For my fellow bloggers, because you asked (lots!)

Posted by Lipglossiping On February - 25 - 2010


My camera is a Canon 30D DSLR.  It’s a bit old now… I’d love to look into upgrading, but can’t really use ‘taking photos of my makeup’ as a justification for purchase *blush*.  I own 3 wonderful lenses, but mostly use my Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 for blog photos.

I shoot in manual mode because it gives me the greatest flexibility.

Photography was my first love and I’ve spent 4 years learning and trying to get a good grasp of the technical side of the hobby.  My ultimate goal was to be confident and never need to rely on P mode again, shooting in manual gives you control of the image, not just the camera.

I’m frequently asked how to take better FOTD photos, and my answer has nothing to do with the camera and everything to do with the lighting.

If you’re outdoors, open shade is lovely.  Beware of trees, dappled sunlight is no good.  One of my absolute favourite places to shoot portraits are in open doorways. Try it.

Stand at the entrance to your garage or open your front door.  You get a lovely amount of soft, directional light.  Flat lighting is fine but light that moulds around your features casting soft shadows and highlights is better!  Try turning slightly and see how the light falls.  I always hold my hand out and just watch how the light falls on it, tilting, angling and moving until I see a sweet spot.  Then I go and stand in it.

If you have to take photos in the evening under artificial light, your biggest obstacle will be avoiding that “rabbit caught in headlights” look caused by the flash on your camera.  Camera flashes are not kind to us ladies, they make shiny patches practically glow and accentuate any flaws whilst simultaneously washing out the great EOTD you’ve just spent the best part of twenty minutes creating.

The problem stems from the fact that the light in your image is coming from a very small physical source.  Your objective is to take that small source (the flash bulb) and make it larger.  This will diffuse the light and decrease the specular highlights and harsh shadows in your photographs.  The easiest way to do this (if your camera allows it) is to angle your flash so that the light first hits a bigger surface (like the ceiling or a white wall/cupboard door) before reflecting back on your face.

See the diagram below:

Can you see the harsh shadows behind the object on the direct flash diagram?

If you don’t have the flexibility of a flash head you can angle, you could try one of the many pop up flash diffuser options available on eBay.  I haven’t personally tried any of them so I can’t recommend anything specific I’m afraid.

Anyway, that’s a very basic lighting 101 for taking self-portraits, I hope it helps all those who have asked in the past.

17 Responses to “For my fellow bloggers, because you asked (lots!)”

  1. sarah smith says:

    I think it’s really nice of you to share your skills with us since a lot of us just buy a random camera without a clue (guilty as charged) x

  2. Hooray for shedding the light (hah ha ha, I’m funny) on some of your photography knowledge. It’s unfortunate that I barely ever see light during the week. I’ll keep these tips in mind though!

    I’m not sure if the above even makes sense, but thank you!


    Seriously, this was awesome. 😀

  4. Thanks for sharing. I love photography but have never managed to get myself into the technical aspect. I had given up trying to do any looks at night because of the flash issue, so what you’ve shared really helps with that. x

  5. Lucy says:

    Thank you for this!

  6. thanks Charlotte, that was really helpful! I love my Canon, but I am scared of the big M….

  7. michelle says:

    YES i was going to ask this. thank you! i was wondering if you had any books you would recommend or blogs that would help when learning photography?

  8. Eliza says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    Thanks for sharing this. I will have to work these tips. I wish I had the cash to get myself a DSLR. I’ve always wanted to learn more about photgraphy. Perhaps it’s one to save for.
    I want to get back into painting and I used photos to work from so I’m thinking it might be worth the investment.

    Hugs to you for doing this.


  9. liloo says:

    lovely post to read. i want to know more (i should read your flickr profile again) : how did the passion for photography came along?
    the blogging community is very lucky to have your photography skills. At times I wish I had never come across your blog: i look at stock photos of makeup, and i despair. how on earth are you supposed to choose stila or nyx eyeshadows online… I want nyx to see your work, ship their whole collection of eye shadows just for you to take photos of them, not even review them, and pay you generously for doing it. Not sure, if the opportunity arose, if this would be a very pleasurable experience though. The zeros on the pay cheque should help alleviate boredom :)

  10. @michelle – Yes! Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson is a fabulous book x

  11. @Liloo – I just came across a gallery on the internet with some great photographs and decided I wanted a better camera, so I bought a better point & shoot… then decided it wasn’t giving me enough flexibility, so went bigger!

    You are always too kind to me, but my ego likes it. thanks sweetie.

  12. kristie says:

    That’s sooo helpful!! Thank you

  13. KT says:

    This helped but I still need more help! You should do a series. This definitely shed some light on lighting (harhar..) but I still struggle with other technical things.. aperture, ISO, white balance, etc. I know there’s no magic formula but do you have any ranges you can give?

    Also, this is going to sound dumb but ‘poses’? I also have a very hooded eye. I can see my makeup in the mirror but in pictures my lid disappears!! Help?

  14. I really can’t give ranges because depending on the available light sometimes I’m working at ISO500 with an ap of f2 to let as much light in as possible and the next session I’m cranking up my shutter speed to 1/1000 to stop the highlights getting blown out.

    White balance is absolutely crucial of course with things like swatches. Sometimes I correct in post production… It can be useful to hold a piece of white card (or proper digital grey card if you don’t mind buying one) in the first couple of shot with you. It’s a great guide for correcting your images later on in post-production (photoshop). As for getting it right in camera, it’s not always possible if the lighting is screwy. I shoot in RAW as it gives me the greatest flexibility for editing.

    Poses… Have you seen mine? Half the tme you can’t see my eye makeup either! It’s easier if you’re just photographing a close up of the eye as you can tilt your head back and look slightly downwards at the lens.. full face is tricky without looking like an idiot.

    I take a lot of my images looking off to one side with the camera slightly held to the other side (I hope that makes sense) and then raise my eyebrows slightly – the trick is not to look surprised! haha.

    I’m not sure I’ve been much help really, but I’ve tried! x

  15. Chelsea says:

    Hi! This sounds like the daftest question in the world, and I’m sorry that it’s on a post over a year ago but I’m systematically backreading through your blog since I only found you yesterday, but I always see pictures with effects like the main one in this post, and I just wonder how it’s achieved :)

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