All Photos Courtesy of Travis Curry
I started shooting beauty back in 2012; I was always drawn to all of the beauty advertisements I would see in magazines and I loved looking at the photos in the cosmetics aisles at the grocery store and Target. It was also helpful to go into stores like Sephora and Ulta just to look at the beauty shots they have on display.
Beauty Photography is used to sell things like makeup, skincare, hair products and jewelry. Just like Fashion Photography is focused on selling clothing, Beauty Photography is focused on selling a certain beauty product or accessory.
Shooting Beauty is one of my most favorite things to shoot; with my experience as a Headshot Photographer, I gravitate toward Beauty Photography… one of my career goals is to shoot Beauty campaigns for cosmetics companies and retail stores like Sephora, Macy’s and Ulta.
A lot of Beauty Photography is shot in studio using strobes and different modifiers. I did my first Beauty shoot 4 years ago with my speed lights and a beauty dish. I still use that same beauty dish today with my strobes!
For Beauty, I mostly use a Beauty Dish or a deep Umbrella because they can give me an overall soft look with well defined shadows. I sometimes use a 7” Silver Reflector if I want a really harsh beauty shot. I rarely use natural light because with Beauty I want my images to be very sharp and I want the products that I’m showcasing to be clearly shown. That sharpness I think is best executed using some sort of flash.
Study Beauty Advertisements
For inspiration, look in magazines and in cosmetics aisles, observe advertising with beauty shots. Notice how the makeup is applied, and look to see how the photos were edited and retouched. Look for the beauty trends that are on the runway. I will stop somewhere and study a beauty (or fashion) shot. I’m looking at everything from the general concept, lighting and composition to the casting of the model, the pose, the connection and then I go in and I observe the technical aspects of the shot. I look close to see what the retouching looks like and the details of the photo. I look for the catchlights and try to envision the lighting setup and how I can recreate it.
Casting Your Model
When I cast a model for a Beauty shoot, I look for models who have great skin and beautiful features that would work well being photographed up close. Sometimes a model may be super gorgeous, but their features don’t always photograph the best when shot up close or they don’t have great skin. I often look for strong cheekbones and gorgeous eyes. To help me, I’ll go through their portfolio and look for close up shots or zoom into their face to see how it would look with a tight crop. I check out their digitals or social media photos to see the condition of their skin. Another thing I look for with a model is their expressions and their connection with the camera, if a model has a great connection with the camera, then the beauty shots will be very strong!
Choosing Your Team
A team for a Beauty Shoot has makeup & hair, adding a nail artist to your team adds another awesome layer to the photos. If you can add in a stylist; that makes it even better. Although Beauty mainly focuses on hair, makeup & nails a Wardrobe Stylist can bring something extra to the shoot.
Keep It Simple & Clean
When I started shooting Beauty all I wanted to do was really creative and “edgy” shots. A makeup artist told me once “okay we can do different, but we have to still make it pretty!” which was a great thing to hear. A lot of my early beauty work has since been tossed out of my portfolio for more clean looks that I shoot now. Now I focus on getting gorgeous clean shots before I go any other direction.
When you first start out shooting Beauty, keep your concepts simple and clean. Those simple and clean looks will be what books you & your team paid work in the future. These are also going to help you learn more about lighting, composition, posing and retouching. A MUA or hairstylist may want to “do something really editorial” but that doesn’t always garner strong beauty images. If you want to do a creative shot, make sure you get some solid clean looks during the beginning of your shoot and then build up to the creative stuff. When working with your team, make sure to let them know of the concept and goals of the shoot before you schedule them.
I’ve done a ton of creative Beauty test shoots, some of them have been published and been given great feedback while others may never see the light of day. The more you develop your skills for shooting Beauty Photography, the more you’ll see your own creative style come through and the possibilities will be endless! Now it’s time to go out and shoot some Beauty!