Typically, part of being a beauty blogger is taking photos. People often ask me how to take good photos. I’ve got my top ten photo tips to share with you. This is what I do and what works for me. I hope that you find it helpful.
Invest in a Camera
I feel that using a good camera, instead of a cell phone, gives you better picture clarity. While some cell phone cameras are good, I’ve never been able to get as good results with a cell phone vs. a real camera. A cell phone picture isn’t often as clear or true to color as a good camera.
While it doesn’t have to be a top of the line camera, I would recommend investing in a good camera that has image stabilization and zoom capabilities. I specifically prefer the brand Canon because I’ve been using it for over 10 years.
My Sony Cybershot. Terrible for indoors. Great for outdoors. This doesn’t really get used anymore.
I’ve tried other brands, like Sony, and been disappointed. I’ve never been disappointed with my Canons. Nikon is another good brand, as is Olympus, but I’ve never personally used either.
My ‘old’ Canon Cybershot in Pink with my new ‘little’ Canon Cybershot in Red.
My ‘little’ camera is the Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS 12 MP CMOS Digital Camera with Full 1080p HD Video. It takes pretty good videos and gorgeous pictures. This is usually sufficient for most things and this is the sort of camera that I recommend to people when they ask me what camera to buy.
The key features that it has are the Optical Image Stabilizer, full 1080p HD Video, Smart AUTO predefined shooting and a slew of others. There’s a newer version of this camera available now. I like taking the red camera to events, rather than my ‘big’ camera.
My ‘Big’ Canon DSLR
My ‘big’ camera is the Canon Rebel t3i 600D DSLR camera. I chose this camera because it has a flip around viewscreen so that I can see what I’m doing when I’m taking a picture or recording a video. It has exceptional video quality, as you can probably tell from my most recent video tutorials on my Youtube channel. It has image stabilization, a built in flash, and it’s great in HD. It has so many options and features that it takes a while to learn them. It’s a steep learning curve but it gives you so much more control over pictures. I really love it.
It probably doesn’t need to be said, but just in case, you need to make sure that your images are in focus. This means lining up the shot, and for most cameras I’ve used, holding the button down halfway to get the camera to auto focus on the subject. Then once you see that it is autofocused (I see a green box on my camera), you take the shot. If you’re used to manually focusing, you can do that instead.
You need to line up the shot so that your subject is within the frame of the camera. You can crop it later on in a photo editor to even more tightly focus on the subject. Now, I try to make sure that anything that is in the picture is not going to detract from it. In other words, I try not to have a bunch of wires or clutter in the picture with the subject. I don’t want people to look at the background, I want them to look at my subject.
Lighting is key to having a good photo. Natural, indirect light is best. That way you don’t have to use the flash and you get better clarity in your color. However, it’s not always possible to have natural light. I’ve invested in daybulbs in most of my house for more natural lighting. It’s more pleasing to my eye.
Specifically for swatching, I use a daybulb in a reading light and hold my hand about 6 to 8 inches away from the light to take my pictures of the swatches.
I also do take photos of swatches with flash to see how things look too. Especially when it’s a complex color, taking pictures in different lighting really helps you to see how the color looks.
For close ups on eyes or lips, you can do a macro setting, or you can do a close face shot with flash. I’ve had people tell me they prefer flash or they prefer macro with no flash, but either way it helps to show off the colors better. Having both gives the readers a better idea of what the product looks like.
For face shots, I recommend using a portrait setting or manually adjusting to get a good shot. Practice also helps. I take a lot of pictures to get a few good ones. It’s a weeding process. Having as much natural light as possible for images, even if you’re using flash, will still help them to look better.
There are different schools of thought on backgrounds for photos and product shots. Many people prefer to do a white background for a floating effect. To do this you can use a white backdrop cloth (such as a white fabric) or you can use a lightbox. I often use one of the white walls in my home for head shots.
There are many tutorials available online that teach you how to build your own lightbox. While I agree this looks nice, I prefer typically to use different backgrounds because I feel like it gives it more of an intimate feel. I like to use different fabrics or textures, such as zebra print fabric or my concrete floors. Some people like to use books or book text for a neutral background too, which I find adorable.
I didn’t know about the macro setting on my digital cameras for so long that it’s embarrassing! However, once I found it, it’s been a lifesaver. It usually looks like a flower on most of my cameras and when you select it, it allows you to focus on very fine details, such as loose mineral eyeshadow or a ring.
If you have a DSLR camera, you can take it a step further and use a macro lens, which lets you get an even closer and more precise shot. I usually see nature photographers use the macro lens to get pictures of tiny insects or beautiful flowers.
To make sure your colors are as accurate as possible, calibrate the color on your monitor. There are tutorials on how to do this online. After your monitor is calibrated, take a colorful photo and check it on several devices to see how it looks. I typically check my laptop that I work on, a desktop, a mac and a few cell phones. My goal is to make it look as close to identical as possible on all the devices in my home. I also have other people look at it and see if they agree it looks close, or if I need to tweak the calibrations some more. This may not be easy, but it really does help.
Swatches of my Urban Decay Shadows
For sizing photos to your blog, I always recommend doing between 300 width 600 width (that’s pixel width). You want your photo to be big enough that people can see the details on the image. I typically only do a smaller image if it’s outside the jump (the ‘Continue Reading’) on my blog.
Also when sizing a file, I typically use the ‘save for web’ option in Photoshop to save it as a smaller file size for the front page. I shoot for around 30k. This makes the load time on your home page faster. Inside the jump, I will do larger image sizes with better quality.
I recommend watermarking your photos. Unless you’re using a stock photo of an item, if you take a picture you should put your watermark on it. Otherwise, unscrupulous people will steal your image. Even with a watermark, some shady individuals may use your photo without your permission. While you can’t always prevent misuse, you can at least make an effort to mark your photos.
Now, the better reason to mark your photos these days is for sites like Pinterest! That way, if your URL gets lost in the repinning process, people can still find your blog and come visit you.
I’ve watermarked in various different ways since I started blogging. The easiest way for me to currently watermark is to create a brush in Photoshop and then use that to apply it to my images. There are online ways to watermark and there may even be a plugin or two for WordPress for watermarking.
A note on stock photos. There are many royalty free sites that just require you to use credit when using your images. These are great because you should try and have at least one image in a post. You can also use stock photos from press releases from companies. Some companies require you to give credit, some do not. Just make sure that you’re giving proper credit when using a photo that isn’t your own.
As I’ve mentioned Photoshop a few times, I recommend using Photoshop or Photoshop Elements to edit photos. There are also free versions of similar software available, like Gimp. There’s even an online editing tool, too. I use Photoshop Elements 10 right now because I’ve been using some version of Photoshop since 1999. It’s just the software that I’m most comfortable with. I resize images with it, I crop images, I watermark images, I correct images, whatever is needed with it.
These are my top photo tips for beauty bloggers. Do you have any photo tips you’d like to share? Please let me know!
I just upgraded from a cell phone camera to a Sony DSC-HX200 V/B and my only complaint is taking makeup shots. Normally I could stand in front of a mirror to see that my eye was lined up in the shot, now this behemoth is so big I can’t see what I am doing. I have countless pictures of my jaw, hairline, the side of my nose but I can’t seem to get a lined up shot of my eye or my mouth. Any tips for that?
Yes. Ok, so I always make sure to purchase a camera with a digital view finder. So for the red and pink camera, and the sony, they all have a view screen on the back. I would practice in front of the mirror so that i could see what was on the view screen and take pictures that way. Eventually I could do it without a mirror. The DSLR I have, the viewscreen flips around to face me, which makes it a million times easier.
Thanks for the tip. I wish my view finder flipped up where I could see it, that would have been perfect. Right now I am holding the camera practically on top of my eyeball so I cant see in the mirror. Maybe I need to stand further back with a tripod and zoom inot the eye? I feel like such a child trying to relearn this stuff.
The only one that I have that will flip around is the DSLR. They do make an extender you can put on your smaller one and use the timer function (much like with a tripod), to take pictures of yourself.
Thanks for sharing! This post was actually REALLY helpful! I’ve been looking around at new cameras to update my old Sony Cybershot, and was leaning towards getting another Sony. But now I’m thinking I might try out a Canon after your recommendation. Will have to go the store & play around with them
You’re welcome Louise! I’ve had Canon Elphs for a long time and really love them. My first one lasted 5 years! The second and third (pink and red) are still going strong, but I upgraded to have better pictures.
Thanks! I really love your swatches so I am going to get a desk light too for those too
For image editing I use Gimp, it works great both on windows and linux. I have barely used photoshop but I feel like it is very similar and more than good enough for a hobby blogger like myself.
Yeah it’s all in what you’re comfortable using
Fantastic post! I really appreciate all the tips
I started blogging with my iPhone camera, which works sort of okayish in really good light, but there was SUCH a jump in quality when I switched over to a real camera (a $200 Canon point and shoot). I would absolutely love a DSLR, but it’s just not in the budget right now – maybe for my one year bloggiversary, if I’m still at it
Where do you host your images – do you self host them? Right now I’m using Picasa, which I like because I can sync it and it automatically uploads, plus it will add a (very simple) watermark for me. But, I’m thinking of using SmugMug instead – I’ve heard really good things about it, though it’s a bit pricey.
I started out hosting on Photobucket and I wish I hadn’t. It’s such a pain. Now I’m self-hosted with my blog at Hostgator. I highly recommend them and tell them I referred you if you ever decide to switch.
Thank you for the info! I’m not ready to make the leap to my own domain / self-hosting yet, but I’ll keep Hostgator in mind (and of course let them know you referred me) for if I do!
Amazing tips, thank you so much!!
You’re welcome Marie!
I’ve got the ELPH 300 HS as well! It takes awesome pictures.
I agree Becky! It’s a great point and shoot.
The setting that’s helped me a lot is the EV setting. It brightens up the background, giving it a more natural look than if you try brightening the finished photo in editing software.
I’ve never tried the EV, I’ll have to check it out!
Thanks for the tips Phyrra! I am using the same Cybershot camera as you are, except mine’s in black. It is a fantastic camera and I love the different settings it has. The macro setting is incredible, and so much better than my old Olympus one!
I’m glad you like it Kookith!
Great post! I am terrible at photography and my picture quality is one of the things I’dl like to improve upon for my blog. There are some great tips in here.
I’m glad that you found it helpful VB!
What an inspiring post, Phyrra! Your rave reviews of the Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS 12 MP made me literally run out and get one a few minutes ago! I was in the process of trying to find a good small digital camera, and you really took the guess work out of it for me! Thank you so much!!
Thanks Lola! I’m so happy that I can help
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Hi P! We basically have the same cameras! I love mine , especially my DSLR!! Also, what is the orange shadow in the above pic? I need it!!
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I will come back to this post everytime I need help with photos. Such great tips, thank you!
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Great post and many helpful tips. I need to figure out a way to automatically put a watermark on my photos.
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2 years later and this post is still helping people out… like me! Thanks so much.
Casey (The Blondeshell)