Makeup Product Photography: 13 Tips to Stand-Out

by | Mar 5, 2021

we’ve all been scrolling on social media and stopped in our tracks thinking: i have to know their makeup routine. buying makeup is no longer an exclusively in-person experience. we follow tutorials on Youtube. watch swatch videos on Instagram. ogle makeup transformation looks on TikTok. this means your makeup + cosmetic marketing strategies are heavily dependent on the content you put out there. the ecomm makeup experience is a dynamic challenge: how does your product catch light? how does it sit on the skin? is it dewy or matte? these are questions your customers are asking — and the ones you should be answering — while scrolling through your photos. 

you’re in luck: we’ve got you covered with 13 tips to create amazing content that will give  your customers confidence when they purchase your products online. you want to not only catch their eye – you want to instill confidence that your product really is that dreamy. that lush. that colorful. that shimmery. to truly simulate the experience of swatching at the makeup counter: you have to ensure every detail of your product is accounted for in the online shopping experience.

imagine you have a customer that sees your Instagram post featuring a gorgeous shade of lipstick in the tube. they click through to your website and see photos of it on a model — or even multiple models with various skin tones –. and a gif of that flawless glide when being applied. product photos that check all of these boxes will result in adding. to. cart. and maybe another shade or two while they’re at it.

13 things to consider when photographing makeup/cosmetic products

highlight the details

what makes your product unique? maybe you’re proud of your minimalist packaging. maybe it’s the unique color palette. show off the details in a way that does your product justice and makes the customer feel like they know exactly to expect when purchasing. it’ll set you apart while building their purchasing confidence.

capture action shots

since customers aren’t able to test your product the way they would in a typical IRL shopping trip – it’s up to your content to do the testing for them. your photos and videos should show the texture of your product. what it looks like being applied. how long it takes to absorb or dry. give your customers the context they need to imagine the product as part of their daily lives.

consistency is key

your customers want to click from product to product and see similar quality images. deliver consistent images by ensuring your brand identity is cohesive — if you have hard shadows and neon backdrops on one product but natural surroundings on the next: you may be confusing your target audience. here are some ways to ensure consistency:

moodboards

create a moodboard for reference to ensure you’re delivering your brand’s message. refresh this moodboard as you develop new ideas and products.

consider seasonal content drops

a summer drop might utilize a linen background and sliced citrus props while your winter drop might include a sprinkle of sequins and dark silk texture.  separating these drops allows you to highlight your products in a way your audience will be more likely to be interested in at that time.

being consistent with your content also means being consistent across all your channels. your entire customer journey should feel like one extended experience. think about how you’re representing your brand and products on your website. emails. and social media platforms. all your channels should all have a similar vibe that captures your brand personality.

use natural light

natural light is free and can make for gorgeous product photos. catch those shimmery tones or creamy textures in natural light by thinking ahead: which window gets the best light? what time of day? what angle? if you’re DIY-ing your shoot: having a photo station set up in the appropriate place will allow you to optimize your time to get the perfect shots. if you plan to work with a photographer or a photography service: make sure to add your lighting preferences to your shotlist (more on that later).

backdrop color

you know the importance of color as a cosmetic brand. if you created a moodboard for consistency (as mentioned above) this is a great time to refer back to it. your background is a crucial message to your customer: it informs them about your brand content in a subconscious way. here are some examples of the what a background communicates:

  • use a white or light blue background if your brand says “I’m fresh and clean”
  • use desert sage and warm sandy tones to say “I’m the outdoorsy type”
  • go with millennial pink to say “I’m youthful and glowy”
  • pick a shadowy mirror backdrop to say “I’m edgy and bold”

if you’re looking for another way to make your content pop: consider using a textured backdrop to help show off your brand personality. we love using unique textures like cellophane to bring depth to a shot!

camera type

if you’re DIY-ing your photoshoot – make sure you have a camera capable of taking high-quality images! for high-quality shots: we recommend using a DSLR camera with manual exposure and aperture settings. soona photographers use Canon Mark IV. you can rent equipment from local camera shops but even an iPhone camera will do in a pinch. switch to portrait mode to optimize detail and get creative in an editing software like Pixlr or Canva.

the right camera lens

if you want to really invest in sharp photos for your makeup or cosmetics: invest in a macro lens. Canon recommends EF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro. this is a great option for getting shots of your palette or product in the packaging. a macro lens will pick up on the texture and fine details the best. for photos of your product on a model or swatched on skin: use a 50mm or 85mm lens. 50mm lenses will capture more of your background surroundings while 85mm lenses will focus the face of your model more closely. again: utilize portrait mode on an iPhone if you’re just starting out and these lens options are less accessible.

utilize diverse models

be cognizant not to use the same skin tone in every swatch or model shot. it can feel alienating to your customer if they see all makeup colors or products on the same type of skin. leverage friends for swatch shots. diversifying your models is extremely important in ecomm. especially if you want to show off color matching or color transfer. it is worth the investment to hire models to ensure each customer can picture your product fitting seamlessly into their lives.

explore GIFs

gifs. are. game. changers. we’ve all been to the make-up store and smeared lipstick shades on the back of our hands to see how well they glide. your ecomm customers want to see the product in action. they want such quality gifs that they feel confident in how the product will apply when they purchase it. create an immersive experience from afar by showing a makeup brush dip into a powder. a shimmer tapped across a cheekbone. a spooly fluffed into a brow. GIFs take your product from static to dynamic.

clean packaging

that macro lens will pick up every little speck. before your shoot day ever arrives you should make sure your packaging is clean and scuff-free before you begin photographing to save yourself time & money in the editing stage. this includes examining product containers as well. it’s also important to be prepared with multiples of each product. it’s common to use up an entire product for each photo. when it comes to makeup photography: you often need to demolish the palette to show it off. designate one unit to smear around and play with and another to keep pristine. to help with this: we’ve shared some top-tier prep tips.

pretty props

you want your props to accentuate your product & help tell your brand story. here are some examples of minimal and affordable props that make your cosmetic photos pop:

 

  • colored blocks
  • fresh fruit
  • flowers
  • water
  • mirrors

create shotlist

whether you’re working with a team or solo: a shotlist will keep your photography focused and cohesive. the shotlist is where you jot down the abstract concepts that make your shoot a work of art. articulate your creative vision for the backdrop. color scheme. mood. lighting. props. this helps you stay organized in planning and executing your shoot.

hire help

if you’re feeling intimidated by the cost of time & materials to DIY your shoot: it may make more sense to hire a local photographer or photography service company – like soona. you can see the cost and pros & cons of each in our complete product photography guide

getting started with makeup/cosmetic photography

now that you’re equipped with tips for top-notch makeup + cosmetic photography: it’s time to create! begin with an affordable and fun approach to try out which methods work best with your brand. design your photoshoot around your budget and have a blast bringing your vision to life.

here’s a quick checklist to make sure you’re ready to create:

plan your shoot

use that moodboard! make sure your creative direction for color. feeling. demographic. and timeline is all in harmony. this is a great time to organize your thoughts into a shotlist which will become your survival guide for prepping and executing your shoot  – even if you’re hiring a photographer to help you out.

gather your equipment

whether you’re renting or going with what you’ve got on hand: make sure your materials are all in one place. ready to capture the best natural lighting at the best time. if you have a table or set near your best window: get your backdrop and props staged.
if you’re working with a pro photographer: this is when you need to gather any special props you are providing for your shoot – you’ll know exactly what to get based on that fabulous shotlist you made! this is also the time to source and hire any models you may be using.

collect the goods

remember: you may need to use multiple products to get the shots you want. plan to use one product for swatching. smearing. modeling. and the other to keep pristine for those macro shots. make sure your packaging is clean and in working order for demos.

shoot

refer back to your shotlist to make sure you have the amount of photos you need for each product: color. model. angle. demo. etc. you don’t want to have to go back after cleanup. so snap every possible photo you think you might want before moving on to the next product. you’ll have a blast going through your final results and deciding which photos hit the content jackpot.
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