6 Cosmetic product photography ideas

Est. reading time: 3 - 4 minutes

If you’re looking for some fresh inspiration and new cosmetic and makeup photography ideas, look no further.

I’ve put together a list of six ideas that you can try next time you’re shooting product photographs. The best part? Most of these ideas don’t require much space and only need some basic equipment. They’re also a great way to practise and refine some important product photography skills while getting creative.

If you’re new to cosmetic product photography, you might want to take a look at these tips to start.

1. Make a simple product arrangement

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Sometimes less is more, so why not try and create a simple arrangement of cosmetic products.

For example, perhaps you want to shoot a close up of a logo embossed in lipstick or a geometric arrangement of eyeliner pencils.

Get creative with different backgrounds (why not try a mirrored surface or use a juxtaposing colour), experiment with different shooting angles and perspectives, or think about how to create a certain mood using lighting. Challenge yourself to focus just on the product and try to minimise any props or supporting items.

Simple shoots like this can be a great way to practise your product photography lighting, experiment with different composition techniques, or try out different backgrounds. All you’ll need is your product(s), a background (and maybe some simple props) and some lighting.

For more inspiration on how to get creative using minimal lighting check out my ‘One light challenge product shoot’ live show. Or, for ideas on how to get creative with easy lighting techniques, watch my ‘Lighting control’ live show.

2. Get creative with cosmetic swatches

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From fashion magazines to billboards, photographs of cosmetic swatches are everywhere.

While these eye-catching images may require some patience, they’re deceptively simple to shoot and don’t require much equipment at all. If you have one light (this could be a speedlite, studio flash or even continuous light) and a background, then you have all you need to get started.

As you’ll see in our ‘How To Create & Photograph Cosmetic Swatches’ live show, there are endless ways that you can get creative with this type of photography. Why not try creating interesting shapes with different products, or experimenting with different colour backgrounds? If you’re feeling like a bit of a challenge, you may want to try to incorporate the product in the shot for a real advertising-style image.

3. Shoot an advertising-style image to test your skills

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If you already have some experience shooting cosmetic products, why not set yourself the challenge of recreating a certain brand’s style, as I did for our ‘Clinique-style advertising shoot’ product photography class.

This is a great way to try new techniques, practise different skills and push you outside your comfort zone.

Take a look at brands such as Clinique, Estēe Lauder, Dior, Dove or Maybelline to get a feel for their imagery. Instead of using your own creative ideas, try to stick to styles and concepts used by the brand. Think about the style of their images, the lighting and the mood.

Creating mood boards and pre-visualisation sketches can be a good way to identify potential challenges and plan how you’re going to shoot the products. Using this sort of workflow will also give you a sense of what it’s like working for a client and executing their ideas.

4. Experiment with monochromatic product photography

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Colour plays an important part in photography, but instead of opting for bold, juxtaposing colours, why not try a more simple monochrome style.

Shooting monochromatic product images can be a great way to experiment with different approaches to colour and improve your understanding of how colour can impact the mood and feel of images.

You don’t need a lot to get creative with this idea. Simply experimenting with different backgrounds can completely transform an image. Why not try, for example, shooting products on textured card and then smooth matte acrylic and see the difference.

This idea will also put your lighting skills to the test; shooting monochromatic images often requires good rim lighting (particularly when shooting black products on a black background), but you can also get creative with exposure, the hardness or softness of the light, shadows and mood.

5. Create a flat lay arrangement

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Flat lay photography is a style used by many cosmetic brands, particularly for their makeup photos, and it’s an easy one to try at home.

You don’t need a lot of space or equipment (I’ve done a flat lay photoshoot using two lights), but you can get really creative experimenting with different colour and texture backgrounds and different compositions.

6. Go back to basics and shoot a white background product shot

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This might sound like a somewhat simple idea, but don’t discount the benefit of going back to the ‘basics’.

Creating white backgrounds isn’t always as easy as it may sound, so it’s a great test of your lighting skills. It’s also an opportunity to perfect your techniques for creating the clean, fresh images favoured by so many cosmetic brands.

If you’re already confident creating white backgrounds, why not take it a step further and experiment with interesting shadows, shapes and patterns.

For more photography ideas and inspiration, why not take a look at 51 of my favourite photographers. Or to learn more about product photography, check out our whole range of product photography classes.

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To learn more about cosmetics photography, make sure to take a look at some of our additional product photography classes, which you can find here. These classes cover everything from the styling to the lighting and you'll also find related post-production classes.

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