Skin Tone and Faces

Cinematography Pedagogy which foregrounds - Inclusivity and Diversity in Teaching Lighting

  • Cathy Greenhalgh Central Research Unit, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London / Independent Researcher
Keywords: Diversity, Diasporic expression, Faces, Skin tone, Light


This paper draws on years of ethnographic research with feature film cinematographers and encapsulates my experience as a professional cinematographer and teacher of cinematography students of diverse cultural heritage in London. It pays attention to cinematography pedagogy and a praxis which actively incorporates gender, diversity, and inclusivity dynamics.

I consider contemporary cinematography concerns with a faithful portrayal in lighting “people of colour” and a questioning attitude to the traditional portrayal of women. Cinematography is a practice of enchantment and making material which requires skilled vision and expertise in visualization. Light effects can be used to direct attention, reveal shape and form, establish relationships, orient space and time, create rhythm values, and embellish textures of objects and faces. The human facial presence “as light” gives agency to the character being played and highlights the actors’ performance, gestures, and choreography. When teaching lighting, we need to ask ourselves who is learning, who is teaching, and what exemplars and canons are most relevant.

How is cinematography positioned in the academy – beyond being a purely technical and creative subject? What materials and techniques are being incorporated, and how can we adapt and change? How is the historical context of cinematography experienced by students when the few images of people of colour were mediated by prejudice? I outline how I teach the lighting of faces and skin tones with student input and unravel my own training in the 1980s. I ground approaches though serendipitous discoveries in class and investigation of professional cinematographic rhetoric about lighting faces.

How to Cite
GreenhalghC. (2020). Skin Tone and Faces : Cinematography Pedagogy which foregrounds - Inclusivity and Diversity in Teaching Lighting. Cinematography in Progress. Retrieved from