Friday, 25 October 2013

How to take better photos of your make-up

A while ago I posted this tutorial on /r/Makeupaddiction, a subreddit focused on make-up where people post a lot of photos of their creations. I thought it would perhaps be good to share this on my blog as well, as it was well received and I get a lot of questions about how I photograph my make-up looks.

Making clear photos of make-up is notoriously hard. Colours seem to shift quite a bit and it can be tricky to find an angle that suits you as well as an appropriate light source. In this guide I will give you some hints and tips that will hopefully help you along. I'll also discuss which things concerning photos you perhaps shouldn't do and why.

Please remember that I'm not a professional photographer whatsoever, I'm just explaining what works best for me and what has helped me. Waiting for that one shot to finally turn out right can be so frustrating, so I just hope that I can be of some assistance.

Obvious Filters and/or Photoshopping

Left is the photo without filter, right is with.

The left photo has no filters on it whatsoever, the right one has been adorned with the standard Instagram filter we see so often, also on popular blogs although they often are a bit more subtly represented.

Can you see how the filter has completely changed the texture and colours of not only my face, but also the make-up? The colours are simply not correct anymore, so if I wanted to ask someone if they think I did a good job on my make-up and I showed them the filtered picture they wouldn't be able to answer because they wouldn't be able to see the actual colours!

I understand that people simply like the look of filters, but I think that when you want to show off how your make-up performs you shouldn't mess with the image too much. This is about your make-up, it's not a beauty contest. If you want to review something or to show off a look, you will need to show us what the make-up actually looks like.

The same goes for overly editing an image. I personally don't like it. How am I supposed to know whether a foundation really works if the image is soft blurred? How will I figure out if the colour of that lipstick is really that gorgeous if the colours of the image have been tampered with?

My personal rule is that I don't edit my photos beyond a little bit of cropping and colour correction, I like to keep it honest.

Artificial Lights: Bathroom Lights (no flash)

So now that you know what I think about filters (what you do with that information is completely up to you), let's talk about lighting! Different types of lighting can influence how your photo turns out immensely.

This photo was taken in my bathroom. It has spotlights installed in the ceiling, so that the light is directly above me. This is almost never a flattering angle because it automatically creates shadows under your eyes!

This type of light is also very yellow so all the colours will look different. It's very hard to show off a make-up look like this, because it's tricky to see the actual make-up.

Artificial Lights: Flash

When you take a photo with the flash on, it creates harsh shadows and it can wash certain things out. It is however very easy to see the make-up and any imperfections. This is very good, because the better we can see the make-up the more true to life the photo will be. I personally don't prefer taking photos with flash since I don't have a softbox (an instrument that diffuses the light and gets rid of the harsh shadows) and I don't like the harsh shadows that it creates.

Natural Light Source: Too Light

Natural light is my favourite type of light, especially when it's a little overcast. The sun creates harsh shadows which I don't want, for me the best light for make-up is diffused light. When it's cloudy outside or if you have white curtains in front of your window, that can often be ideal.

When you find a light source, you may have to adjust the settings a little bit. For instance, in this photo my face ended up way too light! This makes it harder to see the make-up, so it's not very good.

Natural Light Source: Too Dark

Conversely, it can also happen that the photo might end up too dark, which also doesn't represent the make-up properly. Note that the contrast is way too high and that the colours look much more saturated than they actually are.

 Natural Light: Just Right

This (for me) is the right setting. I'm still pale as a sheet, but it's nearly identical to how I look in real life.

So you found your light, now take some silly photos!

This might seem strange, but I've found that it's MUCH easier to take a good shot if you relax your muscles and take a few really stupid photos first. It'll make you smile, relax and ease up the muscles in your face! This will only take a minute or so, and you'll feel much looser afterwards.

When taking a photo of closed eyes, don't actually close them:

Don't squeeze your eyes shut as crinkles will appear which will make it harder to see your eye makeup.

Simply look down instead!

If you look down without completely shutting your eyes, your eyes are relaxed and it shows off the eye make-up beautifully.

Angles: Above The Head

Top left is the steepest angle, gradually going down to slightly above eye level in bottom right.

It's also interesting to see what certain angles can do to your face shape. When you take a photo way above your head and you look up, you can see that it's harder to see the eye make-up. When you move to slightly above eye level though, it turns into an actually quite flattering angle.

It's good to try these out to see what works for you! It might be that a straight-on shot doesn't suit you, so definitely try out different angles to see what works and what doesn't.

Angles: Under Nose/Chin

As a general rule, the lower you go with the angle the more unflattering the photo becomes (as you can see). However, if you want to show off eye make-up and you want to crop the photo to only show off the eyes, this is a GREAT angle since it shows off all of the eye make-up in a really nice way.

White Balance Trick and Phone Photos

You don't need a spiffy DSLR to take a good photo as phone cameras are pretty decent these days! Just make sure that you use the outwards facing camera instead of the screen facing one, because the first often makes much higher quality photos compared.

White Balance is also important, especially when you see how it suffers on mobile phones. 

Cameras don't have as good a set of optics as the human eye does which means that it's always trying its best but failing badly sometimes. White Balance (WB) on a camera is the option where you tell it what lighting you have in the scene so it corrects accordingly. For example, whether you have natural light, neon or maybe incandescent.

When it fails though (as it hilariously does in the two left photos where I'm not holding a white sheet) the trick is to hold something truly white, such as a sheet of kitchen towel, and hold it under or next to your face. This will balance the lighting correctly and will give you a much better result. For example, my iphone thinks my face is ghostly white, but when I hold a white sheet next to it the camera adjusts itself to a much more true to colour result.

Here's the White Balance trick in action, it's almost like magic!

Other tips and tricks: 

This is an angle I really like, because you can see my eye make-up really well, the lipcolour and also the blush! It gives a good idea of the whole look and the make-up is very visible. 

Quick tips:

- Take a photo with your eyes open and eyes looking down so it gives a better images of how the make-up looks on you.

- Highlight the area you want to show. If you want to show contouring, for example, turn your face in a way that shows those areas. 

- It's okay if your photos don't turn out perfectly on the very first shot. I always make A LOT of photos (over a hundred usually) until I'm happy. Take your time, shoot a lot of photos and then look at them on your camera to delete the ones you don't like. Then make some more! Repeat this process until you're completely happy. 

- When you look at the photos on the camera, zoom in all the way to make sure the photo isn't blurry. 

- Take non-stop shots [A.K.A Burst Mode], so that the camera is shooting continuously for a few seconds and you strike your poses. It's quicker and  easier to get shots that don't look so stiff.

I'm not a professional photographer but I have made plenty of silly mistakes whilst figuring out what works and what doesn't. I hope this guide has helped you and if you have any comments or questions don't hesitate to leave a reply!


  1. Wow, wat een goed en uitgebreid artikel! Echt heel duidelijk hoe je alles uitlegt, en heel handig voor mensen die vaak foto's van hun gezicht moeten maken.

  2. Dankjewel, en jouw blog is trouwens zo leuk! Ik heb inmiddels al tig recepten die ik wil proberen haha.

  3. Wat ben je toch PRACHTIG!

  4. This is actually ridiculously helpful as someone who is a complete noob at taking photos.
    I have admired your blog since discovering it so I hope you don't mind that I have nominated you for Liebster Award n_n~


  5. Heel handig artikel en uitgebreid artikel! Dat naar beneden kijken is inderdaad een stuk beter dan je ogen dichtknijpen, daar ben ik een tijdje geleden ook achter gekomen en het scheelt echt!

  6. Dankjewel! Haha echt he, ik zat in het begin echt foto's met mn ogen dicht te maken en het lukte maar niet. 'HOE DOEN MENSEN DIT??' hahaha zo veel frustraties.

  7. Thank you! I'm so happy it's been helpful. Thanks a lot for nominating me as well, of course I don't mind it's always awesome to know someone appreciates my blog to that degree! :D

  8. Waah dankjewel wat een lief compliment!

  9. Topartikel! Echt heel handige tips!

  10. Goeie tips! :) Ik maak soms nog weleens een foto van mijn make-up met mijn ogen dicht, gewoon om te zien hoe het eruit ziet, maar het ziet er altijd heel fout uit ^^