DPP Home Technique Camera Technique Dialing In Skin Tone

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dialing In Skin Tone

A wedding professional has some sage advice and techniques for mastering elusive skin tones

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Simply put, there’s a fixed amount of tone to go around in an image, but the relative levels of that tone can be adjusted as long as the sum still comes out the same. In other words, if two tones are really a stop apart, you can tweak things to make them half a stop apart, but that will result in changes to the overall tone.

Looking at a clean histogram, you can see that the tones are clumped toward the midtones, and there’s a good deal of space on the ends that weren’t utilized. This image would have more dynamic range available to it.

Using Aperture (although you could do this in Photoshop, Lightroom and other programs), you can make an adjustment to the exposure, which moves the tonal curve to the right of the histogram, which has the effect of changing the midtone of the image.

At this point, you’ll see that the histogram begins to clip on the high-lights, although it’s only clipping on the display; the information isn’t thrown out by adjusting the exposure.

Next, taking the Recovery slider, (which doesn’t really recover so much as bring back into range), drag it until the bell curve just ends at the right edge of the histogram. You can hit Option-Shift-H to see an overlay of the image displaying the hot (overexposed) and cold (underexposed) areas. This has the effect of compressing the tonal curve on the right side and redistributing the tones, at which point the midtones and the highlights have been brought into range.

Finally, grabbing the Black Point slider will remap the point in the tonal curve where shadow becomes solid black. Be gentle with this side of the curve because you don’t want to lose detail in something like a tuxedo or dark-colored bridesmaid’s gown.

These adjustments are analogous to using the Levels tool, but are done without having to fully understand the histogram. Experienced Photoshop users can bring up Curves and adjust the relative points of the tonal curve, while Aperture users can use tools like Shadows and High-lights to adjust the tonal range at individual points.

David Schloss is a professional photographer, a former magazine editor and the director of the Aperture Users Network, www.apertureprofessional.com.

You can see more of Schloss’ photography by visiting his website at www.davidschlossphoto.com.


Check out our other sites:
Digital Photo Outdoor Photographer HDVideoPro Golf Tips Plane & Pilot