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Photography Question 
Rachel E. Slepekis
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/9/2006
 

Photographing different skin tones...


I was wondering if anyone could give me some suggestions for shooting a family picture, where there is high contrast in skin tones.
It is a groupe of 11 people, and most of the family is very light skinned Irish. Ranging from white blond to black or red hair. But one spouse is Hispanic and the other is African-American.
The picture will be outdoors.
So any thoughts as to metering so I don't blow the light skin tone out, but don't obscure the darkest? Any colors that should not be worn, to avoid that, and would make this worse? Or is white shirts and khakis a good standerd?
Thank you!

Rachel


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3/26/2007 12:04:48 PM

 
Alan N. Marcus   Hi Rachel,

As you have discovered, when a group is comprised of mixed complexions, darker toned individuals are often rendered too dark. It’s a difficult assignment but doable. The simplest advice is to take a close-up meter reading of the skin of the darkest and lock that setting into your camera. Now you expose (shoot) the group using this exposure setting. This method is true because your meter is calibrated to properly render (expose) a gray card which is middle gray or “battleship gray” i.e. a tone with a surface reflection of 18% is wrong for fair skinned individuals but perfect for your described situation. So your answer is again, take a close-up reading of the darkest and lock in that setting.

In a studio situation, with complex lighting system, it would be possible to control skin tones individually. This method is used by TV and Hollywood whereby they light each person individually making sure the darker complexions receive 1 to 1˝ stops more light than the others.

Consider, with digital, you can use your editing software to make individual adjustments. That works too.

Good luck,

Alan Marcus
ammarcus@earthlink.net


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3/26/2007 1:09:40 PM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Rachel,
As in a Studio try to pose your group so as the darker skined subjects are closer to light.
Ok, maybe your posing this under a tree ect.
something to give shade, put your darker skin tones toward the shade line, this should help a bit.
Lightest skin tones in the middle.
and you should try to get your hands on some reflectors on stands as this will help quite a bit to bounce more light.
I do hope this helps,
Debby


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3/26/2007 1:23:42 PM

 
W.   
Hi Rachel,

if you can shoot RAW, then in PP you can do 'tone-mapping' in PhotoMatix (http://www.hdrsoft.com/), a method to increase the dynamic range in your photo.

Doing the shoot you will of course take care there are no big black/dark or white surfaces in the image that would throw your meter off.

Have fun!


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3/26/2007 1:48:39 PM

 
Rachel E. Slepekis
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/9/2006
  Thank you Alan M, Debby T and W. S. for your helpful thoughts and comments!
I should have posted that I can't shoot in RAW, I only have a Canon S3 IS, but I do have PS Elements and that should be a help in editing. But I want to be sure I good shot to start with : )
Thanks again for your help!
Rachel


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3/26/2007 4:55:53 PM

 
Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Rachel,

Debby's advice is probably the best.
If I may take it a step further; in studio presents new problems that are easily overcome with light modification and proper positioning.

As said, place the darker skinned subjects to one side. You will need to carefully direct (more) light on them.
Your modeling lamps are invaluable here.

Another workaround is a two edged sword, but will work.
A split ND filter fitted horizontally will work; with the lightest graduated area biased toward the darker subjects.
The problem with this approach is that split ND's work better at higher f/ stops...and we all know portrait shooting is more pleasing to look at when shot at low f values. (2.8,4,5.6)

All the best,

Pete


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3/26/2007 6:48:35 PM

 
Michael A. Bielat
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/23/2007
  There is a very good book out called "Skin" and it goes into great detail about how to photograph different skin tones for the best possible exposure...

It is a great read and worth checking out.


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3/27/2007 7:16:38 AM

 
W.   
"[...] A split ND filter fitted horizontally will work; with the lightest graduated area biased toward the darker subjects."

Pete,

that may work to 'over-expose' the darker subject, but that effect will also work on everything surrounding him/her. And the background!
I don't think that'll get you a great photo....


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3/27/2007 7:26:47 AM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Rachel,
I had this same thing happen "in Studio" family came in a head of time and explained that they had tryed a few times before to get this huge family portrait, one of thier loved ones was a Very Black Skined Girl
(boy! was she a beauty should have been a model)
I had notice to play with my lighting and set up, and MOSTLY the controlled lighting of a studio.
I set the family of 35 so as the Girl and her husband were middle group, she was right onder my Hair light witch a used a full scoop on for less spread.
I then used Main a bit lower then usuall and Fill each a bit closer to the camera line to fill shadows on her caused by the hair light.
This worked GREAT! Modeling Bulbs were a HUGE help!
I could see where I needed to fill and if I was accomplishing it.
and those fair skined I could have burned I could see that as well.
This takes the group being paitient, so do explain you are playing with the light to get things just right for them.
You However just can not get around testing for this shot most likly.
I would really suggest again a good size reflector on stand and /or a fill flash on stand to add the extra light you may need- how much will depend on your day and the enviorment you have choosen.
Posed as I suggested you could use a slaved flash set up I think personally with such fair skinned others I would use a black covered white bounce umbrella ( spill light will be less harsh on the fair skinned folks.)
There is always so much that comes into play, because in the posing you also want to keep the spouces together and family units close.
So Light is your friend and I just think if it was me, I would have the equiptment to provide a bit more for this shoot.
If this is a really casual shoot, you could consider posing your fair skined family, the spouce of each dark skinned (males?) one on each side of the group, all casual poses tiering them so as you can use the fore ground for a casual mans sitting pose.
this puts them near the light line(I would hope ) and also, closer to your camera.
All I can say is test,

I do hope this helps, I can't wait to see your finished product.
I wish you the best,and fun,
Debby


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3/27/2007 8:06:52 AM

 
Rachel E. Slepekis
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/9/2006
  Thank you very much Pete, Michael, W.S. and Debby for all your advice!
I am going to definitely get some reflectors going...might need to get some assistants for this : )
We still have to discuss how formal this will be, and I am still working on how to pose people. The darkest skinned family one is male the other female...so keeping them with spouse and yet work with the lighting issue...is interesting : )
Unfortunately I don't have the equipment that you listed, as I am still amateur.
Thanks so much again for all your help and suggestions!
Rachel


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3/27/2007 10:25:45 AM

 
W.   
Rachel,

for reflectors you can of course get Lastolites (http://www.lastolite.com/originalreflectors.php), or one from http://www.calumetphoto.com/ctl?ac.ui.pn=search.Search&query=reflector.
But you can also use foamcore boards from Home Depot. Or make a D-I-Y reflector: just spray-glue a board, then attach crumpled/wrinkled aluminium foil (first carefully spread out again of course), then iron to make good and flat.

Have fun!


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3/27/2007 10:52:54 AM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  and don't forget, events like these are a fun time to rent equiptment and play a bit.
Just a thought,
Debby

**Oh also, Pawn shops / ebay / camera shops that carry used equiptment, may have flash units for off camera slaved use.
These do not have to be expensive.


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3/27/2007 9:19:37 PM

 
Rachel E. Slepekis
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/9/2006
 
 
 
Here are the results of my family photo shoot. Not too bad : )


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5/14/2007 5:03:25 PM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Rachel,
you did a great job!! good for you!!
Debby


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5/14/2007 5:17:23 PM

 
Rachel E. Slepekis
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/9/2006
  Thank you! And thanks for all the help and suggestions! : )


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5/14/2007 6:32:49 PM

 
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