How To Take A Good Close-Up Photo

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!