Makeup Photos

Featured, Makeup Tips and Tricks, Your Makeup Career

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!

Taking a makeup photo for makeup artist jobs


Lighting

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.

Lighting when taking photos in career in makeup artistry

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.


Background

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.


Angles

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!

Photographing eyes:

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.

Learn how to do makeup and taking good photo of eye makeup


Focus

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.

Resolution

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.


Editing

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!


Know your camera- taking good photos in career in makeup artistry

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:


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8 responses to “Taking Good Makeup Photos”

  1. Amanda says:

    What do you do if the only option is your smart phone??

    1. Julia Nelson says:

      Thanks for commenting Amanda!

      We do have many students who are able to take beautiful photos of their makeup artistry with their smart phones. It’s all about finding the proper lighting. A big weakness of phone cameras is their inability to take good photos in low light. Make sure your subject is facing the light source and that you’re shooting at a time of day when there is a lot of natural light (turn that flash off!). This might take some trial and error, but it will be worth the effort in the end. Good luck!

      1. Amanda says:

        Thank you for your reply Julia, that is great to know because taking photos with a large camera is rather difficult to do unless your doing someone else’s makeup. I’m just curious what to do when the weather is very cloudy and raining, how to get better lighting??

        1. Mireille Pitre says:

          Hi Amanda!
          Sorry it took so long to reply 🙂
          We discuss it a little within the article. Taking photos indoors is okay, just diffuse the light a little. So instead of shining a lightbulb right at yourself (or your model), have a light shine away from you and onto a white surface such as a photography umbrella or a white piece of cardboard (cheaper alternative).
          I hope this helps!
          -Mireille

  2. Abi says:

    Is it okay to have the same few people as your models for your portfolio when starting out ?

    1. Mireille Pitre says:

      Hi Abi!

      Yes you can definitely use the same model in your portfolio. Nothing wrong with that, especially if you’re just starting out! If you’d like to learn more about building your portfolio, check out this post: Portfolio 101.

      Hope this helps!
      Cheers,
      Mireille

  3. Dawn Tobin says:

    Hi Mireille!

    Your article was a great help.

    Dslrs are so steep and to afford one when one is setting up business it is very disheartening. I am trying to make my Samsung Galaxy smartphone do most of my job, but as you mentioned, its not good at all in poor lighting. I am using a led light of 4500K, for my makeup. My mistake was buying the 18w and not am struggling to diffuse it as it is very harsh.
    Any suggestions would be a great help.

    Thanks Dawn

    1. Mireille Pitre says:

      Hi Dawn!

      It can be tough to get good photos with any phone. Throw in the wrong light source, and it’s almost impossible, as you’ve discovered! Have you tried taking your makeup photos outside under natural sunlight? That might be your best bet! Otherwise, probably a different, softer light source would help.

      Keep in mind, you don’t need a DSLR for good makeup photos. You can get a decent-quality “point and shoot” camera that will take much better pictures than your phone.

      Good Luck!

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