Makeup Product Photography (A Complete Guide By An Expert)

If you love taking pictures, you can bring in a hefty income working as a makeup photographer. Research shows that professional photographers can generate up to US$15.22 and US$38.78 per hour. And if you decide to make makeup photography your niche, you will have even more opportunities to get jobs.

This is because the global cosmetic industry is valued at 80.73bn USD and is forecasted to grow in the coming years. Furthermore, makeup brands will also need to improve their digital marketing efforts.

As per a HubSpot report, imagery and photo-based posts are primarily used for social media marketing purposes, as they increase engagement. Therefore, you can hone your makeup product photography skills and set yourself up for life.

This guide will provide detailed tips on perfecting the art of taking eye-catching photographs of different makeup products. So, let’s get started.

Reasons To Take Makeup Photography

Due to the increase in digital marketing, product photography has become a highly sought-after skill. Moreover, the beauty industry is said to reach a market value of nearly $785 billion by 2027. Thus, for a budding photographer, shooting photos of makeup on models or of the makeup product themselves, can be a great way to build a portfolio.

Makeup Product Photography Tips

When photographing makeup products, you should know certain tricks to make your photo shoot productive. Here are some of the things you should keep in mind when doing makeup photography:

01. Do Your Homework

Before taking a makeup shot, it is essential to learn all about the art of capturing makeup looks in a way that accentuates the specific products’ key features. For example, some brands may market their makeup as natural-looking and inclusive, while others may focus on colorful and pigmented products.

Thus, photographers must examine magazine editorials, riveting Instagram posts, and explore Pinterest to get inspiration for their artistic outcomes. This can help them learn more about the different trends for this type of photography. In addition, they can further study the work of famous cosmetic products and beauty photographers, such as Josh Caudwell and Lindsay Adler, respectively.

Moreover, it is essential to know about the vital aspects of makeup that need to be highlighted. This includes learning about colors, textures, packaging, and types of makeup products. Taking this initiative will help you get an idea of tackling other variables, such as lighting, angles, and backgrounds.

02. Capture Vivid Images with Natural & Modified Lighting Setups

Unlike artificial lighting, natural lighting can make makeup appear more vibrant. This is primarily due to the light appearing more consistent throughout the frame. The key to capturing models wearing bright makeup in natural light is to choose the right time of day. You can also experiment with different tools, such as modifiers, to help control the flow and intensity of light.

Moreover, if you use artificial lights, you can make them look soft to achieve a natural feel. Moreover, using modifiers, such as reflectors and soft boxes, can also help achieve the desired look. You can use different lighting approaches, such as:

Under Lighting

This is also known as movie lighting because it exudes a more dramatic feel. The subject is illuminated from a lower angle, such as the waist. You can make use of standard lights to also accomplish the same result. It’s best to have a plain background, preferably black, to get a good outcome.

Double Backlighting

Another dramatic lighting technique is double backlighting. It creates a hazy, luminous, and mesmerizing effect. You need two lights at a 45-degree angle behind the subject, each with a softbox. The light beams will create a W-shaped effect of shadow and light, making the model look mysterious.

Butterfly Lighting

This approach is one of the most popular in beauty photography. The main light source is set above the subject, pointing down at their face. It is meant to create an intense shadow under the chin and nose, which takes the shape of a butterfly. You can place a reflector below the model to soften shadows so that some light bounces back and adds ore illumination to the face.

Clamshell Lighting

Due to the proximity and position of the lights, the name of this technique is clamshell. It’s great for capturing beautiful portraits. This approach is similar to a butterfly, except it is more filling as there are two lights used.

These can be any and do not need to be modified, but a softbox can help create a more appealing, soft look. The main light is placed above the model, angled down towards their face. The fill light is set up directly under the other, pointed at a 45-degree angle toward the subject.

03. Stand Near the Subject

Makeup photographs are all about the details. Capturing a makeup look in its entirety necessitates photographers to create a setup that allows them to zoom in on those details. A great tip is to stand close to the subject and use a wide-angle lens. That way, you will get a clear photo and not miss out on the essential aspects.

Another critical tip for photographers to get the best shots is to familiarize themselves with portrait poses. Here are some of the ones to consider:


Profile shots capture the model’s face from the side. In makeup photography, portraits are a great way to capture the entire makeup look, allowing brands to showcase all their products in one aesthetic image.

Chin In Hand

This pose is quite self-explanatory; the model looks towards the camera with their chin in their hand. This creates an intense yet delicate portrait shot.

Laying Down

The laying down portrait is best for outdoor shoots, where the model is either lying on a grass field, middle of the road, or desert. It all depends on the brand’s aesthetic, but this pose can make for a dramatic outcome.

Over the Shoulder

A great close-up portrait pose for beauty shoots is over-the-shoulder photograph. As the name reveals, this pose places the camera behind the model, who looks over their shoulder towards it. This is very effective for makeup photography, as it accentuates the model’s facial features quite well.

Close Up With Hands

A beautiful, artistic pose for a photographer to ask their model to do is to place their hands lightly on their faces in a dramatic fashion. This is great for close-ups where you want to focus on the model’s expressions and the intricate makeup look.

04. Discover Magic in the Subject’s Eyes

The eyes are the most mesmerizing aspect of the model’s face. Make sure to maintain focus on the eyes to capture a riveting image. Moreover, most makeup products accentuate the area around the eyes, such as mascara for eyelashes, brow gel for eyebrows, and eye shadow for the eyelids. Thus, it’s best to use a macros lens to capture the model’s eyes to capture the additional details.

05. Simplify the Background

The makeup should be the stand-out feature of your image. Make sure your image is not overwhelmed by a distracting background. Thus, either opt for a transparent, monochromatic backdrop that complements the makeup look or product, or a simplistic one, such as white fur to make the product pop.

Suppose you are shooting make up products, such as eyeliners and mascaras with plain or monochromatic packaging. In that case, it’s best to select a colored background with minimal shading and gradient to make it pop. However, as a practice, try to keep things clear and uncluttered.

06. Leverage the Power of Photo Editing

Editing can make a massive difference in the image’s final results. Photographers must use techniques such as cropping, creating levels or curves, dodging or burning, healing, feature enhancement, and more to ensure the photograph is perfected before publishing.

Moreover, it’s important to highlight the area on the model where the makeup is applied. For products such as eye shadow palettes, you should increase the vibrancy so that the colors pop.

07. Select a Suitable Camera

Photographers must use the right camera to take exceptional pictures. Some options include Canon 5D Mark IV, Sony a7R III, Canon Rebel T7i, and Nikon D610. Moreover, the selection criteria for a camera for makeup photography may differ slightly from other kinds of shoots. Some things to consider when choosing a camera for this purpose are:

  • Getting a full-frame sensor
  • A wide ISO range
  • Camera having several compatible lenses

08. Adjust the Aperture, ISO, and Shutter Speed

Professional photographers opt for manual settings during a photo shoot, as they provide a higher level of control. Thus, adjusting the camera setting will help photographers focus on the models’ makeup and vividly capture the product application. Moreover, depending on the environment, purpose, and subject, you must change the settings.

For example, if you are taking photos of just a single eye shadow color and want to create the effect of the residual powder dispersed in the air, you will need a lot of light and depth to capture this clearly. The ISO will need to be medium-high, depending on the lighting you already have. It’s a good idea to keep the ISO as low as possible; otherwise, the picture can come out grainier than it needs to.

The shutter speed of 1 to 2 seconds will make the picture very bright, and there will be blur movement. Keeping the shutter faster will help get a clearer photo, but then you will need to adjust the lighting accordingly. The aperture controls the photo’s depth. So, depending on the subject’s placement, the environment, and the lens, you will need to adjust it.

09. Choose the Right Lens

Since makeup focuses more on macro and close-up shots, you need lenses that allow you to get the maximum detail. Lenses longer than 80 mm are ideal for makeup photography, as they are very close up and allow for the subject to be in focus compared to the background.

For example, when capturing lipsticks, you need to try to get the depth of the color, the texture, the shape of the applicator, and the packaging while keeping it aesthetically appealing. Thus, even a 200mm lens can help you get the nitty-gritties viewers to love getting a full view.

10. Get Creative with Your Images

Photographers can get creative with the shoot and develop unique ideas to make the image come to life. For instance, props, natural elements (such as water or flowers), and different photography techniques can create a powerful image. Other details that you should consider using are:

  • Shapes and shadows
  • Architectural elements
  • Glare and bokeh
  • Makeup tools, such as applicators, brushes, and more.

How Much Can You Charge As A Makeup Photographer?

On average, a makeup photographer can charge between $94 and $ 262. The rates are determined by the quality of training, practice, props, lighting equipment, and camera quality.

Where Can You Market Makeup Photography?

Photographers who want to make makeup their niche can market their photography in various ways, the easiest being social media platforms. The most common platform is Instagram, which is free to use, and it’s easy to use marketing tools such as hashtags and promoted posts to expand your reach.

Other than this, you can create a portfolio on famous photography portfolio websites, such as Squarespace and Behance and add the links to the bios of your social media platforms. You can also feature your work on digital platforms, such as Twitter, Insta, Facebook, Tik Tok, and Pinterest.

You can also work with makeup brands and influencers to increase your reach. This will help you secure more clients and book professional shoots.

Wrapping All It Up !

Photography has become a vital aspect of marketing, and makeup photographers are in demand. Thus, it’s a great idea to gain proficiency in this specific realm of photography.

The tips mentioned above, such as doing proper research, taking creative liberty, editing, and more, can help aspiring or budding makeup photographers who want to capture stunning photos for clients.