Transracial Parenting »

How to photograph your multicultural family?

It became immediately clear to me early on that taking a photograph of both Tin and me is a problem. My paleness next to his richness offset each other. So my friend’s mother, a photographer, gave me a great tip – adjust the levels in iPhoto. So I go ahead now and snap as many photos as I can but when I import that photo into my computer I adjust it there. I got to Edit and then do the automatic adjustments first – I hit Enhance and most times that does it, or I actually manually Adjust “Exposure, Contrast, Saturation” myself. There is a lot you can do in iPhoto to get the photo right after you have taken it – it basically changed our photo album.

Another thing that I’ve learned to do is use lighting. Especially for those nighttime shots in the house with low lighting – they are not going to work. Inevitably, Tin’s features won’t be discernible and mine will look like I swallowed a light bulb. Flash is not the answer, it is lighting, lots of it. I saw an interesting post about this same thing and the blogger here also mentions creative lighting.

Years ago, I was visiting a client in the midwest and after lunch, we went back to his office. On his wall was a professional photograph of his family, his wife and him, and his three children. Each child was a different skin tone. It was the most beautiful family photograph I have ever seen. And while he had the benefit of professional lighting, we have the benefit of learning how to take photographs of our beautiful families by using iPhoto and lighting to make sure everyone is seen.

If you are a multicultural family or take a lot of photos that include diverse skin colors iPhoto will solve a lot of your issues. Creative lighting will help when you have time to plan. I’m sure there are other good tips for taking photos that a professional photographer could offer – any professionals out there?




by Rachel Dangermond

+ - 1 comment

March 19, 2013 - 8:39 pm

Rachel - Tips from professional photographer Marc Pagani –

Shade is best for images in general when you are shooting outdoors. That means full shade, not in a shady spot under a tree with a bright sunny background. If you are in full sunlight, with no shade, be sure that the sun is in front of the subject or at least to the side, not behind. Shooting with a flash is usually the best way to go at night for those who are not photographers.

If the image is exposed properly, the correct skin tones will be shown in the image, just as they would with a family who has similar skin tones. The camera can take in a good range of brightness in any image, all the way from total deep black to bright paper white, and since no one has skin tones that extreme, proper exposure is all that’s needed. Remember that the camera wants to expose for a medium grey, called an 18% grey. It will try to average all of the brightness and darkness into that medium tonality. Just be aware of the where your light source is coming from, and expect the camera to average the bright and dark into a middle ground.

Manual camera adjustments:
No particular adjustments needed. It’s a misnomer that one has to make special compensations. If the image is exposed properly (and someone with a higher end manual camera that knows photography should be able to get a proper exposure), then everyone’s skin tone will come out as it appears in life.

Focusing the camera:
Focus is different from exposure. Your camera’s auto focus should do a decent enough job to get it right. Most modern point-and -shoots now have Facial Recognition, as well. Remember that most cameras have a focus point in the center of the frame, so if you are shooting a portrait of two faces, and that center focus point falls on the big tree that is 1000 feet BEHIND your subjects, that’s where the camera will focus. If you point that focal point at one of the faces, press down the shutter button halfway to lock focus, and then recompose, you’ll get it right.

Fixing the photo after the fact:
There are some fixes in iPhoto and Photoshop. If one of the faces is too dark or too much in shadow, you can usually bring out the detail in the shadowed area via iPhoto, Aperture, or Photoshop. Adjusting contrast and color saturation will also usually improve the image if it needs it.

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