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Thursday, 03 August 2017


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Use the Fuji for landscapes. You know this!

You want a Kodak sensor, low ISO. Just make sure to keep it in the fridge.

Which color profile are you using on the Fuji? The std. Provia setting is much like the Fujichrome film profile that boosts blues and greens. The Pro Neg Hi color profile seems to render skin tones more naturally to my eye while preserving color saturation.

What a good question. I've no answer, but would agree it ain't Fuji, it ain't Olympus (at least EP3 era), though Nikon (d300) era can be ok.

Now I should shut up and wait for some answers.

Canon for mortals & Phase One for Gods?

Fuji PRO-Neg

I can't help with what gives the best skin tones since I don't shoot a lot of people pictures and most of what I've done in the past few months has been B&W. As a general statement, I like Olympus's rendering of colors with Canon ranking second. Although I mainly use Fuji cameras these days and even though most people rave about Fuji's film simulations, I'm not a fan of the Fuji color palette. I always liked Ektachrome and Kodachrome colors over Fujichrome colors back in the Film Century. But color preferences are subjective and likely based on individual color perception, making it another case of YMMV.

The answer to your question will depend on what skin tones you're referring to. A sensor that does well with Caucasian skin tones may not be quite as convincing with non-white skin tones, and vice-versa. A lot will also depend on lighting. Some complexions will look great under tungsten lighting but like death warmed-over under un-filtered electronic flash. There's definitely no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

Portra 160 or Reala. Oh wait ...

Na, nor my XT-2. The old 5DII blunderbus was better when I ever managed to carry it down the stairs :-)

I take many more photos now but have to work on the people ones.

I'm pretty happy with my XPro 2 ooc colors Mike but I only shoot family not portraits or money shots.

Early digital cameras such as the Olympus E20, Minolta A2, etc, with the
same little 5-8MP (2/3?) sensor.


It's not just the camera, the RAW software makes an incredible difference too! Although it has it's quirks, I find that across the board Capture One renders skin tones more naturally than ACR.

This is like asking what camera gives the best images. The answer is the same: the photographer, not the camera.

This question is usually linked to JPEGs. Yet in my experience virtually everyone complaining about "skin tones" or "colors" or anything else about JPEGs is shooting in Auto WB and whatever default the camera maker has chosen.

[Guilty here. What I don't know about color management could fill a book. The question is, what book? There no doubt is a book out there but I don't know what it is. Any suggestions? --Mike]

I preferred the tones from my Pentax K5IIs.

Kind of a shock but the skin tones I get off an iPhone are very pleasing. I also like the skin tones from a very old D70 that still gets use at our house. Maybe it is the lower res and CCD sensor that make it look so nice. I find the skin tones from this antique to be a little bit nicer than those from a D7100, although both are good, go figure.

Canon has paid a lot of attention to getting skin tones right, and you hear photographers (especially those who shoot weddings and events) often speak of 'Canon color' as a very pleasing rendering of colors in general and Skin tones in particular.
We shoot Canon and Nikon side by side, and in my view Canon has the edge in skin tones. This started with the original 12MP 5d.

The Best skin tones I have ever seen personally are from Hasselblad cameras.
This is of course a matter of taste & Preference. It may be that Canon color is slightly more 'romantic' and Nikon more clinical. But they are both good.
If we are talking about color Accuracy then it is 16b MF files.

It also depends on whose skin we're talking about, because the same camera will render different people's skin tones quite differently. For example people with a lot of red in their complexion can look a bit over the top on some Canon sensors, and you have to work to tone it down and keep it natural, and it is not just desaturating. I think that similar proclivities exist for every sensor in that some complexions will positively sing, while others seem difficult to get right.
So I think knowing your sensor's native response is the first step to good skin tone.

I beg to differ Mike. Fujis give great skin tones. Have you tried the Astia, Pro Neg Standard or Acros settings? Try those and the skin tones should be ok. Turn down the noise reduction if you are using jpeg too. It is too aggresive.

Huh! Isn't this pretty subjective, Mike? Because you ask portraitists, I assume by "best," you mean most pleasing, as in reflecting health and attractiveness (itself subjective), rather than most realistic, which might be the goal of documentary photographers.

And do you mean skin tones of persons of primarily Northern European, Southern European, African, South Asian, East Asian, or other extraction? (I can't believe that the color bias of any sensor will be "best" for all of these.)

Maybe manufacturers are already looking at firmware options--shooting modes for "best" skin rendering of persons of different backgrounds. Or maybe not.

I suspect that there are different answers for different shades of skin. I look forward to the responses!

Wait. Are you saying you *don’t* like the Velvia setting for portrait work?

In all seriousness, my Canon 5Ds variants have been the most reliable for skin tone but only after shooting a test card and calibrating color temp to that...

Mike you might try something I've started doing and that is to change the Profile in Lightroom. Go to the Develop module and at the bottom select Camera Calibration. Then change the Profile from Adobe Standard to one of the Fujifilm's profiles. You can also adjust different colors. I created a Preset for use when importing all my Fujifilm images.

I do the odd portrait, though more events and theatre pictures, and it ain't my Nikons.

Fuji X


The Fuji X-series are lauded by many, many professionals for their skin tones, and have been since the S-series of Nikon-bodied Fuji DSLRs...

I'm not a portrait photographer, but what's not to like?

You really need to check out Damien Lovegrove's work, a Fujifilm X-ambassador and one of the finest portrait photographers working in the U.K.


So, I'm how you're lighting your subjects and if you're shooting in color or black and white. The new Fuji Acros film preset renders skin tones in black and white absolutely beautifully.

It depends on the person's skin and the light of course but with my Nikon D810 I usually lower saturation in the reds and oranges while increasing orange luminance and decreasing red. This often lessens the effect of blemishes while opening up the frequently shaded areas of the face.

With studio lighting I usually don't have to adjust the colors at all.

And for freckles I do the opposite to emphasize them, although many cultures outside of the USA dislike their freckles.

Once you start photographing fashion or nudes or anything that shows expanses of flesh you find out how uneven people's coloring is. Not just tan lines but that legs are often an entirely different color than arms and faces are always different than bodies. How you handle this is one of the few remaining crafts to master... some "paint" color in clumsily, sometimes you can adjust colors (hue) and temperature to even things out. It is preferable to try to compose a photo that minimizes the distraction of different colored flesh on the same body... in the end most "artists" opt for black and white conversions. It's a cop out but much faster and easier, and most people think you did it for aesthetic reasons rather than sloth.

All of my M43 cameras have an option to tweak the "picture mode" or "film mode" or "photo style," to modify the camera's processing into JPG files, and thus to emulate different film stocks. I've fooled around with these settings, using suggestions I've found in various forums (fora), and concluded that, while it does work, it's way too much bit-fiddlin' for my taste.

Due to their medical imaging branch Olympus gathered a lot of experience about skin tones for medical diagnosis. They simply had to be realistic to enable accurate diagnosis. I believe this is where they got their colour balance recipe from. I suspect it has less to do with metrics and more to do with paying attention to what hues are critical in our perception and preserving them in the processing pipeline. Although Leica, Nikon and now Sony have all zeroed in on it Olympus haven't changed that recipe because it works.

- just my supposition


My go-to portrait rig is a Nikon D3 with a 105/2 DC lens. Absolutely magical.

Any digital camera that shoots raw. You just have to know how to tweak the file (and shoot properly of course) to suit portraits. Having said that, I am always more pleased with Canon files for color with minimal adjustment.

I preferred the tones of my Pentax K5IIs.

Hasselblad H, hands down

I thought the Fuji was reputed to give the best skin tones?
Maybe if marketing says something often enough it becomes the 'truth'.
Or is it that the Fuji give the best skin tone if your shooting jpegs so allowing fuji to tweak the colour?

Best skin tones? That's easy. Kate Moss.

Only really old, low megapixel cameras give good skin tones. Everyone knows that digital cameras need to age before their sensors have the proper patina. So old Fuji SLRs, the Olympus E1, and that big Kodak beast whose name I forget (14n?) pass the test. New cameras all produce sickly skin tones for years. Put your Fuji in a drawer and shop for an S5 Pro and a good lens.

I try to shoot under natural light, but there will always be something - the colour of a wall, a piece of clothing - that affects things. I put the little eye dropper right on the pupil - and I like what my Nikon D7000 produces.

On whose monitor?

Best group shots results were from my OLYMPUS EPL1, colors were terrific as well as skin tones. I recently shot the same group a few years later on my FUJI XE2 and was quite disappointed.

I've heard that a Leica Monochrome with a medium-yellow filter does a pretty good job on skin tones. No personal experience though.

Oy. That's a dangerous question sir.

Back in the days of film, I learn through trial, effort, mistake and some rare great shots, that Kodak color film (especially the exquisite recent vintage Ektar, a negative film that shoots like a positive film... ;) ) was best for Caucasian skin tones but that it was garbage for Asian skin tones. My son was adopted from Vietnam, hence this Wisconsin boy's concern. Fuji Reala, OTOH, did an excellent job with Asian skin tones and an acceptable job on Caucasian ones. I used it till Fuji discontinued it & if my name had been Paula or Michael I'd have mortgaged my home to buy every roll still in existence then & a Fuji mini-lab to process them.

Such is not the case and in the digital world I've found that if I'm going to do color, it's Olympus first followed a fair way back by Canon. The images I've gotten of my son from my EP-3 especially make me a believer in the Olympus system.

On second thought, the sorta greenish yellow hue of Fuji could be useful for more expressive and imaginative people photos. Say you are shooting a before photo for a Pepto Bismo ad. :)

You can probably twiddle any RAW file into what you want, but for straight out of the camera, the original X100 beats anything I've tried, including its X-Trans successors, which is why I still have mine.

South Asian subjects provide an interesting gamut of skin tones to challenge any camera-lens-work-flow combination. Shown below are color and B&W street photos I took in Kathmandu.

Mike, back in January Jonathan Moore Liles on PetaPixel wrote a convincing case about the underlying reason for problems with X-trans colour:

He suggests using as low an ISO as possible to minimise any potential colour problems caused by the strong chroma NR used in the X-trans.

I've always liked Canon's digital skin tones, and Portra for film.

A photo printing company I used to use, that is sadly defunct, showed me the difference between Canon and Nikon digital. Since I shoot Canon this interested me. Canon tends to warmer tones. Whereas Nikon is cooler tones, more of a bluish tint actually. They had a wall of prints from Canons and Nikons. They were in a scrambled form on the wall, you could easily tell the difference between which camera type they came from.

Plus the owner mentioned a lot of the Nikon shooters preferred the warmer look. This added more work in making the adjustments.

The very best skin tones that I ever got from a digital camera came out of the old Kodak DCS 14n, an early fullframe 14mp camera based on the Nikon N80 body.

The camera had a lot of bad quirks: it sucked for lowlight work and was unusable above the base ISO of 80, and it drained batteries fast.

Still, the skintones were incredible.

Charles Crawford wearing a cowboy hat.
My grandfather, Charles Crawford. He was suffering from early stages of Alzheimer's disease when I made this photo in 2005. Shot with the Kodak DCS-14n and 85mm f1.8D AF-Nikkor lens.

Of the cameras still made today, I have used Canon and Nikon and prefer Canon. I think the Canon 5DmkII I have gives pretty good skin tones; though not as good as the old Kodak 14n.

Betty Fishman, former director of the Artlink gallery in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She helped me start my art career 20 years ago. She was 91 when I made this photo last summer. Shot with the Canon 5DmkII and Canon 24-105mm f4L-IS kit lens.

"... best skin tones ..."

As in accurate, or pleasing? Accurate is reasonably to do. I have an Xrite Color Checker Passport and using the software that came with it I create profiles for my cameras that yield accurate color when shooting RAW and using Lightroom.

Pleasing is something else. Kodak and Fuji had consumer films that were designed for "pleasing" skin tones. There were all sorts of professional films for all sorts of looks. It's all equivalent to all the "canned" JPG profiles in digital cameras. Try them all until you find one you like, or start experimenting with tweaking the Hue, Saturation and Contrast settings of something like a default "Neutral" JPG setting.

Which skin tone? African, Caucasian, Asian, a blend of all of those?

Canon is what I use and what I like. The Camera Store guys weighed in on this in a JPG Shootout featuring different manufacturers.


I think someone is seeking justification for buying a new camera. ;-)

The best skin tones I've got out of a digital camera have been those from my late, lamented Nikon D100's nefs, processed with Nikon Capture 4 software.

Nothing else has come close, to my eye, although that camera and its sensor are primitive, by the standards of the digital camera age.

I live on portraits in the SF Bay Area. We have every variety of Asian, Pacific Islander, Latino, Native American, African American, Middle Eastern and all those white folk from pastie white to tanned. Fuji X100T or Nikon 7100: custom color balance and into Lightroom. I cannot imagine using "presets" or film emulations.

I just don't see a problem here.

The Olympus E-1 remains the gold standard.

I get it. Your just trying to wake people up during the Dog Days of Summer.
(But just in case, I'm with Stephen.)

Across the board, when I see images with colours that wow me they’ve usually come from a Hasselblad Hx.

With my own, more prosaic, cameras I have found using Capture One to convert RAW files gives the best skin tones (or any other colour related stuff), it has a good set of spefic tools for correcting them. Also a shout for the Contax 28-85 I this context as it has an almost medium format ‘roundness’ to it’s colours.

Pleasing? Right out of the camera? Every Canon I've even owned. And every Olympus. For every skin tone, from African to Scandinavian.

Nikons have tended to be a little red, but nothing that can't be fixed.

I just bought a Fuji X-T2, partly because you talked me into it, Mike. Love the camera, but unlike (apparently) everyone else, I'm not enamored of the colors. Like the Fujifilm of the 1970s, it seems yellow-greens are overemphasized, and the colors are saturated, but not "rich."

Norwegian skin tones, like for instance my wife's, are overcooked pink in the Velvia mode, zombie pale blue-green-white in Provia and Classic.
The Pro Neg is a bit better, but I haven't shot a lot with it yet.
And of course we're talking OOC jpegs, because anything can be pretty much anything if you spend enough time working with the RAWs. I'm not sure I want to do that to every single frame to make people look not-dead.
Yes, Acros is lovely, but I'm assuming you're talking about color.
As you can probably tell, I'm a little frustrated with the camera. All the pictures are shot in open shade daylight, with appropriate white balance, and none of them look anything like the samples above. If I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong, the Fuji may have to go, despite its perfect size and ergonomics. .

A bit off topic, but when I shot on Fuji's Velvia, everybody got a suntan. Skin tones were somewhat more muted and realistic when I changed to Provia, but were perhaps still a little too vivid for accuracy.

It's not the camera, it's what you do with the RAW file in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom.

So far, here, we've seen two major types of response:

A: What color skin?

B: Why are we even considering OOC jpgs?

and a third general output question:

C: Monitor? Print? Color calibration? Intended use?

Why do you ask? I thought you were a b&w guy, Mike.

p.s. There is no answer to your question. It's like asking how high is up. What skin? What light? What presentation medium? Etc. I'm confident that, unlike various old film emulsions, any reasonably contemporary digital camera can record accurate colors. The real question is not the camera's skills but rather the eyes and skills of the post processor and viewer.

I am assuming that we are not limiting this to jpeg out of camera, but raw files?

In that case, I'll take a different path to many posters, no way is it Canon, for the most part the big C is problematic, basically any skin tone with ruddyness gets blown out and looks terrible without serious black arts correction. Some Canon sensors are better than others but the problem has persisted for the past 15 years.

Best skin tones from Raw files (well outside of MF), Sony A900 at low ISO, very Kodak Porta. Just Magic! The A900 Jpegs - awful!

I've shot with them all...You have to spend time and set them up correctly to get the best skin tone colors out of them, for current models I'd say:


It's not a camera, it's raw converter. The best skin tones are produced by RAW Photo Processor in A100F simulation mode. By best I mean healthy an pleasant, not accurate :)

Leica's CCD sensor (M9 version) does a good job with a variety of skin tones, at least the .DNG files, processed in Aperture, do.

School kids, Heavenly Temple, Beijing, May 18, 2016

Jean And Fuchsia, Beijing, May 18, 2016

South Sudanese Delegate With Local, Panda Center, May 22, 2016

Ciarán And Janet, Panda Center, May 22, 2016

Kid Cab, Havana, February 11, 2017

Girls, Havana, February 12, 2017

The original SONY RX100 does a great job, too.

Commuting With His Dog, Beijing, May 17, 2016

Skin tones of all people will always look good to me and my clients no matter what camera I use. Why? I shoot raw.

Skin tones, or any color for that matter, is completely subjective and infinitely tweak-able in Adobe Camera Raw or Light Room. My brain has a set point for color and tonality, probably resulting from shooting color transparency film for 25 years before switching over to digital.

No matter what camera I use, I get what I want because that's just what I do. I'm not going to abdicate my responsibility to what a camera company things is good.

[Hi Mike, at some point during this thread people assumed I was asking about OOC JPEGs. That was just an assumption. Actually I always shoot raw FWIW. Still, it was very interesting to hear everyone's take on it! --Mike]

For skin tones, always start with a grey card under the chin, and set manual WB. Auto WB is too easily influenced by highlights and backgrounds.

Then, JPEG or RAW, you should not be far off. Best JPEG colour for portraits (if WB is good) is Pro Neg Std, which is also close to the LR colour preset.

Having shot, developed and printed color print and slide film, getting accurate color/skin tones was a somewhat dark art. Color temp, film emulsion characteristics, chemical temp and age, paper batch corrections and operator fatigue all come into play.

With digital the situation is much more simple. You run a color managed environment, use known lighting, shoot control patches and shoot RAW. Your colors should be consistent and "pleasing" as you make it. Just do the same process, with the same equipment and you images should be as "pleasing" across the board. As for out of camera JPEG's, to me that is like taking you film down to the local drug store and expecting perfection.

Each skin tone, pasty white like me, olive, yellowish, reddish, to Nilotic black requires different processing. Canned algorithms can not detect the skin tone and make the changes necessary to get "pleasing" tones all the time.

In my experience goodness of your skin tones depends on the brand of gray card you used to white balance. With my older NIKON's are used an 18% gray Kodak card but with my D810 Dakota cards give me Maddie skin tones. I switched to Michael Tapes' WHIBAL cards and all is well now. I presume the difference is that each white balance card maker has a slightly different formula for Grey even though that seems preposterous.

If you want unimpeachable skin tones follow Hans' advice https://petapixel.com/2014/10/01/colorchecker-how-to-get-perfect-skin-colors-with-every-camera/

If in doubt, shoot B&W.

Alex-virt mentioned this above, but I've been surprised at the difference the RAW converter makes to the start point – ACR, CaptureOne and RPP all different, but RPP usually the 'go to' for anything special.

Camera-wise, they weren't as pliable as some files, but with a good exposure Leica's M9 CCD colours could be just be delicious.

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