Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

So many people ask me what camera I use, as well as what do I do to get such clear, detailed photos. This is my technique, and I can’t promise it works for everybody, but this is exactly how I take my photos.

The Camera

First off, I use a Fuji Finepix E550 digital camera. You can learn all about it here. Some quick information about it: 6.3 megapixel camera, 4x optical zoom. I bought mine nearly two years ago, and still, the price ranges from $250-300, I believe. Fuji has one other camera available in the series, the E900, which has 9.0 megapixels and a 7.6 optical zoom for $300-400. I haven’t used it, so I don’t know anything about it. It is a very simple camera with multiple settings like outdoor, auto, motion, night time, etc. with flash and you can change your shutter speed as well. It’s a point and shoot, it really is easy to use and gives more advanced photographers plenty of features to play with.

The Location

95% of the time I’m taking photos of my make up, I am using artificial light. I have taken photos in my parents’ house, my relatives’ houses, and my own apartment – never once requiring one kind of light over another. Flourescent, incadescent, etc. – it doesn’t matter. You don’t want to shine a bulb in your face, though. In my apartment, I have recessed lighting (so it’s in the ceiling) and use that most of the time. Floor lamps will provide the same kind of effect as recessed – a very all-over-even kind of light. It’s obvious that even lighting will probably produce better results than concentrated lighting, hence not putting a bulb in your face.

Don’t think it needs to be really bright, either. So don’t run up your electric bill by turning on every light you’ve got! One floor lamp is plenty in an average sized room.

If you want to use natural lighting, there is nothing wrong with that, and I took two photos using natural light today, which proved not to make a difference between that and my artificial lighting. The sun wasn’t shining, though, so that could make a difference. It was light out, just not insanely bright – so you get the picture, stay out of the super bright lights! If you like natural lighting, try standing by a window rather than standing in your backyard. Let the light filter in so it isn’t as strong as it might be if you were outside.

The Camera Settings

So, I told you the camera I use, and I don’t have your camera in my hands to play with, so I can’t definitively tell you that these are universal settings.

I turn on the camera, pop up the flash, and turn on the MACRO setting (usually depicted with a flower). I leave my camera mode in AUTO. This will automatically figure out what ISO to deal with. In terms of quailty, I have options ranging from .3M to 12MF. I use 12MF, which is the highest. ISO is on automatic. See how easy it is? Almost everything I use is just auto. No worrying about fooling around or having specific settings for makeup and another set for scenery. And I do not alter the effect of the flash, either – no tissues, no special angling, etc.

The Position

So you’ve got your camera ready to go. Your makeup is fabulous, as always, and you want to take photos that are going to SHOW how fabulous it really is. Position is important, especially for close-ups!

MACRO mode is FOR close-ups. You don’t need to always have this on!

Note that in MACRO mode, I cannot zoom in or out (at least with my camera), so you will be physically moving your camera in order to get closer or further away from your face.

When I take photos of my full face, I hold the camera center to my face and at about my nose at least a foot away. I wouldn’t say more than two feet as my arm doesn’t extend like Gumby. 1-2 feet is appropriate. Play around, see how you are able to capture your best angles. Sometimes I will hold the camera at a 90 degree angle (vertical), but I can take equally decent photos horizontally or vertically.

My camera has nearly instant feedback – I don’t have to be steady for very long. This might be a problem with other cameras. I click once, I don’t press and hold. It snaps as soon as I click and processes it without hesitation. If yours has some hesitation, it is important that your face stay steady AND your hand stays steady. Don’t start bobbing and weaving!

Ready for your close-up? It is essential to have your MACRO setting on for this. That is the whole point of the setting. I leave mine on for the entire make-up photographing process, but be sure to turn it on for this at least.

Hold the camera naturally (horizontally), otherwise I have found that the flash will wash out or contrast the hell out of a photo. I usually hold the camera 2-4″ away from my LEFT eye – three inches is usually a good distance, and I am referring to the end of the lens to the beginning of my eyelid. The lens/camera should be about centered with your pupil. I stare right into the lens and click. Make sure not to blink!

For closed shots, make sure to relax your lid and not squeeze your eye shut. Just pretend you’re going to bed and gently shut those babies. Hold it in the same position as you did for the open eye shot, and click!

I like the side/half-closed eye shot, personally. It shows the dimension of the eyeshadow as well as all of the colors. Anyway, this shot may take more practice if you have eyes that blink a lot. You look slightly down and to the left of middle (not totally left!), if you look too far down, you will end up having it look like your eye is closed. If you look too far left, your eye looks a little crazy.

Helpful Hints & Tricks

When you know you have free time, put on some makeup, and play around with your camera. Try it with flash, with macro, without flash, with macro, far away, close up. Take a hundred photos, but try and keep in mind what settings you used on which set. Take 10 or so with one setting. For me, I can tell if I’ve gotten the right close up because I will see sharp glitter specks in the preview on my LCD screen for my camera. That ensures I’ve gotten the sharpness and the detail I wanted for my shot.

If you were able to successfuly take photos, but then suddenly the camera seems to pop out a bunch of bad shots, try putting new batteries in! I have found that towards the end of a charge, my camera doesn’t seem to pick up as much detail. I pop in fresh batteries and its back to being ever-so-wonderful to me. Also, sometimes just turning it on and off can help.

An addendum to the above tip is also just changing your location. Sit down if you’re feeling unsteady. Move to a different room with another light source. See what works, what doesn’t. Digital photography is great because you can take two hundred photos and keep only two, and it doesn’t cost anything to take and delete the rest.

Make sure your lens is clean – take proper precautions with it. You don’t want to damage it!

Two nifty tricks if you’ve got Photoshop or an equal graphic program… you can use the filter SHARPEN to further bring out details if your shot is lacking some and/or you’re “almost there” to that perfect shot. Keep in mind, this filter does not magically better your photos. You have to have a decent shot to begin with, otherwise it looks like garbage. If the lighting is slightly off, you can also use the editing features like brightness/contrast, levels, and color balance to more effectively capture how your look was in real life. But really, once you get the hang of your camera, you won’t even need Photoshop to do modify your photo. You’ll just be cropping the photo and calling it a day.

How do you know if you’ve really done it right?

When you can look at your photo in the native resolution (which is by far larger than what you would post on a community), and it doesn’t look pixelated. When you can make your close-up your desktop background, that’s when you’ve nailed using your camera.

Comments, questions, suggestions, etc. are all welcome. I did this for you guys, so I hope it does help someone!

Discussion and debate are highly encouraged, and we expect community members to participate respectfully. When asking a question, please check the FAQ section (above) for information about purchasing, price, dupes, and the like. If you have general feedback or need technical support, please contact us.

Comments that include advertisements, self-promotion, insults, etc. may be in violation of our comment policy and subject to deletion. Please see our comment policy for more information.

54 thoughts on “How To Take A Good Close-Up Photo

  1. I found this article extremely helpful, since I have so many eyeshadows but absolutely no idea how to blend them.

    So thanks.

  2. Elise

    thanx so much for the helpful tips and insight on pic taking. hopefully i can produce some really good … BTW your site and tutz ROCK!

  3. Kevin

    other tips

    When you shoot without flash, use the self timer. You’ll be able to hold the camera a little steadier than if you are pushing the button as it takes the picture.

    Another good option is to invest in an inexpensive tripod.

    The gorilla pods are great

    Try to only use 1 type of light. Flourescent light will give things a greenish cast – which your camera can compensate for if it’s the only type of light out there. Mixing flourescent and incandescent/natural will give you some (usually) unwanted results.

  4. Janis

    I’ve been trying to figure out the different features of my camera (Sony Cybershot DSC-T30) for close-up photos and I found that it has a Magnifying Glass feature that produces clearer photos than when in Macro mode.

    Btw, do you still use the flash?

    • Interesting – never heard of that feature before. Just use macro over here! I always use flash in my photos – they look like poo otherwise.

  5. Fabulous article!! I’m always wondering how to take closeups of my makeup, it seems as if my photog skills never give it justice! :)

  6. nunu

    thank you this is soo helpful! i can take pictures of my eye make up but it never works out for my lips?
    what do you do when you take pictures of your lips?

    thank you! btw i love the new look of your blog :)


    AWESOME!…that’s a rad camera!

  8. ilovecheese

    I’m never able to take a good close up – there’s always a black shadow at the corner – I think it is the lens! Also, do you take a bigger photo and crop the eye portion? Cos I cant just get the settings right for my pics.

  9. Italiandiva

    Thankyou so much that was really valuable information. I am in the process of creating a portfolio. I am trying to get into MAC – after working as a holiday associate in Lancome I am hooked and really want to pursue a career in makeup.

    Thanks again

  10. kat

    my makeup does look got on mirrors hen i look on it but when i tooak a picture of it it looks,uh,not that good.does it tells that my makeup doesn’t really look good?

    • If it looks good to your eye, then you’re probably fine. Photos can point out minute differences, and you should always note what you might see, but in general, people see you with their eyes… not camera lenses.

  11. Italiandiva

    Hi again!
    As I mentioned I am trying to get into MAC. I am a licenced Nail Tech. and that is acceptable for MAC PRO membership which entitles you to take MAC classes. I was wondering if you had any info on the types of classes offered as far levels and prices. I am getting my ducks in order so when I go to drop off my resume along with my portfolio it will hopefully gain me an interview. Can you give me some advice on what photos to have and how to present them? Should I put them in a book format? I really want to impress them, my only downfall is I don’t have alot of experience in professional makeup application. Just family and friends. Also would you have any insite as to what a MAC makeup artist makes starting out?

    • Hey J! I don’t know much about PRO benefits as I’m not a PRO member myself. I know they offer master classes, and I know sometimes they let regular consumers in at $50-75 a pop. They last a few hours, and they’ve been basic, but I’m sure PRO only classes can be more advanced.

  12. oh… i’ve been asking around for this kind of information but you have the best details. your information is extremely helpful!!! thank you!

  13. Nana

    This is a GOD SENT that I stumbled across this page!!! I’m graduating from an esthetics course and I’m trying to put a portfolio together on a budget!!!!!!!! Thanks for the great advice!!

  14. Hey there..i checked out what makes a good picture ..and seen that you use fugi 6 megapixels..and that there very expensive,yes indeed they are..bbut why dont you check out ebay for that matter you could get some brand new or used for good proce;…see yah soon

    • Hey hun! They’ve gone down quite a bit since I purchased mine, not that expensive anymore.

    • dolce aria

      Ugh. Every tutorial i can find uses the macro setting! My camera( a kodak c315) doesn’t seem to have a macro function, so its nigh impossible to get anything that works. Any tips on ebaying a new camera? I tried looking but all of the cameras said “a variety of modes” just as MINE did when i bought it! Couldn’t find any info on what the modes actually ARE. I’m mildly irritated to save money for a new camera, but since makeup is pretty much the only thing i use it for, this one is pointless. Help?! :(

      • Hey,

        Have you read your manual? That’s how I first learned about the setting, period. You should be able to Google the model and get detailed specs somewhere (perhaps the brand’s website), too, for eBay shopping.

  15. Sash

    That was helpful! Thanks


  17. hira

    Oh my God … you are trulyyy amazing… thanxxxxxxxxxxxx soo much for such a helpful article…. i always use to think tht why cant i take good closeups, they were always blurry…

    thankkk youu soo much… i still have to check your other articles …

  18. nyc

    you give the best tip’s ever right now I’m studying all these great tip’s.Education is the key 2 success

  19. kass

    omgggg thanksss so much i love this site. i also am applying at MAC and my final interview is tomorrow. i feel completely confident in that evering thing im used to doin ,though i have no professional experience, it is validated in your tutorals. THANKSSSS a million!

  20. Lolli

    Ahh thankyou so much Christine!
    Honestly i take so many pictures of my makeup on my fujifinepix s1000 fd and i can never get an awesome picture which can capture every colour, the flash always washes out the highlight and makes a vivid light :(

  21. I haven’t seen this post until now, silly me, didn’t occured me to check your posts with tips! :)

    Anyway, thanks, it’s really useful! :)

  22. Tanisha

    Thank you. Very helpful article, will be trying this with my Canon Powershot camera. Received the camera for X-mas…still learning how to use it correctly. =)

  23. Hi Christine. Thank you so much for this tips.
    Ive got problem these days with sunlight so im looking for ways to photograph indoor and thats when i saw this post.
    So neway, if you dont mind me asking, are you still using the same camera or have you changed? Also do you use any lightbox or portable studios for you nailpolish swatches?

    Thank you very much once again!:-)

  24. Alissa

    Thanks for the tips and I was laughing while I was reading because i could picture you being somone I know and like you were talking directly to the person who was reading. Anyway thanks for the laugh I needed it :)

  25. ronald

    neat trick have to try that with macro

  26. MarinaMontenegro

    idk if you’re ever gonna see this D: but are you still using that nikon d90 camera? ^^; thank you for listening :)