Portraits That Celebrate Black Cultural Identity Through Dynamic Lighting And Saturated Color

Photographer Jason Hill specializes in dynamic portraits and exploring new ways of using light. In an article posted in the Portland Tribune, we learned about his photography exhibition entitled In My Skin at the Portland Art Museum. According to Jason, “In My Skin celebrates Black cultural identity, African ancestry, and the contemporary lived experience of the community in Portland, through portraiture with dynamic lighting and saturated color.” The photos on display not only feature vibrant colors in the background, but also areas of glowing color across his subjects’ eyes.

The exhibition was inspired by work that Jason originally did for Pigments in My Skin, a new song by Afro-Pop recording artist, I$$A. “I wanted to create something distinct and cohesive to show the unique diversity of the Black Diaspora. In the span of six months, I$$a and I invited local community members to come collaborate with us in this project, which celebrates the African Diaspora residing here in Portland.”

When asked what he does differently to photograph black skin, Jason responds “’Nothing at all. I let it be.” For In My Skin, he noted how much was done in-camera and how little work he did on the portraits in post. Jason shared how the subjects expressed themselves through their wardrobe & accessory choices, and sometimes through makeup. He also noted how he photographed each subject close and tight “to show the beauty of everyone involved.”

Jason shared how the show was inspired by Afrofuturism in the Black diaspora. “I wanted everyone to kind of look like superheroes and have their own special power.” One of the ways he accomplished this was through the use of color. “I’ve always played with gels,” he said, and for this series, he “just wanted to go all out.” Each portrait not only features a vibrantly colored background, but also a coordinating strip of glowing color across the subject’s eyes.

To create the portraits, Jason told us that he used “five strobes all gelled up.” He lit the back wall with a Paul C. Buff Einstein™ Flash Unit that was placed directly behind the subject, and he had another Einstein shooting into a V-Flat for fill. Jason also used a Profoto D2 up and behind the subject as a kicker/hairlight. When asked about the light across the subjects’ eyes, he explained that he created the effect using a Flashpoint 600 Pro with a Bowens-Mount Optical Snoot attachment that he chased with another D2 in an umbrella directly behind it.

Color Effects Filter Kit
Cinegel Sampler Filter Kit

While he didn’t keep track of the exact gel colors he used to create these portraits, he did share that he purchased a Color Effects Filter Kit and a Cinegel Sampler Filter Kit for this project and that almost all of the colors he used came out of those two kits. “Every color was picked depending on clothing and skin tones,” Jason reported. “We used the Paletton online color wheel as a reference and then used the gels to apply different color theory methods – mostly split complementaries, triads, and a few analogous.”

In My Skin is presented by The Numberz FM and runs through February 27, 2022 inside the AUX/MUTE gallery at the Portland Art Museum.


Jason Hill is an artist and educator based in Portland, Oregon. His work is focused on portraiture with an emphasis in the mechanics of light, vibrant color, emotion, and natural beauty. To see more examples of his work, visit his website: jasonhillphoto.com, or follow @jasonhill.photo on Instagram.

Want to “go all out” with Rosco gels like Jason did in your next photo shoot? Please explore the Filter Kits & Flash Packs page on the Rosco website.

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Joel

About Joel Svendsen

Content Marketing Manager: Joel's Rosco career began in Rosco's Hollywood office in 1999 – first in sales covering the Western US and the Los Angeles Film & Television market, and then as Product Manager for Rosco's Film & Television Products. Joel's knowledge about Rosco's products and how they're used in each of our different marketplaces makes him well suited for bringing the stories in Spectrum to life.