Adobe Hopes its Darker Skin Presets Will Make Photos Look More Natural

Adobe has teamed up with prominent photographers who are experienced in photographing subjects with darker skin tones to release a set of free presets that aim to deliver more naturally calibrated photos of all skin complexions.

Adobe seems to have recognized that darker skin tones are not as easily translated to photographs as lighter ones and to address this the company has collaborated with photographer Dario Calmese, renowned documentary photographer Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, and lifestyle photographer Summer Murdock to design a range of Premium Presets for Adobe users who work with subjects across a wide range of skin tones.

Premium presets were originally launched along with native Apple M1 support for Adobe Lightroom. At launch, Adobe did note that there were new presets for different skin tones but separated detail about them in a different blog post, so they were easily missed.

Calmese, who is also the founder of the Institute of Black Imagination, was the first Black photographer to shoot the cover of Vanity Fair and was praised for his beautiful capture of actor Viola Davis among other accomplishments. He notes that “having presets for Black and brown skin tackles the erasive trope, ‘I don’t see color or race’ and acknowledges and embraces the inherent, unique beauty of all people.”

Medium Skin Tone. Edited Using Adobe Premium Presets. Before and After Images Courtesy of Dario Calmese.


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This type of advancement — especially by a company that is able to enact larger changes in the creative world — is long overdue.  Digital imaging technology has struggled to accurately capture the skin tone and nuances of Black and brown people and historical racial bias are still present in technology today.

Adobe claims that this collection of new presets is set to broaden the scope of capabilities for creatives while also signaling the future where digital technologies “accurately portray and celebrate the difference, depth, and reality of skin tones around the world.”

Medium Skin Tone. Edited Using Adobe Premium Presets. Before and After Images Courtesy of Dario Calmese.
Medium Skin Tone. Edited Using Adobe Premium Presets. Before and After Images Courtesy of Dario Calmese.

Presets such as these offer a good starting point for both beginners and more advanced Lightroom users. Josh Haftel, Director of Product Management for Photography at Adobe, praises the collaboration which “will deliver tremendous value to [Adobe] customers when working with photos of people with melanated skin.” Calmese agrees that Adobe’s initiative will help equip creatives with tools that “ensure all the hues of the world are represented in photos with the best possible lighting and available enhancements.”

The new Premium Presets are available included with Creative Cloud subscriptions in three portrait categories sorted by skin color — Deep Skin, Medium Skin, and Light Skin. They are accessible across Adobe photography applications — ACR, Lightroom Classic, Lightroom, iOS, Android, and Web.

Image credits: All images provided by Dario Calmese and used with permission.