Skin Tones

Ok so many people ask me all the time about the skin tones in my photographs.  Once of the biggest questions I get from clients and photographers is how do I achieve such consistent skin tones.  My best answer is “elbow grease” cause nothing is automatic.  So I wanted to share a post of a “before and after” color correction on an image.

Back in the old days (did I really just say that and tip my hand that I am old!)  Anyway, back in the old days when I shot film all I had to do is nail the exposure which, without a digital display on the back of the camera, wasn’t always easy.  I had to rely on my incident meter and at times even take a polaroid test.   Anyway, once I shot the images,  I sent the film off to a pro lab to be developed and to have prints made.  The prints came back already color corrected.  They analyzed and color corrected every frame and made adjustments for proper skin tones and density for each exposure.  This price was included in the cost of printing each image.  These days, color correcting is not included in the price of printing. (you can pay extra for it)   I have to do the color correcting myself if I want the color to look the way it “should” instead of the way the camera “records” it. The job is placed back on the photographer which suits me just fine cause I know as an artist my intention for the image,  how the subject looked and how I want my final image to look.  I like the control I have over the image.   But, let me tell you,  learning to see and adjust color was the worst year of my life back in 2000.  You really have to train your eye to see what needs to be seen because your eye, like the camera, can be fooled.  For example if the camera sees 85% of an image that is red it will adjust and make the image more green.  It doesn’t know to isolate the skin and not globally correct for the overall image.   Plus, the condition under which the image was photographed affects the look of an image as well .  Light has varied color temperatures (kelvin) and in order to get an image to appear appropriately you have to adjust your image to “neutralize” the lighting conditions which you shot the image under.  If you shoot in the sun the appearance of the overall color is very warm and yellow.   If you shoot in a gym under fluorescent lighting the overall color of the image has a green cast.   And if you shoot in the shade the overall color temperature is very cool with a cyan appearance.  And cyan skin tones are my pet peeve!  Nobody wants to look pasty and deathly with blueish green skin tones right?  So each image has to be analyzed and appropriately corrected individually for density and color

So if people want to know how I achieve good skin tones it is a two fold process…first the image is properly exposed and secondly, I sit and analyze each and every image and make the necessary color corrections to each image for proper skin tones in an editing software.  So here you can see a shot straight out of the camera and one where I made the necessary color corrections in Adobe LR to achieve an image with pleasing skin tones.


#adobe #adobelightroom #colorcorrection





nicole - August 7, 2014 - 10:34 am

thanks beth .. i struggle with this and completely appreciate your skill

admin - August 7, 2014 - 10:38 am

Yes! I think color correcting is always a struggle. Some skin tones and some lighting conditions can just be contrary! The biggest key it to look only at the face and try to isolate it form the rest of the image. In particularly difficult situations I use a grey card too.

Michael Warren - September 9, 2014 - 9:09 pm

How did you color correct this in Lightroom?

admin - October 5, 2014 - 11:38 am

I used the temperature and tint tools in Lightroom adding warmth and red to the image before exporting it.

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