Macro Beauty For Makeup, Cosmetics and Skincare Photography: Gear & Lighting

You can find the next part of this article here: Macro Beauty for Makeup, Cosmetics and Skincare Photography: Preparation & Camera Settings.

I have been enjoying looking through closeup creative makeup shots for quite some time now and started trying my hand in this type of photography a few months ago.

After many attempts I think I can now see what elements of preparation, gear, team and retouching can actually make a difference and lead to more impressive results.

I’m happy to share my observations and will begin with my gear:


There is a good reason for every item in this list and while everything can be replaced with something else, I’ll explain why I stick with these particular choices.


You can shoot with any other full-frame DSLR, but my reasoning for getting the new 50.6 Megapixel Canon 5Ds is simple: a) I am interested in shooting macro beauty, and I want to have large images even when I have to crop in, b) it’s an investment and a business expense, and it is still much more affordable than a medium format camera.

Overall, I have been blown away by the size and quality of my files, but, of course, the lens has a lot to do with that too.


I purchased my Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro for $500 in 2013 and I have been using it in 99,9% of all of my shoots: portrait, beauty, headshots and macro. However, my first interaction with a 100mm Macro lens was with its more expensive sibling Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens. Since then I have had a few opportunities to compare the images photographed on both and I don’t see any reason why a studio beauty photographer would want a lens with Image Stabilizer that doubles the price.

My less expensive Canon 100mm Macro lens is amazingly sharp and if you’re interested in shooting beauty, portraits or macro in studio, I cannot recommend it highly enough!



Honestly, I am one of those photographers who are convinced that light is light and as long as you know how to handle it you can use any reliable strobes. Einsteins are amazing and are only half the price of, for example, Profoto D1 strobes. I have not tried using AlienBees as my main light, but I am pretty sure that I could do that without compromising the quality of my images.

Studio time 📸 #losangelesbeauty #studiobeauty #studiophotography #shooting #losangeles #goprostudiobeauty

A photo posted by Julia Kuzmenko McKim 💡 (@juliakuzmenko) on

For triggering I use a couple of PocketWizards and they are super reliable – just what a professional photographer wants. They also have a bunch of channels and can be receivers as well as transmitters, but all I actually need from them is to hang there pretty and never misfire, which they successfully deliver 🙂

Most of the time I am shooting with my silver 22″ Beauty Dish, but my Makeup Artists and I have been experimenting with liquid substances recently and for larger specular highlights – especially on metallic liquids – I started using  my large softbox. Here’s what the two light modifiers translate into in the capture:


Beauty Dish vs. Softbox. SOOC, Model: Laura of Osbrink Models, Makeup: VladaMUA, Photo: Julia Kuzmenko

Softbox will work fine for the lips, but I don’t really like angular catchlights in the eyes, so I went ahead and purchased an octabox, which I should receive this week. I’m very excited to test it at my next shoot.


Model: Braina, Makeup: VladaMUA, Photo: Julia Kuzmenko


I absolutely love love love my CamRanger.

I had tried other ways to tether before and never had it flow as smooth and fast as with the CamRanger. I have my camera set to shoot in Raw as well as medium size JPEGs, and those JPEGs get sent to my iPad Mini wirelessly almost instantly as I shoot.

My iPad is sitting on a cart, on a stool or even on the floor and my entire team can come up at any time and take a look at the images, zoom in and inspect the details, hairs and the quality of the makeup by zooming in on the face instead of peeking into my camera and distracting me and the model from shooting.

I also specifically recommend using an iPad (maybe other tablets are good too, I just don’t know), because I don’t think I’d be as comfortable allowing everyone messing with my MacBook Pro if I was shooting into it.


CamRanger + iPad Mini: Jamillette Gaxiola, Makeup by Lupe Moreno, Hair: Sabrina Burns, Photo: J.Kuzmenko

But even if you don’t plan on buying an iPad and CamRanger, make sure to look into other tethering methods, because this is one of the most important parts of a successful shoot. Once the model is ready and walks into the set, I take a couple of test shots and my creative team comes over to inspect the entire face in the capture and make sure there are no issues with the eyelashes, skin tone, makeup colors, and everything looks in the flash lights just the way the artists planned.

Once they review, fix and confirm that we’re good to go – we start shooting.


Model: Laura of Osbrink Models, Makeup: VladaMUA, Photo: Julia Kuzmenko

Next time I will share how we plan and execute our closeup creative shoots as well as what is important for a flawless capture to minimize post-production.

If you are beginning your journey into the world of Beauty Photography, check out my video course titled Go Pro: Studio Beauty where I share everything I know about lighting, executing beauty shoots and working with models.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Brandon

    Do you find that JPEG previews are too contrasty and really don’t represent the raw image well? I tether into Capture One, but on location I would like to use your iPad method.

    • Julia McKim

      No, not at all. I know that the JPEG is not an exact representation of the RAW, so is the uncalibrated iPad screen, but that’s not why I need to see the images. I’m checking the actual physical look and state of the face and how the colors translate overall under the flash lights – if the lips are too pale on the face, they will look similarly on my screen when I download the Raw files. But I don’t use the CamRanger to see the exact colors of the Raw files, that’s not the goal.

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