Taking Good Makeup Photos
Last month, we wrote about the dos and don’ts of putting together your makeup portfolio. One of the most important points, of course, is to make sure you show great makeup photos! You want people to see your work at its best!
At QC Makeup Academy, students submit pictures of their work for their tutor to grade. Surprisingly, some students don’t realize they need to submit good pictures for their tutor to see (and grade) their work!
Over the years, we’ve seen students submit tiny images, black and white shots, edited photos, dark-as-night shots, and other faux-pas that made it impossible for their tutor to evaluate the makeup.
With that in mind, we thought we’d share some tips on how to take good makeup photos, both for your portfolio AND for your course work!
No surprise, lighting is the #1 issue with a lot of makeup photos. You’ve spent a lot of time on your makeup, and you want it to look its best in your photographs.
Avoid harsh light. Don’t shine a light bulb onto the subject’s face: you’ll get a glare in the photo and the intensity of the light will diffuse the color you’ve worked so hard on.
Natural light is by far your best choice, but avoid direct sunlight as it can have a similar effect as a bright light bulb. Instead, try morning or evening light, a cloudy day (if you’re outside), or simply an indoor shot in a room with a large window that lets in a fair amount of indirect sunlight.
If you’re taking a shot indoors, you can also use an umbrella or piece of white cardboard to diffuse light from a fluorescent or incandescent light bulb.
Note: A flash on a camera is the equivalent of shining an extremely bright light right in your face as the picture is captured. Try to avoid using a flash when photographing makeup.
When taking a picture of a model, you want the audience to see her makeup first. That’s difficult if she is photographed in front of a busy background: traffic, colorful flowers, complex patterns, etc. should be avoided. Try to position the subject in front of a neutral background that complements the makeup.
For your course work, the angle of the shot is less important. As long as your tutor can see the makeup, you’re in good shape.
But for your portfolio, you’ll want beautiful shots at interesting angles. Don’t just take head-on photos. Try having your model look up, to the side, have them smile, then keep a serious look on their face. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your camera’s “burst mode”. Sometimes just having fun with your model and a camera will result in some spectacular shots!
Many artists make the mistake of having a model shut her eyes to take a photo of her eye makeup. This often results in wrinkles or other strange shadows on the model’s face. Instead, have the model look down. It will showcase the entire eyelid while keeping a very natural look to the shot.
Are you trying to photograph an eye, lips, or an entire face?
We’ve previously discussed the importance of featuring individual pieces in your portfolio. If you’re showcasing a smoky eye, for example, you can focus in on that one area and don’t have to photograph the model’s entire face.
When photographing one particular element up close, use the “macro” setting on your camera. This setting is usually depicted as a flower icon in your camera’s menu, and is made to take up-close shots while featuring specific details.
If, however, you’re showcasing a complete look (such as bridal makeup, for example) then you’ll want to make sure you get the model’s entire face in the shot.
Either way, the most important part of photographing makeup is to focus on the subject, not the background. Most cameras will have an auto-focus—you just need to know how to use it.
Keep it steady!
To get a good shot, your camera needs to be stable. If you have a tripod, use it! If you’re holding your camera in your hands, you can steady yourself by at least sitting your elbows on a steady surface like a table or the back of a chair.
Your camera’s resolution should be set at no lower than “5M” (or “2592 x 1944”). This will give you a large enough photograph to feature the makeup in detail.
Many artists will use photo editing software to make their photos look their best. You should really try to avoid this for makeup photos.
Use editing software to crop out photos if necessary, but avoid zooming, teeth whitening, or any other filter: the photo will end up looking very unnatural and your audience might question just how much the image was altered.
Remember: the point of a portfolio is to show your audience that you know your makeup… not to show them how good you are at editing photos!
You don’t need a thousand-dollar camera to take great shots. Any point-and-shoot digital camera can take good pictures… you just might need to work a little harder at finding the right settings.
Get to know your camera. Take a few hundred shots using all the different settings and see what you like best. This changes from one camera to the other!
Other Important Points:
- Know the difference between an optical zoom and a digital zoom! A “digital zoom” is really a “fake zoom” and can reduce the clarity of your photos. Try to avoid it for makeup shots.
- If you’re emailing a photo, attach the original photo to your email. Don’t just copy/paste the image into your email: this greatly reduces the quality and clarity of the shot.
- Same goes with uploading a photo: upload the original file—don’t paste the image into a word editing software first.
- Once you’ve taken your pictures, review them on your camera right away. Zoom in as far as you can to ensure your images aren’t blurry. If they aren’t crystal clear, take some more shots!