How To: Nail photos

A while ago someone asked me to do a How To: on making nail photos, but I don't change the settings of my camera much at all. So this How To: isn't about what settings to use on your camera, or how to get the most color accurate pictures with your camera. Instead it's about the things I've learned while making pics! Some of the pictures I use in this post are done over the top, but it's just to show clearly what I mean (and I had fun with making them ^^). I'm not using a lightbox because I haven't found the ideal lamp for me yet. So here's how I do it :)

Find your spot
Try making pics at several places in your house, see what spot gives the best lighting. Have a look at what direction you're sitting when you're taking the pics as well, this can make a big difference! I make my photos in my livingroom, and I'm sitting next to a window. Here's how my photos would look if I turn to the other sides.

Straight forward

Turned to the left

Turned to the right

Hmm, what ís that thing?!
Keep your background clean, so people won't end up wondering what that thing in the background is! I always use the same background nowadays, because I noticed that if I keep it close, the color doesn't change too much. If I look at some of my older pics, where I had the floor as background, it looks a bit weird grey-brownish, while it was actually creme.
If you always want to use the same background as well, choose something that's easy to move and not too big, like a piece of cloth or a sheet of paper. If you have pets, don't go for something that attracts hairs. I thought I had a nice background at some point, until I realized I had to de-hair it first every time. Not so handy! Of course you can use something else as background as well, like real flowers can look great and complementary to your mani!

Dewey with my standard background, a grey-blue top that doesn't wrinkle so fast. Picture taken while photographing for this post

And here I shoved stuff on my desk together to show you how distracting a background can be!

It's all in the angle!
The angle matters a lot for me, and I keep moving my hand and place my fingers in different positions to hopefully get some nice shots. I constantly move the camera as well, and when the lighting is worse I often hold my cam a bit higher, for me that helps! Here's what happens when I hold my hands at different angles.

If I look at my nails, I look straight at them. But on a pic? I'd rather use a different angle!

Holding my hand a bit more backwards here, it's better already, but I think that my skin still looks a bit odd.

Whoops, that's clearly too far backwards!

To bottle or not to bottle
Some people like to hold something in their hands, and I'm one of them. I find it easier with a little bit of guidance, and sometimes the bottle shows the color better, or shows it well if a color dries up darker. But I'm holding the bottle very loosely and keep my fingers relaxed. You can of course hold different stuff as well, I see people make gorgeous pics with flowers or jewelry for example, but again, make it complement your nails.

Empty hands!

Squishing the bottle a bit, not so charming for my fingers

See, something else works too! But I wouldn't exactly consider this cat toy complementary...

Size matters
I take my pics at the max size that my camera can make, which makes my hands look like ginormous monster paws, but then I can crop the way I want and making a pic smaller is easy, making it larger when it's small doesn't give a good result.

Clean those fingers and keep clicking!
When you're ready to take pics, make sure your nails and fingers are clean. A fluffy bit or a cathair might be barely visible irl, but show up well on your pictures because your hands will be blown up so much. When it's all clean just keep on taking pics. Sometimes I don't take too much pictures, when it's a sunny day for example and the lighting is good, but other times I go nuts and just keep going! But I think I take on average about 30-50 pics. And when I think I have enough, I often click a few more. Yeah, I'm picky, hah! Perhaps I should learn more about my camera sometime afterall, that should help as well :P
Also, when I'm swatching I often put the pics on my pc before taking the polish off, and make sure I have some decent pics first. It's not so nice to find out afterwards that all your pictures didn't turn out well or there's hairs on your fingers!

No worries, my cats are fine =)

Cropping can help a lot with your pictures as well, and here's an example of that. I sometimes take pictures like this, but then my fingers kinda take over the photo.



Turn it around
If your picture looks a bit different than you'd like, turn it! It can look so different then, as you can see here:


Turned right

Turned left

Want shiny nails on your pics? Top coat is your answer, and for me nothing beats the shiny finish that Seche Vite gives. When I finish a mani with top coat, I do a quick final cleanup to make sure there's no top coat on my fingers. It might not be so visible irl, but your camera can make it look like a huge spot because it can reflect! And when I'm done with the cleanup I go make pictures straight after.
If I don't have time to make the pics straight away, I always polish up my nails later on by rubbing them on a piece of cloth to make them more shiny again before I photograph them. Do keep in mind that the shine can make your mani less visible, because it can take over and leave a white stripe over your nails, if that makes sense. I'm sometimes struggling with that, but what can I say, I love my SV!

Here's how it looks on a photo when there's top coat on my cuticles. Not so nice, huh.

If you have dry skin, it can be nice to moisturize your cuticles right before taking pics, and if needed, use a cuticle remover before you start with your mani. If you don't want your fingers to look oily, because it can reflect as well, you can wipe them off a bit so your fingers are still moisturized but not so shiny. I'm blessed with easy skin and cuticles (thanks mum!), but I'm also more careful with my left hand (although my foster kittens don't care about that as you can see on these pics, lol). For more tips on cuticles, have a look at my Tips & Tricks page.

Yep, might wanna wipe that oil off before making pics!

There, still a bit oily on the sides but much better already!

I use a simple digital camera, a Sony DSC-S2100, and I rarely ever mess with the settings. I set it lighter or back to normal at times, but besides that, the cam does the thinking for me and I'm quite happy with that =) If I adjust things it's most of the time not an improvement anyway, lol. But it can help to mess around with your cam's settings, just give it a go and see what works best for you!
Update 17 July: I now use a Canon PowerShot S120.

When it's less bright outside and there's not enough light for my camera to make decent pics, I use a very bright lamp. I haven't found the perfect setup yet, I do have a lightbox but I'd need several lamps to get a good result, without the lightbox my fingers end up looking quite rubbery! You'll see that more on my pics in Fall/Winter, haha. Not so pretty, but luckily it does show polish well! The lamp I'm using is a 4000k Cool White lamp, but I don't know enough about such things to give proper advise here.

The polish that I'm wearing in these pictures is A England Perceval with Seche Vite top coat.

Thanks for looking and take care!