It is, without question, my most asked question: how do I take my photos. So, today, I’ll be bringing you a step by step guide as to how I take my photos, including hints on what NOT to do.
Before I start, I should state the usual caveat: this is how I take my photos. This is what works for me. You might have another method / strategy / technique that is awesome AND can cure the world’s shortage of Cheezels. And that’s fantastic. For me, this works and that’s why I am sharing it.
I know some of you will think ‘What? All this for a nail swatch? Are you crazy?’ Perhaps. But I started my blogging career as a nail blogger. Ultimately, it’s still what I do best and what I enjoy doing the most on YGN, so I do invest time in it to get it as perfect as I can. You don’t have to do this if you’re happy with how you take photos.
The most important step, by far, is nailing your manicure.
I’ve included here my two ‘how to’ videos on how to a) apply your polish; and b) how to do a cleanup.
With the camera, you certainly do not need an SLR to take great photos. Compact cameras can work beautifully. I use an SLR because I find they are more ‘colour true’ and it’s easier for me to accurately capture difficult colours (such as purple). If you do use a compact, use the macro function when taking nail swatches. You will get much better detail.
In addition to your camera, where possible, use a tripod to stabilise the camera before taking the photo. This will eliminate the opportunity for hand shaking and blurriness. It also gives you more control: you can get your swatching hand set up, you can position the camera easily and, when you’re ready to take the photo, you can do so with a steady hand.
Obviously, the most perfect light is natural light. But if you’re like me and you work full time and you blog full time, then getting access to natural light is a tricky thing. I actually prefer using light boxes than natural light because I am guaranteed, every time, of getting the perfect light and the perfect shot.
You can either buy a light box or make your own. The key to a good lightbox is the bulbs. Aim for white light. Even natural sunlight has a habit of ‘yellowing’ and washing out the skin. White light keeps things crisp and colour accurate.
Just like supermodels learn when they go to supermodel school (aka Tyra Banks’ house), it’s all about angles.
My nails are far from perfect. I have short nail beds. My nails are not symmetrical. They are always short. So I have to work with angles to make them look their best in photographs.
Learning your nails’ best angles is – truly – trial and error. I look back at my early swatches and cringe because I was taking photos like every other nail blogger and not taking into account what poses made my nails look their best. Over time, I have learnt what works and what doesn’t. For example, you will rarely see me photograph my hand resting flat. Why? My fingers are crooked and never sit flat without showing tension. So I don’t take photos like that because I know it’s not showing my angles in a way that I would like.
First thing, regardless of angles, is to ensure your hand is relaxed. Don’t ever grip the bottle like you’re holding on for dear life (see further down for how not to pose). If you’re feeling physically uncomfortable when you’re posing, that will show through in your photos.
Secondly, make sure you show the lacquer in its best light. Some lacquers, like glitters, really require you to maximise your light to show off their beauty. In these instances, take the photo, see what it looks like on your monitor and, if it’s not good, go back and take some more shots. On average, I take around 60 shots for every lacquer I swatch. Around 4 of those shows will actually make it into the post.
Finally, capitalise on your best features. We all have one nail we love. It always looks good and it always photographs to perfection. For me, that finger is my ring finger. So, you’ll notice in every nail swatch that I do, there will be a closeup of that finger.
So, what are the poses to avoid? There are some classic poses I see on blogs that are universally unflattering. I’ve included three of the most common poses. Seriously, ladies, DON’T DO THESE. They are not flattering. Ever. Totally in my opinion so take it for what it’s worth.
Oh the Claw is my favourite hideous pose. Ladies, this never looks good. Contorting your hand into an aggressive, arthritic pose is not attractive in any known universe. My hand looks like it’s in pain, and it is.
This pose is unflattering for a few reasons. Firstly, it visibly shows tension in the hand which is what you want to avoid. Secondly, it makes my fingers look fatter than they are. Blurgh.
The Death Grip
The death grip is where you hold onto that bottle for dear life. Very similar to the squeeze, this shows obvious tension in the hand and doesn’t show your fingers off to their best potential. There is no need to hold a bottle like this. At the angle it’s at here, the bottle will sit quite happily in the hand, allowing you to just lightly rest your fingers on it.
I know you love your window sill but I don’t. I came to see nail swatches. So always crop your photos.
Below, you will see cropped and uncropped. To my eye anyway, the cropped photo is a preferable option because it show the lacquer without the noise of a distracting background.
In the first photo, lacquer on my nails is around 10% of the final photo. You see more of my hand than you do of the nails.
In the second photo, you see more lacquer than anything else. Which, in a nail swatch, is the way it should be.
So that’s pretty much it. My guide to taking nail swatches.
If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments. And, remember, there is no law when it comes to taking nail swatches. This is just how I do it!