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When going for a 'stylised look' in-camera, how can I retain natural skin tones?

imran qureshi

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So I am trying to achieve and a subtle teal and orange look similar to the image below and I want to do it in-camera as much as I can (obviously it will be enhanced in resolve but I just want to make it as easy for the colourist as possible). 

Here is my thought process

I could shoot at 3200k in-camera and gel windows with CTB, then create some ambient blue fill light in the room by bouncing a CTB gelled light at ceiling, then key my talent with a 3200k source (same kelvin as camera) to create natural looking skin tones. (i would then CTO my tungsten practicals to make them even warmer in camera)

For my scene though, the actors move around the room a fair bit, how would one go about keeping skin tones looking natural and making sure there is skin separation from the walls in camera? would I just Hollywood a source that was balanced to what the camera was to key-light my talent? Although, I do want the it be as naturalistic as I can

any suggestions or thoughts?

I know there are a lot of different ways of tackling this, I am more interested to hear different ways of how people would light this and how to keep skin separation when actors move around room a lot in scene?



(sourced from reddit, the work is not mine, here is the link to that post;

https://www.reddit.com/r/cinematography/comments/kgymng/shot_my_first_spec_ad_let_me_know_what_you_think/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3 )


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Why would you add full blue gel to a window that is already 5600K when the camera is set to 3200K? That would be double-blue.

That image is balanced somewhere in between 3200K and 5600K for a cold look and the skin tones in that window light are naturally cold unless the person leans into the orange desk lamp light.  That's realistic.  Having a neutral skin tone in a room where all the light is either blue-ish or orange-ish would be unrealistic, plus it would be hard to do unless the person was in the foreground lit with a separate "white" light and the background was blue & orange.

The "teal" look just comes from shifting the blues towards green to create cyan.

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Hi David,

Thanks! yes my mistake, I didn't mean to make it double-blue. 

As for skin tones, I agree with you!  its only that I had a bad experience doing this once where the skin tones ended up looking the same tone as the wall behind and it looked super flat, there was no separation. 

As opposed to in this image, there seems to be a lot of separation between the skin and the surroundings. I thought maybe having a tungsten light on the talent would help with the separation but I suppose the colour of the wall has a lot to do with that also.




Edited by imran qureshi
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I hear the term ‘natural skin tone’ a lot, and I think it’s worth examining in more detail exactly what that means to you. By itself, it’s a vague and subjective phrase - what is ‘natural’ to you may seem ‘stylized’ to someone else.

I prefer David’s more concrete term ‘neutral skin tone’, which I interpret as ‘white balance and tint of the camera matched to the light source.’ So a 5600K lit scene shot with 5600K/0 tint is ‘neutral.’

If we can say that ‘neutral skin tone’ = ‘natural skin tone’, +/- a few hundred kelvins for a mild warm/cool color cast, then that sort of pushes you toward creating stylized color thru production design, wardrobe, and props rather than thru color temperature or color grading.

Specifically in regard to this reference frame: 

1 hour ago, imran qureshi said:


I would not call this a teal/orange look, which I interpret as a color grading effect. This is just natural warm late afternoon sunlight plus cool ambient skylight - it looks natural because it is natural light.

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