The Best Cameras and Lighting for Makeup Artists: The Ultimate Guide to Professional-Looking Makeup Photo and Video

Best camera and lighting for makeup artists

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.

If you follow these guidelines with the right—and relatively cheap—equipment, you will be able to shoot pictures and videos professionally to build your portfolio or tutorial channel.

When you finish reading this guide you will understand everything you need to achieve professional-looking makeup photography and video.

Now, let’s get down to business.

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

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

There are various 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 unless you’re using an expensive one like the Canon PowerShot G7 X (which costs the same as a DSLR). They can’t either record for long time.

On the other hand, camcorders have a nice autofocus but they are not so good for pictures. They won’t achieve that blurred background effect -achievable with the right lens- that fits well in makeup photo and video.  They are also really bad in low-light situations and their image quality isn’t good for artistic video. They are generally better for broadcasting video.

Basically, when you see a recording done with a camcorder, it feels like you’re watching TV. When you use a DSLR, you feel like you’re watching a movie.

Finally, DSLRs have what every makeup artist needs.

Why?

  • Their quality for both photography and video is the best (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 image, perfect white balance and good lighting.

The first two are achievable with a good DSLR camera.

White balance will make your colors look exactly how they are in real life. This is what prevents white tones from looking yellow, for example.

Bad white balance example
Run Away!” by Graeme Paterson. CC.

As you are probably thinking, the ability to configure white balance is essential for makeup. Colors change depending on the type of lighting in the environment.

This means that different times of the day and light situations will make your colors look different.

See how “bluish” the photo to the left looks? This is bad white balance.

A DSLR will let you set manually the color temperature, this will allow you to get the right colors in any situation.

Nevertheless, point & shoot and some camcorders also allow configuring white balance manually, but only the high-end ones. Getting a DSLR around the same price is better since it will give you much more utility in both photo and video.

Why?

DSLRs can capture better image thanks to their larger an better built sensors. They also have larger aperture lenses that improve low-light performance and image detail.

If you learn to use their manual settings, you will make sure all your shots are spot on when it comes to exposure and color balance.

Also, it’s very important that you will be able to take pictures in RAW format. This allows you to do a lot of pot-production improvements to your photos, especially for color. The best is that this only takes some time amd practice to learn.

In general, DSLRs’ abilities can make your work stand out. They are the only way to go to achieve truly professional photographies of your work.

They might be more expensive and require some basic technical knowledge, but they will serve you well for a really long time if you’re a makeup artist.

But hey, this is just my opinion. Let’s see what other makup artists on YouTube are saying about what camera they use.

The Opinion of Sucessful Makeup Tutorial YouTubers

Canon EOS 70D

When I was thinking about making this post, two DSLRs came to my mind for makeup: the Canon EOS 70D and the Canon Rebel EOS T5i.

After looking for the best camera makeup artists were using to shoot professional pictures and videos I found that I was, in a way, right.

I did a lot of research and found that Canon Rebel EOS cameras are the most common DSLRs between beauty YouTubers.

There are a lot of people on YouTube shooting high-quality, professional-looking videos about makeup on their own with these cameras.

Of course, these YouTubers also use good lighting techniques—which is more important, in my opinion—, but this is something we’ll talk about in a moment.

I want you first to listen to the expert makeup artists that make thousands –and even millions- of people come back to watch their work each day on YouTube.

Sadly, I’m not authorized to say the names of these YouTube makeup artists, but I will tell you how many subscribers they had the moment I did this research. This will give you an idea of the weight of their opinions on this matter.

Here is what camera they use and why:

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Makeup Artist #1

Subscribers: 3,252,996

Camera: Canon 600D/T3i

The T3i is what makes the magic happen

 

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Makeup Artist #2

Subscribers: 1,179,017

Camera: Sony A77

This one I recommend if you’re looking for doing professional videos on YouTube… It has that very nice professional touch

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Makeup Artist #3

Subscribers: 478,007

Camera: Panasonic HDC-TM90

I’ve been really happy with Panasonic… Everything from how they focus, the reaction time of the focus and everything from uploading on to the computer and the ease of working with the videos…  I recommend a lot Panasonic

The Panasonic HDC-TM90 is the only camcorder I found that was used by a makeup artist.

I believe the reason for this is that she makes a lot of different videos that are not only about makeup. She does a lot of home care tutorials along her makeup videos.

Still, she does use a DSLR (the Nikon D5100 DSLR) to take pictures of makeup.

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Makeup Artist #4

Subscribers: 72,878

Camera: Canon 600D/T3i

It is very popular among the entire YouTube community… so I trusted it would do a pretty good job

This YouTuber also talks in one of her videos about what lens to buy. She says that you should only buy the body of the camera and get a fixed lens with at least f/1.8 aperture—and I totally agree with her, you’ll see why in a moment—.

She uses a Sigma 30mm 1.4 lens for her makeup.

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Makeup Artist #5

Subscribers: 1,306

Camera: Canon 600D/T3i

I would recommend not to go for any video recorder anymore… they’re not as useful as a DSLR.

I like this quote because it’s just what I think about getting DSLRs and camcorders.

With a DSLR you will be able to do exactly what you can do with a camcorder but you will also have better quality, nice low-light performance and more adaptability. Also, although this is kinda less important, the blurred effect background that looks so good in makeup videos is not achievable with a camcorder.

You can get a lens for any kind of vlogging you want to do, and if you learn a little bit about them you will be able to use the camera however you want.

There are camcorders out there that are much more expensive than DSLRs and still can’t accomplish as much.

The Best Cameras for Makeup Artists Verdict

So, what can we learn from these makeup YouTubers?

Well, we can confirm that DSLRs are almost necessary for this kind of job.

As you can see, most of these artists use a Canon T3i. This model is discontinued and its newer version is the Canon T5i, which is slightly improved with more megapixels and auto-focus for video—and it’s cheaper right now.

With a Canon EOS Rebel T5i with the proper 50mm large aperture lens you will have exactly what you need as a vlogger makeup artist.

Bear in mind that the reason why a lot of YouTubers use this camera is thanks to its high-quality recording.

See, the T5i is the best camera you can get as a starter to record your work as a makeup artist. I encourage you to learn more about it in this in-depth review.

However, if you’re only planning to build a portfolio of pictures for freelancing or starting your own business, you might want a different camera that can take better pictures.

Nikon D3300

I’m talking about a camera that is around the same price range of the T5i but that is better for photography than video.

The Nikon D3300 is the best choice if you’re going to show your makeup work mainly with photographs. It is cheaper than the T5i and it’s better for photography.

The T5i is better for filming, but if you only want to build a portfolio through pictures, Nikon is usually better.

And just like with the T5i, you will need a good lens for this to work.

You should buy only the camera’s body and get a fixed lens like the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens or the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 for a higher quality option.

One fixed 50mm focal length lens is what you need as a makeup artist. These lenses will NOT cause Perspective Distortion, like wide angle lenses do. 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 will think it’s because of your makeup.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Fixed Lens

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 18-55mm kit costs the same than the body-only version before buying. If it costs more with the kit lens, I don’t think you should buy the camera with the kit.

Still, you will need a fixed lens for the blurred background, better low-light performance, high-quality details, and no face deformation. You will only sacrifice an useless zoom for all this.

Here you can find a list of the available 50mm lenses for each DSLR brand.

Now, before finishing, I could tell you that the best DSLR camera for a makeup artist that wants video is probably the Canon EOS 70D because of its stupidly superior recording quality. However, I really think this is too much for makeup artists.

This is why I focus more on talking about the T5i and D3300. After all, there is another factor that is much more important for you than the camera

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 really important, 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 kitThis is why I recommend getting a cheap Nikon D3300 for photography or a cheap EOS Rebel Canon T5i for video.

This is why I couldn’t make a post about the best camera for makeup artists without talking about lighting.

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 knowing about photography.

The best about this is that it CAN be done for cheap; you won’t need anything fancy. I’ve found the type of lighting for YouTube beauty videos that most makeup artists use, and it’s really affordable.

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

The 3 Best Ring Lights for Makeup Artists

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.

Ring Light reflection in makeup artist photographyRing Light” by thematthewknot. Copyright is his. License.

When I researched various successful makeup YouTubers, surprisingly I found out that there is a certain ring light that a lot of them are using: the Ardinbir Studio Camera 500W Macro Ring Light. For some reason a lot of them use this lighting, but there are a lot more options in the market, and each one offers its own advantages.

This one doesn’t come with the light stand, so you will need to buy one. This CowboyStudio Aluminum Adjustable Light Stand is the best-seller on Amazon and it works great with the ring light.

However, there are two more options for a ring light that I think are worth mentioning. And each one has its owns advantages:

LimoStudio 18″ Ring Light AGG1774


This ring light is one of my favorite because it comes with a diffuser, a light stand, the hot shoe mount screw for your camera, and a carrying bag.

And not only that; unlike the other ring lights I’m featuring here, this one is dimmable. There are three levels of lighting intensity that you can choose: high, mid or low. This allows you to play more with your lighting to achieve just the right setup.

But just in case you don’t need what this bundle includes, there’s a cheaper option:

Neewer Camera Photo/Video 18″Outer 14″Inner Flash Light


This one is the cheapest option of them all, and should be your option if you’re on a really tight budget but still want to experiment a ring light.

This one only comes with a carrying bag. The light isn’t dimmable, so if you want to lower your lighting you’ll need to buy some kind of diffuser (neutral density gel works well).

But it does has the advantage of being available for a cheaper price.

When you use this kind of light, no matter which one you choose, you might feel overwhelmed by its brightness; don’t worry, you will get used to it. This is what it feels like to sit in front of a camera in a professional studio.

When I was searching for the cameras that succesfull makeup artists used, I also found out that all of them used some kind of ring light.

It is the favorite lighting equipment for YouTube beauty videos because of the specular highlights and the uniform, shadowless faces they can capture with it.

Fill Light for Background Shadow Elimination

If you only use the ring light, you will most certainly create a shadowy background. It also isn’t enough to get rid of the shadows on your model’s face.

Here is an example:

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

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

This is why I recommend you to get a lighting kit like the 600W Day Light Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit by LimoStudio LMS103, which comes with everything you need for a bargain price.

This one comes with three lights. You can use the two with the umbrellas to get rid of your model’s face shadows and another light for the background.

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

For makeup photography and video, it’s also useful to have a Studio Backdrop.

If you use one of the lights that comes with the lighting kit for the background backdrop, it’ll look like this:

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

To achieve this, just follow this setup:

Best lighting for makeup photo and video with fill light and ring light

This image is not exactly accurate, and you should set the ring light closer to the model. You should play with the distance between the lights, the subject and the background to achieve the best result. However, the idea is there.

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.

With a lighting kit you can also 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.

Combining the best camera and lighting will help your makeup stand out, so don’t forget about either of them.

Now it’s your turn to start!

You’re welcome to submit any question you have to the comments below.

Good luck and welcome to professional makeup photography!

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53 thoughts on “The Best Cameras and Lighting for Makeup Artists: The Ultimate Guide to Professional-Looking Makeup Photo and Video

  • April 15, 2016 at 1:09 pm
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    Thanks for this, you’ve just enlightened a soul!

    Reply
    • April 15, 2016 at 8:51 pm
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      I’m glad I was helpful to you, zee! Good luck with your makeup 😉

      Reply
    • August 18, 2016 at 3:45 pm
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      Hi. I have cannon eos 1100d. Do you think its nice for makeup beauty shots? Thanks alot 🙂

      Reply
      • August 18, 2016 at 5:03 pm
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        Hello Mary Ann,

        Why don’t you test it recording some videos for your channel? In the end it’s more important to start recording content as soon as you can. You can then save some money to get a better DSLR later on if you want to improve your image quality.

        Good Luck!

        Reply
  • June 3, 2016 at 8:48 pm
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    I have the Nikon D3300 but I find that I can never get my makeup to show up adequately in photos, the colours always appear faded or non-existent.

    Reply
  • June 5, 2016 at 7:12 pm
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    What sort of microphone works best for makeup vloggers, and what is the best way to achieve close ups of say the eye?

    Reply
    • June 5, 2016 at 7:53 pm
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      Hello, Erin!

      If you’re going to speak in front of the camera (while recording yourself) shotgun microphones are the best. But if you want to record from behind you can really just use any other microphone from my list of best vlogging microphones. There you’ll also find good shotgun microphones in different price ranges

      As for eye closeups, with a 50mm lens you will be able to start getting a close shot of the eyes. However, if you really want a macro shot, an 85mm is better.

      Reply
  • June 8, 2016 at 5:11 am
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    This article was so helpful.i have always wanted to get the best camera and lighting too that I can use for my work.thanks so much, it was so helpful.

    Reply
    • June 8, 2016 at 7:36 pm
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      You’re welcome! I’m glad it was helpful!

      Reply
  • June 18, 2016 at 7:49 pm
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    Such a helpful article which was sincerely intended to help. Thanks so much. I have a Sony HX400V but maybe because I do not quite know how to set it manually, I cannot get good pics of my work. Will try your suggestions instead.

    Reply
    • June 20, 2016 at 8:21 am
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      Hi, Wendy

      That’s not a bad camera so you should achieve good pictures with it. Maybe you’re not setting white balance correctly or you just need to use better lighting. That’s why it’s always good to learn about the technical part of photography. I’m thinking about making a course about it for vloggers. If you want I can add you to my email list so you receive a notification when I release it, plus some other free guides I’ll send soon to improve your beauty channel 🙂

      Reply
      • July 23, 2016 at 1:31 pm
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        Hello! Can I be added to the list too? All this information is so helpful. Thanks a million ! What microphone can you recommend for voice overs and what software for editing ?

        Reply
        • July 23, 2016 at 7:39 pm
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          Sure Jo, I will add you soon 🙂

          For voice over, I like to use USB microphones. You can find a list of good options here

          Regarding editing software, you can start with one that comes with your computer (Windows Movie Maker if you use Windows or IMovies if you use Mac)

          Regards!

          Reply
  • June 19, 2016 at 5:40 am
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    Hi, thank you so much. This was very helpful. I have a Nikon d5200 (was thinking of selling it for a canon) I am trying to get the best lighting for my beauty photos. However I am considering mobility as I move about all the time. If you could recommend just one light which will it be? I want an overwhelming bright light. Also do you know where I can get customized back drops?

    Sandy

    Reply
    • June 20, 2016 at 8:29 am
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      Hello Sandra,

      A ring light will always be my recommendation for makeup, precisely because they are really bright. You can get a ring light with good mobility like this one. You can find some customized back drops on Amazon, although there aren’t too many.

      Don’t hesitate to ask again 🙂

      Reply
  • June 24, 2016 at 11:50 am
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    Thank you so much for your response. I appreciate. I got the light out of the way. Do you think I should sell my Nikon and get a canon? Looks like every makeup artist uses a canon. What lens do you recommend for my Nikon to get good quality, clear makeup shots?

    Reply
    • July 1, 2016 at 8:16 pm
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      IMO, you shouldn’t sell your Nikon D5200 unless you’re getting a much better camera (one that is at least above $1000 only the body). If you decide to sell, you can go for Canon if you want to record a lot of videos or another Nikon if you need it mostly for photography. That’s the general rule.

      You can visit my guides on Canon and Nikon cameras if you want to know more models.

      Cheers

      Reply
  • July 14, 2016 at 12:55 am
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    Thank you so much for this insightful article. I have already purchased the light boxes that help cast away shadows based off your advice and I shall be plunging in to invest in everything else you recommended as well from this post. You truly are a blessing!

    Reply
    • July 15, 2016 at 2:19 pm
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      Hello Yasmihng,

      It makes me really happy to read comments like this after writing thousands of words. My readers are the true blessing to me.

      Thanks for cheering up my day!

      Reply
  • July 14, 2016 at 5:41 am
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    Hi! So I’m starting up my beauty YouTube channel. I’m focusing on recording makeup/bodypaint looks so things like autofocus etc are important. I take makeup photos with my phone, and I’m fine with that. What camera/camcorder would you recommend? I would love a DSLR but that is insanely out of my budget at the moment. Cheers!

    Reply
    • July 15, 2016 at 2:15 pm
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      Hello, Lisa! It’s hard to tell you which camera would be the best since I don’t know what’s your budget. For lower budgets, the first camera that comes to my mind is the Canon Powershot G9X, but it isn’t exactly cheap. But you can still navigate to my budget posts through the upper menu. There you will find different articles about cheaper cameras (they say for vlogging but they work well for makeup —btw, if you have a higher end phone you might be able to take better pictures than with a cheaper camera, so you might want to save some money for a DSLR; it really is worth for this kind of job.

      Cheers 🙂

      Reply
  • July 21, 2016 at 1:06 pm
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    This is extremely helpful information! I’m not doing a beauty/makeup blog per se, but will be shooting videos from about 6-8 feet in front of the camera. Do you think a ring light is still appropriate? I have two windows in the room I’ll be shooting in as well. I’ve heard great things about the ring light but I wasn’t sure if it’d work for my videos. Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • July 21, 2016 at 3:24 pm
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      Hello Jackie,

      I’m glad you’ve found this post helpful, answering your question:

      Yeah I think you won’t be able to use that Ring Light that far away from it. It displays a really diffused light that simply disappears if you’re too far away from it. You will need to use lighting boxes at your sides if you’re setting the camera from that distance.

      Reply
      • July 21, 2016 at 5:40 pm
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        Thank you!! What is the furthest you’d recommend being from the ring light?

        Reply

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