After a huge response asking me how you can improve pictures of your nails and nail art, I promised I would let you know how I take pictures of my nails. This will be a 2 part tutorial where part 1 will be a lightbox tutorial, and part 2 will be photography set up and tips which I’ll bring to you in a few days.
The most common question asked in the nail art community? How do I take better pictures of my nails? How do I improve my nail photography?
3 word answer. Lighting, lighting lighting!
Yes, practice is vital, and a good camera is a nice-to-have but you don’t need to be rocking the latest DLSR to take good pictures of your nails as long as you have the proper lighting set up. More importantly, if you don’t have the right lighting, then your expensive camera won’t help you very much at all.
In an ideal world, we would take pictures of our nails in natural light where it’s not too sunny and not too shady. Chances are, however, that the moment right when you want to take pictures of your nails, it’s either too sunny, too dark (because the only time you have to do your nails is after the kids go to bed or you get home from work) or too cold etc.
So what do you do? Take your pictures inside a lightbox!
A lightbox is a box with translucent sides used in photography for small objects such as beauty products or food, to help create even lighting for photographing your item.
There are many kinds of lightboxes (also called ‘soft boxes’) that can be purchased from amazon or eBay, but honestly, I would rather spend my money on nail polish so I created my own for less than $5. This lightbox tutorial isn’t something new and there are lots of nail artists who have great tutorials on how to create a lightbox, but this is the technique that works for me.
Step 1: What you will need
Step 2: After putting your box together with your duct or packing tape, use your box cutter (be careful, this is very sharp and should be handled with care) to cut three flaps off and fold the other out as shown here (i.e. four flaps to make the box but you only want to keep one)
Step 3: Use your ruler and pencil to mark two inches on all sides of the top of your box and cut this out with your box cutter.
Step 4: Repeat step three, this time cutting out the right and left side of the box. I reinforced the top of my box with some duct tape as you can see, because I accidentally ripped off too much of the cardboard, pulling it off too quickly.
Step 5: Cut 3 pieces of tissue/tracing paper to fit on top and sides of your box and tape them to the sides and top. Then tape your bristle board (white or black depending on your preference) to the inside of your box. Mine fit perfectly, so I didn’t have to cut it at all to fit. I’m trying out a black background, since my previous box was white, to see what I like better. I have an extra piece of bristle board in white that I can easily insert over the black, if I want another look.
The Finished Product
Here is my old and new and improved lightbox. The old lightbox worked well for a while, but I made the mistake of adding colorful duct tape when the box started falling apart. The purples and blues in the tape reflected on the white so sometimes my pictures had a purple tinge so avoid putting too much colorful tape inside your box. I also wanted something bigger so that I have more room to play with products when I’m shooting them.
And here is my set up. I place one light on the top of the box as shown. I don’t have a daylight bulb, but if you do, then this is great. You can also experiment with side lighting and flash but this first tutorial is keeping it simple as shown.
Nail Photography Results
Here is a picture I took with my camera with the lighting as shown – no editing was made in this photo.
Conversely, here is a pic I shot with my iPhone 5 where no editing was made. The set up is exactly the same and it’s dark outside and the overhead light is the only thing I used. See how there are some shadows on the tops of my fingers? This can be removed with a subtle flash or by adding lights on either side of the box as well. I actually like the shadows because I think it adds some drama to the photo.
Here is a shot that I did in the morning with no overhead light, just natural light through my window. Another effect which I think is subtle and pretty. Again depends on your taste.
Stay tuned for another photography tutorial next week where I’ll show you some tips and tricks that you can use with your camera to help improve your nail photography
I would love to hear your feedback on this tutorial, what you like, what you didn’t like and how I can be more helpful to you.
Until next time.