Photographing Darker Skin Tones - Why a Diverse Portfolio Matters
Updated: Jun 7, 2022
Three years ago, a high school girls varsity volleyball team asked me to create a group photo for their seniors. I also offered to do their individual portraits, but a few of them were worried. The worry was the same one this particular group had for years: would I be able to photograph the girls with the darkest skin as well as I could photograph those with the lightest skin?
The company that had been hired by the school to photograph the seniors had, in their eyes, taken horrible photos, especially of the girls with the darkest skin.
While I reassured them that I would do a much better job, I also understood their worry. So many photographers, especially those mass-producing photos at schools, just don’t know how to balance light correctly for all skin tones.
This problem was given wonderful attention in the episode of Black-ish titled “Black Like Us”. In fact, not only does the episode deal with darker toned people in photos, but the characters delve deep into the effects of colorism, both in the world and in their family.
High school senior volleyball players should not have to worry about being photographed correctly. There’s enough that comes with being a teenager. The least we can do as photographers is photograph all skin tones properly.
Skin Tone Perfection
I think the results at the high school speak for themselves. In fact, when it comes to photographing all skin tones, my entire portfolio speaks for itself. Scroll through my Instagram feed or my senior portfolio, and you’ll see all colors. I take pride in my inclusivity and the diversity of my clients.
As a portrait photographer, when it comes to the details and polish of a photo, there’s nothing more important to me than skin tone. When I’m editing, skin tone is my first priority. If the skin doesn’t look good in a portrait, then what else matters?
Take a look at the photos in this post about my equity project or this post about my Black Lives Matter sessions. From light to dark, I know how to photograph everyone.
Why a Diverse Portfolio Matters
When I began to transition to creating senior photos almost exclusively, I found myself scrolling through other photographers’ accounts and senior photo groups and galleries. I quickly noticed that most photographers and most senior groups were almost entirely white. (They were also almost entirely female, which is why I did a project about masculinity and why I always celebrate male clients.)
I have always wanted my portfolio to represent every color, shape, and size we have in this beautiful world.
I saw the difference that my attention to diversity had when one of my clients once said to me, “You know, I’ve never seen an Asian male on a photographer’s website. But you have one of your homepage. I immediately knew you were the right photographer for me because you showcased someone who looks like me.”
Here’s the thing I know for a fact: if you don’t see someone like yourself in my portfolio, then you won’t see yourself in my studio or on location or anywhere else where I’m creating photos. If you see yourself in my portfolio, then you’ll be that much more comfortable joining me for a session.
That comfort and confidence is so important as we start to plan and create together. If you see someone like you in my portfolio, then you’ll trust me that much more easily as you sit down and create lasting memories in front of the camera.
When you step in front of my camera, whether light or dark, male or female, big or small, and everything in between, you can trust that you are in good hands. I will help you look your best. And I know that what we create together will be the best portraits you have ever seen of yourself.
Click the “Contact Me” button or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m excited to have you join me soon.