It won’t be an exaggeration to say that makeup and photography can so easily go hand in hand together. Either in magazines, fashion shoots or simply to advertise your makeup services understanding how to portray your makeup looks on camera is an important skill any freelance makeup artist needs to learn.
A potential client looking at your makeup portfolio will make their decision based on if they like what they see. This means your makeup skills could be amazing but if you cannot convey the beauty or technical level in photos to use across social media/portfolio you might be losing potential makeup work.
Makeup artistry which I adopted as a hobby over time has become my career and has lead me to have my own freelance makeup business but photography was always something I picked up along the way. As a makeup artist understanding how lighting and camera settings can affect how your makeup is portrayed is an important attribute to have. Keep in mind, learning how to take photos of your makeup is a great skill to develop by trial and error but it’s important to remember it all starts with having a professional makeup kit.
Here in this guide, I’m going to share my tips and tricks I’ve learned when it comes to taking photos of makeup and the key to flawless photos lies in the makeup primarily and in the camera settings, lighting, camera angles etc.
Considering the most commonly used cameras – I’m a strong believer that to capture good quality photos of your makeup looks you don’t need to invest in an expensive camera always. The camera on phones have improved dramatically over the last few years and so many makeup artists use their phones to take photos of their clients because it’s easy and efficient when traveling to do freelance makeup jobs.
However, you might need a DSLR if you want to capture extreme close-ups such as lashes or even the pigment across the eyelid or if you are trying to take photos at night in low light but typically you would use a DSLR camera in professional shoots including a professional studio setup. Below you can compare among the different type of cameras:
Long before the days when smartphones were common, taking good photos was quite expensive and time taking process. You had to buy a fancy camera that would cost a lot and editing software’s for your desktop computers and of course it took a lot of your time and energy.
Thanks to the latest high-end mobile phones which comes along with great cameras and editing applications. You can now take high-quality photos and edit them in no time with apps.
You can take some amazing shots with your phone’s camera and later on edit it on your phone. There are various built-in filters in your phone’s camera app or if filters are not required, other apps I would recommend to check out as a makeup artist are: Lightroom, Facetune. PicsArt Photo Studio, Photoshop Express and many more apps like these come handy. If you’ve explored your default camera app to its fullest, now is the time to use a third party camera app. They come along with a bunch of extra settings, the bundle of different filters and other different features to make your photos look extraordinary. Afterlight is another cross-platform app that comes for both iOS and Android. It comes with a set of pro tools with a bundle of impressive filters. You can use these editing apps to knock out the yellow tones, glares from direct sunlight, brightness, color correction, and white balance. These apps are just amazing!
Talking about apps, don’t forget Instagram isn’t just a social network, with the latest updates, Instagram now includes a host of tweaking and editing tools besides the filters it offers.
Most of the android phones have a pro mode feature where you can adjust shutter speed, ISO, white balance just like a DSLR. And most of the iOS phones now come with portrait mode which has features like studio light, natural light, contour light and stage light. Portrait mode focuses on the subject and blurs out the background which is best for close-up shots with a real high quality feel to them. However, I have noticed when using this feature on iPhones, you need good lighting to really capture the makeup.
Coming to another camera for your makeup photos DSLR, let’s have a look at how it can be used for professional photography. Even though I love taking photos on my phone because it’s easy to travel with when doing freelance makeup looks (especially bridal or prom makeup bookings), for quality shooting if you have more time or if you know that your makeup looks are going to be printed out on business cards for example or simply know that you need photos which are of quality at a bigger display size DSLR is a winner.
Let’s have a look at how a DSLR would work for you.
- Photo and video quality are natural of a higher quality when working on a bigger scale.
- With high-quality sensors, your photo will have much better colors and more image details.
- The best about these cameras is its manual settings. It handles exposure and white balance quite nicely and can still be effective in low lighting.
- Different types of lens which can fit on your camera is another plus point, means you can change the lens according to the requirement of your photoshoot and produce a range of photos demonstrating your makeup in quality, unique ways.
So with a DSLR, you can get high-quality photos with good lighting and perfect white balance. Now, what white balance actually is? White balance is a setting that makes the colors look exactly the way they are in real life. The skill of configuring white balance is high-priority for makeup because the lighting condition changes according to the environment. Your colors will look different at different times throughout the day. Thanks to DSLR’s manual settings for color temperature, you can easily set the settings according to the light situation and get the perfect results and the colours used in the makeup are represented truthfully.
Now I hope you have more of an insight into the different types of camera’s you can use regarding when taking photos of your makeup looks. If you’re thinking about investing in a DSLR camera or lenses to take the best makeup photos you can, below I go into detail regarding the different lenses and lighting techniques for makeup shots.
Let’s talk camera settings for taking the best makeup photos.
There are different types of cameras, most trending among them are Nikon, Canon and Sony. Each of the camera types has a bundle of features in them distributed in different models depending on the requirements and budget. Some of the most popular cameras used in this field are described below, you can choose among them according to your requirement and budget.
Camera settings will depend on the camera you have along with what type of lens you are using. My suggestion for the lens is a 70-200mm f/2.8. 70-200 is basically its range and 2.8 is its aperture. Since we are talking about makeup photos, which means there will be close-up shots included as well, so this lens can do wonders for you. It gives a superior image quality and the best thing about this lens is its stabilization. If you are a starting out and maybe slowly want to expand your equipment I would recommend maybe waiting and trialing a few cheaper options before investing in the 70-200mm f/2.8 due to being more costly than the other two below. 85mm f/1.8 is a mid-range lens but extremely good for photos. 50mm f/1.8 is best for starters. Basically, all these lenses are best for makeup photos.
These are 3 lenses I have personally used, but the point is to find a lens which works well when taking photos of makeup. Remember, you will most likely be shooting mid-length, portraits, and close-ups so when choosing a lens to keep that in mind.
Now let’s talk about camera settings required for good makeup photos and different types of lighting to get that perfect makeup shot.
This is my typical aperture setting when taking makeup shots but it also does change slightly depending on lighting and the effect I’m trying to create:
- ISO 100. The minimum ISO of the camera should be set to 100. Why 100? Because if you go above the range given then the picture will become noisy, blurred and pixels will get distorted, in short pictures sharpness will be compromised.
- Shutter speed. The shutter speed is kept between 1/125s – 1/160s. This speed is ideal for most of the situations as it gives a depth of the subject very precisely.
- Aperture f/8 is the best for capturing the photos in the frame of the head to the frame of shoulders.
- IMP: use the highest photo quality of your camera. I suggest shooting in RAW format as it is the highest quality format and helps when editing due to the colours being truly represented of quality and detail.
Light defines your photo, no matter how low the camera quality is, lighting will influence the quality of the picture. Taking pictures depends on where you are taking them, are they indoor? Are they outdoor? If you are going for an outdoor photoshoot, make sure you go on the perfect time, by perfect time I mean go out for the photoshoot in the Golden Hour, golden hour is the time when the sun is about to set and you can get the perfect orange lighting for the shoot and really does make the makeup look stunning in this light. I try and avoid daylight as it will brighten the subject to its maximum and you will start to get glares which will ruin the photo and also can be really challenging to try and get the makeup to show up clearly. But if you want to take photos in the bright sunlight or that is the only time you are able to take your makeup photos or want to focus on a specific area of the subject try using a light diffuser.
Light diffusers are aligned perfectly with the sun and the sun’s light goes into the diffuser and from diffuser straight on the subject hence making it bright and beautiful.
Regarding indoor shooting, I always try and use natural light when possible because sometimes studio lighting can make the makeup look harsh and can easily lose detail. However, I have found Ring Lighting Equipment to be amazing when it comes to portraits and close-ups due to the soft lighting making the skin look airbrushed and really bring out the tones in the eyes to make eye makeup stand out. I try and avoid using external flashlights as it washes out the makeup due to the sudden flash of light especially regarding bridal makeup. However, if you are trying to get a photo which showcases your highlighter or any other light shimmer then flash can pick up these shimmers rather nicely.
There are various white balances such as daylight, shady, cloudy, flash, direct sunlight, standard fluorescent, tungsten and many more. Daylight is best for shooting otherwise leave the settings to auto and then later on in edit mode edit the photos as you want them to be through editing software to correct the lighting.
To portray the color of your complexion and makeup it is important that you have the best lighting available. There are different type of lightings which could be used when trying to create some interesting makeup shots:
This type of lighting will make your photo a bit warmer, orangey than in reality. Having incandescent light from multiple angles, you can take very well pictures in bathroom and places like these which normally involve a light of white tones naturally. In low-tech language, you can say that incandescent light is basically a typical household lightbulb.
Florescent light has completely the opposite effect of the incandescent light. Photos taken with this type of light will appear cooler, moody and colder tone than in reality. Florescent lighting is optimal lighting for a very few instances. In low-tech language, florescent lighting is basically the type of lighting you see straight after the sun has set or in the early morning with that blue hue.
As the word describes itself, the light coming straight from the sun is by far the best source of light and can give you the best results if used in the right circumstances due to not being overly warm or cool lighting. Direct sunlight has the tendency to make oiliness and blemishes prominent, so if you want to utilize natural sunlight, try and make sure that your model’s face is in a proper source of shade while facing the direction of the sun so nothing is overexposed.
Features of your model’s face bring along shadows which are typically undesirable by the makeup artists. When talking about contouring, it is actually the magic of the makeup and skills of the makeup artist that makes it the illusion of the shadow. But talking about the real shadows, they can hide all the hard work you did along with the contour you applied and is going to end the illusion you created. To avoid shadows, you can use a single source of light or two sources of light which belongs to one family, on either of the face’s side at eye level to eliminate shadows.
The interesting thing is that a mirror can also be a good source of light. This is the only reason why bathroom photos come out to be some of the best photos you take. A large bathroom mirror or some other good place at your house having a mirror can also make your pictures look great especially if you want to capture your bride to be in an ‘action shot’ looking at herself in the mirror.
The best way to take a picture is to face a single source of light. Make sure that there is no light behind you which is facing your camera because it can cause glares and your camera lens won’t be able to capture the makeup colors and your complexion accurately. I always try and get my model especially doing freelance makeup to be facing a window to make sure the makeup is picked up on the camera.
The background is something I’m always aware off when doing freelance makeup work, there is nothing worse than taking a beautiful photo of your model to demonstrate your makeup skills and the background is distractions. I always try and get my model to go against a wall if there is good natural lighting or I blur the background with the editing apps mentioned above so the focus is on the makeup.
Getting the right angle is so important to understand as a makeup artist. You obviously want to make sure the makeup looks good whilst making the angle look flattering for the model.
It’s all about trial and error but I always try and take a range of shots with the eyes open looking slightly above the camera, eyes closed and face slightly turned to the side and then eyes looking down, looking straight at the camera. There is nothing worse than getting home from a freelance job knowing you did a good makeup job and realising you didn’t take enough photos or the photos you did take, you do not like.
Tip: I always ask the model to push their shoulders back and slightly point their chin up so you can see the eyelid and the eye makeup more visually.
When talking about focus, the thing that first comes in mind is that which specific part you want to shoot. Do you want to photograph lips, an eye or the complete face?
If you want to showcase the lips of a model, just focus on the lips and don’t take the photo of the complete face. For these types of shots, there’s a setting known as “macro” in the camera or using your phone simply get closer (obviously let your model know you’re going to get close and personal – so they don’t think what the heck are you doing). But if you want to capture a complete look such as bridal makeup, then you will be covering the model’s entire face in the shot. Anyway, the main thing I wanted to discuss under this heading was to tell you that keep the focus on the subject rather than on background. And many of the cameras come with a feature known as auto-focus and you just know how to use it.
Other things to think about when working as a makeup artist on a shoot:
When it comes to makeup, as a makeup artist, keep in mind that coming to a photoshoot isn’t just about bringing the right makeup kit and other tools necessary for creating the looks you have planned in your head. Skin care products of high quality and appropriate tools to prepare the model for makeup so that the models best face is presented in front of the world.
Communicating with your model is by far the most important thing as a makeup artist. Why? You want to know how to get the best photo and do the best makeup job you can do. Understanding their skin complexion allows you to adopt a skincare routine which enhances the makeup and work for the models’ skin type. For example, if your model had oily skin you would want to include more of a matte primer rather than adding more oil to the models face.
If you’re just starting out as a makeup artist or wanting to dive into the world of doing makeup on photoshoots, below I’ve included some tips I’ve learned when working on previous makeup shoots.
For a quick touch-up, the must-have tool is a pair of tweezers. If your model has more than just a few stray hairs, plastic eyebrow razor is what you need to in your kit to remove all the unnecessary hairs. Practice with these prior using them on sets because they require a lot of attention and precise working. Shaving cream is something I would always take as you never know when you end up on shaving someones facial hair on set!
When doing makeup for a shoot remember to always go slightly stronger and heavy in colour to make sure the tones are picked up on camera, for example when applying eyesahdow always start with a light base to help make the eyeshadow have more pigmentation and show up stronger on the face.
Now talking about the lips, tell your models to gently scrub their lips with a good clinically tested sugarlips plumper. Now as the name suggests, this helps to plump the lips up and is the best sugar scrub. It is rich in Vitamin E and dissolves very quickly. After the scrubbing of lips, don’t forget to use a protecting and hydrating lip balm which keeps the lips fresh.
Skin is the most important among all the other. Cleaning the face of a model before photoshoot is necessary, and for doing this always carry wipes and toner with you (make sure to pack in your kit something for sensitive skin types as well.
After giving a fresh feel to the skin, it’s now time to moisturise the face so that a smooth and perfect makeup can be applied to the models face. There are different brands that offer the best products which include the moisturisers, primers and makeup removers. Prepping the skin is always just as important as the makeup application, you can’t expect good results if you haven’t catered for the skin type.
Note: Another thing to be kept in mind is that if your model has an oily face, use a product that will minimize the shine of the skin.
If you follow all these steps very carefully, you are now prepared to start your makeup application. Take your time, relax and do your thing slowly. A combination of attention, focus and good quality products, the only thing you will have is Success. Now your makeup and artistry skills are going to make your model perfect for a photoshoot.
The best way of taking close up of makeup:
When it comes to the application of close up makeup then the above content basically covers it.
When talking about the best way of taking photos of close up makeup, the first thing that
comes in mind is that you should have the right equipment first. After acquiring the right equipment, create a proper setup. Select the type of photoshoot you are doing, for example, photoshoot outdoor at some beautiful scenery, indoor photoshoot, photoshoot at a home and so many more scenarios like this. Do keep in mind if you choose to shoot outside for close-up photos remember the scenic setting won’t be as displayed in the final images.
When doing makeup for close-up images then keep in mind all the points regarding the eyes, skin, lips and facial hair and remember textures shall be more visible so make sure to understand the different textures of the makeup you are using on the model.
As makeup artists, we know what type of makeup suits a particular photoshoot, taking into consideration the lighting, and the theme. On the other hand, understanding photographer’s techniques, lighting and style will completely change the model’s makeup as to how is it going to look on camera. Different makeup techniques are required for different lighting conditions. Such as if there is a Soft natural light, it will require a different set of skills to do makeup and on the other hand different makeup will be required if there is more precise and contrasted studio lighting. The lighting affects the tones and colors, face’s angles and contours and obviously skin texture. A proper makeup will make sure that none of the above-listed details is lost while the photographer takes your photo. That is why it’s a good idea to understand about lighting and photography as a makeup artist.
Benefits of taking makeup photos:
As a makeup artist, always remember that take a photo of your masterpiece or pretend like it never happened. It is a world full of people who have some place in the industry, so if you want to start your career in this, make sure you showcase your mastery in makeup. When stepping in this career and taking it as your life goal, your portfolio and social media links will be the first thing your employers will ask for or shall search your work online and social media handles. When it comes to social media as a makeup artist always have a professional account demonstrating the work you do on clients or the looks created. Try and keep it makeup related throughout your feed and have a personal one which features whatever you choose.
You can take as many photos as you want but at the end of the day, there will be only a few to select. The finest photographs should be in your portfolio. And it’s not necessary that your photos are to be taken by a professional photographer because many starters don’t have enough investment, it’s all about finding the correct angle, accurate lighting along with many other factors as discussed.
As a makeup artist, here are some reasons that it is essential to take amazing photos:
- You will get more job opportunities.
- Your photos are a reflection of your capabilities.
- In the beauty industry, your photos represent you as a makeup artist.
How good you are as a makeup artist, your portfolio and online social media/website tells it all. As a makeup artist, it is your golden ticket to the beauty industry so make sure you keep the best and outstanding photos. It is important to note that your work reflects your personality and the work you put out there should be targeted towards your niche to appeal to the right audience.
So I hope this has helped explain the importance of learning about photography along with the benefits of understanding how to take a good photo of makeup.
Learning how to take good photos of the looks you’ve created can help you create some content which could be used to market your business on social media. You can find more about marketing your makeup business through my latest e-course, Instagram Kickstarter. A course dedicated to helping makeup artists get booked up, reach their dream clients and earn more money all through Instagram.