July 20, 2011

How-To: Pretty Pictures of Polished Paws

One of the subjects I get a lot of questions about is how I photograph my nails and of course I want to share with you how I do this. Be aware that I'm not a photography expert, but I do like to try out different camera settings to get great pictures. Who doesn't love a beautiful and sharp photograph?

The things you need: 

The obvious: a camera
If you want to spend a lot of money on a big fancy camera I won't stop you, but I have good news for those of you who rather spend their money on some pretty nail polishes: a standard compact camera can do the job! I use the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS6, a standard, not too expensive, compact camera. What's really great about this camera is the Leica lens. Leica lenses are known for their excellent quality, which was one of the reasons I bought this camera a couple of years ago. You can try using the camera of your mobile phone, but I can assure you that you'll get the best pictures by using a real photo camera, 'cause well.. after all it's made for only one purpose: making photographs. :)

Another very, and I mean very, important thing is light. Without light no photograph. The only way to get nice and sharp pictures is with decent lighting. You can use the light from a lamp, but I prefer daylight. On very cloudy, rainy days it can be really hard to take good pictures, so I rather take pictures of my nails in sunlight. Especially prismatic polishes photograph well in sunlight (hello rainbow!), but sometimes colours can wash out in full sunlight, so it's not always the best option. Take pictures at different spots (by the window, in the garden, on your balcony..) to find out what works best for you. When you found the perfect spot, remember Tyra Banks' words: 'find the light'! Try to find an angle where you think the light hits your nails the best. Does a nail polish contain a beautiful shimmer? Just move your nails around to find the right angle to capture that shimmer on a photograph. Shadows and reflections are inevitable, but try to keep those to the minimum in your pictures because they can be very distracting.

A calm background
If you want all the attention on the nail polish and your nails try to use a calm background. Clutter in the background will distract the viewer from looking at your beautiful polished paws and we don't want that, do we? I often use a wall or a (clean) table as a backdrop, but you can also use a large piece of (coloured) paper, a beautiful piece of fabric, grass... whatever you want! Just remember to keep it calm.

Explore your camera settings
Most cameras have an auto function, if you want to use that, fine! But believe me, it's so much fun to find out what others things you can do with your camera. As I said before I'm not a photography expert, but I recommend taking a closer look at some camera settings. I focus on the following things:
 ■   macro setting (often displayed with a flower icon on cameras):  this setting is great for taking pictures from up close and ending up with a lot of detail in a picture. Needless to say this setting is awesome for photographing nails;
 ■   white balance: this setting can help you get colour accurate pictures. Different light sources have different colour temperatures, making the colour of your hands/nails look totally different if you change from light source. Play with the different white balance options on your camera to get the most colour accurate pictures;
 ■   ISO values: these values tell you more about the camera's light sensitivity. I won't go into much detail on this one (Google is your friend!), but if you have enough light you can use a low ISO value. The lower the ISO value the finer the grain in your picture - a finer grain means a sharper picture. Most of the time I use the value 100 or 200. But make sure you have steady hands when you're photographing with a low ISO value to avoid blurry pics. This brings me to the next point...

Steady hands or a tripod
To get sharp photographs you need steady hands. So either stop drinking coffee or use a tripod. :O

I hope this post was helpful. If you have an unanswered question let me know in a comment!