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Lesson 7 from: How to Photograph and Flatter Skin Tones

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

7. Exposure

Next Lesson: Quality of Light

Lesson Info


Next one is exposure. If your exposure's wrong, your skin looks crazy, light or dark and so this is one of the reasons that you saw. If you watch me shoot a lot, you will actually see I don't usually use a meter. Like if you've seen me shoot a bunch of times, I don't often do it. What a light meter will do if you're shooting with studio strobes, for example, is it will tell you what to set your camera at or if you know your camera settings that you wanna be at, you can adjust the light so that it matches what you want on your camera settings. The reason this is important is, often for people that are first starting out, I don't know, sometimes you can't tell, like you don't quite know what correctly exposed is. It's that weird area where you're still training your eye. Is this too light, too dark? And then, this gives you the numbers to tell you if your photo is correctly exposed while you figure it out. To be honest, thankfully, shooting with RAW, I mean, if you were underexposed, you...

can fix it but how do you know you're underexposed if you're still training your eyes? So, this is a good way to back you up. I use it for time saving, but it's not something that I rely on, so if you don't have it, it's not like you can't get correctly exposed images. So, exposure. So, incorrect exposure. Like with dark skin, a lot of times what's happening is the meters are reading the highlights so it exposes for the highlights on darker skin and then the rest of the skin goes super dark, and then they don't have their features. You gotta be smarter than your camera, so we'll talk about that. Or with light skin, sometimes it just overexposes everything and so, you have to be smarter than your camera and choose the right metering. So, I'm smarter than my camera by using a meter here in the studio, but what about with natural light when you're shooting? So, I'm gonna talk to you about metering systems here. I use exposure compensation so that I can know if my camera's being dumb. 'Cause you know how it's trying to make everything kind of medium gray? Like, that's the idea of things? So, if it sees a really light scene, it's usually making it darker and everything looks kinda gray. But if you have a really dark scene, it kinda guesses and it lightens things up, even if you didn't want it to be. So, I use my exposure compensation to either make the image lighter or darker, be smarter than what my meter was telling me. But in your camera, you have several different metering modes. Slightly different names between Canon and Nikon, they do the same idea. So, spot metering in your camera, usually it picks a spot, you select the spot, right? And it meters based on just that area and so there's a lot of people that are very technical and precise, that can actually meter highlights versus shadows and compare them, don't do it. If you're beginning, like way too complicated. And then, the next one over is partial. It does what spot does, but a little bit bigger area. So instead of just taking one tiny area, it's a little bit wider and does the same thing. Let's base the exposure off of that. And then, you have center-weighted, which is like it's looking at the whole scene but putting a lot more emphasis on the center. And there's something called evaluative or matrix, couple different names for it. It does put a little more emphasis on the center, but what it's doing is, it's looking at the picture at a whole and it's actually acting like a computer, so it's comparing it against a bunch of other photos or other exposures that it knows of and guesses what it thinks the best fit is. So, what do I use? Alright, well, let me just show you. I was photographing this girl Anneah, it's a model that I've photographed her a few times, and I photographed her on the street and it was a very bright, sunny day and I had her backlit. And she has very dark skin. And so, on the top, I did spot metering but I pointed at the top of her forehead and so what it did is, it looked at the bright highlight and goes, whoa, this is bright and it underexposes, so it looks terrible. And then, I metered under her chin. Well, she's got dark skin and it was just shadow under her chin, so then it goes, oh, this is really dark, I need to brighten it up, well that also looks terrible 'cause of the light everywhere gets overexposed. Partial metering, I pointed it right at the center of her face. I mean, it's kinda cutting the difference, it's not terrible. Evaluative did better, it understood that her skin is darker so it should be a little bit darker, but don't lighten everything up or darken everything down. And then, center-weighted average, it still didn't know so I actually find, for me, I'm on that evaluative or matrix most of the time. Like it seems to be the smartest that gets me close and then, if I need to do exposure compensation, I can outsmart it if it's just not getting it, that usually saves me most of the time.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Skin Tones Keynote

Ratings and Reviews

Amy Vaughn

The topic is too big to cover all the solutions in depth in such a short amount of time, but this seems like a great overview for beginners to understand the range of problems with making skin look good in photos. Lindsay does a great job of making her class topics easy to understand.

Frank Gutierrez

I just love Lindsay's work! It's so impressive; especially the sampling photos captured of the elderly gentleman. It brought all she taught throughout the video together seamlessly! I'm so going to watch this over and over again!


Great primer on skin tones, lighting, and considerations for different types of skin. One of the few teachers that discusses dark skin tones!

Student Work