Previews / Randomly Beauty Related

Currently Testing (& A Few Notes on Product Photography)

full disclosure press sample disclaimer


Featuring a few things currently hanging out on my vanity, probably feeling squished what with the mountain of perfumes and candles and general paraphernalia I’ve got stacked on one teeny surface. Thought I’d share some of my first impressions before I dive into the formal rambles reviews.

Elie Saab Le Parfum EDT Purse Spray

The EDP has gotten too heavy to wear in this ridiculous heat (the last time I climbed into my car, it was 113 degrees and I felt like I was sitting in a mobile oven), but the EDT is just right. The packaging is the coolest thing ever too; you twist the cap and out pops the sprayer! It’s a conversation piece if I ever saw one. Haven’t worn the scent more than once so far, but it seems to be a toned-down version of the original, with a fresher, cleaner profile.


May Lindstrom Skincare

I was positively beside myself with glee when I received a box from the lovely May Lindstrom the other day. If you’ve purchased anything from the line before, then you know what I mean. The care that goes into the packaging and wrapping is just incredible, and inspired me to get fancier than usual with my product shoot. I’ve yet to test the magical powers of The Clean Dirt, but I slathered myself with The Good Stuff pre-Tolkien time last night and it was…beautiful. I’d been expecting a formula along the lines of Rodin Olio Lusso, but what came out was bronzy and twinkling, like a galaxy in liquid form. I don’t think I’ve been this pleased with sparkles since I first beheld a Christmas tree.

*Update: Tried it again, and it’s actually more like an olive-oil colored carrier with drops of sparkly balsamic vinegar…try to imagine that if you will.


Salvatore Ferragamo Acqua Essenziale

You would think my guy friends would be more eager to claim free product, but no dice. Still in the process of finding a guinea pig for this one, although who knows? I might just end up keeping it for myself. Sniffed the bottle briefly today, and it smells like boy. Expensive boy.


Senna Summer 2013 SunGlow Collection

Senna’s Summer collection, which I’m still in the process of photographing, comprises two separate looks. There’s Bronzelite, featuring all the usual suspects to give you sun-kissed skin and eyes. Then there’s Emerald Isle, which I’m so glad someone finally decided to do…all that bronze and gold does get a bit repetitive after awhile. First of all, there’s an orangey-red lip lacquer paired with a green eyeshadow. I know it sounds like the tackiest Christmas in July pairing, but the result is so resort-chic. From the looks of things, it’s shaping up to be an excellent summer.

While I’m on the topic of shooting product, I thought I’d talk a little bit about some of the things I’ve learned over the course of many shoot sessions for the blog. A lot of these tips and ‘rules’ may be specific to my preferences and personal aesthetic, but I do think they’re worth putting out there. Everyone has their own style when it comes to photography, so take what’s applicable to you and feel free to leave the rest. And of course, I owe all this knowledge to my brilliant high school photography teacher, whose advice has proved invaluable, and not just where cameras are concerned.

  1. There is no shot like a night shot — There are many bloggers who seem to have the daylight shot down. I am not one of them. For product, I prefer to shoot at night with an artificial light source. It lets me capture much cleaner, sharper lines than the diffused light I get during the day. For example, the Infallible shadow on the left was shot in natural light, while the one on the left was shot at night (in a freshman dorm room, mind you). Note how in the latter, I was able to define every single edge of the lucite because I had greater control over exactly where the light hit.


2. Let there be (one) light — In general, if you get the perfect lighting you’re well on your way to a perfect shot, regardless of your camera. It takes me quite some time to produce a handful of images because I’ll spend ages moving my product around and fiddling with lighting before snapping each picture. This process is a whole lot easier with a single light source. I’ve seen many bloggers shoot with two lights and produce a beautiful image. But for me, two lights is one too many. One light source means more control. If I need to bring more light to the opposite side of a product, I use white paper or mirrors to reflect my original light source. Likewise, if I need to darken a certain area of a product, I use black paper (although I’ve gotten far too lazy for this step lately).

3. DIY it — If you’ve got some spare time on your hands, this doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby. There are tons of great make-it-yourself tutorials on everything from lightboxes to diffusers. I’ve even seen DIY ringlights, if you’re feeling particularly ambitious. My shoot space might be on the verge of falling apart because of my less-than-perfect building skills, but hey, that’s what duct tape is for.

Which products have you been loving lately? Do you shoot during the day or at night? Any tips & tricks to share?


Full Disclosure: The items featured in this post were provided for editorial consideration and review. All opinions are my own. For more information, please see my disclaimer.

24 thoughts on “Currently Testing (& A Few Notes on Product Photography)

  1. I’ve really only just started blogging on beauty and it has coincided with a period where I don’t have access to my DSLR — fun! But it’s forced me to be slightly more creative about things, and I have a lot to learn re: product shots as it’s not a style I’ve had to shoot before. In terms of “normal” photography I favour natural light — love golden hour especially! — but product photography is a whole other beast…

    • It’s so different from other styles of photography, although I have seen bloggers who are able to produce the loveliest ‘golden hour’ makeup photos. That’s a very different style than the controlled studio setting I prefer, though. It just takes some practice, and the nice thing is that you have all night to get it right! Don’t have to wait around for the perfect lighting.

  2. I can’t wait for your review of May Lindstrom Skincare. It sounds intriguing.

    And I’m such a bad photographer! I really admire those who can take stunning photos. I struggle to get a decent one. Luckily, my bf is a budding photographer with a DSLR, so he takes most of the photos for my blog. He’s been giving me tips, but so far, not to much avail.

    • It’s a very unique take on luxury skincare, and I think I much prefer this to the *here are all the scientific ingredients we jammed into this one product* approach.

      Honestly, it’s mainly a ton of trial & error, and getting to understand how light interacts with a small object. I think that’s the most important thing, is to play around with lighting until you find the setup that works best for you.

    • So sweet of you Geekz, thank you! I use a 250 watt bulb, you can get them at photo stores. They’re super cheap, like 5-10 bucks I think? I paid $5 for my last one. That was over a year ago, and it’s still going strong. Will see what I can do about a more comprehensive setup post, didn’t realize you guys would want to know more haha 🙂

  3. I love your pictures, MM and I’m always impressed with anyone who is willing and able to do a whole set up with props for a product shoot. I don’t have that sort of patience or time (or vision) so I usually do straight up photos against my background du jour, usually in the day although I’ve been experimenting with some night shots for fun and with a diffused flash. Seems to be filling in that gap for when I don’t have the time to shoot in the day. I suppose its a personal thing because I love looking at photos that look like they belong in a mag, but I dislike shooting them, preferring to have that bit of inelegance that comes from being an amateur. Just me and my quirks! 🙂

    • Thanks Paris, but I am definitely an amateur! I break a lot of the rules that professional product photographers follow, but I’ve found a good in-between that works for me. And I really like your photos by the way. For some reason, when I try to take a completely relaxed approach, it just doesn’t work out.

  4. Lights are the most important. I use my bathtub to shoot at night (I’ll give you my link on twitter if you want) and those are the crisper photos you see with clean white background. Lately though, I’ve been taking photos in the day. Definitely not as sharp but it breaks the monotony 🙂

  5. I LOVELOVELOVE your photos, MM. You should hold seminars for bloggers, in my opinion. I do shoot in the day… with artificial soft box lights, of course 🙂

  6. I’m still loving my NARS Boys Don’t Cry blush…it’s the one product that gets love over and over again from me!

    I will have to *try* and not be lazy and take your suggestions and use ’em, MM. I sometimes get lucky with a shot, but most of the time I just throw stuff together and shoot it. I’m envious of more artistic pictures that you guys can pull off but don’t have the patience/skill for them. But I bought a book on photography (back in oh, April) though I’ve hardly cracked the spine…probably should get on that LOL.

    • I can see why, it’s gorgeous on you! Honestly, right now I’ve put product photography on the back burner. No time, and a shoot like this definitely takes a lot of time haha. But it’s worth a try if you ever have a few hours to kill 😀

  7. Great tips.. and finally glad to hear that someone takes photos at night! It’ll surely be an inspiration for other bloggers to hear that you do just that, since a lot of us only have time to shoot at night. I see you use just one 250 watt bulb… is this your standard A-base, and what type of lamp do you use if I may ask?

    • It does work out really well because I’m free at night more often than I am during the day! And hahah oh dear, definitely nothing that fancy. Just bought a light socket from the hardware store, you can get a good one under $20 and then just clip it to whatever happens to be nearby. Just make sure you get one with a ceramic ring so the heat from the bulb doesn’t melt it.

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