Lighting an interracial family
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Old 08-29-2009   #1
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Default Lighting an interracial family

I am doing an outdoor portrait shoot with a friend who is caucasian (very fair skin and blonde hair) and her husband (from Africa, very dark skin) and their 18 month old son (yes, he is absolutely adorable!). I am concerned about how to properly expose for both skin tones in the photos without making her look overexposed or him underexposed. I do not own a handheld meter (yet). What are your suggestions/experiences in exposing photos with such different skin tones?

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Old 08-30-2009   #2
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Default Re: Lighting an interracial family

With the limitations you have, I would suggest one of two things:
1. get a Kodak grey card, and meter off that.
2. meter each of the parents in aperture priority, and split the difference. That is, if she meters f8 and 1/250, and he meters f8 and 1/15, then shoot at f8 and 1/60.

Also, there is a decent chance that the son will meter between the two, so you may be able to just meter off him and call it good.

Either way, bracket so that you get both of them exposed well, and can cut and paste if necessary.
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Old 08-30-2009   #3
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Default Re: Lighting an interracial family

If you can, get them to wear mid-tone colored clothing. i.e. Nothing close to white or black. Her skin isn't completely white and his won't quite be black. If they were to wear black & white your problem would be even worse.

High contrast light will make the problem even worse. Use open shade or take the shots early/late in the day to help with that.

Shoot in raw. If you have to, you can process the raw making her look best, then do the same for him and combine the two with layers in post. If you can shoot at the base ISO for your camera, you'll have more dynamic range to play with.

You've just about got the white wedding dress/black tux wedding problem. Searching wedding forums might turn up useful tips.
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Old 08-31-2009   #4
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Default Re: Lighting an interracial family

This sounds complicated, but it is actually quite simple and works perfectly.

You have a major problem! His dark skin requires an "R" reading of 240 on the brightest diffused highlight for his skin to be properly exposed. She requires the same 240 reading on her brightest diffused highlight on her face. It can be done in camera with five or sin assistants, six or eight lights, gobos, reflectors, scrims and light absorbers Digital imaging to the rescue!

1. Make sure they are wearing medium toned clothing. No white or black clothing.

2. Shoot in Raw.

3. Shoot an 18% gray card first for proper white balance.

4. Make sure the dark skin is closest to the main light so it gets the lion's share of the light.

5. Make enough captures in several poses to make sure you have some sellable images. Vary them slightly if needed.

After capture, load the card in Adobe Camera Raw and do the white balance, sharpening and other corrections, then get a 240 "R" reading on the brightest highlight on one of the faces of one of the adults and save the file. Then get a 240 "R" reading on the other adult face and save the file again. In Photoshop combine the two images, and erase the incorrect exposure on the face of the one that is underexposed (or overexposed, depending on which image you first selected.) You will now have one image where both faces are properly exposed. The child will probably also be correct, if not erase him ro her the same as the adult until they also have 240.

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Old 09-03-2009   #5
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Default Re: Lighting an interracial family

I'm no expert but, I believe that if the lighting is even on everyone, and you meter from a gray card for proper exposure, everyone should be properly exposed. Also, I have heard from other photographers that they would meter from the gray card for proper exposure, not changing the settings, turn the card over and take a picture of the white side and use that for your custom white balance.
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Old 09-03-2009   #6
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Default Re: Lighting an interracial family

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Originally Posted by Chief7 View Post
I'm no expert but, I believe that if the lighting is even on everyone, and you meter from a gray card for proper exposure, everyone should be properly exposed. Also, I have heard from other photographers that they would meter from the gray card for proper exposure, not changing the settings, turn the card over and take a picture of the white side and use that for your custom white balance.
Well Chief, it just don't work that way. A dark complected individual along side a very pale person lit with the same even lighting will not expose the same. Benji's advice was spot-on. This is a similar problem experienced at weddings where the bride is wearing a snow white dress and the groom is in coal black tails. The primary first part of the workaround is to put the groom nearer the light source to help compensate for the difference.

No matter how much post processing you plan to do, keep the advice about the clothing being in mid-tone and placing the darker skinned individual nearer the main light.

Best of luck with this. I have relative who is nearly pastey white and she's married to a man of African heritge who is very dark. Snapshots at the family gatherings are always a joy.

Steve
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Old 09-03-2009   #7
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Default Re: Lighting an interracial family

Or, you could do it the proper way and get it right in camera.

They're called scrims

You scrim off the lighter subject 'till you get a balanced reading throughout the scene.
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Old 09-03-2009   #8
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Default Re: Lighting an interracial family

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Or, you could do it the proper way and get it right in camera.

They're called scrims

You scrim off the lighter subject 'till you get a balanced reading throughout the scene.
I believe Benji covered that option already
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Old 09-04-2009   #9
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Default Re: Lighting an interracial family

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chief7 View Post
I'm no expert but, I believe that if the lighting is even on everyone, and you meter from a gray card for proper exposure, everyone should be properly exposed.
This will absolutely get the "proper" exposure. However, the "proper" exposure isn't necessarily the "pleasing" one. Benji is describing how to achieve "pleasing" exposure, which isn't necessarily an accurate or proper exposure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chief7 View Post
Also, I have heard from other photographers that they would meter from the gray card for proper exposure, not changing the settings, turn the card over and take a picture of the white side and use that for your custom white balance.
This doesn't necessarily work. Not every card has an accurate white back.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Black Ricco View Post
Yeah, he did, and he wrote those options off as too labor intensive.

It can be done in camera with five or sin assistants, six or eight lights, gobos, reflectors, scrims and light absorbers

A couple of scrims is all it takes.

Digital imaging to the rescue!

Yeah, by all means let's keep shooting crap and "fixing" it in post instead of knowing what to do to get it in camera.
abso-freaking-lutely! Of course, nowadays there aren't too many "photographers" who can get it right in the camera. These days, most "photographers" really ought to call themselves "digital artists," as they capture lousy images, and try to "fix" them in post.
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Old 09-04-2009   #10
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Default Re: Lighting an interracial family

Quote:
Originally Posted by Black Ricco View Post
Or, you could do it the proper way and get it right in camera.

They're called scrims

You scrim off the lighter subject 'till you get a balanced reading throughout the scene.
By that you mean, place the scrim near the lighter subject to soften the light falling on them?


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