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Lighting for different skin tones

From: Lighting for Photographers: Portraiture

Video: Lighting for different skin tones

For this portrait, I'll be shooting two models with different skin tones. Light and dark skins react differently to lighting. I knew I wanted a large soft light that would wraparound both of them. Natalie Fobes: A little closer, a little closer and gentlemen if you could take a step back, both of you. In fact, I'm going to have you come over on this side Craig, yeah, and Matt you are on this side. Twist your body a little this way, all right. Now Sam, let's bring that light in just a little bit towards me. Sam: Towards them? Natalie Fobes: Toward me.

Lighting for different skin tones

For this portrait, I'll be shooting two models with different skin tones. Light and dark skins react differently to lighting. I knew I wanted a large soft light that would wraparound both of them. Natalie Fobes: A little closer, a little closer and gentlemen if you could take a step back, both of you. In fact, I'm going to have you come over on this side Craig, yeah, and Matt you are on this side. Twist your body a little this way, all right. Now Sam, let's bring that light in just a little bit towards me. Sam: Towards them? Natalie Fobes: Toward me.

Sam: Toward you? Natalie Fobes: Yeah, okay. That looks good. Now the reason that I did this is that specular highlights define dark skin and shadows define the lighter skin. Sam: So you wanted Craig closer to the light. Natalie Fobes: And I wanted Craig closer to the light, because his the skin tone is darker. Otherwise, Matt would have been overexposed if I'd switch them. Sam: Got you. Natalie Fobes: But the other thing is that that the specular highlights on dark skin give the face depth and contour.

And on the shadows, do the same thing for lighter skin. So go ahead and lean forward a little bit. You'll really see this in this photograph, okay. You guys look good. All right, just for fun let's bring the light in a little bit closer to them. Sam: Okay. Natalie Fobes: Yeah, and put them at the back of the light so that it wraps around them. There you go, looks good. Okay Craig, so go ahead and tilt your head. There you go, and Matt, you're doing great.

Very good! Thanks, that's good. The photographs of the two men are great examples of how different shades of skin react to light. With darker skin or any dark surface, the specular highlights give shape. With the lighter surfaces, shadows give shape. This is an important concept to remember when you have light or dark subjects in your composition.

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Lighting for Photographers: Portraiture

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Natalie Fobes
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