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Couple Portrait Shoot - Husband is Asian, Wife is African-American

Tanya Sakolsky , Sep 24, 2010; 11:53 a.m.

Hi there.

I was recently approached to shoot a family portrait session. I was wondering if you have any tips or advice for during the shoot or when I am doing post work. It is very important that I have accurate skin tones of both the husband and wife. I will probably be shooting a roll of color film and a roll of black & white. Most likely Fuji 400H and Fuji 100 Acros. The rest of the photographs will be shot on my 5D.

Also, if I am using my in camera meter, are there any steps I need to take in order to help ensure that I get an accurate reading?

Thank you for your advice in advance!



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Matt Laur , Sep 24, 2010; 12:21 p.m.

Do you have an 18% gray card? At least that way you can make sure that the reflective meter in the camera isn't lying to you (much). How will you be lighting?

Tanya Sakolsky , Sep 24, 2010; 12:29 p.m.

I do not have an 18% gray card, but I am sure that I could get one before the session. We will be shooting at a park, so the shoot will most likely just be shot using natural light. I will most likely locate some open shade to use for the shoot.

Starvy Goodfellows , Sep 24, 2010; 12:31 p.m.

Hi Tanya,
This is where digital really rules. Out of the few friends who regularly pose for me, one is Indian. With one of my lenses, an old Minolta Pf58, I find that +1 exposure compensation is fine. With another lens, the Zuiko 100mm it needs to be +1.5 at least.
The above friend's girlfriend is very fair skinned so when it came to both of them demanding some informal couple shots sat on a white couch, I had to get creative with my lighting. I used two flashes, both diffused but one with half the power as the other with the more powerful on him.
I have shot outdoors in film with Reala 100 and my Olympus OM4 meter seemed to have got very good tones.

Brian S. , Sep 24, 2010; 12:39 p.m.

Incident light meter reading.

Mukul Dube , Sep 24, 2010; 12:52 p.m.

Brian said it. If you don't have a meter for incident light readings, there's another trick available. Take a reading of a sheet of white paper with an in-camera meter and open up 2.5 stops. For the digital work I would recommend raw, not JPEG.

David Haas , Sep 24, 2010; 01:25 p.m.

Shoot the 5d in raw - chimp the images - shoot a couple of test images first - then check them in the lcd - adjust from there.

I shoot portraits in manual - don't rely on camera to get it right. Get a WB card - and take a shot of it first - that way you have a reference.

5D is an excellent choice as it has a wide dynamic range - there's a reason it was favored by a lot of wedding photographers until the D300 came out by Nikon.


Hector Javkin , Sep 24, 2010; 02:49 p.m.

If you really need accuracy for your color images, pick up a Grega-Macbeth color checker chart or similar and shoot it under the same lighting you use for your subjects. Then, if shooting raw with the 5D, or working with the negatives, you can correct, assuming the exposure is close. A test frame with the couple holding the color chart wouldn't hurt. There is a strip color checker that's cheaper than the G-M, and would be adequate, but I can't recall who makes it.

A dark African-American friend and I, very pale, sometimes appear together on a television program. Getting the proper color balance drove the crew crazy until they figured it out, especially since many of the the studio lights are high, and they have to climb tall ladders to change gels.

Mark Anthony Kathurima , Sep 27, 2010; 04:59 a.m.

If you plan to do regular portrait sessions (or even if not), you would do well to invest in an incident light meter. Especially if you're using film and don't have the benefit of instant feedback. The Sekonic L358 is an excellent tool for this and can be had for around 250 USD. It will quickly pay for itself...

As an aside, when you check the 5D image, please ensure you are checking the histogram. This will provide the exposure readings of the image. The LCD image alone might not show you the correct picture. It could end up being too light or too dark...

Craig Shearman , Sep 27, 2010; 02:04 p.m.

"I will probably be shooting a roll of color film and a roll of black & white. Most likely Fuji 400H and Fuji 100 Acros. The rest of the photographs will be shot on my 5D." -- I would seriously rethink shooting a combination of color film, B&W film and digital. The color film and the color digital are almost certain to record the skin tones differently. You're setting yourself up for a situation where she looks good and the film and he looks better on the digital, or the other way around. Or maybe they like the tones best on the B&W but the expression and poses best on the digital (or on the film). You're taking two variables -- skin color and skin reflectance -- and turning them into six variables because of the three different ways of shooting. I would shoot just digital, since it gives you the most flexibility in fine tuning color and exposure, plus the ability to print as B&W. Digital -- whether from a digital camera or scanned film -- will also give you the ability to mask out one face vs the other and do color corrections that suit each face the best within the same picture.

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