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I am a makeup artist and currently have LED spotlights in my studio as the room lighting. I am using my Samsung camera phone, but am not achieving sharp images.

Could it be the overhead lighting that's causing this problem? Maybe I could have lights placed elsewhere in the room or switch from LED to fluorescent?

I have a Nikon D3200...without a flash gun, the picture quality is hit and miss — depending on lighting I guess. I'm thinking of trading this in for a Canon EOS 7OD (and maybe a flash gun); will this be better?

  • Are these special, bright spotlights for makeup, or are they the room lighting? Could you describe them a bit more? – mattdm Jan 11 '17 at 22:41
  • No just normal room lights, I was going to invest in a ring light which a lot of makeup artists use. It's a fluorescent light but I think a Dslr once I get to grips with, will probably give me better results. Plus I can take it with me when I am freelancing – Samk Jan 11 '17 at 22:45
  • Edit your question please. In a coment below you say you have a Nikon 3200. – Rafael Jan 11 '17 at 23:07
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    Can you upload example images that demonstrate the lighting you're not happy with? – scottbb Jan 12 '17 at 0:58
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    I also have a Samsung phone (Galaxy S5) and it is horrible at focusing. That may be your problem, more than the small sensor. – user29608 Jan 13 '17 at 7:15
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I think it's very likely that lighting is a significant contributor to your problem. Your camera phone has a small sensor which needs a lot of light to get top-notch results, and and indoor lighting provides a lot less light than most people think. So, to compensate, it is probably:

  • holding the shutter open for a relatively long time, which introduces motion blur, both from your subject (or you, if these are self portraits) moving, and from not holding the camera perfectly still
  • amplifying the signal, which introduces visible noise, which is probably then smeared out by built-in post-processing

Using your existing DSLR is a good move, because this gives you more control. I'd suggest following some of the basic questions here, like What is the relationship between ISO, aperture, and shutter speed?, to get started, and maybe buy a couple of books if you learn that way. I recommend anything by Michael FreemanMichael Freeman's Photo School Fundamentals: Exposure, Light & Lighting, Composition is probably a great start for what you want to do.

Switching to your DSLR won't be magic, but will significantly expand your options. You will have better control over aperture and shutter speed — and even if you use it in auto mode, you will be able to better see what decisions it makes to get the exposure right. You might also want to buy a second lens suited to your use — I'm assuming you just have the included "kit" lens.

But first, you should buy a flash. And you should definitely do this before you spend any money on a different camera. The Canon you are looking at is only slightly newer than your Nikon, and has no fundamental advantages at the level we're looking at here. (If you just like it better, that's fine, of course.) And, this goes for buying a newer fancier camera too — sure, the specs will be better, but you don't need it to solve your problem. What you need is to take control of your lighting.

You can start with just one flash — I recommend something manual that you can radio-control from the camera body. This gives you the control you need, is very cost-effective compared to high-end automatic flash, and will be system-independent if you do decide to switch from Nikon to Canon (or to Pentax or Fujifilm or Olympus or Panasonic or etc.).

There is a fantastic online tutorial for basic lighting with a single flash in this way called Strobist 101. Go through that. That guide has some basic recommendations for gear, and see also What's the best bang for your buck to improve low light portrait shots: Lens, Flash or Body?

  • Thanks👍I was thinking Canon EOS 70D . Currently using a Nikon D3200 without a flash gun. I am going to trade it in for the 70D – Samk Jan 11 '17 at 22:49
  • Either of those should be perfectly fine. The D3200 is an excellent camera and should not be in any way a limiting factor. Spend the money on lighting gear, and possibly after that a new lens. – mattdm Jan 11 '17 at 22:53
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    @Samk One advantage of the DSLR is that you can use longer focal length 50mm or more which will give you less distorted faces than wide angle lens of a mobile phone used from short distance. – MirekE Jan 12 '17 at 16:02
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    @Samk Read the Strobist before buying flash. You will have much better idea what you want... – MirekE Jan 12 '17 at 16:04
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    Just want to add that the important thing to learn is probably how to achieve certain types of lighting like soft light with the flash. That could be with the help of a modifier on the flash or by bouncing it. Just don't think buying a flash and pointing it at your subject will magically solve all your problems. It's another tool you need to learn how to use. – null Jan 12 '17 at 18:38
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enter image description here

Many, Many lights, Simples :-)

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To get sharp studio headshots, you need to shoot with a telephoto and stop the lens down for enough depth of field, while keeping the shutter speed (or flash duration) fast enough to avoid camera shake or movement.

This will be difficult to do using LED lights. A pro glamour or beauty shooter will typically use studio flashes, a DSLR or mirrorless camera, and a telephoto lens. The flashes will be equipped with softboxes, a beauty dish, or umbrellas to diffuse and soften the light.

Note that this is not the only way to shoot beauty (it can be done outdoors, for example.)

Your Nikon is perfectly capable of excellent results with good lighting. You'll want at least one flash and modifier. The photo below was done in studio with a Sony A700 and Minolta beercan zoom. Note the triple catchlight from three flashes. I often shoot similar photos with just one light.

Sony A700, Minolta 70-210mm f/4, three studio flashes with shoot-through umbrellas

  • A telephoto lens is not necessary to achieve sharp images. – null Jan 13 '17 at 11:24
  • Perhaps you should stay on topic. The OP asked about makeup photos. Do you propose to shoot those with a wide angle lens? – Lumigraphics Jan 13 '17 at 14:47
  • I do. The topic is sharpness. Suggesting that a telephoto lens is necessary for that is misleading. What focal length should be used for makeup photos is not the scope of this question. – null Jan 13 '17 at 16:32
  • Actually it is. Solving the OP's problem is what matters here. I'm talking about the real world as we all should be. – Lumigraphics Jan 13 '17 at 17:23
  • Switching to a telephoto lens or to a lens with a longer focal length than the current one will not solve the OP's problem. As I said, this claim is misleading. – null Jan 13 '17 at 17:36

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