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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Brecheisen

How to Photograph People With Skin Imperfections or "Bad Skin"

As someone with "bad skin" I have tried many different combinations of things to achieve a natural image while also minimizing my blemishes and tones. No High School Senior wants to be remembered with that teenage acne! And absolutely no bride wants her wedding images ruined on account of her skin! Believe me, we who have bad skin know what we look like, and we want those photographing us to be miracle workers. Listen up photogs!


Make-up needs to be discussed well before the shoot for any female subject you have that is of the age to be wearing it. Even if you have seen them and you know they have nearly flawless skin, they will most likely benefit from evening their skin tone out as well as adding powder to reduce shine. I have a handy in-depth check list here. Use it, print it out, give it to your clients ahead of time! It will save you A LOT of time in post-processing.

ID Bad Sides

Identify bad sides quickly. As you are entering the shoot, make sure to take a good look to see if they have a bad side. I know I do! The right side of my face has much more acne and redness than that of the left, and this may sound crazy, but it's a bit rounder. When I go to contour my face I see a very distinct difference in the shape of my face. If they do have a bad side, then try less straight-on close up shots and have them look the other way a bit.

Even Lighting

You will definitely want to use even lighting. I know, I's boooooooriiinngggg. However, you want to provide your client with beautiful images annnnd keep them coming back, right? Steer clear of Rembrandt lighting for most women. If they are not model perfect in facial structure AND skin, then don't bother. Even lighting minimizes those zits and pores. I'm not saying throw a flash on the camera and just go to it. Make sure to soften the light with a modifier, and if possible have the light source higher than your camera pointing down a bit. A ring flash is perfect for those with skin imperfections. I made one and was amazed with the results! It cut my post processing down for my own skin drastically. No, you don't have to make one, but if you have a diy bug up your butt like I do, you can check out my tutorial here. When you have harsh lighting that is not even, those teeny tiny zits will look like mountains and the pores will look like craters!

Wide Aperture

If you are are doing close ups and mainly head shots, consider using a very wide aperture. I am a "wide open" junkie, so I tend to stay around 2.8 or less with portraits anyway. This can be very effective, and you can create an artistic image when you focus on the eyes. Try to keep at least both eyes in focus, and you'll see the sharpness fade away on the areas that aren't on the same plane as the eyes.

Post Processing

My post processing for skin could have a blog post all on it's own. Hmmm maybe I should write one! Here are some quick tips for now.

I start in Lightroom. I usually lower the clarity a bit for the entire image on portraits and weddings. If you're not comfortable doing this, then you could use a brush and just tone the clarity down a bit for certain areas. I usually fix any exposure, white balance, color, or contrast issues here.

I then open my images in photoshop and fine-tune them. Some of the easy tools I use for skin are the patch tool and the clone stamp tool. Once that is complete I bring up my brush tool. I choose the light color underneath the "bags" under the eyes, and I generally keep my opacity around 7% on the brush. I take the bags away, and I sometimes use that color for other areas of the skin. I even the skin tone out with different areas of the skin in the same manner. This will be very subtle as you're doing it, and you don't want to overdo it! I then dodge and burn to create checkbones or reshape the face a bit.

Fact: If you use a ringlight, it can cut out about 50% of your post processing!

I sincerely hope this post has helped those of you planning shoots. If you are a client preparing for a photo session, send your photog this link. Please contact me if you have any questions!

Jennifer Brecheisen


Rock Hill SC

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