Film for black skin

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by berlog, May 24, 2010.

  1. berlog

    berlog Member

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    What color film do you prefer for portraits of people with black skin? I can choose Kodak Ektar or Kodak Portra.
     
  2. alanrockwood

    alanrockwood Member

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    I realize this comment might not be as helpful as it could be, but I understand that Kodak markets (or perhaps used to market) a color print film in India that was especially designed for better portraits of people with dark skin.
     
  3. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The Portra will do better with human subjects. Ektar IMO is a bit garish for human subjects, much more suited for landscapes, flowers, etc. Dark or light skin isn't an issue with film so much as how the film renders natural tones, if thats what you seek. Films with vivid color palettes such as Ektar or Velvia will tend to make people look magenta, purple, etc.
     
  4. kristopher_lawrence

    kristopher_lawrence Member

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    I know it is not in your choices, but Fuji slide film is great for black skins, better than kodak even if I prefer Kodak for most applications.

    I used successufully 400X on balck skins, and saw some great shots on Astia or Provia.

    my 2 cents
     
  5. berlog

    berlog Member

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    But I think it doesn't matter for black skin. Can you show me "bad" picture with vivid color and black man?
     
  6. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Member

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    I've photographed black people on a number of color neg films and thought they all worked fine, with the portrait oriented films like Portra and Fuji's pro color portrait films being the best compared to amatuer films and pro films made for vivid color.

    The important thing is MAKE SURE YOU DON'T UNDEREXPOSE. Black people's skin, especially the darker complected ones, falls near the toe of a negative film's tonal curve, ANY underexposure destroys the skin tone. I usually give a stop of overexposure to ensure good detail and tone in the skin (I mean a stop over the normal exposure you'd give. Black people's skin ranges from zone III to IV depending on the person's complexion..so place it on zone IV or V). Color neg film can take a little overexposure and it keeps you from getting crappy skintone, which is easy to do with dark skinned people if you are not careful due to the lack of underexposure latitude at the tonal value their skin normally falls on.

    [​IMG]

    Ok, I shot this on Panatomic X when I was in high school 16 yrs ago (she's a medical researcher specializing in epidemic disease now!), but the same exposure principles applied. One of my favorite portraits, and hers too. She still has her print of it framed on her living room wall :smile:
     
  7. berlog

    berlog Member

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    chriscrawfordphoto, is it overexposed picture?
     
  8. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Subscriber

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    Posted wirelessly..

    Not so much the film as placement of the values. Place the skin on Zone IV for normal dark skin, Zone V for lighter.
     
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  9. TSSPro

    TSSPro Member

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    More recently I had a job for a clothing store, one of the models chosen was very dark. To make sure that I got good detail in her skin tones and it smoothed out her complexion a good amount, I exposed her between 6/10ths and 1 stop above what I metered on Fuji 160s.
     
  10. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    So what do you do if you want to make a portrait of two people of completely different complexion? One dark and one bright?

    Shouldn't you treat skin tone the same regardless of complexion? Help me understand why that wouldn't be a good question.

    - Thomas
     
  11. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I expose for the darker tones and let the light tones fall where they will. I can always burn in if necessary. Unless you have extreme blacks and whites in the same scene it shouldn't pose much of a problem. With color, there is no problem at all.
     
  12. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    That is basically what I do too, Rick. Regardless of complexion I make sure I have enough shadow detail (or as much as I want), and take care of mid-tones and highlights in processing so that the negs print well on grade 2 paper.

    To me dark skin should look - dark, and light skin should look - light! I just fail to understand why the dark skin should need special treatment and can't come up with a good explanation to why that should be. It is all shades of gray, and some are darker than others. Even on a face with pale complexion there are areas that are so dark that they may become completely black without tonal separation and a lack of detail unless you give enough exposure.
     
  13. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I just take an incidental light reading and it doesn't matter what colour or combination of colours the sitters are. I would use Kodak Portra 160 NC or Fuji Pro 160 S
     
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  15. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    All Kodak films were tested with many racial types when I was doing design work. The sensitization was adjusted to work with all of them in a proper fashion.

    PE
     
  16. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I always overexpose any complexion or almost anything for that matter. Like any dark object regard to exposure, if it isn't there it isn't there. I don't treat shooting a black or white person any different than any other exposure. I always just seek to capture all the tones available in a subject within the negative, and print from there. In photographing a person with light skin with a person with black skin my exposure wouldn't be any different than any other I might make.

    In regard to the color, I can't point you to a specific example offhand, but many times darker skin can come off with a purple tint with a vivid film. That will vary of course because there are many different complexions, just saying black or white or dark or light skin doesn't cover the spectrum of tones and hues found in human skin. It's a lot easier to jack chroma after the fact with paper/printing and move the overall hue than it is to remove a specific hue. YMMV.

    All of this involves making some assumptions. The only criteria that actually bears is the intention and the result, and so comes the old saw...test.
     
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  17. berlog

    berlog Member

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    Thanks all for answers!
     
  18. lilmsmaggie

    lilmsmaggie Member

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    This comment is not meant to offend anyone, so I offer my apologies in advance to anyone who may take this the wrong way.

    I realize that this is a photographic forum, in particular a question of proper exposure and not the subject of race or ethnicity. To be more specific, the question is one of propertly recording the reflectance of light waves from the subject onto a photographic medium.

    It just stuck me that, in the truest sense, I have never met anyone with "black skin." Nor have I met anyone with "white skin."

    We are a species comprising a multiplicity of races, creeds, ethnicity, color and nationality. Personally, I feel the word "color," or words denoting a particular color, should be replaced with something a bit more neutral. Maybe skin-tone, or pigmentation.

    No human being is truly black, or white, yellow, or red. Individually, our skin vary in hue, tonal characteristics and texture. What the eye and brain perceive are varying wavelengths of light.

    I just hope one day, human beings will mature enough to grow out of the use of labels denoting skin pigmentation and or race. We are all one race. The human race.

    There are no extraterrestrial beings on this planet.

    Again, I apologize if these statements offend. It is not my intent to offend anyone.
     
  19. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I don't consider any comment that anyone has made on this thread on the tone of peoples skin one that anyone would find offensive.
     
  20. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    So how do we do this? We are talking about shades of skin tone and how to best photograph it, and in my humble opinion in a very respectful way. How would you phrase the question?
     
  21. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    The best film for photographing dark complexions is orthochromatic film. If you look at photos taken in the 30's and 40's, you will see whatI'm talking about. The absence of red sensitization of the emulsion renders that color as black(or tones thereof). The portraits of Native Americans displayed in NG and other publications of the day is testimony to this.
     
  22. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    On related topic, how many stops of exposure difference can one expect from a lightest skinned person to the darkest? ...and when metering, do you place people's skin in zone 5 to get the most detail and compensate when printing for proper representation?

    lilmsmaggie,
    I am an Asian and by definition, "colored." I really don't see a need to pick a part someone's expression or use of the word "black", "white", or "colored." This whole thread is about bringing out the best out of person's features when photographing - in other words, representing people the way they are. We need not complicate the matter by merely swapping words. Personally, I feel so awkward if someone referenced me as a person of medium complexion.... I can pick up malice no matter what words were chosen. Likewise, I feel no offense being called "yellow skinned" in a friendly conversation.
     
  23. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Back in the 70's I worked regularly with a Birmingham (UK) Reggae/Ska band and the challenge of photographing a group of West Indians and their English guitarist at first appeared to be a problem, but in practice it never was, it's about good exposure control & processing regardless of skin colour.

    But to answer the OP's question choice of film isn't related to skin colour but rather to the tonality and look you want.

    Ian
     
  24. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I recall seeing what the scala/dr5 process does for dark skin tones and being amazed. Yes it's not colour but it is gorgeous, look at the dr5 site. Unfortunately you have to poke patiently through several individual films at the bottom of this link to find examples.

    My guess is that astia would work very well on darker skin.
     
  25. CGW

    CGW Member

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    Huge, even light sources help greatly--whatever the film. A very flattering shot of Gabourey Sidibe, star of "Precious," ran in the NYT Sunday mag some months back. Her dark, even skin tone was made radiant by what I'm guessing were garage door-sized soft boxes or diffused light banks. I like Ilford XP2 Super rated at ISO100-200 or TMY-2 for medium/dark skin tones over colour.
     
  26. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Member

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    I know you're trying to look liberal and enlightened, but by ignoring the observable reality that people from different parts of the world do indeed look different from each other (while looking similar to others from their part of the world) you just end up looking foolish. You're confusing race and species. We are not all the same race, but we are the same species no matter what our race.

    Race is more than skin color anyway, it encompasses a number of aspects of physical appearance, like hair color, hair texture, shape of eyes and other facial features. There are medically important biological differences between races too. Some inherited medical conditions only affect people of certain racial groups. Sickle Cell Anemia, for example, is never found among Europeans or Asians. It is a genetic trait found only among Africans from south of the Sahara (blacks).

    Instead of trying to lie and claim that races do not exist, you would be better off promoting understanding and tolerance of cultural differences and different appearances. Despite the very real physical differences between different races of mankind, we are all still brothers and sisters.

    Anyway, as others have pointed out, this is a technical discussion of how to ensure good rendering of dark skin,which is a real issue. I've seen way too many photos of African American friends whose faces are so dark in the photo that all you see are eyes and teeth, and there's no excuse for such a stupid technical blunder when one can, through correct exposure, ensure that dark skin is rendered beautifully and with full detail.