Allure: What are the differences in your approach to photographing people with more melanin as opposed to other skin tones?
ML: When I’m shooting, my primary goal is to make everyone look as vibrant and good-looking as possible. I especially like to focus on the highlights of Black skin. I love when it’s soft natural light and you get those really nice highlights on the face. [Also] making sure the skin looks really even-toned. When some people shoot dark skin, it tends to fall off into one shade of darkness, and I like to make sure that the way people show up in my photographs shows the range of hues and not just one example.
Allure: What are your mechanics or techniques behind making melanin look great on camera, especially when working with two different mediums like digital and film?
ML: I’m more conscious of [the other colors on set] when it comes to working with different skin tones, rather than the exact lighting techniques. Some people have blue undertones, some people have yellow and red. I use a lot of different backdrops, and [picking one that complements my subject’s undertones is] really an important decision because it can make or break the way that a photo turns out.
Allure: Do you have any special techniques when it comes to editing?
ML: I always like to add a little bit of brown or red in the shadows to play on that warmth. I really like to emphasize the richness and the brownness of [the] people’s skin that I’m photographing. I typically go in Lightroom or Photoshop and enhance that.
Allure: Is there anything else you do to ensure that brown skin is done justice through your lens, from both a procedural and storytelling perspective?
ML: Most of my work has some sort of positive feeling about it. I don’t really photograph my subjects in a somber mood or use many cool tones. I don’t even really shoot black and white. In that way, I’m intentionally trying to create images that fall more on the positive side, because I feel like there is so much of the opposite. It’s honestly just what I gravitate towards more. There are people who make beautiful work that channels these more intense emotions, but I think as a person, I’m very laid back, I’m very chill, and I enjoy celebrating us as a people and making us look good by using photography.
Allure: What is your favorite part about photographing Black and brown people?
ML: It’s a different type of energy on set. It’s a whole different vibe. [It’s a] familiarity of experience and that comfortability that you have automatically when you step into a room of Black people. That is the difference for me, or at least what I love the most about getting to work with Black and brown individuals.
Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.
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