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Self Portraits-colors seem ashy and pale

Hey, I need some help on self portraits. I am a makeup artist and I use my Nikon D3200 to capture mostly portraits or details on face. I use my pictures for my portfolio. However, I have been struggling when shooting myself or others because it seems like the camera washes off the colors. The makeup and colors never seems real. It looks very pale, washed out almost grayish. I feel like I have tried everything and it just doesn't quite work. I usually stay in front of a window to get natural light during the day. I haven't even tried to shoot at night because nothing comes out. I really need some tips and lots of help. I am not a photographer at all and I would hate to have to get another camera for this purpose. A lot of people have been recommending to get the Sony a6 or 7 but I feel like my Nikon should be good for my makeup pictures and I just don't know how to use it correct.


  • A lot of this is likely to depend on lighting, and as I imagine you're aware, there is a whole lot of stuff out there involving the best lighting for portraits.

    For less professional stuff, one recommendation might be to spot focus on the face, as this will get the exposure set for the face and disregard all else.

    A flash can help, and it might be worthwhile to try fill flash. But if you are shooting in portrait mode and getting flash when you don't want it, try the opposite too, and switch to P or A, and try it without flash too.

    If your D3200 is still set for the default of Active D-lighting ON, try turning it off. D lighting opens up shadows and increases dynamic range a bit, but at the expense of contrast and pop.

    If you're not already shooting in Raw mode, I highly recommend this, as a simple Raw reading program such as View NX-2 can provide a great deal of exposure control. Among these are exposure compensation, picture control (color set) and white balance. Once you've got what you like, you can save the result, and then convert to JPG. At any future date you can revert and discard all the changes.

    If you are using the default Auto white balance, try a different white balance. AWB is very good most of the time, but can make colors a bit blue and washed-out under some conditions. Try switching to Cloudy for a warmer tone. In View NX-2 you can try all possibilities and revert to the original with the push of a button.

    You might also want to look at a bit of negative exposure compensation to darken your image a bit. If you're not getting blown highlights as you're now shooting, lower it in post, and you will lower noise a bit while you're at it.

    Finally, look at other picture controls, and see if one of the other controls gives you better results. For most purposes I find standard works best, and don't like the over-saturation of some others, but for your work you might need more saturation.

    If you have been shooting in JPG and need to fix existing shots, consider the free program Faststone Image Viewer. It has a fair number of good features for manipulating an image. You can try all sorts of things here, too, and as long as you don't save the new result, the old one can be recalled. If you are unsure of a result, save it under a new name, and the old one will not be altered.

  • Okay thank you.This is a lot lol but I will try all those tips you gave me, that helps a lot!
    Also I have been thinking about purchasing a ring light. Do you think that will help with the lighting.
  • I would hold off on the ring light so far and see whether you can get anywhere with lighting you have. A ring light is handier for macro work because the lens does not get in the way. For portraits you may do better with a flash that can be directed more, perhaps bounced, diffused, or even used off the camera, so that you can avoid the harshness of direct light.
  • Im using d3200 and a friend gave me a flash sigma ef-430st will the ttl work on d3200. Im having a hard time to understan on how it work
  • Chances are it will not work with the D3200's TTL, which is incompatible with earlier ones. It should still work manually, and if it has an "auto" feature that should also work fine. For this, you must use manual mode on the camera, and tailor the settings either to the guide number of the flash (full manual) or to the dial setting on the flash in auto.

    I don't know this particular flash, but older "auto" flashes can be very effective. In this case, the auto flash has its own exposure meter, which controls the flash duration. You set the camera manually to the "sync" shutter speed or lower, and the specified combination of aperture and ISO, and the flash itself does the regulating. It's relatively unsophisticated, but often very accurate. It can be very fast and convenient, and easily fine tuned by altering the aperture or ISO.

    In the case of full manual control using guide numbers, you determine the guide number of the flash, and regulate your camera's manual settings to get proper exposure at the distance of your subject. You will need to read up a bit on this, but once mastered, this will give you complete control of flash effect, and can be very useful - just not terribly convenient.

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