How to Choose The Right Camera for Makeup Photography
Buying a camera can be a daunting task at best. With so many on the market these days, it can be a veritable sea of confusion. When looking for a camera to photograph all those amazing makeup creations, you want to make sure you have a general understanding of what you are looking for before you walk into the store.
We covered basic makeup photography in “How to Take Amazing Pictures of Your Makeup Looks”, but one of the questions we kept getting asked was “What kind of camera specifically should I use”? Some are small and compact others look like you need an engineering degree to operate! And, almost all are advertised with abbreviations which look puzzling and can be rather confusing. So, we have put together this handy buyer’s guide to hopefully answer all your questions.
Important Features to Look For
It’s easy to get lost in all the features modern camera offer, but here’s a few features that often get overlooked but can make a big difference to a Makeup Geek that wants to show off their cosmetic creations. We will talk about these features more in the camera recommendations below.
- Macro Setting – This setting lets you get detailed photos of up-close objects — this is crucial if you want to get highly-detailed images of a close-up feature like your eye or lips.
- Adjustable Screen – The adjustable screen allows you to compose shots more easily when you are holding it over head, out to one side, taking self portraits or in other situations where your camera position makes looking through the viewfinder impossible. With the camera facing towards you and LCD twisted in the same direction as the lens, it is easier to frame self portraits as well a group shot that includes you. You’ll need to use a shutter release, such as a built in timer. You can also take close-ups and macro shots (close-up photography usually of very small objects such as the eye) from a variety of angles that would otherwise be impossible without a tripod. Twisting the screen also helps reduce the glare when you have bright lighting.
- Good Light Sensitivity - Being outside in natural light is ideal for photos, but if you want to stay indoors, you’ll want a camera with good light sensitivity so they don’t turn out blurry and murky.
- HD Video Recording - Just a side-note that we won’t really cover too much in this guide — if you want to expand into video tutorials, have 720p or 1080p video recording would be a nice feature
Point and Shoot Under $200
Thanks to technological advances, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to find a good, inexpensive camera with the features you need. Let’s start with the camera’s resolution. The amount of detail that a camera can capture is called the resolution and it’s measured in pixels. The more pixels a camera has, then more detail it can capture. Anything above 10 megapixels is considered to be a good point and shoot camera. Another thing to look at is the battery. Does it use actual batteries or is it a rechargeable camera?
Some ways the camera companies make lower priced cameras is by having them use AA or AAA batteries instead of the Li-ion (lithium ion) battery. While this may sound great, it’s really going to cost you more money and frustration in the end. Cameras take a lot of power to operate (especially if you’re using the flash), so it’s going to use more batteries. You could buy rechargeable battery, but then you have the hassle of carrying around extra ones to use when one runs out. You also need to consider the cost of purchasing rechargeable batteries to use. But the good news is the jump from alkaline batteries to li-ion is only about an extra $50 and they will include the battery and charger in the box.
Macro setting is another must. The majority of cameras are going to have this setting (the icon should look like the one below). Turning Macro on will help focus on things that are closer to the camera, great for those detail shots of your eye makeup!
The other thing you want to look for is whether the camera lens is made of acrylic or glass. Glass lenses will produce more vibrant colors, truer to what they actually are; and they also tend to make sharper images. Any camera with a Nikkor, Zeiss, or Leica lens will be made of glass.
Point and Shoot $200 – $400
The cameras in this category tend to have a slightly higher megapixel; this has to do with the resolution of the images. But don’t be fooled, camera companies would have you believe that the higher the megapixel, the better the camera and it isn’t necessarily true.
The industry right now is producing 14 -16mp (megapixel) cameras which sounds awesome, but are you going to be printing a 24×36 size photos? The digital age has changed the face of photography. Most people are only going to post their images on the web however; you will be able to tell the difference in the clarity.
Subcompacts $400 – $600
Subcompacts are great because they are perfect for the person not wanting to jump into a dSLR, but still want a great quality image. They offer larger optical zooms, so you can get in really close to an object while keeping your distance (like at the zoo or sports events). Plus their macro capabilities are superior to the standard point and shoot cameras.
The subcompacts will do better in low light situations, which are good for when you can’t take your makeup photos outside. They offer larger screen size for easier viewing and are a little easier to handle since they are bigger. The obvious down fall to these, is that you can’t just toss them in your purse and go like the point and shoot cameras. Another great thing about the subcompacts is you do have more control over your camera settings and exposure. They offer things like aperture priority, shutter priority and manual. That all sounds really confusing so let’s break it down.
- Aperture Mode – Put most simply, aperture is the size of the opening in the lens when a picture is taken. Aperture mode often has the symbol of the “A” or “Av” to indicate that is has been selected. In this mode you set the aperture that you wish to use and the camera makes a decision about what shutter speed is appropriate in the conditions that you’re shooting in. For example, if you want to take a shot of your face and make the rest of the background blurred for effect then you would choose a larger aperture.
- Shutter Priority – Often has the symbol of “Tv” or “S”. In this mode you choose the shutter speed that you wish to shoot at and let the camera make a decision about what aperture to select to give a well exposed shot. People generally use this mode when they want to more control over a moving subject.
- Manual Mode – In this mode you have full control over you camera. It will give you flexibility to set up your shots as you wish, but you need to think about all your settings such as shutter speed, white balance, flash, etc…It is recommended to most digital camera owners that they stick with one of the priority modes to make things easier.
A dSLR, or digital single-lens reflex, is going to produce the most accurate image possible, however there is a bit of a learning curve to them. The great thing about dSLR’s is they offer interchangeable lenses which allow you to choose the best lens for what you’re photographing. The only downfall to this is that the lenses add up really fast and it is a more costly option.
Another good thing is you can choose where the camera focuses which makes it easier to photograph a certain area of your look. Speed is another factor when looking at these. The first aspect of speed is the focusing. A dSLR camera will focus on the subject faster than a compact digital camera. Also, there is the frame rate. Frame rate is the number of frames per second a camera can take.
Another element of speed is how long it takes to turn the camera on. With a dSLR camera the instant you turn the switch to “on”, it’s on. No whirling motor or waiting for a lens to extend. The final note on speed is with the zoom. If you have ever turned on a compact camera you have obviously heard the motor spinning around and saw the lens slowly extend. The dSLR camera doesn’t work this way. You zoom the by turning the lens barrel. With this type of manual zooming it makes it easier to adjust the zoom in or out just a little by a slight turn of the lens.
You can buy an external flash with these cameras and bounce the light off the ceiling or the wall to give you more even light across your face. When a flash has bounce, it simply means that you can angle the flash head so that it doesn’t point straight all the time. Bouncing flash produces softer more diffuse light than straight on light. An external lens will also help reduce the effect of red eye. Since an external lens sits well above the lens, red eye in your photos will be significantly reduced.
So don’t let buying process intimidate you. Always ask for help. Tell the sales person what you plan to use your camera for and let them assist you. Have fun and shop around, compare prices, look for sales and do your homework. Regardless of which camera you choose, remember, the most important thing to taking a good picture is confidence. Smile from the inside and you will make others smile as well.