Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Dialing In Skin Tone
A wedding professional has some sage advice and techniques for mastering elusive skin tones
But for all the power digital has to transform a business, the technology requires a greater degree of mastery, digitally speaking. Because of the way that digital sensors create their images, the resulting photographs can lack a large portion of the tonal range that their film forefathers would have easily recorded.
For the wedding photographer—where capturing every subtle nuance in a lightly colored wedding dress while still picking up the details of the piping on a tuxedo is crucial—understanding how best to craft an image for the digital medium is key. It’s important to understand not only how digital cameras differ from film in terms of image capture, but also how to best set up a shot to capture the greatest range of tones.
Bits Of Buckets
Every photograph, be it from film or a digital sensor, has a certain range of tones that can be produced, and the distribution of lights to darks is called dynamic range, which is commonly expressed in ƒ-stops. A typical piece of print film may yield a 10-stop dynamic range, while many digital cameras capture only around four stops of tone between the lightest and the darkest regions of the image, with anything outside those four stops resulting in the image being clipped to white or dark. (One of the selling points of medium-format digital backs is that they boast dynamic range up to 12 stops, which is why they’re so often used in high-end portrait work.)
High-school physics classes introduced the idea that light acts both as a wave and as a particle. It’s the particle properties of light that are important to the wedding photographer. Across the face of a digital sensor are light-gathering areas that work like little buckets, gathering up the incoming photons. If the bucket is empty, the region is black; half-full, and it’s a midtone; and if completely full, it’s white.
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