Expert Advice: How to Take Great Nail Photos

Categories: Ask SoNailicious Expert Advice Features Nail Art

how to take nail photos

How do you take nail photos? – is the most frequently asked question I get. So I thought it’s time to share some of my photography secrets, so you too, can create amazing nail art images!

With social media and nail art industry becoming increasingly competitive, presenting your work in the best possible way is as important as the work itself. The hard truth is that no matter how beautiful your nail design is, if it’s a poorly taken photo – the chances are your work will go unnoticed. These days, it’s not enough to just be a talented nail artist, you also need to have a decent social media and photography skills to succeed.

I’ve shared plenty of tips for growing your Instagram profile and how to take great Instagram photos, so today I’m revealing my secrets for creating beautiful nail art images.

Here’s my top 7 nail art photography tips:

1. Great light is the key!

Make sure you have a good light. It’s crucial! Avoid fluoro light and bright direct sunlight because it will result in harsh shadows that highlight imperfections and wrinkles. If you’re taking photos in natural light, it’s better to do it in the shade where the light is more diffuse.

If you’re taking photos indoors without natural light use bright white lights. Even better if lights come with a filter and dimmer. At the moment, I use this Aurora ring light but before that I used professional studio lights. Pro lights are cheaper, but ring light is better on so many levels – more beautiful photos, more functional & easier to set up.

Pro tip: Never take photos with a flash! Not your nails, not your face and not even your cat deserve that.

Pro tip 2: Invest in professional lighting equipment, like this Spectrum Aurora LED Ring light kit. This ring light  helps to take seriously amazing nail photos even during night time, great for filming video tutorials, portrait photography, flatlays and of course, selfies! So you will definitely use your Aurora light often. Plus, it’s portable and in fact, many beauty and hair salons have these ring lights for their clients to take photos ;)

how to pose for photos2. Great composition

Put some thought into your composition to make that nail design stand out. The easiest way to get your composition right is to place your hand right in the center of the photo so that the focus center falls on the middle finger nail. However, photos can become more interesting if you follow the “rule of thirds” and place your main subject, i.e. nail, in the lower right or left corner. Example, photo below!

Pro tip: To find that perfect composition, use the lines on the screen when you open up the camera. These lines divide the screen into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Easy!

how to edit photos in photoshop

3. Strike the pose

‘The claw’ (but a nice, ‘gentle’ version of it) or ‘nail polish bottle grab’ looks are best. A straight hand will emphasize wrinkles and draw focus away from the nails.

Pro tip: Try a few different poses and take photos of each until you find your perfect signature pose that highlights your nail art and nothing else.

Photo below: camera usually goes in the middle of the light ring and the papers are attached to the wall. I take the photos with remote control.

how to take nail photos

4. Edit like a boss

Whether you take photos with an iPhone, compact digital or DSLR, editing can make your photos look so much better. It doesn’t need to be some extensive manipulations, often all you need is to adjust exposure, brightness and saturation. If required, you can adjust colour balance to make the colours more accurate.

Pro tip: Watch Photoshop tutorials on YouTube or take a course to take your editing skills to the next level. If you’re using mostly your smartphone – download free Photoshop app to edit your photos on the go.

Pro tip 2: The new Google Pixel 3 has inbuilt mind-blowing automatic photo-editing and skin-perfecting functions, and zero distortion lens! How awesome is that? I’m seriously considering ditching my iPhone for good.


5. Invest in great equipment

If you really want to take your photos to the next level, invest in a DSLR camera. For the last 7 years I’ve been using Canon EOS 600D – an affordable professional photo camera. Unfortunately, 600D has been discontinued, so I’d recommend any of the Canon cameras, just pick the one that suits your budget. Usually it comes with a standard lens, but if you feel like it (especially if you like holo!) also invest in a great macro lens.

Pro tip: if you’re on budget, the absolute must-haves would be a decent DSLR camera and great lighting kit. Because they will last for years and make your job so much easier! In fact, you will use both the light and the camera for many other occasions than just nail photos, i.e. traveling, videos, parties – you name it!

Pro tip 2: If you can’t afford DSLR camera, you can take great photos on your smartphone if you have great light. However, even though modern smartphones take amazing photos there is still a noticeable difference in quality. For example, see below – 2 photos taken at the same time in the same conditions using different cameras.

best ring light for selfiesPhoto above: taken with Canon 600D, colours adjusted.

taking selfies with google pixel 3Photo above: taken on Google Pixel, no filters, no colour adjustments.

6. Set up a special space for your nail photos

I have a special space set up in SoNailicious HQ. I take all photos in front of the window to get plenty of natural light. And if there’s no natural light, I use Aurora lights. For backgrounds I use my clothes or colored paper from a craft store. Easy!

Pro tip: if you don’t have much space to set up a special nail photo area, simply use the same spot on your table and keep all your photo equipment, lights and props in the same spot to make it easy to take photos on the go.

how to take nail art photos

7. Practice makes it perfect!

Yes, this general rule applies to nail art photography too. See that photo above? If I did not tell you that the photo dated 2011 (below) belongs to me, would you even believe that it’s my work? There’s always some room for improvement, even if you feel like you’re already doing your best.

Pro tip: create an inspiration board on Pinterest and collect all images that you like, then when taking your photos try to achieve the same quality and style as you ‘idols’. You don’t need to copy anyone but most certainly you can be inspired and set your standards as high as you like!

     nail art images

Now, over to you!

What’s your best tips and tricks for taking nail photos? How do you make your nail art images look beautiful?

Come on, share your secrets in the comments below!

– Maria, xx

P.S. If you have any other questions about nail photography, nail art or nail artist career, simply ask in the comments below and I’ll respond! I might even put together a detailed post like this one to answer your question.


Did you like this post? Let’s stay in touch!
Subscribe to our Newsletter or follow us via Bloglovin for daily updates.

Tags: , ,


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *