top of page

Dark Skin Photography

In today's blog, I am to look into dark skin photography and hopefully clarify some myths and truths. I have long wondered about skin tones and how certain artist are able to get certain affects. Whether it be skin that looks like edible chocolate or skin that is as spotless as milk. Even more so I have had various conversations with regards to skin tones and how light is different for each subject. I am no expert, but in this short read I aim to enlighten you on a few tips I have learned.

Rosaline Autumn theme shoot


A histogram is a dynamic, graph that on a live camera can be used to give an indication on the exposure of an image. The problem that some photographers find is that if they have a dark skin toned subject, by looking at their graph they could be mislead into thinking that the subject is too dark. Thus leading them to take measures to bring more light to an image than is needed. This can lead to a blown out image that not only gives a false impression of the subject but is quite often unflattering.

To combat this some professionals will use a light meter and calculate the correct exposure to cancel out the trail and error. I at this point opt for the later as I tend to fiddle with different settings for a variety of affects.

Beti, fashion shoot


It is true that black in general is more absorbing than lighter tones such as white. I advise to Compensate by making sure you make the most of the light sources available. If possible a soft light source can do wonders, try not to work in harsh lights. It is often the quality of the light rather than the intensity that makes a difference.

George, looking cool away from light source


You need more lights for dark skin

This is not necessarily true. Light quantities are usually good for creating different affects but not a golden rule for darker skin. As with any subject, soft even light can work wonders. Having the subject close to a soft light source is beneficial as this means you may not need to crank the ISO which some may know to increase grain in an image.

Chocolataire looking cool

Black don't crack

Sorry guys, black skin does wrinkle, though there are some texture differences within the tones, dark skinned people are not except from the ageing process.

It's hard to find make up for dark skin

I am not sure how this myth came about, and I have heard countless testimonies from models whose MUA (make up artist) had no products for their darker skinned clients. There are plenty of products out there that are suitable for darker tones.

Naomi rocking it in the studio

Dark is ugly

Black is beautiful! To my dark skin people, your skin is beautiful (As are all other skin tones)! Be comfortable in your own skin, and own it. You don't need to be made lighter to be attractive.

Christine in natural light alone here

Useful tips

1) If shooting a mixture of skin tones, set the tone for the darker tone, then use the burn tool to amend the fairer

2) Soft strong light is very flattering

3) If in a studio consider a hair light to show off the dark

4) Think about the environment you are shooting in. The colours, the shadows and make full use of this in your composition.

5) Set the camera for the skin tone of the subject, then utilise the burn and dodge

Eddie making the most of his tears of joy with a ring light

To conclude, black skin is not as scary as it seems. Do not be afraid to capture and embrace it. All shades are beautiful and there is no need to feel ashamed. Whether you have a team of lights or a single light, with the right settings, you can do wonders. Learn to use what you have and great things will happen.

41 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page