My favorites tips for Macro Beauty Photography

My favorites tips for Macro Beauty Photography

January 14, 2020 15 By Peter Engel


Today, I’m going to share my favorite tips on macro beauty photography, including lens choice angles and depth of field. I’m Lindsay Adler and one of my specialties is beauty photography. I shoot for skincare brands, eyelash companies, foundation lines and much more. And I’m often asked to shoot macro beauty images to capture closeup details of the subject and the makeup. This may sound easy, but there are several issues you’ll run up against with this type of photography that make it quite challenging. So today I’m going to share my favorite tips and tricks for macro beauty photography. With macro beauty photography you are working with an extremely narrow depth of field. I’m talking milimeters sometimes, it’s going to be very difficult to shoot at a wide aperture, so instead I recommend starting somewhere around F11 as a starting place to give yourself a little bit more flexibility. If you need everything in focus for your particular concept, try to get the important elements on the same plane, meaning the same distance from camera. So if the lips are much closer than the eyes, likely one or the other will not be completely in focus, completely sharp, even a F11 or even F16. You’ll also want to be conscious of the fact that the tighter your shot, the narrower depth of field you’re going to be working. So let’s say that you move in close to your subject with a 180mm macro lens, so only the subject’s eye is in the frame. Even shooting F11, you will not be able to get both the pupil and the eyelashes and focus the depth of field is that narrow. So remember, the closer you are, the less depth of field you’re working with. Two things can help. First, try shooting F16 or even F22 and see if that fixes the problem for the shot. Next, try backing up a little bit from your subject, even a tiny bit for a slightly wider composition and then crop tighter in post. I’m not going to get into the math of it, but effectively when you back up it gives you more depth of field. It’s a balance because backing up gives you more depth of field, but of course you’re wasting pixels and you have to crop in dramatically and if you do so, you may want to do so sparingly. Focusing a macro lens can be a challenge, especially if you do it hand-held. Even your breath in and out can change the focus when you’re working very close on a subject. So consider a tripod or a monopod. Personally, I prefer a monopod because helps keep me steady, but I can still make subtle changes in my distance. Be very careful with your focus, whether using autofocus or manual, because you have to be precise. The difference between two focus points can be so different. So remember the close up on the eye? Imagine that one focus point catches the eyelashes and the other the pupil. One image will be successful and the other will be completely out of focus. So I personally use a single focus point, but I am constantly moving it around and I base this on my composition, so it is exactly where it needs to be. Take your time. Be precise. While there are multiple tools to shoot macro beauty photography, typically you want a specialized macro lens. Be sure that the lens you’re choosing is actually made for macro photography, not just with close focusing capabilities. It’s not the same thing. Most camera and lens manufacturers have several focal length to choose from, and the one that you choose makes a big difference. It makes a difference in two ways. Your compression and your working distance. So let’s take a look at what I mean. As you probably know, if you take a 35mm lens and you try to shoot a tight portrait, it’s going to distort the face. Typically, you end up selecting a portrait lens more with something like 85mm longer focal length and this is gives you more pleasing compression. So now imagine you take that 35 mm as a macro lens, you get insanely close to your subject like macro close and you take a portrait. The distortion is going to be even more exaggerated. So when selecting a focal length for a macro lens, the same ideas of compression apply a longer focal length will have more compression than a short one. Personally, I recommend selecting something maybe 100mm or longer to achieve more pleasing results when you’re that close up. Here you can see three images. The first is taken with a 60 millimeter macro lens, a second with a 100 millimeter macro lens, and the third with a 180 millimeter macro lens. Notice the changes in compression and what is emphasized in each shot. Choosing a longer focal length gives you more working distance between you and your subjects. So let’s take two very popular macro lenses the canon one hundred millimeter macro lens and the Canon 180 millimeter macro lens in both of these images. I’m going to fill the frame with the subjects. I noticed the difference in the distance between myself and the subject and these two shots. But using a longer focal length lens, I can be further away from my subject but still achieve the same magnification. When photographing a human subject, let’s say, rather than a flower, it may be helpful to have that extra space. Also, take a look at my strobe in the behind the scenes. When I’m closer to my subjects with a shorter focal length lens, I’m potentially blocking the light and this depends on the lighting setup. But this can make a big difference. Even a couple of inches further away can be all I need. This is one reason I regularly choose a longer focal length macro lens. This gives my subject in my light a little bit of space, on the other hand. Let’s say I want to get a headshot of my subject if I have a one hundred and eighty millimeter lens. I have to move back much further to achieve this composition. And if you’re a wedding photographer and you want to quickly shoot between macro and close up head shots and wider shots, then a longer focal length might actually be too restricting, especially in a tight space. Angles make a big difference in macro photography. Even the slightest change in the camera’s position or the subject’s pose will make dramatically different results. With macro photography, think of it like this: Everything is exaggerated and it’s going to take practice to get used to this. So be aware that whatever is closest to the camera will appear larger and whatever’s further will appear smaller. So for example, if you want to emphasize the subject lips, maybe you need a lower camera angle. If you want to emphasize the eyes, maybe a higher camera angle or tilt the subject’s head back towards camera. My last tip is not technical or gear related. Instead, it’s conceptual. If you’re going to take a macro beauty shot, do so for a reason. What are we looking at? The freshness of the skin, the rich, texture of the makeup. A feature on a product. Whatever reason you’re shooting macro. Be sure that the light, the make up, the composition, all of these things reinforce your idea. When you don’t know the concept of an image, that’s when you suffer from far too much going on or far too little. There’s no right or wrong answer with light, for example, it’s what fits your concept. So far I haven’t mentioned the creative team and this is one of the most important parts of the entire shoot. Spend time testing with makeup artists, find people who are talented to flatter your subject and help you execute your concept. When you get up close. Bad makeup is going to be extremely noticeable with nowhere to hide, your creative team will become indispensable. As you can see there are several things to think about when you’re trying your hand at macro beauty photography. It’ll take practice and most people find it pretty challenging when they first give it a try. But as with anything, give yourself time to practice and perfect it. If you want to see the tools used in today’s video, check out the links below or was at adorama.com. If you’ve enjoyed this video, feel free to give it a like and subscribe. See you next time.