“This was a session with a local high school senior who contacted me after seeing the work I did with a friend of hers. She wanted an outdoors session incorporating fall colors, and I was able to utilize a nearby West Michigan location that had all the elements she was hoping for.
Our personalities clicked, and though the November afternoon was cool, we had an absolutely fabulous time together. As we shot, I knew her session would be one of my favorites to date!”
Jennifer’s Photography Tip:
I have found that most of the seniors I’ve worked with are seeking a somewhat filmy, matte look to their senior photos since many of them are used to seeing photos created with Instagram. I strive very hard to strike a balance between incorporating this trendy look while also creating timeless images that will not look dated in a few years. One way I do that is by making sure skin tones are as spot-on as possible.
Here’s a rundown of my editing workflow (all completed within Lightroom 5):
- First I make sure all the images in a particular setting and lighting have a synchronized white balance, and that the skin tones are accurate. In LR, a good starting point to check skin tones is to place your pointer on a midtone area (often on the forehead) that has a Red value of about 85%.
- Then I check the RGB numbers in the LR histogram. In general, correctly balanced average Caucasian skin will have a range of about 20 percentage points between Red and Blue, with the Green value somewhere in the middle of that range. For example, R-85, G-77, B-67.
- Then I apply the film preset that works best with the image, and recheck skin tones and tweak if necessary. For this session, I used several of the Totally Rad Replichrome or Clickin Moms Film Art presets.
- After the correct presets are applied, I sync all the other images in that set (shot in the same scene and lighting) with the same settings.
- Once I am done with one set of images, I move on to the next, and so on.
- When I’m done, I check all the images from each set and make sure they fit cohesively together into the final gallery.
Learning to see accurate skin tones and edit them correctly takes a lot of time and practice. The most valuable steps I can recommend towards that end are:
- Using a grey card or an ExpoDisc while shooting to get a more accurate custom WB in camera, and
- Studying images of photographers who consistently get great skin tones in their images. The more you see it done right, the more you’ll know when its wrong and how to fix it!
No matter what your processing style – clean, matte, soft, or filmy – working to achieve great skin tones will ensure that your images have a sense of timelessness to them. It will also help you achieve consistency and cohesiveness in your galleries and portfolio.
Jennifer used a Nikon D800 with a Tamron SP 70-200 2.8 Di VC USD lens to capture these images.
If you need help navigating post-production in Lightroom, check out this Super Photo Editing Skills eBook. You’ll be on your way to producing perfect skin tones in no time!
See more tips on Editing.
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