Pushing colour neg for dark skin?

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by batwister, Aug 8, 2012.

  1. batwister

    batwister Member

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    I've recently been working on some portraits with Portra 400. With one subject in particular, who has dark skin, I found myself having difficulty with exposure - first time I've worked with this kind of skin tone.
    I rate Portra 400 at box speed and in this situation I'd stopped down to f/11 on the Hasselblad, and had to give a stop extra. This was in a conservatory and the subject was basked in uniform sunlight - when the clouds finally shifted!

    I don't like pushing more than a stop and having a 'black and white mind' I'm still a little cautious with colour neg expansion/contraction.
    To get that stop back, is pushing to 800 advisable with such a subject? Or will this only result in added texture to her face - i.e. accentuated specular highlights/pores?
     
  2. Prof_Pixel

    Prof_Pixel Member

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    Why push process? Just give a little more exposure. The biggest thing you want to avoid is having dark skin go slightly greenish.
     
  3. batwister

    batwister Member

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    She has very dark skin and I suppose I'm having difficulty with my judgement of tonality. Should have the negs back tomorrow and will provide examples to see what people think. Because I'd stopped down so much to get a background in too, my exposures ended up at 1/30 and then 1/60 when the sun was completely clear of cloud. I suppose I'm not comfortable with such slow shutter speeds for portraiture.
     
  4. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    I am no colour expert but I can't think of any reason why you'd need to process Portra differently for dark skin. It has to be designed to capture dark skin well under normal processing, surely?

    What did you take your exposure from?

    If you are not comfortable with 1/30 or even 1/60 then I think that Portra 400 will still produce good prints rated at 800.

    You may be worrying unnecessarily.

    pentaxuser
     
  5. labyrinth photo

    labyrinth photo Member

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    it's is advisable to give the film a bit more when shooting people with dark skin, a stop extra is about right however you choose to achieve this,
     
  6. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Doesn't pushing color neg film cause color cross-overs?
     
  7. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    The books usually seem to say that taking an exposure from a grey card is the right thing to do, be it B&W or colour neg and in both cases shadow detail( really dark areas) is improved by erring on the side of overexposure which I think is being suggested above.

    However if and this "if" is crucial to what I am going to say, the exposure meter gives a reading for 18% grey(zone V) then as dark skin is registered as the equivalent of zone V rather than say zone IV it would seem that a reading from the dark skin should give the right exposure, be it B&W or colour neg.

    On this basis a caucasian skin on a colour neg film requires more exposure to lighten it so taking a reading from Caucasian skin requires a stop extra and dark skin requires no extra exposure.

    Do I have this wrong and if so how would one judge dark skin's correct exposure from a spot meter or correct exposure for a white wall with texture on colour neg?

    pentaxuser
     
  8. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I wondered about this too. My skin happens to be almost exactly 18% so no problem taking a shot of myself but....

    Assuming everything around the subject is not extremely bright or dark, is there anything wrong with metering person's skin and put it on zone V where most detail can be captured? On the same token, knowing the difference between white skin and black skin from zone V is only one stop on each side, is it that important that we compensate for this?

    I think the darkest of the dark skin and lightest of light skin can vary as much as 2 stops from zone V. In such cases, do we still measure zone V or split the difference?
     
  9. batwister

    batwister Member

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    What's difficult with thinking the zone system in colour, is that caucasian skin is traditionally placed anywhere from 5-7 depending on lighting conditions. For a more somber image in black and white, say in a dark room where a white face is the highest tonality, ZV can work a treat. In colour, I think you can get away with a certain amount of tonal experimentation with white skin, but feel it's difficult with very dark skin in particular.

    That said, I've been looking at an African photographer recently, please take a look - http://www.vivianesassen.com/#/flamboya - The image of the woman sat on the tree in this series ('Spring of the Nile') is particularly striking. She works with shadows on her subjects to great effect.
     
  10. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Whenever possible, take a reading from a 18% gray card placed in front of your subjects face in the lighting you are using. Skin color should not matter, as you are using color film, and will get an accurate rendering from the light reading.
     
  11. RPC

    RPC Member

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    Metering a gray card theoretically should give correct exposure but if your meter, metering technique, apertures and shutter speeds aren't on the money, and if you are erring on the side of underexposure, then dark skin may cause excessive underexposure and loss of detail and saturation. Therefore it is a good idea to add a stop or so of exposure.
     
  12. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Stop making this more complicated than it should be. Negative film gets extra exposure to saturate(expose for shadows), reversal films get underexposed(expose for hi-lites) to saturate. Metering a gray card when possible, especially including a shot of the card will allow the printer(lab or home) a benchmark to go from. Using the gray card to meter will give accurate exposure. Variables such as wonky meters and or shutters be damned, you should already know what your gear is doing, and if it's whacked, fix it, dump it, or know what to allow for difference.
     
  13. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    No this is incorrect, metering a grey card will will give you Zone V, dark or Negro skin to show shadow detail should be in Zone 111 two stops less http://www.photoessayist.com/specials/gray-scale.html.
     
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  15. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Sorry, my meter won't get me to zone 111. I used to shoot portraits for a living, and never had to adjust for "negro" skin. Exposing for the lighting and not worrying about skin tones has always rendered great results for me. I've sold Thousands of dollars worth of portraits and never failed to produce desired results for a client.
     
  16. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    You've been very lucky Rick, "my meter doesn't give me Zone 111" either, but my brain does. I too used to shoot portraits for a living, and I know that some Afro/Caribbean people get very upset if their skin comes out too light and even white Caucasian skin should be one stop more exposure than an 18% Grey Card that you say you base your exposure on without modification.
    18% Grey Cards don't automatically give you the correct exposure in all situations, just a starting point to think about how your subject differs from that mid tone.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 9, 2012
  17. batwister

    batwister Member

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    Part of me thinks grey cards are for girls, but I'll be sure to take it next time. :smile:

    I actually meter with a DSLR as to make 'sketches' and reference exposures when using new films.

    This is part of my concern, yes.

    I'm happy to take creative liberties most of the time in regard to shadow detail and darker prints for mood. These were formal portraits though, very much personal work, but I had the straight approach in mind so exposure needs to be critical really. The portrait consisted of a bright white wall, a painting, a red sofa and the subject so the grey card would have made sense.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 9, 2012
  18. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    That is true Rick if you are using an incidental light reading, but reflected light meter readings from 18 Grey Cards make Caucasian skin one stop too dark whatever type of film you use, the principals of exposure don't alter for colour film. http://www.photoessayist.com/specials/gray-scale.html
     
  19. batwister

    batwister Member

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  20. RPC

    RPC Member

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    Her skin tone doesn't look dark enough to me to cause any concern or changes from what you normally do.
     
  21. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    ... and others get upset if their skin comes out too dark (even when that is the true color). Some people (no matter what race they are) have a mental image of hteirselves that just isn't quite the same as reality.

    But one "issue" I have noticed with dark skin is that the contrast can be great due to skin oil or perspiration so attention to lighting is essential.
     
  22. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Whenever possible use an incident light meter.
     
  23. batwister

    batwister Member

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  24. CGW

    CGW Member

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    I think what's often the cause of your last point is the size and distance of the light source. Large diffusion and careful distance consideration can really make a difference.
     
  25. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    The high-contrast effect of black skin seems caused by differences in collogen/oils and pigmentation versus caucasian skin. Much more difficult to control so broad lighting, as you say, as well as other more "cosmetic" approaches are often in order.

    Here's an interesting example of what I'm talking about (especially the second photo)... to help anyone who has not yet experienced this. Although this is wet-plate photography vs regular film... the effect is quite the same:

    http://www.largeformatphotography.i...2012-Portraits&p=917720&viewfull=1#post917720
     
  26. CGW

    CGW Member

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    Some more examples here. The shots of Gabby Sidibe show how a huge light source can help with very dark complexions. Don't buy the oil argument, sorry. Hot spots are the result of faulty lighting.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/25/magazine/25precious-t.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all