A woman applying makeup with a brush.

6 Beauty Photography Tips

6 tips for shooting beauty photography

There’s nothing quite as captivating as beauty photography, whether it be a connection with the eyes, understanding the expression, or being pulled in by the composition. Mastering this type of photography can open doors beyond social media images, up to magazine editorials and advertising. There’s more to beauty photography than simply capturing a pretty face. To help you grasp the art of beauty photography, here are some of the things we’ll keep in mind when tackling the next shoot.

Larsson & Jennings / Joopio
Larsson & Jennings / Joopio

1. Build a Mood Board

In our ‘Getting Grippy‘ post, we has covered how the accuracy of colours and shapes are crucial in fashion and product work. This is equally important for beauty photography, as these components are key to bringing your shots to life. But of course, creating the right aesthetic is easier said than done, since it’s easy to get carried away with the glitz and glamour. To this end, you should consider making a mood board for a beauty photography shoot, which essentially is a collage of images that sets the tone of the photoshoot.

When building your mood board, think of all the elements that will help guide you to perfecting your vision for your beauty photos. For instance, if you’re aiming for a classic look, Glamour’s guide to smokey eyes notes that you should apply a sparkle shadow for a glossy finish. So, be sure to add these notes when building your board.

2. Hair Stylists and Makeup Artists

The hair and makeup of your model can make or break a beauty photography project, or at the very least will have a direct impact on the amount of post-production. Getting it right ‘in camera’ is really important, for both the photographer, the model and the client – but for slightly different reasons. For the photographer, you have the instant vision of how your model will look through the lens. For the model, feeling confident has a huge impact on how you behave in front of the lens. For the client, they get that instant gratification of how the end result will look. There’s also the wider topic of retouching –  whilst we do very little skin retouching here, when we do, it’s simply to soften the impact that high resolution cameras have on refining too much of the skin details.


3. Support Your Model Behind the Scenes

From their facial expressions to their hand movements, all eyes will be on your model. Even if you have a glam team onboard, it’s important to make sure your talent looks their absolute best for the shoot. Although most people would just tell the model to skip the sunscreen and powder their nose, ensuring great skin for your beauty photography shoot starts from the cleansing process.

Pretty Me’s review of the popular Snail White Whipp soap highlights the importance of looking for all-natural ingredients that provide moisture without making you feel sticky. It’s best to go for those that combat inflammation while refreshing your skin. Making sure your model is moisturised without being too oily gives a good canvas for the makeup artist to work from.

4. Using Light Modifiers

From beauty dishes and soft boxes, to grids and even umbrellas, using light modifiers for your beauty photography will make all the difference for getting that shot. These professional light-moulding attachments will help soften or sharpen the light to help you achieve the look you’re going for. Directional light will create hard shadows and is typically used for creating depth and drama. Conversely, diffused light which ‘fills in’ the skin details when directed to skin, will give a softer look. A technique called ‘clam shell’ lighting which combines a light above with a reflector above, will fill in most of the shadows and evenly light a face, without getting that horrible effect that a direct flash will create. We’ll also use beauty dishes, which give you a unique look for beauty shots.

Mayfair Skin Clinic
Mayfair Skin Clinic

5. Opt for Long Lenses

Choosing the right kind of lens is a big decision every photographer will make. For beauty photography, it’s best to use long lenses — preferably focal lengths  between 70mm and 120mm. We’ll occasionally push up to closer to 200mm as well, although you do have to be careful of the distortion a lens creates either side of the 50mm point, as pin-cushioning and barrelling will occur and will unnaturally warp the face if you’re filling most of the frame. Longer lenses will also help to compress the background of an image by introducing blurred out of focus areas and keep attention on the details of the face.

6. Be Mindful with Retouching

Retouching is a key process because it helps take away anything unflattering that could spoil your shots. While it’s tempting to fix every single detail, you should be mindful of how much you’re retouching. If you go overboard, the finished product is likely to come out looking unnatural.

We’ve already touched on this a little above, but ideally you want to avoid having to do too much in post if you can, as tempting as it is. However, this will hugely depend on your style of shooting. Typically, we’ll adjust exposure, contrast and colour as part of our standard process.

When actually retouching, focus on details such as skin tone, blemishes and stray hairs.

Lonam Jewellery
Don't Play With Your Food

Although taking beauty photos can feel quite intimidating at first, these tips will hopefully bring you one step closer to getting your perfect shot. Not to mention, learning the fundamentals of beauty photography will also help you hone your craft. From learning more about the different types of lenses to figuring out what it takes to build the right team on set, mastering the art of beauty photography is key for enhancing your portfolio.

Julienne Boston

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