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weird question about skin color

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Luke Duncanweird question about skin color
by on Jun 27, 2005 at 4:28:12 am

Please don't think me weird or wrong for asking: So far I've only shot weddings with a white bride and groom, and now I need to know if I should adjust my camera in any way to film a black bride and groom. I use GL2's (w/ small halogen lights at the dark evening receptions).

Do I need to adjust my camera differently to capture the detail of a black face? Is it different in the day than the night? I'm worried if I use Vegas to "crush the blacks" slightly (for a more romantic look), I'll lose the detail of their faces.

I don't really even know what to ask, but if you have any experience with this, I'd appreciate some input. A photographer I often work with said I needed to overexpose slightly, but she has no experience with video, only stills. What do you think?

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Don GreeningRe: weird question about skin color
by on Jun 27, 2005 at 6:24:16 am

Video IS photography. The difference is that you're exposing 30 frames a second, whereas the still photographer is, well........shooting less frames. Really, the same rules apply. So if your photographer friend is suggesting overexposing for a darker face then you should take her experience and recommendation to heart. Use your camera's zebra bars and take some test footage if possible. You'll soon find out what the correct settings are.

- Don

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Jeff CarpenterRe: weird question about skin color
by on Jun 27, 2005 at 1:28:41 pm

Do you generally use manual iris when you shoot? Just get in the habit of looking at the faces more than the overall picture. The most important thing for ANY wedding is that the face looks good. With lighter skinned people the face and the background are usually pretty close so it's not a problem. With darker skin you can still get a good image, you just need to pay more attention to the person and less on the overall picture. You may end up with a slightly brighter background than you're used to, but it should still be within an acceptable range.

Get a blue gel for your light, if you can. When shooting weddings like that I find that I decide to use my light more, sometimes in areas with a lot of daylight present, such as the entrance to a building. If you can daylight-balance your light that will help you out a lot.

So those are the downsides. Once big upside I've noticed in this situation is that you can make your white-balance a lot warmer than usual. A nice, warm image generally looks really nice, but with white people their skin starts to look orange pretty quickly so you can't go too far. With darker skin, however, you can usually go a little further and they'll end up looking rosey and cheerful, not orange and clown-like.

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Charlie KingRe: weird question about skin color
by on Jun 27, 2005 at 3:17:28 pm

Jeff has some great suggestions, heed them. I have found, interestingly, working in broadcast, the actual luminance level of most black skins on a scope are still in the 75-80% renge. They just have more chroma. Surprised me a tremendously when I discovered that. So keep that in mind, make pretty pictures of their faces and the rest of the picture should also be pretty.


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Jeff CarpenterRe: weird question about skin color
by on Jun 27, 2005 at 3:34:50 pm

Charlie's information brings up another bit of good news for you, Luke. If you do get footage that's not quite what you want, it sounds like you should be able to raise the midtones with a color corrector to bring out more detail. (Which shouldn't alter the rest of the image too much.)

You might not be able to do your usual effects with black-level crushing, but at least it sounds like there will be information there for you to play with if it doesn't quite look perfect at first.

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Mark SuszkoRe: weird question about skin color
by on Jun 27, 2005 at 5:09:57 pm

A rookie mistake shooting dark skinned people is to throw more light on them. This just makes things worse. What works better is to use more side light to get specular reflection/highlight to define the contours. A gold or bronze reflector board really brings out the warmth and beauty of the skin tone in these situations as well. Manual iris, definitely. Where it's a choice between blowing out the background or etc and losing the face, keep the face, work closer-in, tighter. Use diffused light where you can.

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tony salgadoRe: weird question about skin color
by on Jul 2, 2005 at 11:39:45 pm


Speaking as a video control operator who make a living shading cameras on hundreds of multicam shoots I have to respectfully disagree with you that black skinned person would be 70-80 IRE unless you are trying to get them to look white (similar to what Michael Jackson's skin bleaching technique). The average white newscaster's skin is 75-80 IRE.

An average black person would be in the neighborhood of 40-55 IRE. A "film style" exposure for light skinned person is 55-65 IRE.

The most common mistake when shooting dark skinned people is to try to make them expose to make them brighter than they actually are.

I have never found black skin to have more chroma than a white person who has a tan or has a bad fever or is drunk and their faces are very red.

The trick to making dark skinned person stand out is effective lighting which separates them from the background (rim lighting, back or hair lighting, along with fill lighting).

Still photography (film) and video are different mediums with different responses in terms of dynamic range. Depending on how a video camera is set up (gamma, pedestal, blk stretch or blk gamma, knee) all these parameters will effect where the exposure can be set. So using a half stop rule may not work all the time.

The only method is to do a test shoot in advance and figure out the dynamic range of the specific video camera being used for the shoot.

Tony Salgado

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