How To Photograph Makeup Swatches
Ever wonder what goes into taking swatch photos such as this one? How do Instagramers and Bloggers achieve these pictures? You may have seen my many swatches in my most recent video of my Makeup Geek Eyeshadow Collection too. I am here to shed light on the secrets of nailing a swatch photo for anyone wanting to break into the online beauty industry.
Swatch photos are actually incredibly difficult to shoot. They require a lot more work than you'd expect. Most of the time I require the help of my boyfriend to shoot my swatch videos, professional lighting, tape, poster board, and sometimes even sequin dresses.
Sharp Lines: To get the clean sharp lines pictured here I used tape. These were my first swatch photos so I was still learning. In these I just used regular scotch tape. Since then I have ordered thinner tape from amazon to fit more colors and have less large spaces between the swatches. Just ripping/cutting the tape thinner doesn't always deliver perfectly even lines though. Thinner tape should be the answer to my prayers.
Background: For my swatches and product shots typically I use 2 white foam poster boards. I lay one flat and the other leaned up against something to create a 90 degree mini set. In the Becca Jaclyn Hill Champagne Glow Palette shots I also tried a few different colored sequin backdrops and dresses until I found what I liked. Other times I sometime use some scrapbook paper on the poster board for my backgrounds.
Angle Taken: Typically I try to shoot my swatches from above in the same style I would a flat lay type photo. As you can see in these behind the scene photos I actually had to lay flat on the ground with my arm stretched out under the lights on my makeshift set. I physically could not take the photo from above myself and required assistance in the photography aspect.
In the makeup geek swatches, I had no access to assistance to photograph the images, Because of this, you can see the upper part of my forearm looks like a ham because it is closer to the camera than the rest of my arm. To avoid ham arm swatches, ask someone else to help you shoot.
What To Apply With: So although you would typically apply your shadows/blushes/whatever makeup with a brush, for swatches it's best to use your fingers. Make sure both your skin and hands are both clean and dry and free of lotions or oils. Most of the swatch pictures you see are comprised of more than 1 swipe/layer of product too so don't be afraid to build it up.
Lighting: You will hear almost unanimously from bloggers that natural lighting is the best for swatches and product shots. I myself though have never had much luck this way. There are always shadows somewhere I am fighting. Sometimes the only time available for me to shoot is after I worked all day and the sun already went down. I am a control freak and not being able to control
the sun is the reason I rely on my lighting set up. So for swatches I use 2 soft box lights. I got them for like $80 off amazon about a year ago. I lower the light stands all the way and tilt them to shine down directly onto my set from both sides. Boom no shadows. I also do not use the diffuser cloth over my lights during this either. No flash is needed either as that can produce random shadows out of my control as well. Just avoid the shadow of your camera directly above your arm when taking the pictures.
Product Placement: When I say "product placement" I don't mean a pair of Beats headphones placed in a music video to subliminally tell you you need them. No. If you are taking swatch photos, most of the time people want to see what the product looks like so if they like it, they know what to look for. I try to either lay the product beside my arm in the swatches or hold it in my hand.
So that is all I have to share about what I've learned from taking my swatch photos. I hope this helps anyone else struggling trying to take swatch photos and videos. Please learn from my mistakes and avoid ham arm yourself. It might mess with your self esteem a bit.
You can watch the Makeup Geek swatch videos HERE
Becca Jaclyn Hill Champagne Glow video HERE