6 Best Cameras, Lenses & Lighting for Tattoo Artists: Ultimate Guide
So you want to grow your Instagram account. You want more tattoo customers and you want a good camera to use so people can see how good your work is.
But, you don’t know anything about photography.
Don’t worry. I’ve been reviewing cameras for the last 5 years.
Here I’ll explain everything to get amazing photos of your work so you can grow your tattoo business.
This is the only equipment guide that you need. You’ll find the best cameras, lenses, and lighting for tattoo artists:
Table of Contents
- Top 6 Best Cameras for Tattoo Photos
- Best Camera Lenses for Tattoo Photos
- Best Lighting for Tattoo Photography
- Best Ring Light for Tattooing
- How to Make Tattoos Pop in Pictures
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Top 6 Best Cameras for Tattoo Photos
What to look for in a camera for tattoo photography?
When it comes to choosing a camera for tattoo photography, the best option is a camera that can work well in low light.
Most tattoo studios are a bit dark. And even though you can work well in a place like this, cameras need more lighting to capture high-quality pictures.
That’s why we’re recommending cameras with an APS-C or full-frame sensor. They can capture a good amount of light that is enough for you to work indoors.
Full-frames are the most expensive option, but they’re also the best sensors for low light.
Also, you probably want something that can deliver great colors — because beautifully colored tattoos are great to attract customers —, right from the raw file without any postproduction.
Our favorite recommendation for tattoo artists is Fujifilm because they achieve the best, most close-to-reality colors of all brands.
Besides, they are arguably the best for photography this year — not so much for video —, right next to Nikon.
We’re not fans of Nikon colors. They usually require some good production, so that’s why we’re sticking to Fujifilm and other good alternatives for this article.
Best Choice: Sony A7R IV
This is the king of low-light photography.
Since you’ll probably be working in a dark place, a full-frame like this one will make sure you can take good pictures without problems.
It will help you make sure you don’t get a blurry photo due to having to use low shutter speed because of the poor light. And it will give you pictures with 0 image noise since it has a big sensor — even if you work in a cave.
But the biggest deal about this camera is the insane 61 megapixel sensor. This allows it to capture highly detailed images like almost no other can.
The camera also has one of the best in-body stabilizations with its 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE system to help you against blurry pictures in low light.
Also, the full-frame allows you to work with the limited space in your studio since you don’t need to keep a long distance from your subject.
And finally, the last advantage of a full-frame sensor is that it achieves the best Bokeh Effet. You know, that “blurry background” effect that makes any picture pop:
Sony also has great color science, meaning that their cameras can achieve beautiful colors that are really close to reality.
This is the kind of camera for tattoo artists with a good budget and that are truly looking for the best.
However, it might also be way too much just for tattoo photos. You don’t need something this expensive to achieve amazing tattoo pictures.
You can get away with one of the cheaper APS-C cameras below.
Second Best Choice: Fujifilm X-T4
If you want to have the best quality possible without spending an outrageous amount, then you’ll love the Fujifilm X-T4.
The previous model, the X-T3, has been praised as the best camera for photography with some basic flaws by many experts.
Now, the X-T4 is fixing the flaws that the previous model had: in-body stabilization and an articulating touchscreen.
The in-body stabilization will help to capture photos in low light — like inside a tattoo studio. It will allow you to decrease the shutter speed to get more light into the sensor while shooting, without your image ending up all blurry.
The ISO range goes from 160 to 12,800, which gives you a lot of room to work in low light.
Besides this, the camera achieves excellent colors.
It also comes with environmental sealing — to protect it from rain and cold —, 2 SD card slots and a headphone port.
So if you have the budget for it, you can’t go wrong with it.
It looks like for this year, Fujifilm will continue to be one of the best APS-C brands for photography thanks to this camera.
Best Cost-Effective Choice: Fujifilm X-T30
If you’re not willing to spend so much on a camera, the best cost-effective choice is hands down the Fujifilm X-T30.
It has just what you need for great tattoo photography.
It might not be as fancy as the X-T4, but it is lighter (by 224g/7.9oz) and smaller.
It does not have the in-body stabilization, so you’ll need a lens with OIS if you don't want some of your pictures to end up looking blurry. I’ll give you some options below.
It also lacks the extra fancy features like 2 SD card slots, headphone port, and environmental sealing.
But this camera offers great quality in low light. It has the same ISO range as the more expensive X-T4. This is a huge deal for tattoo photos since you’ll be taking pictures indoors.
It can also produce colors that feel real without needing any editing.
Overall, the camera has an excellent balance of quality and price.
If you want to produce good photos of your work as a tattoo artist, this is the cheapest option I can recommend you that won't compromise your image quality.
Great alternatives for good pictures + video recording
These alternative cameras are also really good for video recording.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re pretty good for photos, but they were also made with video performance in mind.
It will give you some good options if you'd like to record videos too.
Best Choice: Sony a6600
This Sony camera is a mirrorless APS-C that almost looks and feels like a compact camera.
So if you want to also record videos of your work, the Sony a6600 is a good option if you also want it to be easy to carry.
As I said before, Sony offers great color science. Also, this camera's autofocus for both video and stills is one of the best in the market. The continuous autofocus is fast and reliable.
It also has a flip screen, which makes it easy to record vlogs or take selfies.
When compared to the Fujifilm X-T30 and the Canon EOS M6 II below, the Sony a6600 has internal image stabilization, environmental sealing, headphone port, higher ISO range, and much longer battery life than both these options.
The only thing worse than both these competitors is its weight, but the difference isn’t big (120g difference with the X-T30 and 95g with the M6 II)
It’s my favorite option if you also want a camera for video.
Best Choice: Canon EOS M6 Mark II
This camera is Canon’s latest mirrorless release. It has gotten a lot of praise and many people see it as the best mirrorless camera yet from Canon — they’re not the best when it comes to mirrorless, but this one is a good competitor.
Compared to the previous cameras, this one stands somewhere in the middle between the Fujifilm X-T30 and the Sony a6600.
Here’s how I see it: the Sony a6600 offers a lot more features than this camera for just a few hundred bucks more (see the review above), but if you don’t care too much about extra things like headphone port and such, you can save a couple hundred and still get a good camera that is great for both photo and video.
Bear in mind that Sony colors are a bit better than Canon so if you want to take your pictures and upload them right away to your social media, you’ll find that the Sony is just a better option.
However, this mirrorless camera is still a good alternative since you do save some money and get 90% of the features.
The only real downside this one has — even when compared to the much cheaper X-T30 — is the lack of internal stabilization.
You’ll need either a lens with OIS or a really fast lens if you want to avoid problems taking sharp pictures in low light.
You’ll find lens options below these camera reviews.
Best Choice: Canon EOS 90D
This is the only DSLR I’m featuring in this article.
Most mirrorless nowadays just feel better to me, especially for people that aren’t too used to professional photography.
DSLRs are bulkier in every way. They’re heavier and larger. However, some people like the “feeling’ of a DSLR in their hands.
If you like them, the Canon EOS 90D is a recent release that has the top DSLR technology.
It has good autofocus thanks to Canon’s famous Dual Pixel AF. It also has the best battery life of all the cameras on this list.
The sensor is good for low-light photography — it’s the same sensor as its mirrorless cousin, the M6 II —, and the video features are also up to par with Sony.
Still, I’m not a big fan of Canon colors. As I’ve said before, they usually need a bit of editing for the colors to look good.
It also lacks internal image stabilization, which is a shame for a camera that was also made for video.
Luckily, Canon has arguably the best lens lineup of the market, which gives you a lot of options to choose from.
Best Camera Lenses for Tattoo Photos
For tattoo photos, the right lens is a pretty straightforward choice.
What you need is a 50mm prime lens. These are also called Macro lenses because they’re able to capture close shots that really make the subject stand out.
These lenses are fast, which is vital to get good quality shots inside a tattoo studio without good lighting. They also produce sharp focus, which will make tattoos pop.
I’ve done the work for you and compiled the 50mm prime lenses for each brand below
You’ll have a couple of options per brand. The reason some of them are more expensive is that they’re faster and some come with OIS.
A faster lens has more aperture capacity that allows you to work in worse light conditions and still achieve a sharp image.
You'll need a lens with optical image stabilization (OIS) if your camera doesn't have internal stabilization.
And don't hesitate to get the fastest lens that your budget can afford. The difference between f/1.8 and f/1.2 is striking. It will be worth the price difference since you’re using it to market your business.
Best Fujifilm Lenses for Tattoo Photography:
Best Canon Lenses for Tattoo Photography:
Best Sony Lenses for Tattoo Photography:
- Built-in Optical SteadyShot image stabilization and 7-blade circular aperture for beautiful defocus...
- Minimum Focus Distance : 1.28 ft (0.39 m), Maximum Magnification ratio : 0.16x, Focal-Length : 50 mm...
- Large F1.8 maximum aperture enables beautiful defocusing effects. Angle of View (APS-C) : 32°
- Large F1.8 maximum aperture enables beautiful defocusing effects, 7-blade circular aperture creates...
- Compact, lightweight design ideal for full-frame E-mount cameras, Aspherical element controls...
- Double-gauss configuration suppresses field curvature & distortion, Metal mount adds solid...
Best Nikon Lens for Tattoo Photography:
- Fast, upgraded f/1.8, compact FX format prime lens. The picture angle with 35 millimeter (135)...
- Focal Length 50 millimeter, Minimum Focus Distance 1.48 feet (0.45 meter)
- Newly developed optical system with Aspherical lens element, Exclusive Nikon Silent Wave Motor (SWM)
Best Lighting for Tattoo Photography
I’m going to assume that you work in a pretty dark and small tattoo studio.
The big problem in this workplace when it comes to photography is:
- The lack of light
- The lack of space
So, to fix number one, you NEED to get some type of lighting.
If you don’t have a good window with a lot of lighting that you can use to take your pictures, then you need to buy some type of light for photography — some options below.
WARNING: I don’t care if you got a $2k camera. If you don’t use lighting, your pictures will be USELESS — and then you’ll blame me thinking I recommended a bad camera.
Now, for number 2 (lack of space), the kind of lighting that can work in a place like this is probably a simple flash to attach to your camera’s hot shoe — don’t use your camera’s internal flash or you’ll get an awful result.
So the first thing I’m going to recommend for you is to get the following flash.
Best Lighting if You Work in a Small Space
- Vertical Rotation Angle: 0~90 degrees, Horizontal Rotation Angle: 0~270 degrees; Note: Don't support...
- Compatible with for Canon Nikon Panasonic Olympus Pentax Fijifilm and Sony with Mi Hot Shoe...
- Power Management: Switch to the ON, the flash will start charging (the charging indicator is dim)
I’m selecting this one because it has great reviews and it can swivel.
This latter feature is VITAL because you don’t want to point the flash directly to your tattoo.
Instead, point it toward the ceiling so the light bounces off and becomes softer on the tattoo.
Another thing I like about this flash is the little diffuser it comes with. You can experiment with it until you get a good result.
Best Lighting if You Have Space Available
If you have enough space, you can get a lighting stand and use it to mount the flash I recommended above. Use an umbrella as a diffuser.
This set has all that you need (without the flash included):
- The kit included:(1)33"/84cm Translucent White Soft Umbrella + (1)33"/84cm Silver Reflective...
- 33"/84cm Translucent White Soft Umbrella: The umbrellas can deliver great skin tone and contrast...
- 33"/84cm Silver Reflective Umbrella: An umbrella that was made for the professional in mind,ideal...
You will never run into lighting problems with something like this.
Just make sure you're using the translucent umbrella and not the reflective ones.
Best Ring Light for Tattooing
Another alternative is using a ring light.
I like to recommend this if you also need lighting for tattooing.
I prefer using a flash to take pictures of tattoos, but this is a way of killing two birds with one stone.
Here are the best options:
- PLEASE NOTE: 1. The light stand is packed in a separate box INSIDE the big package box (under the...
- Kit includes: (1)18"/48cm Outer 55W 5500K LED Ring Light+(1)61"/155cm Light Stand+(1)Soft...
- Dimmable 18"/48cm Outer 55W 5500K 240 Pieces LED bulbs with a wide dimming range from 1%-100%....
- 【Dimmable Ring Light】Featuring 3 color lighting modes: Warm Light (3000K), Cool White (4500K),...
- 【Upgraded Tripod Stand】No-Twisting-To-Lock that collapses over time, UBeesize new tripod adopts...
- 【Rotatable Phone Holder】You can easily adjust the phone holder to find one angle you desire...
- 🎁Dimmable LED Ring Light – Has 80 LED lamp beads for long life without changing bulbs, 3 colors...
- 🎁Compatible with iPhone/Android - Our selfie ring light with cell phone holder is suitable for...
- 🎁Multi Usages Selfie Ring Lihgt- Making Videos At Night Or Taking Great Selfie Picture In Dark...
How to Make Tattoos Pop in Pictures
There are two simple things you can do to get really nice pictures of your tattoos, even if you have NO knowledge about photography:
1. The key to almost every good shot is lighting.
You really need to have a good lighting source. If you don’t have a window with good lighting intake that you can use, then you need one of the lighting recommendations above.
If you go with the flash mounted on the camera, don’t point the flash directly to the tattoo.
If you do so, you might create a glare that won’t let people appreciate the greatness of your work. Like this:
You want to avoid that. Instead, point the flash to the ceiling or walls. It will bounce there and “go back” to your tattoo more diffused.
That’s the key: don’t use a hard lighting source directly onto the tattoo. Let it be diffused.
You'll get a soft, even light that will allow people appreciate your entire work and will look more professional:
That’s why it’s important to bounce the light or use a diffuser (umbrella or softbox) if you’re using a lighting stand.
2. Get close to the subject.
This might be obvious to you, but I’ve seen many people stand too far away from the tattoo.
You want the tattoo to cover most of the picture. That’s how it will REALLY pop:
It’s amazing how much of a difference just getting closer to your subject can make.
The good thing is that if you get a 50mm prime lens, you’ll most likely not run into this problem.
The lens will naturally make you get closer to your subject than if you used a lens with zoom.
That’s it for now. This should answer all the questions you have about tattoo photography.
If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to ask below.
Good luck with growing your tattoo business 🙂