Blogging Tip: 6 Basic Tips for Taking Photos for beauty blogs

by Paris B on · 38 comments

in Tips

Hiya Ladies

Its Fri-i-day! :D

I’ve recently received a few emails about taking photos for your blog and I’ve also noticed that there are many bloggers amongst all you lovely readers. I love how we’re all a little community of beauty loving bloggers – its great isn’t it? :D

From my personal viewpoint, photos are important for a blogger and a blog – any blog! However, that is not the be-all-end-all for a beauty blog. You can easily find stock photos of products online and there is many a successful blogger who gets by with that and strength of writing. Its preferable to seeing blurry photos and if anything, it saves time rather than having to take your own photos, edit, crop etc. I started out using stock photos too and I’d continue to, if I didn’t get interested in a bit of photography :)

Whatever you do, just remember NOT to steal photographs from other bloggers or websites. It is rude and unethical and undermines your credibility. Also, remember to credit your source where you can with a link. Using photographs belonging to others without credit is as good as walking into their bedroom and swiping their favourite lipstick.

simple tips for taking photos for beauty bloggers

However, lets say you’re picky like I am, and want to show photos of the actual product and swatches on your skin. I’m a blog reader too and I find swatches very useful particularly for colour cosmetics. For skincare, actual product photos don’t make much of a difference to me. So I have a couple of simple basic tips to help you get that lovely crisp photo of that lovely product or swatch that you want to show. Do note that this is from my personal experience and I’m NOT a photographer nor a pro nor do I claim to be an authority :P

1. Know your Camera

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a DSLR camera to get good photos. Yes, a DSLR gives you the ability to take better photos because of the bigger sensor and lenses and yes, you look all swanky and professional lugging one around. But for blogging purposes, all you really need is a digital compact point and shoot and these are pretty inexpensive these days. Your intention is to capture photos on the fly anyway.

Mobile phone cameras don’t do quite as well in my view for proper product shots, unless you plan to take quick sneaky photos. The colour always tends to be off because the sensor is tiny even by comparison to compact cameras and the macro function isn’t up to par. Let me show you a collage of an item taken using 3 different cameras.

comparing photo taken with mobile phone with digital camera

This collage was taken under natural lighting conditions. Indoors, the mobile phone quality deteriorates very quickly. So if you want to maintain a blog, get a compact camera – as I have noted, you can get pretty decent ones these days quite inexpensively – cheaper than your mobile phone probably. You don’t need something from the top of the range so long as you know how to maximize your camera’s potential. Before you go ahead and shoot your photos, spend some time to get to know your camera and its functions to get the best out of it.

2. The Macro function is your best friend

If you have been experimenting, you might be wondering how to get a good close up shot of the product you want to showcase, or a picture of your eye or face or lips. Its time to get familiar with the Macro feature on your camera.

get up close with a macro shot

Look for the flower symbol. That is usually the symbol to activate the Macro feature. Turn it on and get close to your subject matter. Now, doesn’t it look much clearer and sharper now?

How close you can get to your subject matter depends on your camera. Some, like the Lumix LX-5 I presently use can practically sit on top of the product and still get a nice clear shot. The Canon G10/G11/G12 I previously used can get up to 1cm close. Anything less than 1cm and it gets blurry.

macro and no macro - see the difference?

This is something I have noticed. Some people turn on the Macro feature but they get too close to the subject matter, so it still turns out blurry and they wonder why. Every camera has its limitations. So adjust your distance until the image turns out sharp on your LCD screen and then take your photo. Turn on the auto focus and let the camera do its thing. If you have a Intelligent Auto or iA feature like on the new cameras, I’ve found it very useful to just use that for a quick shot. It does all the thinking for you :)

3. Watch your Lighting

To get accurate colour for your photos, you need to watch your lighting. For beauty blogs, and for colour representation and swatches, I suggest the use of natural light whenever possible. Natural light isn’t direct sunlight though. That can still blow out your photo and wash out colours and create harsh shadows. Natural light is daylight.

adjust to suit your lighting

However, not all of us have the privilege of taking photos in the daylight and sometimes, I too face that problem. If you take photos under fluorescent lighting or tungsten lighting, adjust that on your camera accordingly to get a better colour representation so you do not end up with too much blue tones (fluorescent lighting) or yellow tones (tungsten lighting).

If you still can’t get it to show the correct colour, try setting the white balance.

4. Set your white balance

Most compact cameras these days allow you to set the white balance. Look for this feature on your camera and activate it. Now, take a white piece of paper or face a white wall and follow instructions to set the colour in your camera.

set your white balance to get better colours

What you have just done is to get your camera to adjust its colour to show white as white (and not yellow or blue). It does not always work, and you might still have to compensate in one way or another, but it gets it to be a more accurate colour than if you did not set white balance.

5. Try not to use the built in flash

I’m a food blogger too (sometimes) and this is something I learnt while blogging about food, that I carried over into my beauty blog. Using the flash washes out your photo and makes it look less appetizing.

Unless you have a swanky large swivel flash that you can use to bounce off walls or ceilings to create artificial light, most compact cameras come with a direct flash that flashes straight onto the subject matter. This can create harsh lines, washed out colour and a blow out which usually makes your photo less interesting.

flash or no flash? look at the picture and decide

So, if you can, try not to use the flash. If its a little dark, try facing the window and do not block the light source. What this means is for you to face the window when taking photos, not with your back towards the light.

Beware also of too much light or of backlighting (lighting directly behind object). However, I do use the flash sometimes too – sometimes its just too dark to get a good picture. When you do plan to use the flash for close up photos, turn on the macro feature, reduce your exposure where possible or reduce the flash output if possible and then take your photo. Or place a piece of tissue paper over the flash when you take the photo. This can help soften the effects of the flash.

6. Practice, Practice, Practice!

swan lake :P

Shot outdoors with backlighting – brightness and backlight adjusted

As with everything, practice! Carry your camera with you and learn its functions. Practice, not just with beauty products but with anything you can shoot.

Take many photos, not just one of the product, or of your eye makeup or of your face makeup and choose the best one. I take something like 20 shots before I get one I’m satisfied with. In time, you’ll learn your best angle, or the best place to take your photos or just the best setting to use under the circumstances. Practice, as they say, makes perfect :)

highland cows say hello

outdoor dull weather – increased brightness and backlight

As I said above, I do not profess to be a professional, but this is, I hope a quick and simple guide to taking photos not just for your beauty blog, but for your blog in general. A well shot photo will need minimal post processing which saves you even more time to get out there and enjoy your life :D

just a peg o' whiskey thank you

Indoor low lighting – brightness adjusted

I enjoy taking photos and I usually have a camera with me most of the time. I do not own a DSLR however. I decided not to go down that route after much deliberation, because its size and bulk would detract from having a camera on me all the time and taking photos spontaneously, which is what I enjoy most.

I again, do not profess to be a good photographer or even an amateur photographer, and I learnt most of these through trial and error and from reading other blogs. With time I’ve learnt what works and I hope these tips can help you take a better photograph for your blog too :)

If you do have queries on how to take shots, or tips to share, please share in the comments. If I can’t help you, there are many other photography afficionados out there who can :)

Happy photographing and blogging! I hope these helped someone :)

Paris B

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[ 37 comments… read them below or join the discussion ]

December 17, 2010 at 9:36 am

love your tips! very useful! i have another tip that i tried before: if direct flash must be use on compact camera, can try to use something like blotter or thin tissue to cover the flash like diffuser :D
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ParisB December 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Thanks for that tip! I used it a few times before too and it works very well for diffusing light. So much cheaper than buying a specific diffuser right? ;)


December 17, 2010 at 10:10 am

Great list of tips for any blogger, not just those starting out but even those who are already well and away into blogging! I’m one of those bloggers who normally use stock photos of products – I’m too fussy about the photos I take and often end up wasting too much time getting that perfect shot! So in order not to let my blog die, I resort to using stock photos. I’d never publish anything else otherwise! :P
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ParisB December 17, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Thanks Rinnah! :D I’ve nothing against the use of stock photos. Many a time a review is only as good as how its written and I know you’d be fussy getting your perfect shot since you do take your photography more seriously than I do! ;)


GlamPink December 17, 2010 at 10:17 am

wooo….useful tips!! I always have problem with everything you mentioned above!!! This totally helps!!! Thank you so much Paris!!!
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ParisB December 17, 2010 at 2:47 pm

You’re welcome! Glad it helps :D


Vonvon December 17, 2010 at 10:28 am

Great tips! Yes, I always use Macro function for almost all my photos. And I don’t use flash for any photos.

But I need to check out the light and white balance function in my Sony.

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ParisB December 17, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Welcome! Most compact cameras these days allow for adjustment of white balance or lighting at the minimum. Look under the manual settings where it usually resides :) Sometimes flash can be very useful in a very dark setting, provided its diffused.


December 17, 2010 at 10:53 am

okie, me thinks i did what you have suggested except the white balance! now maybe i need go tinkering on that… hm… hopefully i get better pictures! i hate it when the colour is so off, especially for swatches!
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ParisB December 17, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Swatches are very hard to get good pictures of. I salute those who can get accurate shots! For swatches though I find it best to use natural light, which means all swatching has to be done in the day. Under artificial light, unless you have a very bright environment or a good flash and lighting system, it doesn’t turn out very well :( Hence my utter dislike for taking swatches :P


Jessica December 17, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Good one, even for non-bloggers. I too discovered the magic of macro and it’s been a great help in makin pictures look better :)


ParisB December 17, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Oh yeah! Once you go Macro you can’t go back! ;)


Nadia December 17, 2010 at 12:13 pm

These are excellent tips, PB! I’ve been beauty blogging for 2 years and a bit now, but my photo taking skills is really not up to par at all. Still learning and these tips of yous is absolutely amazing as a starting base.


ParisB December 17, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Thank you Nadia! I’m so glad its been of help to you. Photos need a lot of practice. My early shots were really crappy but happily I’d like to think I’ve improved :D I’m sure you will too :)


Tegan December 17, 2010 at 12:25 pm

this is amazing! I never knew about the macro function before, I am going to go and play with it right now! i used to take crappy photos with my phone for my first few posts but they are long gone and i try to take better ones now that I have a better camera (I was only using my phone because my partner broke ours on holidays and I hadn’t replaced it – ooops). The only thing is that I have never been able to swatch properly because 4 x zoom is not enough to zoom in on your lips and so on, so macro sounds amazing! thank you so much! x


ParisB December 17, 2010 at 2:53 pm

I’m glad you found these useful :D The macro function is an amazing tool for getting really nice close ups, especially for swatches, face shots or artistic shots :D Happy photographing!


December 17, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Excellent post! I highly agree with you on not using mobile phones to snap product pics, unless it’s a sneaky one ;)

Will be getting a new P&S camera when I’m back in M’sia. Prices here are ridonkulous.


ParisB December 17, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Thank you Tine! I love how having a mobile camera allows us to sneak all those shots and leak them out haha! But for a serious blog, it just doesn’t cut it does it? :) I guess Asia is still best for electronics – decided on the model you want yet?


Isabel December 17, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Great article! Last photo….. from the Scotch Whisky Experience?


ParisB December 17, 2010 at 2:55 pm

*ding! ding! ding!* Give the lady a prize for guessing correctly! :D


Nikki December 17, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Dear, this is a very helpful post!!!!


ParisB December 17, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Thank you Nikki! Not that you needed to read it ;)


Cas December 17, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Thanks for the tips, definitely learnt a thing or two from it!
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ParisB December 17, 2010 at 2:55 pm

You’re welcome Cas. I’m glad it was of help :)


December 17, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Thanks for sharing the tips! I am guilty of taking picture at night and sometime using my camera phone. Lousy i know. Will try to improve and use my digicam instead. :)

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ParisB December 17, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Yep! Always use a digicam for good blog photos although a mobile phone camera can be good for those “fun shots” too, provided its clear. Taking pics at night is alright too (I sometimes do as well) just make sure lighting is good and that you don’t flash out too much :)


Pooja December 17, 2010 at 2:52 pm

You have no idea how much I love you for this post. Been looking for some tips like this myself. This sums it all up. Thanks a ton.
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ParisB December 17, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Eeeks! :D I’m so happy its been of assistance :D I was quite worried it might seem too “basic” :)


Slowbrogal December 17, 2010 at 3:58 pm

This is one useful one!! Thanks for the tips Paris.
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ParisB December 18, 2010 at 1:30 pm

You’re welcome, hope it helps! :)


Mari Ohira December 17, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Yeah, flash over food can turn the most lovely of dishes into a horror scene! But it is useful in dark restaurants. And you can always balance the light afterwards in Photoshop.^^ As you can see, I’m not a very accomplished photographer but I’m better at editing. I gotta take some classes!

Great tips! Time to learn to set the brightness and white balance! :D
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ParisB December 18, 2010 at 1:32 pm

I don’t even flash in dark restaurants (I usually lower the F stop and then find out its all unusable :P ) I can’t edit photos to save my life. I’m told its actually easier to up the lighting in a dark photo than to kill flash light in a bright one. But then I’m a dodo so I can’t say :D


December 17, 2010 at 9:43 pm

hey, this is great advise!
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ParisB December 18, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Thanks :D


gio December 17, 2010 at 10:03 pm

This is so useful, thank you! Although I’ve been blogging for a couple of years, my photos aren’t always very good yet so these tips are very useful. Now I just need to practice, practice, practice…
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ParisB December 18, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Thanks Gio and your pics are fine! :)


August 18, 2012 at 1:46 am

you know Paris, I got to know about the macro function from this post and I have been having my camera since 4-5 years and never understood what it was for!!! thanks a lot :) I am also thinking that DSLR would be very bulky!! my cam takes blurry night snaps :( will check out all the functionality again in my cam :)
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