How to Create Epic Swatch Photos

Hello gang! I've been blogging for 4 years now (crazy!) and I have taken many upon many swatch photos in that time. But - I've never felt like I've conquered swatching. I have definitely improved- some of my earlier blog posts make me scream like I'm in a horror movie they're so bad - BUT. There is always room for improvement. And so I've turned to a couple of my favorite swatchers and asked them what steps they take to create epic swatch photos.

  •  First step are the nails. I know this is kind of obvious, but it's important. Make sure your cuticles are moisturized and polish is cleaned up.  A lot of bloggers are able to apply polish perfectly because practice makes perfect, but using a brush dipped in acetone to clean up polish that may have gotten on the cuticles will give you mani a nice clean look.
  • Make sure your background is clean and not to busy.
  •  Lighting is also important.  You can use natural sunlight or if you tend to do most swatching at night, use daylight bulbs. These aren't your regular soft white bulbs.  Those tend to give off a yellow cast.  You want to look for a bulb's color temperature range.  Incandescent bulbs that we normally using usually have a temperature of 2500K (kelvins) while a good daylight bulb will be somewhere between 3500k and 6500k.
  •  Know your camera settings and what all the buttons mean.  This is so key.  Taking the time to learn your camera can help yield great pictures and there are tons of tutorials out there.  To start off, take some time to learn about adjusting your white balance to get more color accurate photos.
  •  Do your thing! : Be it hand pose or background, it will determine the whole atmosphere of your swatches and set you apart from everyone.
  • Lighting is key! : Sunlight pictures are the best but it can be hard to stick to those depending on where you live. Shade or indirect lighting make great, soft, light sources and will prevent harsh skin/cuticles lines.
  • White balance guys! : Don't be afraid to play with your camera settings or use phone apps. I used iPhone swatches for a long time with great results with Camera+. It offers both auto WB and "lock WB" modes as well as a handy macro zoom!
  •  Crop/Rotate/Resize! : Some poses can be acrobatic and even if you don't have Photoshop, you can still use one of the many great free picture editing softwares, such as Gimp.
  • I think that the best tip I could give for getting great swatch pictures is to keep your cuticles moisturized throughout the process. I use pure acetone for removal and clean-up, so I take steps throughout my swatching process to avoid drying out my nails and cuticles. To start, I apply cuticle oil to my bare nails in-between each swatch and massage it in, taking care to wipe off the excess with a dry cloth. After I paint my nails and do clean-up with acetone and my favorite angled brush, I use a matte cuticle product applied sparingly with a small brush around my cuticles and then massage that in carefully to avoid smudging the polish. My favorite matte cuticle products are Baroness X's Swatcher's Balm and KBShimmer's Picture Perfect Matte Cuticle Cream. They are both great at providing moisture and getting rid of the whiteness that can occur when your skin is dehydrated by the acetone. It just depends on whether you prefer a solid balm like the Swatcher's Balm or a more lotion/cream consistency like the KBShimmer Cuticle Cream, but they are both excellent choices. I prefer to use a product like this because you really want your skin and cuticles to look moisturized but not shiny in photos. Finally, when I remove the polish, I first slather my nails with Palmer's Cocoa Butter before removal and this helps counteract the extreme drying effects of the acetone. This may sound like a lot, but it's really just an easy part of my swatching routine at this point that helps keep my cuticles looking nice before, during, and after a swatching session. 
  • Another tip that I can give is that while an angled brush may be great for cleaning up your cuticles and helping get that perfect clean line at your cuticles, the best tool for removing excess polish from your skin be it from messy application, stamping, or nail art is to use a pointy Q-tip dipped in acetone. This is also the best tool for removing stubborn sparkles and flakes that like to stick to your skin.  
  • Tip number three is to plan out your swatching session. If you have multiple collections to swatch or nail art products to review, think about all of your swatching work as a whole to help save you time vs just swatching one collection at a time. If you have a set of cremes and another set of glitters or toppers, think about how they might coordinate. If they will, use the cremes as your bases. I've also found that when I swatch a group of cremes that they tend to dry pretty quickly so that by the time I'm done photographing them I can use them as bases for stamping plates that I have to review. Swatching can be so time consuming, so be sure that you work smart when you have a lot to do!

These are some fabulous tips! I learned a few new things myself that I definitely want to try during my next swatching session.  Let me know in the comments section what tips you want to try to elevate your swatch game!