Attaining Good Skin Tones with Digital Cameras, Part 2 by Stanley Leary


by Stanley Leary

Figure 6
How do you know if your color is off?
There are a few ways to know if your color is off. You can take a picture using the Macbeth Color Checker Chart as I did in the photo above. Then you can use the densitometer built into PhotoShop or Lightroom to compare each color patch the numbers for RGB.
Skin Tone: The telling sign of good color
The first giveaway to the human eye that the color is off will most likely be skin tone.  Look at these photos here. I let the camera figure it out for the first one, which is acceptable on Auto White Balance.  Look at the ones following.
Figure 7Figure 8Figure 9Figure 10Figure 11Figure 12
There are times when a person is surrounded by dominate color, like a red wall.  This will tell your camera that you are seeing in red light and will try an compensate giving your subject a cyan tone to their face.
I have done photo shoots where I used strobes and still needed to do a custom white balance because the ceiling, floor or walls were all creating a color cast that made the skins tones not look correct.
Figure 13
You can find online skin tone swatches that you can compare a person's skin to an approximate ethnicity color swatch.  The RGB value for Caucasian skin is: R:239, G:208, B:207.  Now the numbers may be darker or lighter do the the light on the skin, but the numbers will generally go up and down uniformly. 
Here is a link to the Curvemeister website showing you how to use the skin swatch system to see if you are close for the right white balance in a photograph.
My recommendation is to shoot RAW but in every situation always get a custom white balance.
Look for upcoming Part 3