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Tips & Tricks

Photography Tips | 3 Tips For Working With Darker Skin Tones

By Holly Roa on March 24th 2018

There are so many places these days to look for photography tutorials, and now you can add Instagram stories to that list. Adobe has released a short tutorial via Instagram story on their Lightroom account, with tips and images furnished by Aundre Larrow. This particular IG story tutorial teaches some nuance for lighting and photographing subjects with deep skin tones.

It’s important to represent and make visible the entire spectrum of skin tones this world has to offer, and when doing so to make sure you can present them at their best. Dating back to the film days, light skin tones have been the default in photography. We’ve come a long way since then, but we’ve still got room to grow, and Adobe and Larrow have set out to help.

Larrow’s story provides three quick tips on photographing subjects with darker skin tones, and he’s also offered an in-depth look at the history of darker skin in photography and tips for working with darker skin today for Adobe Create Magazine which can be found here.

#1 – When Shooting Use A Hair Light

If your subject has dark hair, it will absorb a lot of light. Adding a hair light adds separation and helps bring out detail and texture in the hair that could otherwise be lost if only working with a single light.

#2 – Be Aware Of Undertones

Skin tones come in warm and cool variations, and which group your subject fits into will determine what colors of backgrounds, outfits, makeup, and accessories will complement them. You can tell a subject’s undertones by looking at their wrist. A person with cool undertones will have veins in their wrist that appear blue, while someone with warm undertones will have veins that look green.

For best results, pair warmer colors with subjects with warm undertones and cooler colors for those with cooler undertones.

#3 – Embrace The Highlights And Shadows Sliders

Boosting highlight and shadow sliders can help bring out detail in the features of a subject with darker skin that lighting alone may have not successfully revealed. Take care to give a faithful representation of your subject’s skin without over-lightening.

If you’d like to see the story in its native environment, you can spot it in a more permanent locale on Aundre Larrow’s Instagram via the app.

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Seattle based photographer with a side of videography, specializing in work involving animals, but basically a Jill of all trades.
Instagram: @HJRphotos

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Lilli An

    Funny that this is titled “…darker skin tones…” and then references looking inside the wrist for color undertone!  For actual dark skin tones veins don’t appear green or blue…. 

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  2. Hagos Rush

    It’s kind of funny, I was initially thinking why do they need a tutorial for this? Being someone whose melanin count has always been high, it just came as natural to me (understanding how to take photos of myself and people like me).

    But, this tutorial is needed for a lot of photographers who, don’t have the natural advantage haha.

    Favorite tip? Embrace the darkness (shadows slider), there is nothing better than the light/dark composition on a person of color as it adds such intrigue and mystique to the photograph.

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