Exposure for different skin tones

Shekinah Shazaam Photography · July 08, 2018 · Blogging, Editing · 0 comments


As a person with a nice amount of melanin, I have noticed many an image of pale skin from my peers. It’s an unfortunate result of living in a majorly white society, but it is no excuse for comments like, “dark skin is so hard to expose for!”




If anything, on a very bright day, a white subject wearing dark clothing is harder to expose for vs a black subject wearing light clothing in the same conditions. High contrast will have its challenges regardless of the model’s ethnicity, but I am sick of photographers perpetuating this negative view on minorities.


So instead of blaming a person’s skin color, why not try and learn how to change your settings on your camera? If you can’t adapt to different types of people, you still have a lot to learn. See my pseudo photographer post here.


The majority of my posts are meant to help in a general sense, but I will not hesitate to point out specific wrongs I’ve seen other photographers do. If you also hear these destructive comments being said, feel free to educate those individuals as well.


Alright, rant complete.


I’m not currently able to collect models from all subsets of skin tones, so for now I will try showcasing three varieties; dark, medium, & light.



The most misunderstood.


Light is your friend when it comes to darker tones. If indoors, adding extra light will help sculpt their features. This could be by way of flash or a continuous light. Overexposure is my recommendation here just so they don’t wind up looking flat. If working with makeup, highlighter can be added to temples, cheeks, lips, & the chin for some stunning results. Bright colors almost always look amazing on darker skin, so keep that in mind when picking outfits for them.



The middle ground.


This is what I’m most experienced with considering my own skin tone & that of many of my subjects. Because mid-tone skin doesn’t contrast greatly with many colors, it’s very easy to expose for in regards to clothing and backgrounds. Though keeping your exposure to the ‘correct’ level will be fine, I have both under & overexposed with excellent results. Go with whatever you feel looks best.



The most commonly shot.


The paleness of some can look very washed out or highlights can become blown out if you’re not careful. If in bright conditions, it’s better to underexpose to prevent these issues from arising. Later, adding in a bit of clarity will help define their features again. If using makeup, contour can help add in some shadow and colored eye shadow or lipstick can help enhance their beauty too. If you want your model to look otherworldly or glow, try putting them in very dark jewel shades or even black.


So there are a few tips on exposing for different skin tones. Hopefully this inspires you to get out there and shoot diversity!


May the light be with you.







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