I have received hundreds of requests on tips and tricks for starting a beauty instagram account, questions on what equipment do I use, as well as what apps I use to edit everything. I’ve compiled my tips and created a walkthrough with suggestions on everything including my favorite props, lighting, and tools! This post is accompanied with a YouTube video (my first one, yay!). I hope you all find all my little secrets useful and inspiring.
Watch the Video
Cultivate your audience and find your niche
The answers to the below questions will help you realize the direction you want to take. Whatever you do, stay honest to your values and allow your true self to show through. To engage your audience, you’ll need more than just a 5-word caption and a matching emoji.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What is the value that I offer my audience?
- Who do I want my audience to be?
- What feeling do I want to feel when I look at my feed?
The feeling answer will help you determine what you’d like your photos to look like. Do you want them to feel warm and fuzzy? How about super colorful? Minimalistic with desaturated hues? Or maybe just millennial pink. Whatever it is, pick one and stick to it until you know you need to evolve and take it to the next level. But you have got to start somewhere. Start by looking for inspiration on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and blogs.
Let me make something clear right now. You do NOT need a DSLR to take beauty photos or product shots. You just need good lighting and a smartphone. I have an iPhone 8+ and it takes stunning photos. So start there. Shoot with VSCO cam and watch a tutorial on how to take full advantage of the app’s options. You can manipulate the aperture, shutter speed, white balance, etc. while with the native iOS camera, you can’t.
If you are a photography enthusiast, and you know you’re going to want to take your game to the next level as well as utilize your camera for video, then make the investment and grab a DSLR. I have a Sony a6300 and I use a 35mm lens and rarely a 50mm automatic lens. I do think Sony is the leader in the DSLR game right now. Canon would be my next best choice. A new piece of equipment like a DSLR can seem very difficult to learn, I know! I started diving into photography 10 years ago, so I am proficient with all the settings, the lighting, the white balance, yadda yadda yadda. However, you can become proficient too! There are so many good youtube walkthroughs out there. Just spend a Sunday watching those and start trying it out on your smartphone before you even get the DSLR. You need to know how to shoot in manual mode, learn what Aperture is, learn what the ISO does, and also learn how shutter speed can affect your image.
Let’s talk lighting. Natural light is amazing. I love shooting when the sun is shining bright. The morning is great if you want a cooler light that’s very uniform. If you want harsh shadows, try shooting anytime between noon and 3 pm when the sun is shining above you and is the brightest. If you want to get a very warm, inviting, ambient light, with some sideways shadows, try shooting 1 hour before sunset. That timeframe is also known as the golden hour. Magic light!
Ok, but when it’s winter or if you live in Scandinavian countries or you’re just a normal human that works from 9-5, then you lose all your sunlight. What do you do then? Well, that’s when you get lights. I have this LED light with warm/cool adjustors for temperature. Sometimes I use a plastic bag over it to diffuse the harshness of the light and to avoid the “flash” looking spots and reflections. I want to get another one soon actually! Also, sometimes I use a square mirror piece to reflect the light in my photos. I position it across from the light to reflect the rays toward the other side of the products where the light can’t reach. You’re going to need to play with angles, position, temperature, everything! Practice as well as trial and error are inevitable. There’s no perfect formula for lighting. Also, when you’re shooting with artificial lighting, try and have all other sources of light off. You don’t want to mix two different light temperatures together. It’s just not going to be cute.
Edit the photos on your phone! It’s so simple and it’s free. I have an SD adapter with a lighting port that I just plug into my phone and it imports all the photos from my camera. I then choose the best ones for the post and edit them on Snapseed. It’s free. I’ll show you my favorite settings in a separate video. Make sure the image is crisp and bright. Your shots should never look blurry or out of focus as it will make the photo look unfinished and rough.
You can edit in Lightroom as an alternative. If you’re a student you can get a discount. Lightroom is what photographers across the globe use to edit the coloring in their photos. Lightroom is not complicated if you know the basics of the key adjustors. There are amazing YouTube tutorials and walkthroughs on all kinds of amazing editing techniques on Lightroom. Watch a few of them so that you can decide if that’s the best editing tool for you. Obviously, you need access to a computer for best results, but Lightroom CC is now available on the cloud so there is an app with almost all the desktop Lightroom capabilities on the palm of your hand. So you could still use just your phone to edit on Lightroom!
Important Note: Please do not post landscape or portrait size images on Instagram. If you want your IG account to reach the audiences out there, crop your photos square. 1×1 ratio only! Trust me, it will make such a difference! When you’re posting on your IG stories, however, make sure all your photos are cropped at 16×9.
A lot of you ask me what I use to create my IG stories. I either use Photoshop when I want to make a refined post with text, or I use the Enlight Photofox app. It allows me to make a collage of photos basically. It works with layers just like photoshop, but it’s so easy and fast. All you do is choose the canvas size to be 16×9, choose a white background, or your preference of paper texture, then you add your photos on top. This allows me to write text in the white negative space without disturbing the visuals of my photos. I feel like this gets the point across to my audience in a more direct way that’s not cluttered. Try it!
If you don’t have a blank white wall at home with a white surface, then pretend you do. At least if that’s the look you’re going for. I like to use windows, walls, mirrors, and anything in between for my backdrops, but for a long time this is what I used:
- White mat board you can get from amazon, target, Michael’s or any local art supply store.
- Pink thick card paperor any color you prefer.
- Painter’s blue tape.
- Marble adhesive paper or porcelain marble tile from Home Depot or a similar store, which is what I use.
All you do is position the mat-board on a surface upright, then you tape the thick card paper so that it bends halfway on the board and half way on the surface, so it creates an infinite backdrop. Then you place your products on that and voila!
Trays, Books, Candles, Jewelry, Matches, etc.
Try any of the above to add texture or interest to your photos. If you’re a minimalist, keep it simple of course. It all depends on the vibe you’re going for. But sometimes you don’t know what your vibe is until you’ve tried things out.
Don’t stress over your IG account. You’re going to go through so many changes. Your photos are not going to always look consistent. You have different moods, feelings, influences, aspirations, every single day. Yes, a consistent feed is preferable, but you can transition your mood in a way that it looks consistent. If you go through my feed you will see at least 4 different styles. I started with marble background flatlays and then transitioned to pink backdrops with harsh shadows, while now I’m into a totally different look, that’s a bit darker, but definitely more focused. I’ve grown to know what I like and what I don’t like, but you can only improve upon yourself. You can’t start perfect, nor will you ever be perfect. It’s a work in progress!
I will be shooting within app walkthroughs for Snapseed, Enlight Photofox, Lightroom, and VSCO. Subscribe to my YouTube channel and follow me on Instagram so you don’t miss out on those!