Beauty photography is a somewhat nebulous genre, but it generally involves flattering and striking images of subjects in close-up – think stunning eye make-up and features.
The photography gear that you need for beauty photography is certainly not as specific or as well documented as it is for other genres, though. We all know that to capture a faraway bird, you need a long telephoto lens that can go the distance. But what about when it comes to capturing faces? Should you go for a flexible telephoto like the best 70-200mm lenses (opens in new tab) or even just opt for the best lens for portraits?
To get a clearer picture on the best gear for beauty photography, we sought the advice of an expert and spoke to pro Jade Keshia Gordon, who thinks she's found the perfect lens...
Jade is a professional beauty and fashion photographer based in London, and has been taking portraits for more than a decade, developing her own signature style.
With the amount of lenses on the market you would think it would be hard to say that one beats all in the beauty photography department. Well in my opinion there is one, and it's the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM (opens in new tab) lens.
The other lenses that I own are the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM (opens in new tab) and Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM (opens in new tab), and while they're versatile in their own right, there’s just something different about the 100mm.
The best macro lenses can produce 1:1 magnification or more, so that the item you are photographing is the same size in real life as is being produced on the sensor.
Macro photography means shooting small objects or details, but I do wonder if, when the 100mm macro lens was being created by Canon, they knew that it would be used for more than just shooting flowers. It's now one of the main lenses that gets used in beauty photography.
Why use the 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM for beauty?
So we know that the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM was created for shooting details, but you can imagine my excitement when I first used the lens on a beauty shoot and it captured everything – everything – and even allowed me to get close to the lip and eye make-up to get singular shots of these features. Due to the focal point, I believe that it enables the user to create flattering close up shots that we crave as beauty photographers.
It's also the most obvious choice due to its weight and it being the easiest route to close-up photography. I tend to have the aperture at a very narrow number to reduce shallow depth of field and losing any details around the models head.
Macro photography requires you to have the ability to be precise, and this is somewhere else where the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens excels. Canon has attached a switch on the side of the lens that limits the focus, and this switch allows you to split your focusing distances, meaning you can set it to “macro mode” (.3m-.5m) when you get closer to the model's face to capture details, or for everything else, you can keep it at .5m-infinity. This limiter is a feature commonly found on telephoto lenses, and it allows you to get a much better experience.
This 100mm lens is ideal for beauty and portraiture photography, but it doesn’t have to be used as a ‘macro’ lens, unless you are trying to capture something close, for example eye or lip make up. The lens makes as a great studio and portrait lens, used for capturing full face shots and headshots, too.
In a nutshell, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM definitely worth the price point as it can be used for way more than what has been advertised.