The Best Cameras and Lighting for Makeup Artists in 2021

If you’re looking for the best camera for a makeup artist, you’ve probably wondered:

How can I get clear shots to show my makeup work and create my portfolio?

Or maybe:

What cameras can take amazing upclose shots of makeup?

In this post, I am going to tell you about the cameras makeup artists use. You will also learn how they use lighting to achieve those clean images that make their job stand out and look like done by a professional photographer.

Best camera and lighting for makeup artists

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Best Cameras for Makeup Photography

Best Cameras for Makeup Video

If you need a camera mainly for video, then these are better for you:

What Kind of Camera Do I Need as a Makeup Artist?

There are four types of camera that you can use: camcorder, point & shoot, DSLR or Mirrorless. However, if you want to make your makeup photography and video look professional, you will need a DSLR or Mirrorless.

There are different reasons why:

Point & shoot are really bad in low-light situations and won’t allow you to take full control of the video or picture you’re taking.

They generally don’t offer as much high-quality shooting as a DSLR because their sensor is tiny in comparison to a DSLR or mirrorless.

DSLRs and mirrorless have what every makeup artist needs to get high-quality pictures and videos.

Why?

  • Better colors and image details thanks to a larger and higher quality sensor
  • They are highly adaptable thanks to interchangeable lenses and manual settings (especially for white balance and exposure)

As a makeup artist, you want high-quality images, perfect white balance, and good lighting.

The first two are achievable with a good DSLR or mirrorless camera.

APS-C or Full-Frame for Makeup Artists?

Mirrorless and DSLR cameras can come in three sensor sizes: Micro 4/3, APS-C, and Full-Frame. For makeup, you want to stick to APS-C or Full-Frame.

As a makeup artist, you want the largest sensor that you can afford. Full-frame are the larger sensor, and they will give you all these benefits:

  • They require less light, so you’ll get higher-quality images.
  • The blurred background effect (Bokeh) will be more intense.
  • The camera can be much closer to the subject because the frame is larger—it doesn’t look as zoomed in.

They do come with two main disadvantages: they’re more expensive, and heavier.

APS-Cs are still a good choice for makeup artists. In fact, it’s what I recommend if you’re new to this type of photography. They’re more beginner-friendly, and they’re still large sensors that deliver high-quality images.

Best 5 Cameras for Makeup Photography

Let’s start with the best ones for photography, and then we’ll talk about the best choices for makeup video.

1. Sony Alpha 7R IV 

The Good

  • Amazing image detail (61PM)
  • Stunning Bokeh effect

The Bad

  • Expensive
  • No flip screen
  • Heavier than most Mirrorless cameras

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The Sony Alpha 7R IV is an amazing camera that features a full-frame sensor and a BIONZ X Image Processor. Thanks to its record-breaking 61MP, it captures extremely high-quality images and it’s perfect for makeup photography.

Remember that one of the great advantages of full-frame sensor cameras is the intense Bokeh —or blurred background— effect you can get. It will help you your photography stand out by making it look so much sharper.

It also does an incredible job when it comes to capturing low-light images. For makeup, you can use a telephoto lens, like the Sony 90mm Macro lens, and you can get a truly outstanding portrait. 

Besides, it provides dual memory card slots to ensure that you have enough space to capture enough pictures per work session. 

However, as each image captured will have a huge file size, you will require a fast computer. This is a great camera, and probably the best for photography this year, but it might be too much to use to its full potential for a newbie. If you’re just starting you might want to try an APS-C sensor camera instead.

2. Fujifilm X-T4

The Good

  • Great color quality
  • Tons of useful features
  • Internal stabilization

The Bad

  • Little improvements over the X-T3

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The Fujifilm X-T4 is a high-end photo camera that offers in-body stabilization, improved autofocus, a larger battery, and fast shooting.

But what makes the X-T4 shine is its capacity to do both photography and video pretty well.

It features a fully articulated touchscreen, unlike the Sony Alpha 7R IV. It also has an external mic port but lacks a headphone port, which is a shame because it won’t allow you to check audio in a reliable way. But the camera can capture up to 500 shots with a single charge, which is pretty good for a mirrorless.

It doesn’t have anywhere close to the impressive 61MPs present on the a7R IV, but its 26.1MP is enough to give you high-quality images that you can use for most makeup work.

Although it is not exactly an affordable camera, it is still not as expensive as other high-end photo cameras. Its refined body is really comfortable to hold and allows you to take control of the photoshoot.

3. Nikon Z5

The Good

  • Great color quality
  • Stunning Bokeh effect
  • Tons of useful features
  • Internal stabilization

The Bad

  • No flip screen
  • Heavier than most Mirrorless cameras

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The Nikon Z5 is a great camera. It provides great value to those in need of a camera for makeup photography. 

In comparison to other cameras in the market, it is a more full affordable full-frame option. 

It offers the same rugged feel as any other Z-mount camera. You will have no trouble handling the camera as it features a beginner-friendly design, which means that half of the buttons and dials have been removed. 

In its essence, the Nikon Z5 delivers quality and a comfortable grip. You will notice that it doesn’t have fast shooting, so if you shoot a lot of high-speed action, you would need to search elsewhere. But, as a makeup photographer, it provides all the basic features you would need. 

4. Fujifilm X-T30

The Good

  • Great color quality
  • Affordable
  • Similar in a lot of ways to the more expensive X-T4

The Bad

  • No image stabilization

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The Fujifilm X-T30 is possibly one of the cheapest professional photography cameras out there. It has done pretty well in terms of performance, image quality, and build. 

There is a lot to love about the camera, such as its powerful and effective autofocus, crisp image processing, 4K shots, 100% phase detect AF coverage, traditional exposure controls, and overall great value for money. 

However, its placement of the Q button can be frustrating. It is also worth mentioning that it does not provide in-body stabilization. 

As for its battery life, it is not the best. The fact that you will need to charge the camera frequently can be difficult to deal with. Besides this, you will find its grip for larger lenses to be difficult. 

Since makeup photographers only require basic capabilities, they will be satisfied with the camera. But, you cannot expect more from the camera, especially considering the price tag. 

5. Nikon D3500

The Good

  • Great color quality
  • Affordable

The Bad

  • No image stabilization

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The Nikon D3500 is an entry-level photography camera that most people can purchase due to its low price. It is a budget camera that is quite decent. I recommend most people start their makeup photography career with this affordable camera and improve their expertise. 

It can be best described as a small, light—for a DSLR—, and capable camera that ticks many boxes. Since it’s a DSLR, it is important to note that it is not as luggable as most mirrorless cameras. 

As for continuous autofocus, it is not as speedy, which means that capturing moving subjects will be tough. But, it does boast an improved image sensor that delivers outstanding image quality for the price. Keep in mind that it does not offer mic input, and the fixed LCD omits touch support. 

Best 5 Cameras for Makeup Video

1. Sony A7S III

sony a7rii, the best vlogging camera for youtube in 2016

The Good

  • Amazing for low light (Full-frame sensor)
  • Stunning 4k video at 120p
  • Great image stabilization
  • External mic input and flip screen

The Bad

  • Expensive
  • Heavier than most Mirrorless cameras

Check on Amazon

The Sony A7S III is the perfect camera for capturing makeup videos. You can use it to make makeup vlogs. However, the Sony A7S III is anything but entry-level. It delivers an incredible dynamic range thanks to its full-frame sensor, and has really smooth and fast autofocus.

It can record sharp footage at 4Kp60, or ultra-fast 1080p slow-motion. Handling the camera is easy as it provides great grip. 

The camera can use up to two batteries which means that you get to double its life. Some of its cons include a dense menu system, lack of PC sync socket, and buffering when starting videos.

This is a camera made for professional filmmakers, so, like the A7R IV for photography, it can be too much for newbies. If you don’t have a lot of experience handling cameras, you might want to start with something simpler.

2. Sony Alpha A6400

The Good

  • Top 4k quality
  • APS-C sensor
  • Mic jack, IS, hot shoe
  • Small and lightweight

The Bad

  • No in-body stabilization

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The Sony Alpha A6400 is an affordable camera that makeup videographers can use to capture vlogs. Although it is not the flashiest camera in the market, it delivers a solid balance in terms of image quality and size. 

The camera inherits plenty of features from its more expensive siblings. It offers wireless connectivity. In fact, Apple and Android users can even pair their phone to the camera using the Sony Play Memories Mobile app. 

The Sony Alpha A6400 boasts fancy new autofocus that does a great job when it comes to capturing fast action. Its Selfie LCD, accurate autofocus, and 4K videos will ensure that you are able to make makeup tutorials. Besides, you will find its compact build to be just what you need.  However, its lack of in-body image stabilization may deter one from making a purchase. It’s not the end of the world because you can always get a lens with stabilization, but know that it will be better paired with a gimbal.

3. Nikon Z50

The Good

  • Mic jack, IS, hot shoe
  • Small and lightweight
  • Good for both photos and videos
  • Flip screen

The Bad

  • No in-body stabilization

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The Nikon Z50 is a great camera for videographers. Although most people that it would prove to be a successor to the D500, it failed to do so. The reason for this is that the camera is not for everyone. It was created to target the vlogger market. 

The best thing about the camera is that it offers the best ergonomics and weather sealing. Its touchscreen interface is pretty decent. 

You will find its image quality to be nice as well. It offers outstanding ISO performance and battery life. 

As for its autofocus, it also does a great job keeping your face focused all the time. Besides, its clean menu system makes it easy to use. 

However, the Z mount can seem huge for the size of the camera. Besides this, the touchscreen does not fully articulate. It also only has a single UHS-1 card slot which affects performance. But for the price it asks, it’s a really fair exchange and worth every penny.

4. Canon EOS M50 Mark II

The Good

  • 4k recording
  • Latest vlog camera
  • DSLR-Size sensor in a small size
  • Lots of vlog-friendly features

The Bad

  • Cropped 4k recording
  • Relatively short battery life

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Available for a modest price, the Canon EOS M50 Mark II is a great camera that has made minor updates since the launch of its predecessor. 

This entry-level mirrorless camera is an appealing choice for videographers and photographers alike. If you want to move beyond recording videos using a smartphone, it might be just the camera for you. 

Its complementary compact lens system and front-facing touch screen will prove useful for recording vlogs. However, you should not expect many updates as it is quite similar to the first model as the same 24MP image sensor and image processor are used. 

The only update is the autofocus system. Most people are drawn to its lightweight build, wide focus coverage, integrated eye-level EVD, and external microphone. However, I wouldn’t use it in 4k mode because it adds a hefty crop that will make your frame really small, so you should take it as a 1080p camera. 

Other cons include a small burst capture buffer, lack of support for USB charging, and short battery life. If you don’t care about 4k and want a small camera with good performance in low light, it’s a good first mirrorless that you can even use for vlogging.

5. Canon EOS Rebel SL3

The Good

  • Really light for a DSLR
  • Good for low light and Bokeh effect (APS-C Sensor)
  • Hot-shoe, mic. port and flip screen

The Bad

  • No image stabilization

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The Canon Eos Rebel SL3 is possibly the smallest SLR in the market. 

It is the perfect option for beginners to videography or photography. It has a useful guide mode that will help you master the basics of videography. Besides this, it can also be fun to use and is rather comfortable to hold. 

As for its optical viewfinder, it is small yet flexible and delivers quality images. 

If you are looking for a videography camera that offers good value for money, you will find the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 more than enough. It features a modern image processor which processes pictures quickly. 

The camera also supports 4K video, but it adds a crop similar to the M50. So do not buy it for its 4k capacities. However, it does an incredible job in the battery department and is relatively easy to use. 

However, it does not provide in-body image stabilization and is not compatible with a third-party flash unit. But, it is the right option for those on a tight budget. 

Best Lens for Makeup Photography and Video

The best for most makeup artists: 50mm f/1.4 prime lens

With a mirrorless or DSLR and a 50mm prime lens, you will have exactly what you need as a makeup artist. These lenses will NOT cause Perspective Distortion, like wide-angle lenses do:

Perspective Distortion example from the one and only James Charles

Anything below 50mm is considered wide-angle, so you want to try to avoid them.

This is really important for your work. You want your model to look as natural as possible. Using a wide-angle lens can make people think your model’s face looks weird, and it won’t be your fault, but they might think it’s because of your makeup.

I recommend buying only the camera body and get a good fixed lens from the beginning, you can find f/1.8 and f/1.4 50mm fixed lenses for any brand These are the ones I like to tell people to get.

Here are the best 50mm lenses for each brand:

f you’re wondering about their differences, the lower the f-number is, the better the quality. As the number gets lower, they capture more lighting and the blurred background effect (Bokeh) gets more intense.

Like always, there are exceptions to the rules. It might not be the best for some people. With these lenses, the camera needs to be slightly away from the subject because they do have a considerable zoom.

This means that you can’t record yourself in selfie mode with a 50mm lens, it will be too close to your face. You’ll most likely need to use a tripod if you’re recording or photographing yourself.

Pro tip: if you get a full-frame camera, you can use a 50mm lens and get closer to the camera. This is another reason why I love full-frame sensors for makeup.

If the option is available, don’t buy the starting lens kit. Sometimes the camera is not available without it or it costs the same with it. You should check if the starting zoom lens kit costs the same as the body-only version before buying.

You will want a fixed lens for the improved quality, their higher sensibility to light, better details, and total lack of face deformation —if it’s a 50mm or higher lens. You will only sacrifice having the ability to zoom in and out, which is something I don’t think you should need for makeup.

This is what you should know about your camera lens. Now, there is another factor that is even more important for makeup work…

Best Lighting for Makeup Artists: The Secret of REALLY Good Makeup Photography and Video

Listen to this:

Choosing the best camera for your work as a makeup artists is a good step, but when it comes to this kind of photography and video, lighting should be your first concern.

Lighting will make a bigger impact in your makeup images anyways, so you want to save some bucks for the lighting kit.

After all, you want to make your work look professional, sharp and highly-detailed. This is simply not possible without proper lighting.

I know what you’re thinking:

“But I don’t know anything about lighting! Hell, I barely know what a DSLR is, how am I going to achieve good images?”

Don’t worry, it is really simple; most makeup YouTubers do it, and they generally don’t start with a lot of knowledge about photography.

Here is the basic equipment you will need to achieve professional-level makeup artist lighting.

Ring Lights

The main light you will need has to be uniform. Ring lights are really versatile and work for every kind of photography, but they’re especially useful for beauty photography. Probably, the best makeup lighting you can get is a ring light.

You don’t want any shadow to get in the way of your subject’s face. You also want to create specular highlight, which is the unlocking of certain details that are only reachable when using a proper flash on the subject’s skin. It also creates a natural-looking diffused light.

Another great thing is that it adds a bright ring to your subject’s eyes. This gives them a special effect that catches a lot of attention.

Using ring light for makeup is the secret
Photo by thematthewknot. Copyright is his. License.

A 16″ or 18″ ring light is what can give you the most diffused, natural look.

The larger the light source is, the more it resembles natural lighting (after all, the sun is quite large).

The larger ring also gives you enough space to set a camera or smartphone inside the ring.

Ring lights come in all sizes. If you want a deep guide on which one to get, check out our ring light top list.

Fill Light for Background Shadow Elimination

If you only use the ring light, you will most certainly create a shadowy background.

Here is an example:

Ring Light for makeup artists - Photography and video
Photo by Nelson Kwok. Copyright is his. License.

See the shadowy background? You can get rid of it with background light.

This is why you could still use an umbrella or softbox lighting kit to light up the background.

Getting a lighting kit will also allow you to work at any time of the day.

And if you use a background backdrop together with the lighting kit, you can achieve the following result with your ring light:

Fill light and Ring Light: The best lighting combination for makeup artist photography and video
Focus on Imaging” by Barry Zee. Copyright is his. License.

If there are still shadows when you set your lights or your background is overexposed, try moving the lights closer or farther from the wall behind your subject.

Nevertheless, you shouldn’t run into any overexposure problem with the right ISO and Shutter Speed on your camera—something you need to learn when you get your first DSLR.

How to Achieve Great Lighting for Free

If you want to save some money, there are some free ways to achieve good lighting for makeup photography or video.

You can use your windows to illuminate the subject and the background.

You need one window in front of you and a few more behind you to light up the background.

Something like this:

Free lighting setup for makeup photography and video

You might want to put some kind of diffuser in front of the window -like a thin curtain- to achieve the effect umbrellas do with the usual lighting kit.

This is a free technique used by some makeup tutorial vloggers like Carina Stewart to light their YouTube beauty videos.

The problem with this method is that you will need to record or take your pictures during the day. This is not a problem if you own a lighting kit.

Also, some days when it’s rainy or foggy, you won’t be able to get a consistent result. If you’re recording, your video might end up with a lot of brightness variations as the lighting situation changes outside.

With a lighting kit, you can control the light at any time and you can make sure you will achieve that soft and shadowless look you need.

Your Turn to Make Your Work Stand Out

Now you should be ready to start vlogging or building your portfolio as a makeup artist.

Remember to always think about lighting. As a makeup artist, you want your work to look as clear and with all the details possible. This is only achievable with good lighting.

Now it’s your turn to start!

Good luck and welcome to professional makeup photography!