Ugly skin colors.

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by herma, Dec 21, 2010.

  1. I've tried to get some family portraits taken in my living room. (You know, Christmas tree, fire place....etc...) My lighting setup were two 500W, 3200K hotlights, that go through a white umbrella. I've tried to minimize spill light (all the other lights were turned off). Settings 5.6, ISO 800, 1/30 sec. Shot in RAW, with a 24-70L, original Canon 5d. The only adjustment I made in LR was to turn the WB to3200. And a bit of black boost. I am working on a Dell u2410 (thank you Patrick L.) that is set to "warm preset". Why are my skin colors still looking so... well, you be the judge.... (I've tried to give you as much info as possible because I would REALLY like to know why)
    Thank you so much,
  2. Personally I find the shot overexposed, and your lighting is flattening everything out way too much. White balance seems a bit too cool too; you've made the scene look like it's illuminated by pure white light, which just isn't how anything looks in the real world. This contributes to the rather ghostly pallor of the skin tones.
  3. Yes, I too thought it was over exposed, although my histogram dissagreed. So this is turned down about 0.8 of a stop, and my recovery at 50. Some added vignetting..
  4. Now it just looks like a darker shade of flat. May I just suggest diffused light very close to the subjects?
  5. On my uncalibrated screen the original shot looks fine, skin color as well. Maybe 1/3 stop too hot. Fix 1 is definitely way under.
  6. Ok, 1/3 stop under, still Recovery at 50, some added blacks and a vignette..
  7. Oh man, that looks like pink city. Aside from the lighting being too even (I can see that now), should my skin color be correct at least?
  8. I don't know, but the original image skin tones look okay to me. True, as has been pointed out, it is a bit too bright and the lighting isn't as controlled as it could have been, but otherwise I don't see a huge problem with the image.
    I'm more concerned with the fact you've shot this from above eye level (never a good idea) and that, even though you have a Christmas tree right next to them, you chose to pose them against a part of the wall and the fireplace (which is not even lit). These all make for a poorer image regardless of the lighting. Also, the smile seems a bit forced...
    Anyway, I worked for a couple of seconds on this...see what you think
  9. OK, I'll throw in my $0.02 ... IMHO, the 1st version you posted was quite acceptable.
    If one wants to nit-pick it, the average brightness of the skin was fine but the lighting was much too flat throughout the scene. In addition, IMHO, the skin color was just a tad too yellow, but was within the range of personal preferences for many photographers / styles / complexions.
    In addition, IMHO, the background was another problem. It was much too yellow and also suffered from being flat lit. Umbrellas give too much spill in a small room with light walls. Not only do they make the lighting too flat, but the spill hits the walls, and, if like in most rooms, they are off-white in a warm direction, the light bouncing from them will have a yellow cast, most prominent in the parts of the room most distant from the umbrellas and subjects.
    IMHO, the background didn't provide sufficient color and tonal contrast with the subjects. To check out the color balance of the background, just put your eyedropper tool on the wall, the rug, or the white ornament adjacent to the woman's hand. You'll see they are all far from neutral in the 1st version you posted. Learn to trust the numbers for things like this, especially if you have any doubts about the calibration of your monitor.
    Attached is my attempt to provide some local tonal contrast in post processing to compensate for the flat lighting. It looks like it over-sharpened things a bit too much, but it gives you an idea of what a higher contrast ratio on the faces would look like. I also got rid of all of the yellow cast on the wall, and some of the yellow cast on the subjects. Use the eyedropper tool on the wall to compare my version with the original. Your original is on the left, my tweaked version on the RHS.
    That being said, I'll repeat my earlier comment that your original was well within the range of acceptability of many clients and photographers. Anyway, those are my $0.02 on the subject.
    Tom M
  10. On my calibrated lcd, first shot seems perfectly acceptable. Fixed shot is quite underexposed.
  11. Original looked just fine (skin tone wise) on my HP Laptop..........running Firefox
  12. I guess I prefer the original, on my uncalibrated screen. One thing to consider if that if you're working on a JPEG and making exposure and WB adjustments, these can add color casts which wouldn't otherwise be there with a raw file. Another idea is to keep some files around which you know have good skin tone and compare what you're editing to these reference files. If you're screen isn't calibrated there's not much point in fussing too much about it. WB targets help quite a bit, shoot one frame with your target, and makes color correction much easier than hunting around the frame for a neutral value that probably isn't neutral. If you have white/grey/black in your target you can quickly check all colors to make sure the cast is gone, then you can warm it up a bit too taste.
  13. for me the best version so far is.. the original... but what do i know about color and retouching ; )
    maybe a bit too bright (for the skin tone.. clothes look already limit to loose details in the shadow) and a bit to yellowish (well not all of them, but maybe your son with the red sweater need a little more red on him).. but nothing to be crazy of.
    You mention that you use the *warm setting* of your monitor.. did i tell you also to get a calibration device with your monitor? if not, get a spider 3 pro or a eye 1 display 2 and you will finally see the real color ; )
    * the other version are way way too dark, or way to neutral
  14. 1st one looks fine on an uncalibrated Dell. Maybe a little bright, but otherwise the best of the bunch.
  15. And, on my LaCie 324 calibrated monitor, driven by a MAC, the first shot is better, then the adjusted darker images. I don't see any ghostly skin color at all. And the image is not flat at all. The last two posted images, tjm tweak 01, the left is a warmer color, which I would prefer, the right is a cool tone witch I don't like to mach. IMHO.
  16. on my LED laptop screen, the first shot is the best. the skin is almost perfectly exposed, overexposed just slightly (+.1 - +.3) and the skin tones are adequate.
    there is a problem in the shot however, and it has to do with the lighting scheme. there is one softened but strong light shining on them, so the boy on the right has an ugly shadow on the right cheek and the skin is shiny. also, the light is a tad low judging from the shadow.
    secondly, i suspect you only used one light or multiple lights badly positioned, and the kelvin is a bit low.
    i only use 5000k light sources, so i can have a very good color reproduction. i find that the warmer light sources are pretty messy.
    whenever i shoot on location i prefer to carry 2x lightstands, 1 reflective umbrella for the kick/background light and one softbox-umbrella (diffusion umbrella with no spill) as my main, powered by 2xSB portable flashes.
    this way i can travel light, have 5000k multiple sources and i can arrange them around easily. also, i don't depend on sockets. there is one downside, you have to be conscious about the f-stop and ISO used, because the power amount is limited somewhat.
    this is a picture of a model i took last evening, using this particular setup.
  17. I cannot thank everybody enough for their $0.02... I also really appreciate the comments on the back ground. I tried to light the fire place with a ton of tea lights, knowing that a black hole is not very attractive. But I don't think it worked in that shot. Marios, on my monitor, that image looks very yellow. Tom, I think that the umbrella's indeed spill onto the walls, and, what you can't really see, the green curtains. The walls are a pale lemon yellow, and that with the green curtains..... Remember, this is my living room, not a studio... This picture has to be better than a point and shoot ;). Also, isn't it desirable to shoot down a bit?
    So, would a light box have solved these issues? Or an off camera flash?
    Patrick, I waiting for Santa to get me a spider!
    This is the original scene...only fixed for WB.
  18. i would have done this: one SB with orange gel placed inside the fireplace, f/2.8 and the subjects in the same plane for face sharpness. this would have solved the black hole problem, throwing the fireplace in slight blur, for the orange light to seem natural.

    now, for the subject light, i would have used a single light with a softbox-umbrella or softbox, camera right, so that all of the faces would have been properly lit, in this arrangement, and the kid on the camera-left could of had face-volume.
    the last light, the background light, i would have placed it camera slight left, behind and near the fireplace wall, shining with a half-open reflective umbrealla, thus throwing hard-ish light on the backs of the kids and the tree, plus the fireplace. this would have created shadows and volume for the background.
  19. Herma - You are quite welcome. I suspected that there had to be something nearby giving that slight color cast. From their responses, it looks like most folks like warmer tones, instead of my more neutral rendition, especially for a Xmas shot. So it goes.
  20. Nicolaie, that is nice lighting! She looks almost as good as me...LOL. I won't post the one of me bare, on the bear rug..... but this is a close approximation....
  21. Thanks Herma, i was just trying to share my work style hoping that i could give you a hand.
    Great last shot and if you're as good looking, i only regret not having you as a model.
  22. Well... the original looks pretty good on my calibrated monitor. The skin tones are very believable even though the young man in front is a tad contrasty. In the spirit of never leaving anything alone that can be messed with, here's another version... :)... Mike
  23. Herma, none of these looks as good to me as your original. Nothing against any other edits - Tom's high-pass is very cool, and I'm sure on other monitors the other looks good too. But the way my monitor is set, your original looks best. Based on my monitor, the only way to "fix" this image would be to use lower-wattage bulbs closer to the subjects. This would give you a bit more contrast, and reduce the exposure in the background some.
    If I was to really nitpick this, I could only say that it looks about a 1/3-2/3 overexposed in the foreground, a little more overexposed in the background (not 'wrong', but drawing too much attention), and the boy on the right is partially shadowed by the boy on the left.
    Christmas portraits are usually done fairly basic and flat; most people don't bust out the grids and barndoors, and most recipients don't want to see that. They want to see "normal" photos of how cute your family looks. That doesn't mean you shouldn't strive for improvement (you should ALWAYS do that!), but it's not the same audience as a client, and 'good' is measured very differently.
  24. Took a stab at it in Adobe Camera Raw applying a reverse S-curve, Clarity +30, HSL adjusts to Orange channel=(Hue -10, Lum -10) and color temp fix of -5, +8 in 16bit ProPhotoRGB.
    Here's a tip on how to set correct exposure for Caucasian skin tones in post. Make sure the brightest spot on the face that has color without shine has a green channel reading of around 200. Color working space between 1.8 gamma ProPhotoRGB and 2.2 gamma of AdobeRGB/sRGB will give slightly different readings. In this case I based it on the left cheek highlight of the boy on the left in ProPhotoRGB.
    If interested I'll post a screenshot of the reverse S-curve which did most of the work.
  25. Tim, the skin colors in your bio shot look great! Even in your re-worked shot of my kids, I think the skin colors are off. It must have to do with how I originally captured it. I am really thinking that 5000K lightbulbs, as Nicolaie suggested, might help. That, and cutting down on spill. These were just my personal shots, but earlier this week, I had a customer bring in her family and I just had to turn them into B&W.
  26. Nice duotone, Herma. Really smooth, silky quality to the tonal transitions.
    You may have a calibration issue that's throwing off your perception of skin tone which happens to be the canary in the coal mine for calibration issues. You mentioned earlier not hardware calibrating your editing work station display.
    Also as you and others indicated there seems to be something about your 3200K warm color cast lighting mixed with other types of lighting in that scene that kept throwing off my sense of correct looking skin tone to where I had to compare my final against a known standard skin color target. The boy on the left is a bit jaundice while the boy on the right is kind of on the pink side. I leaned toward a warmer color cast to help blend the two together. I look at it now and it seems a bit too red. Oh well.
  27. Not gonna edit this--original is fine within the limits of the lighting used. I want to suggest one thing to everyone here. When evaluating skin tone, even with a calibrated high-end monitor, it can be useful to look at the numbers. Yes, I know this is outated, prepress almost Dan Margulis-ish stuff, but I still find it helpful. It's especially helpful if other hues in the image are throwing off your color perception. In this case, the numbers on the original post are C=0 M=30 Y=31 K=0. That's nice skin tone. On 'Fix 2' I get 0,25,32,16. (I am using a Windows freeware called 'ColorMania'--on Mac, I would use the Apple Digital Color Meter.) This last value isn't too bad, but the black is high enough to indicate a fair amount of desaturation.
  28. Very nice feedback Tim and Les. Tom, awesom fire. Now, can you reflect some of that light onto the back of their hair? That would have surely messed up the lightmeter, I assume.
    Santa, I want lightboxes....
  29. Les, I use CMYK as a guide as well.
    But I think this image is too small to use it reliably. Something happens to the perception of saturation levels at least with my eyes when there's very few pixels to render enough tonal transitions the smaller the image especially in a compressed jpeg. In this case I think it becomes necessary to rely on the overall look viewed next to images of naturally correct looking skin tone shot under neutral looking full spectrum lighting.
  30. My version
  31. That's nice Jimi. I didn't mean for my dog to be in the picture all cut off though. Those colors are very much like the real deal. Thanks everybody....
    Now if I just get CS5 installed properly...

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