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Thread: Optimal exposure for portraits with diverse skin tones?

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    Optimal exposure for portraits with diverse skin tones?

    Last weekend while I was taking some casual shots of my friends I faced a situation on optimal exposures, The situation was like I need to take a shot of two people together, outdoor and their skin color is one white and one black. I could not get a satisfactory shot of the same. Any tips please?

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    Re: Optimal exposure for portraits with diverse skin tones?

    This is a tough one. To me, it's more an issue with scene/subject lighting than the exposure setting. You need to get a dead on exposure, of course, but sometimes even that is not enough. I think that the best you can do is to make sure and have (1) very even and (2) very low contrast / diffuse lighting. Also make sure that you do not increase the contrast any in post-processing.

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    Re: Optimal exposure for portraits with diverse skin tones?

    It's an area where incident lightmeters excel (especially profiled ones), but there shouldn't be more than 4 stops of dynamic range required if they're both under the same lighting anyway, which most cameras can handle comfortably (unless shooting at extreme ISOs).

    To be honest, I think it's more of a display / printing issue than it is a capture issue.

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    Re: Optimal exposure for portraits with diverse skin tones?

    Quote Originally Posted by ajith.rajeswari View Post
    two people together, outdoor and their skin color is one white and one black?
    Exposure issue: Yes

    Printing issue: Yes

    Lighting issue: IMO most definitely . . . the (other) word in this question, which resonates in my eye (mixed metaphor intended), is the OUTDOOR.

    Two issues:

    . (highlight) reflection from the white skin and
    . (specular) reflection from moisture on the dark skin.

    The first step, with portraits outdoors for this situation is choosing the venue. Open shade is best or backlit sunlight and flash fill is still an option.

    But the better option is open shade with flash fill, because the flash fill can be reflected or diffused, as mentioned to maintain an even Flash Fill Light.

    But if the direct sun is being used as the backlight or hair light the amount of Flash required to Fill usually means a portable unit has to be employed head on (no diffuser or bounce) - and there's the problem, again. Or portable studio Flash power has to be employed, and or a light tent or shade.

    Direct or side lit sun, is more hazardous.

    I guess the bottom line is: the end result is only going to be as good as the weakest procedure, and I think we have all outlined the main issues.

    Good management from beginning to end is the only way to ensure satisfactory results.


    WW

  5. #5

    Re: Optimal exposure for portraits with diverse skin tones?

    Thanks all..for your comments.

    Sorry for not mentioning about the lighting situation in detail.
    It was noon around 11.45 AM, weather was mixed (very sunny/cloudy day), No flash. Shot was taken only when the cloud covers the sun to get a diffused light (which was happening very often) so there was no harsh lighting.

    ~Ajith

  6. #6

    Re: Optimal exposure for portraits with diverse skin tones?

    Normally for single person profile shoots I meter center-weighted on the subjects face. Is this the right approach?
    Please comment.

    ~Ajith

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    Re: Optimal exposure for portraits with diverse skin tones?

    Quote Originally Posted by ajith.rajeswari View Post
    Normally for single person profile shoots I meter center-weighted on the subjects face. Is this the right approach?
    Please comment.

    ~Ajith
    The correct exposure comes from the correct aperture / shutterspeed / iso - so it's more a case of "which mode gets these right" (if any).

    Spot -v- partial -v- evaluative -v- centre weighted is really just a way of telling the camera which parts of the scene are important, but it still doesn't guarantee that it'll get it right because it's still working on reflected light. Some examples ...

    - If you spot meter the skin of a very dark skinned person then the camera will probably over-expose it - if you use partial metering you'll probably get the same result - if you use evaluative or (to a lesser degree centre-weighted) you may get something unpredictable also depending on what's around the periphery of the shot.

    Bottom line is that although camera metering can be pretty clever, it can still get it completely wrong - the foolproof solution for situations like this is to simply use an incident light meter

    Take a look at the plate examples on this page - describes what I'm talking about perfectly.

    http://www.sekonic.com/classroom/classroom_2.asp

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    Re: Optimal exposure for portraits with diverse skin tones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Take a look at the plate examples on this page - describes what I'm talking about perfectly.

    http://www.sekonic.com/classroom/classroom_2.asp
    Thanks for the wonderful link Colin.

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    Re: Optimal exposure for portraits with diverse skin tones?

    Quote Originally Posted by ajith.rajeswari View Post
    Thanks for the wonderful link Colin.
    No worries

    For what it's worth, I use a Sekonic 758DR meter - highly recommend it!

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    Re: Optimal exposure for portraits with diverse skin tones?

    Quote Originally Posted by ajith.rajeswari View Post
    It was noon around 11.45 AM, weather was mixed (very sunny/cloudy day), No flash. Shot was taken only when the cloud covers the sun to get a diffused light (which was happening very often) so there was no harsh lighting. ~Ajith
    Following on from my comments about lighting the scene - in this case I still would have been keen to use some Flash Fill.

    Even though there was cloud cover and the sunlight was diffused though the clouds, it is likely there was still enough directional effect to render the subjects flat. (Top lighting only)

    I understand you are asking a question and have detailed your unhappiness with the exposure and the balance & resolve between the two skin tones, and I agree that low contrast / diffuse lighting is the best approach; but given the details of the time of the shoot and the prevailing weather conditions, it crossed my mind that the lighting could be too much: "low contrast".

    The fact that any directional aspect would be from the top - you could have been shooting the faces in essentially "flat shadow".

    It is always difficult to dissect these things with words, and example exposure, would assist.

    WW
    Last edited by William W; 27th March 2009 at 11:34 PM. Reason: Correct my spelling

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