Tips for beauty bloggers: surfaces and backgrounds

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

After weeks and weeks a few days of deliberation, I decided to start with “the setup” as our first “tips for beauty bloggers” post. There are a ton of things that I’d like to cover, from exposure to focusing to blur brushes and healing brushes and unicorn brushes* and cameras, but this one seemed to be the most general… so we’re starting with it.

Disclaimer: the posts in this series reflect my own views on photography and Photoshop. There are about a million and five ways (that’s a real statistic, that is) to do any of these things, but these just happen to be the ways that I, personally, like to do them. So please, please, please – take everything with a grain of salt!

Alright. So I understand that you can shoot on (literally) anything, whether it’s a bathroom countertop or a rhinoceros’ back. But here’s the thing: you really, really shouldn’t. Chances are, the rhino will eat your pretty new lipstick, and the shot will be ruined.

Here are a few lists of backgrounds to consider – there should be something in there for everyone!

If you’re shooting… something small

– A white tabletop is my first choice, though a black tabletop or a large piece of white or black bristol board are also good options.

– A standardized background, like a bed of rocks, wrapping tissue, or grass. I’m not a huge fan of this, because I think it tends to distract from the product, but some bloggers manage to make it work!

A press release: simple, relevant, and easy.

Your cat! That is, if he or she will stay still long enough… (kudos to Karen at MABB for putting it into practice and bringing it onto everyone’s radar, of course).

If you’re shooting… something standing

– A lightbox. This allows you to stand up your products and maintain an “infinity effect,” not to mention that it helps with lighting! (And speaking of lighting – we’ll talk about lightboxes more when we post about it, and perhaps share a DIY.)

– A white surface and a white wall. It doesn’t have the lovely seamlessness of a lightbox, but is the next best thing!

– A clean window ledge. Mine aren’t flat so it isn’t usually an option for me, but Karen does a lovely job with this if you’re looking for examples.

If you’re shooting… a face

– White-backed curtains! I cannot stress enough how absolutely amazing these are. Not only do they create a single point of focus (your face), but they basically create a giant lightbox. The result? A ridiculously flattering photo, every time.

– Tee hee, the twelve-year-old in me is quietly gleeful over being able to use “your face,” on its own, in a non-offensive manner.

– White walls – best if you shoot with flash support, as there are very few walls that are close to windows, and optimal for medium to dark skintones to make your face really “pop”

– Dark backgrounds – best for fair skintones and/or hair colours… but don’t attempt if your camera is really low-contrast!

– Light, light, light. This is a hard one to get right, consistently, but it can lead to just the most divine images. This is as close as I’ve gotten, but damn, I’d love to figure it out!

A few of my pet peeves

– Messy backgrounds and bathroom countertops. Whether or not you throw your clothes on the floor is your business, but splashing it all over the internet? Unprofessional, and potentially embarrassing!

– FOTD shots taken in the car. Just… all over, no. Whether you’re a passenger or the driver (!!!), it always either freaks me out or creeps me out. It’s not that hard to wait a couple minutes and take it when you get out!

– Dirty products. I know, I know, it’s not a surface, nor is it a background, but I had to at least give it a mention! If you’ve already used the product, take a minute to wipe away any astray product with a tissue or q-tip. It’s always, always worth the extra effort.


Any more tips? Questions? Hit us up in the comments! I still have a plethora of topics to cover, but… all in good time ;)

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54 Responses to “Tips for beauty bloggers: surfaces and backgrounds”

  1. Oh wow, this came right in time for me, haha. These are really great tips!

    I really need to get a better digital camera. Do you have any recommendations? ;)

    My recent post Get Barry M Into Canada!

  2. Vijaya, on April 13th, 2011 at 6:52 am said:

    I always wondered what that cloth behind you in your photos was. And now I know!
    My recent post MAC Quite Cute Mineralize Blush- Miss Behave

  3. great tips, rae! i, too, prefer the white backdrop although i tend to just use a throw blanket. LOVE the light box tip, where did you purchase yours?
    My recent post Collection Spotlight- Jason Wu – Spring 2011

  4. Glad they're helpful! :) I wasn't going to cover cameras for a while, but I'll see if I can push forward the post on them for you ^^

  5. Lol! Yep, it's the white backing of some seriously gorgeous burgundy drapes :p

  6. Well. Here's the thing.

    I'm chronically lazy… and also a student, so I just DIY'd mine :p Surprisingly easy – I'll share a tutorial soon!

  7. Thanks for the tips. They are so helpful…but then there is always a difference for me, of knowing what I should do, and what I actually manage to do, lol. Oh well. I blame laziness.
    My recent post Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush- Blissful

  8. Lol, that's true for me as well :P Things like white tabletops are easy, though – set it up at the beginning, and it takes no extra effort from thereon in!

  9. Shivani, on April 13th, 2011 at 8:58 am said:

    Thanks for all the amazing tips. I'll definitely try the white wall tip :)
    My recent post Lancome Ultra Lavande Collection

  10. knicolson, on April 13th, 2011 at 10:59 am said:

    What a great idea, especially for new beauty bloggers! Can't wait for the DIY light box post! I've been thinking about getting a lightbox but if I can make one that would be perfect!
    My recent post More new Make-up items for Spring! Marcelle and Physicians Formula

  11. Aww, thanks! My current camera is ancient (by digital camera standards) and terrible so I'm looking forward to that!
    My recent post Get Barry M Into Canada!

  12. Great tips! Thanks so much for sharing them! You are the Master!!
    My recent post Sephora Collection Bronzer Powder in Bora Bora

  13. LOL, compared to my photog friends I'm actually awful – but thank you for the compliment! :p

  14. Rocaille, on April 13th, 2011 at 11:45 am said:

    Loved your post, Rae – I was thinking forever to write my own tips, but I think yours are way better… I'm waiting on your post on lightboxes and setting up the lighting, I always have problems with white balance :(
    My recent post Rocaille of the Day- Rainy Weather

  15. Fab post! I'd love to see the DIY lightbox post! x
    My recent post Hello!

  16. The closest I an get to a white surface or background is my laundry machine or my bed sheets. I use both LOL.
    Very interested in your DIY lightbox. I want to make one myself but I lost the last tutorial that I bookmarked.
    My recent post Hoarders- Bronzer Edition

  17. Awesome awesome tips! Tell us more!! lol
    My recent post Wanted Wednesdays- April 13- 2011

  18. I just know I'm going to love this series already :) Not a great photographer by any count but I learnt that white backgrounds photograph best for me with natural sunlight (I tried the lightbox but I couldn't get lighting right) and I recently discovered the curtain trick for FOTD! :D Suffice to say, that's all I ever use now. Can't wait for your next installment :D
    My recent post The Prickly Pear Esmeria Organics Skincare Line certainly pricks my interest!

  19. makeupmorsels, on April 13th, 2011 at 7:14 pm said:

    I'm so excited to see the rest of this series! Can't wait for your DIY lightbox tutorial :) Your pictures always look amazingly professional!
    My recent post PurLisse- Hit or Miss

  20. Arianne, on April 14th, 2011 at 9:35 am said:

    Great tips, Rae!

    I'm struggling most with my background for the face shots. I have blinds, not curtains, so it'll be kinda hard to put my head in front of blinds. LOL. Not to mention, kinda dusty and gross. I wish there was a way to put up a white blanket temporarily behind me… but I'm not sure how I'd do that…
    My recent post Around the Internetz- The Tutorial Edition

  21. Kate & Zena, on April 15th, 2011 at 12:06 am said:

    Heeeeeeeeeeeeey, where's the shooting with dogs!?!?!? This post is cat-biased!!!

    Am I not loved? *big brown puppy eyes with eyebrow owie*


  22. LOL, that's very epic of you :p Whatever works, right? ^^

  23. Aww, glad the first post peaked your interest! If you ask me, though, your photos don't need my help – they look great already ^^

  24. LOL, sorry Zena! I still <3 you; promise!

  25. LOL, yeah – not the best idea :p

    Perhaps if you hung the curtain from the ceiling on a track, and pushed it aside while not in use?

  26. Great post. I do take car pictures because I live in a land with little sunshine for eight months of the year. I have found those shots to be the most color accurate. Ambient light seems to wash me out and turn me blue …. But I am still experimenting! Might just have to get white curtains!!!!
    My recent post Chanel Summer 2011 Stylo Yeux Waterproof Eyeliner Rose Platine Review and Swatches

  27. […] a beauty blogger or just a product lover, you *need* to check out theNotice’s first tips for beauty bloggers photography post! K at Beautifully Addicted To feels the Pinch with Topshop blushers. *** Audrey […]

  28. Photography is my biggest blogging challenge–I'm not very good at it and while I'm usually a creative person, creative phoptgraphy is not my forte. thank you so much for this post and I really, really want to know how to make a do-it-yourself lightbox!

  29. Can you do a part about photographing eyemakeup upclose? i have found out that while using a DSLR indoors or at night,the makeup looks too shimmery and the slightest imperfection is highlighted!

  30. good post :) I am trying to be a better beauty photographer and used a white background in my latest post. I also use laminate sheets to pour make up products onto to photograph xx
    My recent post kias essential guide to- blushers

  31. Of course! I'll keep it in mind for a post later in the series :) xx

  32. MadameBFatale, on April 23rd, 2011 at 6:09 pm said:

    I am so glad you posted this! I just got a new camera for both pictures and filming and I really want to learn more :)so glad you posted this, I just got a new camera, finally one thats not dodgey! I really want to learn more :)

  33. I am saving up for a lightbox, but in the meantime I use a book (Nick Bantock's Egyptian Jukebox, haha) as a background. I shoot using a prime lens, though, the background never really ends up looking too strong. Loved these tips!

  34. vonvon, on April 24th, 2011 at 8:48 am said:

    Thank you, thank you so much for this post, Rae! Looking forward to the next post esp the one on light box.
    My recent post Lipstick Of The Week- Review &amp Lip Swatches Of Sleek MakeUp True Colour Lipstick in OMG! – Orange Lips Trend &amp Some Looks

  35. […] a beauty blogger or just a product lover, you *need* to check out theNotice’s first tips for beauty bloggers photography […]

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  37. […] a beauty blogger or just a product lover, you *need* to check out theNotice’s first tips for beauty bloggers photography […]

  38. Thanks so much for your post. I struggle with all sorts of shots especially face shots. I can never seem to get the exact colour of the products especially lip swatches. I am lookingforward to your DIY light box post.
    My recent post Lancome Hypnose Drama Mascara Review

  39. Great post! I struggle to take good photos…and I blame my camera but maybe it's my technique too
    My recent post Herbal Essences Tousle Me Softly Mousse

  40. […] since I adopted the white background as per theNotice’s tips and tricks for beauty bloggers (which by the way, is a must-read!), I have a lot more things to consider when taking a good full […]

  41. I just came across your blog via Glitter Geek and I have to say, it is AWESOME! I love that you photography the usual makeup looks but also give great advice on blogging and photography. Definitely following! :)

  42. Aww, thank you! :) Glad you're enjoying theNotice.

  43. […] a beauty blogger or just a product lover, you *need* to check out theNotice’s first tips for beauty bloggers photography […]

  44. […] a beauty blogger or just a product lover, you *need* to check out theNotice’s first tips for beauty bloggers photography […]

  45. […] a beauty blogger or just a product lover, you *need* to check out theNotice’s first tips for beauty bloggers photography post! K at Beautifully Addicted To feels the Pinch with Topshop […]

  46. Love this post. One of my New Year's resolutions is to improve my blog, and this post (as well as your other posts on the topic) are an amazing resource. Thank you for posting this.
    My recent post Happy New Year!

  47. Glad you're finding the series helpful, Vonnie! I really need to get around to updating it >.<

  48. […] stumbled across the beauty blogging series written by the top-notch blogger Rae from theNotice. Her Tips for beauty bloggers: surfaces and backgrounds gives extremely useful pointers about picture-taking in general. So today, I hid behind the curtain […]

  49. great post!

    i agree with you on the pet peeves. lol
    sometimes i can't help dusts or finger prints from showing up in macro shots, though. lol
    My recent post NOTD – Butter London The Black Knight and GFC question

  50. Try adding a thin pair of gloves into your shooting routine – they're a great way to clean off fingerprints & dust, and keep them off! ;)

  51. This is such a great post! Thank you for taking the time to write this. I'd like my blog photos to start looking more professional, but it's hard to take good photos in my dimly lit studio apartment. I'd like to look into making a DIY lightbox since it gives such a clean looking background.

    I just followed your blog and I'll be looking forward to more of your great advice! :)
    My recent post Review: Missha M Signature Real Complete BB Cream #21

  52. Thanks for a post; it's nice that you didn't mention needing a DSLR for a good beauty blog. I must say that I'm definitely guilty of having messy backgrounds haha. I'm looking through my old blog pictures and feeling a tad bit ashamed, but it's nice to have something to keep in mind for next time.
    My recent post E.L.F. Nail Polish Review!

  53. u r awesome!!!
    love ur blogging tops!!! <3
    My recent post Spring Inspired Look: Ft. Green lower lashline

  54. […] stumbled across the beauty blogging series written by the top-notch blogger Rae from theNotice. Her Tips for beauty bloggers: surfaces and backgrounds gives extremely useful pointers about picture-taking in general. So today, I hid behind the curtain […]

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