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Old January 25th, 2007, 12:48 PM   #1
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Question about lighting dark skinned people and use of makeup

We're in development for an indie feature with several African Americans in lead roles. I'm picking this stuff up as I go along, and it's been fine so far, with a mixture of practise, heavy reading about lighting techniques and advice from others more experienced than I.

From what I've read, lighting darker skinned people has challenges; can anyone comment on this, what to look out for and whether makeup is advisable for the shoot (like Edward Burns in "The Brothers McMullen", I hadn't planned to use cast makeup).

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Greg
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Old January 25th, 2007, 01:23 PM   #2
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Really dark skinned people usually need some additional care...

On those people...where they're so dark there's almost a purple component in their color, what you see done a lot is the use of a hard light on them specifically to catch shiny highlights on their pores. This takes less light than say, if you had a Chimera that you'd usually work with...because you'd have to pour a whole boatload of soft light onto them to get their level up.

Asking about makeup...usually a makeup person is trying to smooth blemishes and make somebody not-so-shiny, which actually is counter to what you need in the above example. So at least have a conversation with the makeup person about how you're probably not looking to take 100% of the shine off them...just make it more consistent and "smooth"

Finally, don't be too afraid to just let them be dark. You want to see them of course, but the reality is their reflectance is not as high as caucasian skin.
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Old January 25th, 2007, 01:30 PM   #3
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First off, makeup is always advisable. I always bring several tones of light powder to help eliminate the shine on people's skin that can come from lights, sweat, etc. It just makes people look better. On bigger studio productions I typically work with a makeup artist, but for docs typically just some powder works fine. (Just make sure to buy a whole lot of the foam applicators).

Lighting for darker skin is only harder, I find, when the environment has a lot of white in it (which is never advisable anyways). As I would with any interview subject, advise against wearing bright white colors. I have run into a couple more challenging situations where I have lit 2 people next to each other, 1 with *very* dark skin and 1 *very* light. In this situation it helps to position the key light closer to the darker skinned subject and often times using a flag or net to lessen the light on the other subject.

It is usually not too hard and if you can control your contrast through wardbrobe and setting most of the same rules apply to lighting any interview.
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Old January 25th, 2007, 03:14 PM   #4
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Nate, Benjamin, thanks very much for the useful ideas. I'm not working with a makeup artist on this (at least it's not budgeted), so I'll do a lot of testing before the event. Thanks again.
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