Whenever I have the privilege to capture an African American Wedding, I’m always reminded that so many photographers seem to have a hard time from a technical standpoint because they misunderstand how to expose for darker skin tones. In my workshops and seminars that I teach, I always ask students how they’d photographer a dark complected person along side a light complected person. Nobody ever gets the correct answer. The correct answer is “properly”. Most photographers believe that you need to lighten up the dark complected individual, and others think you need to darken the lighter complected individual.
The only way to expose for both of these people is to “properly” expose for both by simply capturing them with the right exposure value. This is simply determined by either a light meter, or just by experience. I would never want to overexpose highlights on a dark person, nor would I want to underexpose shadows on a light person. Just make them look the way they actually look, and the exposure will be perfect for that scene.
This image, taken at Fort Dix Joint Base, is from one of my favorite weddings in the past few years. Sam was a newly commissioned Naval officer, and she is a police officer. They had a beautiful wedding, and I was fortunate to be chosen as their photographer.