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How To Make Photos For Cosmetics & Beauty Products

How To Make Photos For Cosmetics & Beauty Products

How to take photos for beauty and cosmetics products: tips, best practices from a product studio in NYC with 10 years' experience.

Eugene Bourgi

Nov 24, 2020

The global cosmetics market is forecasted to reach over 569 billion in 2020 with skincare being the leading category, followed by hair care and make-up accordingly. 

Cosmetics & beauty product photography is the driver of the marketing campaigns for this massive industry with e-commerce photos serving as a visual bait & a purchasing trigger.

Beauty Photography

There are dozens of ways how professionally executed cosmetic photography can increase a makeup store’s CTR, boost conversions, decrease returns, just like the product photography overall, whose impact we have already detailed for our readers.

If you are tasked with a mission to create a perfect selling batch of images of lipsticks, creams, powders, hair products, you might find this piece useful, as we will vivisect down to a pixel the following topics:

  • Beauty product photography ideas
  • How to photograph makeup swatches
  • Nuances of skincare product photography & lipstick photography
  • How to take pictures of cosmetic products to minimize post-production

The quality of the makeup product photography lies in the balance of so many factors, from perfect cleaning of the product, creating perfect swatches, choosing the right light setting to use a mix of water & glycerin for perfect droplets. 

Let’s now get right down to the insider secrets and magic of the beauty product photography tips without further ado.

Ecommerce Beauty Product Photos Requirements

Below we represent the internal Squareshot guidelines we share with all new cosmetics photographers joining our team – so you know these come from years of experience and can see the resulting images in our portfolio

  1. Perfect Lightning: the right amount, righty diffused, at the right angle
Beauty Product Photography

There may be as many lighting sources as 5 or 7 for a shoot of a few make-up objects. Can it be done with just 1 lighting source? For sure. But those Picolites allow a beauty product photographer to direct extremely narrow rays of light just where an accent is needed.

Neither overexposed nor underexposed images look good. This is why it may take a few tries to set each of the lighting sources at the right power level. 

Many surfaces of lipsticks and mascara have a reflective surface that needs to be monitored to ensure minimal post-production.

  1. Is there such a thing as too many items in one shot in makeup imagery? Nope

If there is a category in product photography, that accepts dozens of items in one shot – this is certainly cosmetics images. Just check out the Google search with the respective title below.

It should be noted, though, that the product page will still require several images with a standalone item, possibly an item, and a box. For commercial marketing purposes, props and droplets may be added too.

    3. Polish and then polish more

Rainshaowlabs

The truth is: however hard you polish those reflective surfaces, the space dust will still end up sticking to it [of course it’s space dust, where else would it come from in a spotless lab of a makeup photographer?].

But if you pay attention to all the spots and blemishes on the surfaces of lipsticks, creams, makeup boxes, you will spend less time photoshopping them.

  1. Style. Harmony. Concurrence. Stick to it to render your message
Beauty Product Photography

You need to be consistent not only with shooting 1 item but throughout the entire session. It is best not to move lighting much and to place items in the same very spot time after time again without moving the camera.

Ideally, a photographer will tweak the distance between the photographed objects, equipment, source of lighting, diffusor, softbox once to achieve a perfect desirable effect before the entire shoot.

  1. High resolution: the ABC of product photography
Beauty Product Photography

The items in the beauty product e-commerce category are mostly small, but carry elaborate designs with lots of small print and exquisite decoration. This is why the high resolution is even more important for this category than across the board.

1024X1024 pixels is the minimum requirement here, but 2400X2400 will ensure you have a levy to play with if needed.

What is Beauty Product? Types Of Cosmetics & Beauty Product Photography

What do they consider to be a beauty product? There are a few categories, that fall under this e-commerce domain:

  • Skincare products
Skincare Product
  • Hair products
Hair Shampoo
  • Makeup products
Makeup product photography
  • Fragrance
Fragrance Beauty Photography
  • Bath & Body

Each of these categories will have multiple subcategories, just see the image below with this extensive Beauty Counter menu of skincare products.

https://www.beautycounter.com


  1. Small size.
  2. Reflective surfaces of the packaging.
  3. More often than not, multiple items from the collection can be shot.
  4. Use of props & colorful backgrounds. 
  5. Macro shots and close-ups are usual for cosmetics shoots.
  6. Use of water droplets on items [50%/50% water and glycerin], water sprayed out in the air, and smoke in the background.
  7. Shoots of makeup swatches and crushed products to render color and texture.

Those are just a few characteristic aspects that are encountered by professional product photo studios while doing the images of makeup and cosmetic products. 

How To Take Cosmetics & Beauty Product Photos: Product Preparation

Postproduction is so time consuming and expensive. So is time on the shoot.

Thorough preparation for any shoot can reduce both: time on site for the shooting crew as well as the expensive post-production cycle.

  1. Order a wet cleaning of the photo studio on the day before. We joke that the dust comes from space, but those specks of dust that appear from nowhere are a huge nuisance to photoshop. By ordering a cleaning, you reduce the chances of the dust around – so ultimately on your products as well.
  2. Orderly unpacking. If you were to spot the differences between the technical specification of the shoot and the available products, it would be at this stage. While unpacking, it’s time to place all the items in order of a scheduled consequence. 
    If the boxing is not part of the future image, place it away but in such a spot, so that you can later recover the matching product.
  3. Triple check if all the items and all the cosmetic product categories are lined up for the smoothest shoot flow. Lipsticks, powered, creams, mascaras, toners, highlighters should all be aligned so that photographers can quickly grasp the logic of the shoot.
  4. Assemble the props and colored backgrounds respectively – so that they are at hand but not in the way, laid out in the consequence they appear on site.
  5. Clean the products with a wet cloth and polish with a dry microfiber cloth. It is paramount to keep them as tidy as possible for the shoot. Always keep a dry tissue and cloth on set to remove last-minute spots.
  6. Wear white gloves for the best effect – not to leave any fingerprints on the glassy parts of the lipstick.
  7. Choose the right shooting background: 
  • If you need your cosmetics item with a drop shadow, use the white paper background.
  • If you need a reflection, then use a white acrylic backdrop.
  • If NO SHADOW mode is requested, then consider using a tall object or stand to place a photographed item on – to prevent much post-editing.

Photography Equipment For Best Looking Imagery Of Cosmetic Products

Camera Set-Up
Whichever camera brand you use, makeup product shots will benefit from such settings:

  • ISO 100 [max 100-200]
  • 1/125s
  • F 11 [if impossible, F 5,6 - 18]
  • Focus distance 30-90 cm
  • Check camera and image sensor for cleanness
  • Use the remote control to avoid smudging
  • Pictures must be in RAW format [.CR2]

Tripod

Tripods are cheap, so even if you are DIYing your beauty product photoshoot, you should ensure you have access to a tripod for the shoot. The most basic working examples are available on Amazon for as little as 30 dollars but bring the much-needed consistency to the series of images.

Lighting

If you have a reference image, setting up the light to mimic the lighting on such an image may take a few test shots. Experiment with the power of lighting, the distance between an object and a camera as well as with the positioning of diffuser or reflector to create the desired effect.

Changing a lighting setup between the shots of the same series is a big no-no. So, once you achieve the right balance of light and shadows, ensure to use a remote for lighting and keep the camera on the tripod unchanged throughout the shoot.

Natural light is a preferred source of light for many photographers, specifically those who lack the equipment or want to ensure the absence of harsh lines in the resulting images. Ideally, you would have a big window as the source of light in such a case and ensure the session moves quickly to avoid much movement of the light in the process.

Beauty Product Photography Tips

These are some of the empirical cosmetic photography ideas for you to play around with.

  1. Buy Plastic Clay Tools To Create Makeup Swatches
  2. Stock up on items for experiments [lipstick, eyeshadows, powder, etc.].

Always ensure you have enough lipstick, powder, highlighter samples so that you can play around with composition, creating makeup swatches, cutting the tips of the lipstick, etc. The last thing you want to experience is that you have an amazing idea you cannot embody because you don't have extra lipsticks you can destroy for the shoot.

Mary Kay

3. Ensure lots of cleaning material on set
Get plenty of clean cloth and paper tissues to clean the white and transparent background you may need to be using.
4. Experiment with textured backgrounds and colored backdrops

There’s plenty of mood and ambiance in the makeup and cosmetic products, but sometimes the boxing may be laconic and classy, so you may want to vivid up the image with something extra.

Some brands may have the specific colors in their brand book that they would like to use, so ensure to get the exact HEX color backgrounds before you begin the shoot.

Textural backdrops may also help render some nuance, specifically in the close-up mode.

5. It's all in the Props: fine-tune the mood of the shot 

It could be flowers, dried lavender, glasses, glossy magazines, fake eyelashes, hay, glitter, candles, purses, precious metal chains. 

6. Use cosmetic products ingredients as props

If a cosmetic product contains pomegranate or lemon, you may get an amazing shot with some ingredients as well. Green tea, chamomile, mint leaves can all bring the much-needed nuance to a shoot AND have the informative layer to them.

BeautyPackaging


7. See if water, spray, and smoke could benefit your products

It is not uncommon to use 50/50 water/glycerin solution sprayed or meticulously placed drop by drop on beauty products.

Smoke may become a surprisingly great shooting buddy for an item shot against a black background solo with a single source of lighting.

If you do a fragrance shoot, capturing the mist coming from the bottle may yield stunning results too.

How to shoot cosmetics product images by type

Matte Objects: easiest to shoot, as there are no reflections. Use one source of light to ensure the object's shape and texture are rendered correctly.

Glossy Objects: watch the reflections. Use gloves. Try using semi-transparent reflectors. Always double-check reflections before proceeding with another product.

Reflecting objects: direct the light onto an object it reflects, not the product itself. This is one of the most intricate objects to shoot, as it requires a combo of semi-transparent and white diffusers. Simply put, we recommend you not to DIY it, but to entrust it to a professional photo studio.

Post Production: Editing Makeup Product Pictures

Ideally, you will be on your best behavior during the planning of the shoot and the shoot itself. Otherwise, you are shooting yourself in the leg [pun intended].

You know how tedious and expensive post-production may get, so save yourself some crispy dollars by cleaning items, position so that there are no reflections, overexposure, etc.

What can be corrected during the post-production stage:

  1. Positioning [minor tweaking is possible to adjust objects relative to each other, image sides, etc.]
  2. Inadequate Exposure [you cannot fix an overly overexposed image, but some slight correction is possible]
  3. Consistency [cropping and leveling of the image may help bring consistency into a series of photos].

Optimizing Product Images: Make Them Known To Google

An extensive chapter in this thorough piece on How to photograph clothing covers image SEO optimization in detail. Here is a shorthand:

  • Use alt text tags and descriptions for each image.
  • Use JPEG format wherever possible.
  • Resize images according to e-commerce platform requirements, ensuring a balance between quality and weight.

Also, make sure that you know the necessary types of product photography for your online-business.

Make Your Best Selling Product Photos With Squareshot

We are a makeup products photography studio in NYC, that executed dozens of shoots featuring cosmetics with stunning results.

Check out our collections of:

Makeup is only lightweight, so even if you are looking for a cosmetic product photography service in the USA, not necessarily a photo studio in New York, Squareshot will be delighted to provide you with a custom quote, that includes shipping.

Product Photography Service

If you are you are using a Shopify platform, check out this app of ours, that helps users order and upload images right to their store.

Your products make this world a healthier, more beautiful place? Let us show the world, how beautiful your products are!

Email us, call us or chat with us to get you started on your mission to make this world a more harmonious place: lipstick after lipstick again.

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