Behind-The-Scenes Tricks Product Photographers Use to Sell Makeup

Makeup is bought, these days, online. With so many brands on the market, we depend entirely on product photography to see and understand a product—whether it’s a pair of jeans, a necklace, or a tube of fire engine red lipstick.

But some photographers, like Miami-based photographer Tsour Lee Adato create click-worthy, buyable images that sell makeup, perfume and jewelry with his company, Pro Photo Studio.

DTC brands reach their audience entirely based on their choice of good photography and video—and often, art supplies, hair dryers and post-production tricks are used to make them look magical.

In fact, Adato’s Tiktok account, @productphotography has been gaining steam for taking us behind the Wizard of Oz’s curtain, so to speak, when it comes to seeing how these images are made, behind the scenes in his Florida photo studio.

“People are looking online, and they are buying with their eyes,” said Adato. “I can’t tell you how many times clients have told me they’ve had bad experiences with low-budget photography, causing them to lose time and money. Today people are very picky when it comes to online buying, and product photography needs to be at it’s A-game.”

“It’s a lot about getting into people desires when it comes to fashion and beauty,” he adds.

It all started in 2020 when one video—where he dripped acrylic paint on a row of lipstick tubes—went viral, garnering over 1.5 million views. Now, his behind the scenes videos showcase how exactly products are dressed up in the photo studio.

He has been a product photographer for high-end luxury brands like Gucci and Versace, as well as the Shiseido skincare brand, Smashbox makeup, Invictia luxury watches, and more. Granted, making a product look buyable sometimes requires there to be illusions in the photo studio, but you should still squarely know what you’re buying.

For example, when it comes to lipstick, he’ll sometimes apply paint to a lipstick tube with a syringe. “If I can’t find the color I need, I will fix it in post-production so it will match the lipstick,” said the photographer.

For the beauty brand Smashbox, Adato created the illusion of exploding blush power and foundation. It looks like a work of art, really, like a fireworks explosion of makeup brushes, which are caked on with powder and flicked towards the camera. “I manage to snap the powder in the few seconds they hang in the air. “I end up using the best shot, imposed as a background behind the product,” he said.

Other shots defy gravity, like a tube of lipstick balancing a blush compact. “They’re standing next to each other, leaning on a clear stand with blue adhesive tack,” said Adato. “We edit it post-production to remove any props, making it look magical, sanding on its own. It’s like a magic trick.”

Another trick he uses in the studio is LED lights and diffusers, which are often used to create the illusion of sunlight or soft lighting.

The illusion of fresh ocean waves is often not shot by Miami Beach, even though our imagination might take us there. “One recent photo shoot we did was for a perfume client, and they wanted the product to have an ocean vibe,” he said.

“To create that illusion, I took a plastic tray, filled it with water, and used a rock as a background for the product,” adds Adato. “I used a blue-colored cardboard to give the ocean color, as an illusion—and to create the actual waves you see in the photo, I used a hair dryer.”

That’s not all when it comes to the illusions photographers create in-studio to sell luxury beauty products. When you see a swatch online of a beauty product—like eyeshadow hues all lined up as stripes along someone’s forearm—it requires a cosmetics prop stylist to help with their expertise.

In one skincare swatch video, Adato shows how he uses a syringe filled with makeup liquid to craft a blob of makeup. He then shapes it with a metallic artist’s palette knife, which is usually used to shape oil paint on a canvas.

“You can’t imagine how much equipment and materials are needed for these small swatches, they’re essentially stripes of makeup,” he said. “It all starts with small carving tools to design swatches, as well as Q-tips, makeup cleaners, and of course, a lot of patience.

According to Adato, the biggest mistake that makeup and beauty companies are making today, when it comes to product photography, is that they go cheap on photography. “Some use low budget equipment, and you can tell,” he said. “Going with an actual product photography studio can really breathe life into their product and offer images that spike their revenue.”

It all comes down to the brand and the message they want to send through their products. “When you see a shiny tube of lipstick, the client imagines how it’ll shine on their lips,” said Adato. “It’s all about perception, and desires.”

The secret to photographing things like blush and lipstick to make them look more sellable, often involves breaking up the actual product. A compact of blush is often broken into pieces with a knife, to show its consistency and potency of color.

“It’s all about lighting, composition and using the right props,” said Adato. “A lot of product photographers think that they need to buy the top-of-the-line camera and lenses to get amazing pictures, which is not always the case. Tip top equipment is great, but if you don’t have the budget, you can still get good pictures by using good lighting technics, creative compositions, and unconventional props.”

Sometimes, he’ll be asked by a brand to mimic another brand’s photo style. “Sometimes, a brand will tell me, ‘I really like one of my competitors’ images,’ and want to create something that inspired by it,” he said.

“With a larger brand, we normally have an art director that discuss the project with a mood board before the photoshoot.”

He won’t give away all his tips, though.

“Some secrets must be kept,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post Andy Warhol’s First Self-Portrait Painting Stars In Phillips’ Unprecedented Sale Of Deeply Personal Early Works From Warhola Family Collection
Next post AutoCamp, The Group Behind Luxury Airstream Camping, Is Revamping A Motel In Moab