not adjust well to the broad spectrum of tones. Because of this, it’s important for photographers to learn how to edit photos for the broad spectrum of skin tones and undertones. Highlights, curves, and contrast are all great adjustment tools for enhancing a subject with darker skin tones. These adjustments can create stunning tonality and detail when employed effectively. Try not to adjust your subject in a way that lightens their skin. Instead, try your best to keep their tones as close to real life as possible.

At BetterBizTech, our sister company, we have experience photographing a wide array of skin tones in a variety of settings. We also do professional headshots or family portrait photography with backdrops in our in-house studio. For more examples of our work, visit our photography site.
BetterBizWorks, LLC Web Design and Internet Marketing is always here to help you with your web design and online marketing needs. So contact us, or give us a call to discuss your online goals, at 212-904-0020.