If you go into your search engine looking for the best colors for different skin tones and shades for photography, most of what you will find is how to fix skin color in Photoshop. There is a lot of information out there on how to edit and correct a newborns skin, but there really isn’t enough information on how to choose the best colors to accentuate baby.
Picking the right color for a studio set is tricky, especially for newborn photography because the colors can photograph different than they look in person. The best way to nail it every time, is to have sets of colors for each skin tone. The complicated part is picking the best color that not only matches the babies shade, but also the baby’s undertones. So many times, people focus on undertones or shade, and may not bring those two concepts together when choosing clothing, makeup, or creating a studio set.
In our blog post on how to create the perfect studio set, we briefly discussed cool versus warm colors and how to pick a studio set that has matching color tones when using multiple colors in the same set. Now we want to expand on the topic.
For this blog, we break it down into two sections, skin tone and skin shade. Skin tone refers to the undertones in a babies skin. Usually, there are two main categories, cool and warm. Second we cover skin shade, meaning the spectrum of light to dark skin. Let’s jump into it.
Determining if the baby has cool or warm tone skin is the same for any shade, and something even the parents can do prior to the shoot. Looking at the inside of the arm, if the veins appear green, it is safe to say the baby is warm toned. On the other end of the spectrum, if the veins appear bluish, they are more cool toned. If the color is in the middle, then that squishy newborn has neutral undertones and could get away with either warm or neutral colors. Here is a list of the best colors for each skin tone.
Warm Primary: oranges, reds, coral, golden yellow, amber, turquoise, moss and magenta/orchid shades
Warm Neutrals: taupe, chocolate, creamy white, & latte
Cool Primary: bright & royal blue, sapphire, emeralds, some greens amethyst, deep purple, lavender, lilac, ruby, bright rose and soft pinks
Cool Neutral: gray, navy, bright whites
Halfway there! Keeping in mind whether a baby has warm or cool undertones, it is now time to focus on the shade of the baby’s skin. While there are many shades out there, we are going to break it into three categories.
Those of darker skin tones are generally African and Indian descent and have dark hair and black or dark brown eyes.
In general, dark shade skin looks great in various shades of darker yellows, deep reds, deep eggplant purple and orange. Neutrals and light colors that also look great include khaki, gray, light blue, light pink and gold. Not flattering colors would include black, dark brown, navy blue and light green colors.
It’s important to think of color casting with dark babies when choosing colors. Bright colors will make editing tricky if they are too bright and shine on the baby’s skin. Instead, opt for lighter hues like a soft baby pink rather than a bright pink shade. In person, dark babies look amazing in bright colors, but the cast on the skin may not be worth it in the end.
Bianca Hubble of Bianca Hubble Photography tells us, “Neutrals work perfect for dark skin babies. And the other colors I tend to use is: burgundy, mustard, dusty rose, and several jewel tones.”
Medium skin tones tend to be those who are Asian, Latino, Mediterranean or dark mixed. Medium tone individuals tend to have brown or black hair but can also include people with darker shades of red or blonde hair.
Primary and bold colors are the way to go with this skin shade. The best colors on medium shade skin (olive skin) tends to be purple, mustard, cranberry reds, greens and bright or navy blue. It is best to use shades a little brighter or darker than middle tones to avoid wash out. Instead of a lavender setup, opt for a bright plum. Bright colors are great for medium shades.
Colors to avoid for this skin tone are medium green or yellow since these colors are too close to the skin tones and undertones. Rule of thumb, go bright and go bold with this skin tone.
Light skins shades are individuals with the palest skin colors, mostly with cool undertones, but can include warm tones as well. Pale skin tones tend to have lighter eye shades and hair colors including blonde and light brown.
The best colors for this skin shade include blues, balsam greens, pinks, some purples and burgundies. The pastel family of those colors are going to be the safest bet, think anything that is considered a spring time color will look amazing.
Black and even true white setups can wash out a pale baby’s skin, so it is best to avoid those colors. Instead, opt for an off-white cream, grey, or brown set, picking the best shade of those colors based on the tone of the babies skin. In person, dark jewel tones can look great on a light skin baby, but beware, it could take a long time in editing to blend the color cast.
Pairing Skin Tone & Shade
Now how do you determine what colors to use between the information on skin shade and skin tones? Best thing to do is look at the shade of your baby first, then determine the baby’s undertone and match the colors that best fit both lists of information. For example, if you have a dark skin baby with cool toned skins, the information is great. We can see cool tones look great in soft pinks like rose, blue, purple and emerald green. Moving to the best colors for this shade that match the tones, we can see that a softer blue, a deep purple and soft pinks look best, while light green is something to avoid. There you go, a perfect set of colors for the newborn that will save you tons of time in editing at the end of the day!
Hopefully this list will help every newborn photographer pick the best setups. But, in the case you are confused and wanting to throw in the towel, we will leave you with a saving grace. Universally flattering colors include emerald, stone, teal, mellow pink and true reds.