See the stars of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” shine, thanks to Ebony and Real Tone.
To beautifully show the movie’s stars, Ebony magazine’s photo director enlisted Real Tone on Pixel for the magazine’s digital cover.

Dominique Thorne, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, and Lupita Nyong’o. Photographed by Keith Major on Pixel 7 Pro.

In a San Diego studio this past July, the stars of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” gathered in front of a set inspired by the Wakanda savanna.

Keith Major, the photo director at Ebony magazine, looked for the best angles. Then he pulled out his Google Pixel 7 Pro, taking advantage of its multi-lens camera system to take portraits of stars Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Letitia Wright, Dominique Thorne, and Danai Gurira.

When Major started thinking about Ebony’s digital cover for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” he kept thinking about Afrofuturism, an aesthetic that combines sci-fi with Black history to create a futuristic fantasy. “Our mantra is ‘Moving Black Forward,’ and nothing is more forward than the Afrofuturism of Black Panther,” Major says.

To accurately highlight diverse skin tones, the magazine reached out to Google and asked if they could use the new Pixel 7 Pro. Real Tone on Pixel is a set of camera improvements that helps the phone make every picture more representative of the subject in the photo.

“We wanted to illustrate the Black Panther cast at their best – that means putting them in their best light, and revealing their most accurate skin tones,” Major says.

Major, who is known for his nuanced portraits of people of color, created images that were stunning – and showed his subjects as they are in real life. “The eye does things that cameras can’t do,” Major explains, adding that with the Google Pixel 7 Pro, “we made one big step closer to how the eye captures imagery.”

Keith Major, Photo Director at Ebony magazine “There were shots I took with the Pixel that are just burned into my mind.”
Pixel 7 Pro
The all-pro Google phone.
Improving skin tone representation

Skin tone bias in smartphone cameras has its roots in the way the camera technology was developed. Camera sensors and processing algorithms were trained on a limited range of skin tones, meaning that darker skin was often rendered unnaturally. Real Tone improves the way Pixel processes different skin tones, helping it recognize a broader set of faces, making skin brightness appear more natural, and keeping faces from looking washed out.

Because Real Tone optimizes color and lighting to account for darker skin tones, Major can now create photographs that are truer to how his subjects look. He still used studio lights for the photography session, but didn’t have to worry about calibrating them for the camera. Instead, Major was free to focus on composing the most beautiful image he could.

While he also brought his usual professional cameras to the session for the print images, some of his favorite images were taken with the Pixel. He recalls the photographs that he took of Winston Duke, who plays M’Baku. “There were shots of him that I took with the Pixel that are just burned into my mind. I can see it right now – these strong portraits of this majestic Black man,” Major says.

Faster takes

For the Black Panther photography spread, he began by using one of his professional cameras. After finding the right framing for the photo, he’d switch to the Pixel 7 Pro.

Using the Pixel significantly improved Major’s process, helping him take photos faster.1 Instead of squinting through the small viewfinder of his professional camera, Major saw his subjects on Pixel 7 Pro’s super-sharp 6.7" high-definition display.2 It made it easy to see whether the composition was just right. “As a professional photographer, I like the large screen,” Major says. “I like that at my fingertips, I can find focus points, and I can see the entire image right away.”

Major says the process worked so well that he expects to use Pixel 7 Pro for future photography sessions. “It’s easy to see how, going forward, it would be possible to shoot the entire thing with the Pixel 7,” Major says.

Takeaways
Ebony magazine featured the stars of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” on the cover of its November 2022 issueTo accurately highlight diverse skin tones, the magazine used the new Pixel 7 Pro for the digital coverPixel’s Real Tone software helps photographers produce more accurate images of people with darker skin tones
Pixel 7 Pro
The all-pro Google phone.
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  1. Compared to Pixel 6. Speed and efficiency claims based on internal testing on pre-production devices.

  2. Measured diagonally; dimension may vary by configuration and manufacturing process. Smooth Display is not available for all apps or content.