Wanna know what hues to adjust when photographing people of color with darker skin tones? We have some suggestions that may be helpful to you!
This one isn’t travel or budget-related, but it’s one of the most searched questions related to our blog. When it comes to darker skin tones like my own, there aren’t as many presets or resources available. Even when it comes to stock images, you’ll find more stock images with people with fair complexions than those without. While this isn’t the photographers’ fault, it does speak to the fact that there is a need for more diverse products that support diverse clientele.
But presets aren’t one size fits all, so what if you have a preset and there’s still some adjustments to be made? Where do you begin and what hues should you immediately look towards to ensure that you are highlighting the beautiful tones of your subject?
Technically, you can always increase the saturation, but I’ve noticed that does not always solve all of my issues since the saturation will immediately increase the contrast of all of the colors in your photograph – something you may not want.
So how do you enhance the color of the subject in your photograph while keeping the photograph light and airy?
IDENTIFY THE UNDERTONE
This would be my biggest tip to you that will ensure you’ll be able to do this faster is to pay attention to the undertones. In fact, I’d recommend doing this first before adjusting anything else. I’ve noticed that not many people do this and it makes a difference in whether a skin tone is embraced or if it’s washed out. Everyone has undertone colors. There are some people who have yellow undertones, some red, and some orange. These undertones can become more pronounced depending on the setting and the equipment you have. The faster you can identify the undertone of your subject, the easier it will be to figure out which colors you should embrace. This is a great resource for determining what the undertone of your client is.
Now that you’ve identified the undertone, here’s the colors that I tend to adjust the most when editing photography where myself or someone else with a similar tone is in them.
Depending on the skin tone and undertone of your subject, I would recommend playing with the purple hue. The idea is you want to enhance the color of their skin a little more since sometimes playing around with the shadows and the exposure of a photograph can wash people of color out. This is particularly useful for someone who has a darker complexion to keep them from appearing washed out in photographs. Often times, depending on the lighting and the feel I am hoping to accomplish in the photograph, I will adjust this hue. For example, the photo on the right uses more blueish/purple adjustments than the photograph in the middle where I was hoping to highlight my warmer tones.
This probably goes without saying, but one of the first hues I go to when editing photographs is the red one. This is especially great if you are photographing someone who has a red undertone. Just adjust it slightly to the left to enhance the reds a little more, stopping right where it’s only a slight enhancement. You do not want to turn someone’s face red or highlight any blemishes, but you do want to enhance the undertone below it.
If you have someone with a yellow undertone or someone is being photographed in an area where there’s a lot of sunlight, I’d recommend adjusting this as well. I’d recommend bringing this item a little further to the left so it’s less pronounced unless you’re noticing that the subject you are shooting looks very, very grey. Normally though, once you raise the shadow, exposure and white settings, you do not need to increase the yellow.
Orange is another go-to of mine when editing my photography. Typically for darker tones, I will bring the setting a little more to the right so the orange is a little deeper. I sometimes also will adjust this for photographs where I am taking pictures of my husband, who sometimes has orange undertones in photos.
We hope this post is as helpful for you as adjusting these hues have been for our photographs! If you’d like more tips, presets (both free and paid) feel free to browse our preset shop and/or subscribe to our newsletter below!
What are some of your favorite hues to use when editing photography to highlight and enhance skin tones?