Hot Off the Presses

Photographing Nail Art

With the explosion of nail art, nail artists are expanding their creativity into the field of photography. Here are tips on how to capture the best shot.

Props vs. No Props

I take a minimalist approach because I want the focus to be on the nails. Having one well-placed prop is enough. I use simple, generic poses and props for the pictures I put in my photo gallery. I use these to show clients the options they have for their nails. It’s easier for clients to choose art if the models have consistent poses. I typically pose models with overlapped hands, which I feel looks most elegant and is flattering to the nails. The walls of my salon have posed pictures of models and more dominant props, like you would see in a magazine. In the posters, the complete picture is seen as art. — Hoel

I love taking pictures on white backgrounds because it puts the attention on the art. If I do use props, I choose them based on the nail design. For simple and sophisticated designs, I like to use art-deco jewelry, provided it doesn’t distract from the design. If it’s a nail design with lots of bling, I like to raise the photographic bar by adding rings and bracelets that give the shot some extra pizzazz. Imagination is the key to taking shots of nail designs to a new, more creative and professional level. — Cofer


How to Choose a Photographer

Ana Isabel says photographers will charge either by the hour or by the product. If you find one who charges by the product, expect to pay a low “sitting” fee, but a higher price per print. Here the photographer makes her money with the sale of the pictures.

When a photographer charges by the hour, the expense might seem steep ($200 or more per hour), but you’ll own the digital images, which means you can use them anywhere you want, print them, and blow them up to the size you want, as often as you need them. Remember, you’re paying for more than just the time it takes to snap the picture. Your finished product will have gone through an editing phase to produce the eye-catching, professional results you need.

Before you decide which photographer to use, ask to see a portfolio so you’re sure you like the “eye” of the artist you choose. Choose a photographer who has examples of close-up shots, then work with her to discuss the look and feel you want to see in your final product. She will have some good ideas, too, so ask for her opinion. If you find a photographer you absolutely love, but whose prices seem out of your range, consider bartering for an exchange of services. Even if she doesn’t want nail services, she may be interested in working in exchange for gift certificates, which she could hand out to her customers as a “free gift” for contracting with her.



Louise Callaway:

  • Make sure hands are relaxed and don’t look rigid. Rigidity makes the knuckles look wrinkled.
  • The hands and nail area need to be clean and tidy. There’s nothing worse than great nails with bad cuticles.
  • Don’t place the hands on top of each other. It makes the image look like a bunch of bananas.
  • Know when to stop. Nails can be ruined when you throw your whole nail kit at them.

Olga Palylyk:

  • Purchase a tripod, even a small one, so you can take pictures without your hands shaking. Shaky hands take blurry pictures.
  • Another way to avoid shaky hands is to use the self-timer feature.
  • Diffuse glare by placing a white piece of paper in front of the light.
  • Don’t rush. Study your camera’s features. Take the time to prepare the right lighting and correct background. Keep the background subdued so you don’t overpower the art.
  • Have fun!

Ana Isabel:

  • Don’t use a flash, if at all possible. It pales everything, adds shadows, and causes a glare.
  • If you need extra light, take a lamp and point it up so it will bounce off the ceiling area, not the nails.

Jessica Hoel:

  • I prefer to shoot with natural light, even outside if possible. Natural light eliminates glare, shadows, and bad lighting, which alters the look of the nails.
  • Take pictures of your model from different angles. Tweak fingers so they are evenly spaced and nails face the same direction. Use an orangewood stick to tap fingers slightly to help move them. (This works better than having the model move her fingers; models almost always move fingers too far!)
  • Just as the camera can add pounds to the body, so a nail can look thicker in a photo. For pictures submitted for competition, design the nail thinner than you would on a client.
  • Use post-production software. Picasa has a free application you can download that lets you control basic functions, such as contrast, brightness, and cropping.


Thank You to the Techs Who Helped Us With This Article

Jessica Hoel, educator for Akzentz Professional Nail Products and owner/nail tech at LuvNailz, Bellevue, Wash.

Ana Isabel, Ana Isabel Photography, Gloucester, Va.

Olga Palylyk, nail technician at Ornate Nailz by Olga, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada

Louise Callaway, nail tech and educator for Hand & Nail Harmony, Guyhirn, Cambridgeshire, U.K.

Sarah Payne, nail tech, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Tiffany Cofer, owner Tiffany’s Touch, East Stroudsburg, Pa.

You Might Also Like:

Just Like You Picture It

A Nail Tech's Guide to Shooting and Editing Video


Facebook Comments ()

Leave a Comment


Comments (1)

Featured Products & Promotions   |   Advertisement

Market Research

Market Research How big is the U.S. nail business? $7.3 billion. What's the average service price for a manicure? Dig into our decades' deep research archives.

Industry Statistics for

View All


FREE Subscription

VietSalon is a Vietnamese-language magazine and the sister publication to NAILS. Click the link below to sign up for a FREE one-year subscription.

Get a free preview issue and a Free Gift
Subscribe Today!

Please sign in or register to .    Close
Subscribe Today
Subscribe Today