A couple of days ago and lovely subscriber and fellow blogger Beauty Spark asked me if I could share some tips on how I take my makeup photos. I immediately thought “What a great blog post idea!” and here we are.
So, if you want to know how I take my photos without spending a million dollars on equipment just keep on reading!
The first thing we should probably talk about is the camera, right? Well, I don’t own a fancy pants DSLR camera. One day I will!
You’re probably asking yourself right now ” WTF? Your blog is primarily photos of makeup and products, how can you not have a fancy pants camera?!”
Weeelll, for a decent camera worth investing in you, got to have around $500 plus if you want the cool lens, memory cards, and all the bits and bobs that go along with a nice camera. It’s an investment and I like buying makeup…
Not only that, you have to learn how to work the camera to get the most out of the investment. So yeah, one day I will get there but today isn’t that day.
One thing I will say is don’t waste money on a cheap point and shoot camera with low megapixel. It’s pointless for capturing the detail of your hard work.
What do I use? My phone. Grant it, my phone has an excellent camera which includes DSLR settings. However, not all phone camera are created equal. I purposely choose my phone for the camera specs, resolution and blogging capabilities. I’m all for efficiency when it comes to choosing my electronic devices and how much I can get out of one device. So, I went with the Galaxy Note 5 from Samsung.
Here’re her pros for blogging:
- 5.7″ Quad HD Super AMOLED display.
- 16MP rear-facing camera.
- Built-in, precision-advanced S Pen
I take ALL my photos on my phone.
Here’re some tips on how to use your phone camera to its best advantage:
- Don’t use the front facing camera.
- Avoid flash, rely on a good light source instead. ( more on that later)
- Make sure your lens is clean by wiping it off with a soft cloth designed for lenses, like the ones you use to clean your glasses for example.
Lighting! Lighting is key.
A decent ring light will change your world. I use a mirror with a strong fluorescent ring light which is dimmable. Essentially a makeup mirror. (Multi-tasking!) You can buy stand alone ring lights as well with all sorts of fancy features like the Diva Ring.
This is my main lighting source for up close makeup shots. I pull the mirror fairly close and use the reflection in the mirror to see my phone screen, ensuring I’m in focus and the shot is composed well. We’ll also talk about composition later too.
Ambient lighting. No not candles, (we ain’t trying to woo ourselves.. or are we?) but other lights around your parameter to light your space. You can get creative with this part and use what you already have, or purchase a soft box light if you have the room and the monies.
I have two lights above my desk on the top shelf which shone down on me. One is a vintage desk light with a 75 watt true light bulb. The other is just a random lamp a neighbor gave me years ago with a 65-watt bulb. I also have a dimmer task light on my desk which gives off a warm glow and adds to the ambient light.
Warmer lighting is great for your ambient lighting but for your main source a good true color led or fluorescent is the way to go because it will show your makeup in its best way without distorting the color.
If you function during daylight hours unlike me and aren’t a vampire, natural lighting from outside is always a great option.
Another trick is using a reflective material to bounce the light off of like actual photographers. You can get creative with this too. Anything from good old shiny tin foil to gift wrap can be used. And of course you can do it the pro way and buy something like this :
A backdrop, like a blank wall or fabric behind you, is a good idea too. I’m working on something for that myself. So that will be for another blog.
Now, we got a camera, know our lighting, what next?
The composition of the photo. I’m no expert here as I’ve not taken a photography course but I have studied art and graphic design and know how to compose subject matter for a painting. It’s a similar concept. Your makeup or face rather is the subject so that needs to be center and in the forefront of your photos. Using a feature like most phones have where you can turn on a grid over the camera’s viewfinder is very helpful for this.
The option is usually found in the camera settings on your phone. My dumbass legit just tried to take a picture to show you the grid. Duh, it doesn’t show on photos. Jeez.
Anyway, if the composition is off or there is too much space in the background you can crop down the image to where the subject is the focus. This can be with just about any photo editing app.
Another thing you can do is play with the settings on your phone. Max out the megapixel and resolution for the best quality of the photo, some phones aren’t set by default to it’s the best setting to save memory ( don’t worry about memory, that’s what cloud storage, computers, and external hard drives are for). You’ll end up with a large file and a huge photo but we can change all that in editing without losing photo quality. I use One Drive to back up my photos to my laptop.
Play around with angles and lighting to find what shows the best of your work. There is no exact science, it depends on you, what you like and the tools you have on hand. Experiment! I take a million pics until I get the ones that have the right lighting and show the makeup best. Try new angles, even if you feel like a goof, half the time the angles that feel the weirdest, end up being the coolest.
Even if you get a good shot sometimes, most often than not the color or lighting won’t be perfection. That’s where editing tools come in handy. I’m not saying filters or photoshopping yourself into a model. I mean correcting lighting, and clarity only so you have a good quality photo to do justice to the makeup you want to show.
I use GIMP (a free bare-bones Photoshop like program) to correct any lighting issues on my PC. It’s just very subtle tweaks to the contrast and brightness where color may have been washed out or the photo was too dark. Sometimes I tweak sharpness as well if needed.
You’ll notice above I am using two monitors, the large one is a 27 inch HD monitor connected to my laptop via HDMI cord. I use the HD monitor because it’s a LED with true black and color unlike my laptop so I know exactly how things really look when I edit.
I also use GIMP to resize the photos so I’m not posting huge files that use all my bandwidth on my Photobucket account. Resizing the photos is also a design choice so the picture fit nicely on my blog and work with the theme. I also add a border and watermark to fit my aesthetic.
What happens if you use filters and dumb beauty face apps? You obscure your makeup for one which you are trying to display. You alter your face, and quality, and color of the photo which renders it pointless if you’re showing makeup or reviewing a product. It’s not true results. Who cares about that pimple on your chin? That’s not what it’s about. I personally feel the truer to life the photo the better, HD all the way. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good Instagram filter when I’m just farting around but when it comes to showing my work, I want to put the most honest and best foot … er… eye makeup forward.
The photos I post to Instagram for like my 100 Days of Makeup Challenge. I edit very minimally just to correct color or lighting on the Instagram app itself. I find it to have one of the best editing tools out there. I’ve tried a bunch believe me. Most reduce quality or are way too hard to do subtle tweaks without going HAM.
Of course investing in a good camera will make a huge difference and have all the pro equipment but for the time being, I’m using what I got and doing my best. Not every pic is perfect. I don’t bother tweaking every one of them. Some are just cropped and resized then posted because sometimes I’m lazy. LOL.
I can post an in-depth walk through on how I do my edits. If you’d like to see that then comment below.
But yeah, those are my tips and how I do it. Feel free to leave me advice and tips as well. I’m always looking for ways to improve.
Bee Beautiful. Bee You.