• english
  • spanish

Here is the third part of Miguel’s simple tips on how to improve your photographs when taking pictures of people with dark skin. I’m sorry it took so long…

Part III - How to Photograph dark and light skinned people together

It is very difficult to take a good picture in which dark and light skinned people appear together. In most cases the dark person will be too dark, or the light person will be too white, with a lot of detail lost in them.
Unfortunately there is no magic setting in your camera that can solve this problem, cameras can capture a limited range of the light spectrum, so when you have dark and light persons or objects together the camera will sacrifice one to favor the other.
The only solution that works is to have more light on the dark skinned person than on the light skinned person, as a way to get them closer to each other in terms of reflected light. Here are a few practical ideas that apply this concept:
If you are photographing indoors near a window or a lamp, position the dark skinned person next to the light source and the light skinned person farther away from it.
If you are outdoors, you want to find a place in the shade to take your picture. If you have an external flash that you can position freely, then you may want to shine the flash only on the dark skinned person so that it gets some additional light. Alternatively, you can find surfaces that reflect light, like a white wall, and position the dark skinned person closer to it. Also you may want to set your camera to manual exposure or spot metering and expose for an area of the picture that is not too light or too dark, when the camera is left to choose an exposure in difficult pictures like these it almost always gets it wrong.
Now let’s say you are indoors, at night, with the only available light coming from a fixture in the ceiling and using a point & shoot that only works in auto mode. It can’t get any worse than that. In this case you don’t really have too many options. What I would do is direct the flash towards a wall using a white business card as reflector, then position the dark skinned person closer to that wall.
As a final comment, I should mention that many times a not so great picture can be improved in editing applications like Adobe Photoshop, The Gimp (free) or my favorite one, Adobe Lightroom.
But this may be a topic for another article.

Contemplating the fire