Of all the things I’ve learned in my journey as a cinematographer, one of the most important things is the significance of light and color. You can have the most expensive gear in the land, but if there is no intention behind the lighting and color, the shots aren’t going to look as good as they can look. Although this post isn’t about gear, I would like to take this moment to emphasize that the name and price tag on the gear does not dictate the affect of the piece you’re producing. More on that some other time.
Just as there is nuance among communities of humans with different skin tones in life, there is nuance when color grading video of those humans.
I have shot many photos and videos of different people in different environments. For as many shades of skin there are, there are just as many variations of light and post production coloring that can take things to the next level. In this post, I am listing out some things it is important to keep in mind when shooting people of color, namely darker shades of brown.
Do not shy away from accentuating dark skin
- Dark skin is not something that is unfavored or needs to be “fixed.”
- Lighting should supplement the natural glow of brown skin, not overexpose it.
- At the same time, do not forgo lighting darker skin altogether.
- Do not stop at adding a LUT. Play around with fine tuning color adjustments too.
- Darker skin has undertones just like lighter skin. Use color and light to complement that.
There was once upon a time there were many more hoops to jump through to properly capture people of color on photo and video. Photo lab technology in the 50s and 60s were biased towards lighter skin and made it very difficult to properly color and expose images with darker people in them. There is much less of that happening from a technological or representation standpoint. It is now up to us, the artists to learn how to give people of color the visibility we deserve.