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Tips For Taking The Best Photos Of Your Nails, Ever

Tips For Taking The Best Photos Of Your Nails, Ever


By James

Up your chances of being featured in Nail It!, increase your number of followers, and generally impress everyone, just by doing one thing: take the best photos, ever. The most talented at-home nail art photographers shared their tips, and there’s a few in there you may not have known! Plus, which cuticle creams is everyone using? 

One Nail To Rule Them All Heart Nails

Alice of One Nail To Rule Them All

Camera? I currently use a Canon Powershot A640 to take my photos, it’s quite an old camera but it does the trick!

Pro Tip: Just before I take a photo I use baby wipes to moisten any dry bits on my hands so they don’t look as apparent in photos

Camera Settings: My flash and macro are permanently on.

I use a homemade light-box. It’s a cardboard box with a hole to put my hand through at the front, and a hole to fit my camera at the top. It’s lined with tin foil, and when the flash goes off it creates the effect of natural light.

Make your nails the focus. A good camera is important, and close up shots. People don’t want to see a blurry picture of nails from half a foot away 

Chalkboard Nails Hearts Tutorial

Sarah Waite of Chalkboard Nails

Camera? I use a point-and-shoot Canon S90. I’ve actually tried shooting with a DSLR but found it way too bulky to use in my workflow. I like the S90 because it has the capability to shoot in RAW format, giving me better control over things like color balance in my final image.

Keep hands smooth. I am a huge fan of Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream. I use that stuff daily — it’s not too greasy but it does a great job of moisturizing. I also like CND Almond Soothing Creme to keep my skin soft and smooth.

Use the macro setting. My routine is a little unique in that I don’t bother to color balance in my camera. I do all of those edits on the computer, as it allows me to get super specific and make tiny tweaks where needed. I do always make sure to shoot with macro mode (usually depicted by a flower icon) turned on though, to capture all of the tiny pieces of glitter or details in my nail art.

Don’t forget the lightbox! I couldn’t live without my lightbox! I use a DIY version that I have written a tutorial forhere.

Step back a little. You don’t have to get it exactly right in-camera. Don’t be afraid to shoot out a little further and then crop in the photos later on the computer. I find that shooting out further gives me better results with macro focusing.

Kelsie's Nail Files

Kelsie of Kelsie’s Nail Files

Camera? I use an Olympus PEN E-PM1 camera with a 14-42mm lens.

Preferred setting: I take photos of my nails on the macro, pre-set SCN setting.

Light is essential. Typically I try to photograph in natural lighting through a window, but if it’s dark outside I just turn on my camera’s flash and photograph my nails under “white-light” (either fluorescent or regular light bulbs). I used to use a homemade lightbox but I haven’t since my cat destroyed it. My camera has an ISO 12,800 so it’s great in low-lighting as well. It has a fast shutter speed so it takes excellent photos even if I’m a little shaky.

Position your hand. For new nail bloggers or nail artists looking to photograph their manicures, I suggest playing around with different “poses” to find what’s comfortable for you, and always make sure every nail is in focus.

Don’t skimp. Take lots of pictures and sort through them on your computer where you can see them all enlarged, it’s better to delete a ton than not have enough good ones to use.


Hannia of Instagram @polishcandies

Camera? I use the Nikon P310, it is a great camera and it’s not expensive!

For soft cuticles: Lush Lemony Flutter and Neutrogena Norwegian Formula, which I always keep in my purse.

A certain slant of light. I take the pictures outside, and not in direct sunlight.

Preferred settings: Mostly I just select “auto” and “macro” because with this camera the “auto-macro” works great. But when I use the manual mode I set the shutter speed high (1/500 or 1/600) and a small aperture (f/2.5 or f/2.8); a small aperture allows more light into the lens.

All eyes on cuticles: And finally, always, always, always clean your cuticles with a brush dipped in acetone, because the greatest design can be overshadowed by nail polish in your cuticles!

Ailee and Cici of Daily Charme

Camera? Most of the photos you see on our Instagram or blog are actually taken with a cellphone camera. These days the camera on a smart phone is actually really decent as long as you have good lighting. We also occasionally use a point and shoot if the photos are going to be printed.
Don’t have dry cuticles. We try to keep some type of cuticle moisturizer around us at all times. Our favorite would probably be OPI Avoplex Cuticle Oil To Go. It’s kind of like a gel consistency so it stays on the cuticle, and the applicator brush keeps fingertips grease free and our keyboards clean.

Use a good light indoors. Because of our work schedule, photographing under natural daylight is only really limited to weekends and holidays. We now use daylight lamps so we can photograph anytime and still have great lighting.

That macro lens. Both of our cellphone cameras actually work great with taking photos up close, but for really close up details we use a clip on macro lens attachment.

Don’t cut corners with lighting. Good lighting is probably one of the most important components in producing a great photo. Invest in some good daylight lamps if you plan to photograph indoors. Also, too much glare/reflection, especially on glossy nails could be a distraction to your design.

Photoshop it out. Small imperfections tend to be magnified in a photo so do you best to clean up around your nails and trim any hang nails before taking the picture. Also having a photo editing software (such as Photoshop) is rather handy when you need to make small adjustments.


Megan SnowGlobeNails

Megan of Instagram @snowglobenails

Camera? A Nikon D800e. I’m lucky that my husband is a photographer so he helps out a lot in that department.

Hydration, hydration, hydration. I always use Lush Lemony Flutter for my cuticles. It’s honestly the best product I have ever used. It smells amazing, is all natural and I love that it’s cruelty free. I also try to apply moisturizer a few times during the day to keep my hands soft. My favorite is The Body Shop Hemp Hand Protector.

Keep an eye on color. Professional photos are taken inside. Sometimes the harsh sunlight outside can alter the polish colors. It’s important to me to keep the colors accurate, because after all, I’m advertising their products.

Pro pictures. I used to use a small soft lightbox but now use a studio flash with a diffuser box. It’s easier to control the light, which eliminates shadows, while giving my nails a softer light, rather than harsh shadows from a normal camera flash.

Let your hands sit naturally. Don’t scrunch your fingers up like claws or have your fingers too spaced apart. Keep it soft and elegant.

Keep it clean. Right before each shoot I wash my hands thoroughly to get rid of any dirt or lint on my nails that might distract from the picture. It’s also softens up any dry skin around the cuticles so your nails look soft, clean and beautiful.


Mucking Fusser Nail Camera Tips

Corynn of Mucking Fusser

Camera? For the past year of doing nail art, I have perfected the use of my iPhone 4S camera. I use the HDR setting and then crop my photos to the desired square look.

Secrets for soft hands: Lately my hand care has consisted of Lush Lemony Flutter, Juleps cuticle oil and hand scrub and this awesome lotion my mom got me from Hawaii. After finishing my nails I let them soak in cuticle oil and lotion them up. Then I wash them and let them dry before taking my photos.

There’s no replacement for natural lighting. Most of my photos are taken inside, but when I get the chance and the weather is right for what I’m wearing I use the outside to my advantage. The outside light is your best lightbox.

The dish on lightboxes: I have a lightbox from Amazon, which I use for select colors that aren’t showing up in my usual setting. When I’m not taking photos outside,  I use two desk lamps. One is LED from Costco and the other which has an Ottlite bulb. This combination allows me to capture many types of polishes. As a background, I place a piece of computer paper behind my nails, nothing fancy, right?!

Pro tip: Take as many photos as you can when you finish your nails. This will let you have a wide variety of photos to choose from and eventually you won’t have to take as many because you will have perfected that one look you love so much. Also you have deserved it as you worked hard on your lovely nails.

Keep it simple. Make sure your background is free of clutter you want the nails to be the focus of the photo.

Chelsea King Camera Tips

Chelsea King of Chelsea Queen

Watch Chelsea’s run through of everything you must know before taking nail photos here.


[Cover image: iStock; nail images from respective bloggers/artists]