[Skills] How to Take Constructive Photos of Nails

Have you ever created a set of nails you felt really good about, snapped some photos to post on social media, & then gasped in shock horror when you opened them in Instagram?

“Where’d those heavy hips come from?”

“When did that hangnail magically appear on her pinky?”

“OMG how did I miss that big dip in Zone 3?”

After one second of examining the blinding, pixelated evidence of your perceived mistakes, you close the app & delete the photo permanently, scornfully casting off the betrayal of your skills, your client’s wonky finger, or whatever it is that caused the flawed service.

And you take away the joy & accomplishment you felt when you finished your service–& any inspiration your nail photo may have brought into the world.
(Note to self: Start a conversation about mindset soon!)

This seemingly harsh & embarrassing dose of reality is actually a really good thing.

Social media celebrations aside, consistently photographing your work is a very powerful practice for the very reason you decided not to post that photo we were just talking about. It trains your eye to notice things you didn’t notice before.

You’ve heard the saying, “The camera adds 10 pounds.” Yes?

You’ve heard the saying, “The camera adds 10 pounds.” Yes? The same applies to nails.

This phenomenon makes our favorite movie stars look so much smaller when we see them on the Big Red Couch next to Graham Norton. And it makes normal-sized people look much bigger than they really are.

(Seriously. Harrison Ford & I are the same height in real life!)

There are actual technical reasons for this flattening effect, as explained by Seattle-based photographer John Cornicello. This effect is simply one of physical proximity: “The closer you are to your subject, the more narrow [it] will appear.”

Consistently photographing your work is a very powerful practice because it trains your eye to notice things you didn’t notice before.

This very optical illusion applies to nails, too.

Because Nail Professionals get to look at each nail from multiple angles, it’s common to forget to zoom out & look at the bigger picture: each constituent element of good nail design comes together as one whole Nail Enhancement.

Harness the power of cold, unbiased technology & use it to create beautiful, sleek, consistent nail enhancements!

It’s easy to harness the power of cold, unbiased technology & use it to create beautiful, sleek, consistent nail enhancements. All you need is your smartphone & some decent lighting to quickly analyze your work & troubleshoot a technique adjustment for next time.

Bonus: taking photos of all your nail services can help you keep track of clients services, color selections, color formulas, & nail art looks.


Here are my favorite ways to use photography to continually improve my nail skills & customer service:

1. Photograph Forever French enhancements against a smooth (but not shiny) black background.
The contrast will make it easier to focus the camera & check those elements of good design.

2. Photograph the nails from multiple angles so you can critique specific design elements.

a. Whole hand
This will help you determine overall consistency from nail to nail.

b. Front form
Choose one finger & take a photo of the front form. This will help you see that the sidewalls are parallel & your extension edge is shaped properly. Not only is the balance between these elements important for overall aesthetic, it’s crucial for creating a strong nail enhancement!

c. Side view
Turn the finger 90 degrees & photograph the side view. You’ll be able to critique the ears of your smile line & your upper arch & lower arch, both of which are super important in creating a strong enhancement.

d. Barrel-C curve
This one can be a little tricky. Place the finger on the table’s edge or on top of something small & solid, like a block, a binder, or your table lamp. Photograph straight down the barrel, taking care to get the front-to-back view as well as side-to-side. This will help determine if your extension edge is even from sidewall to sidewall (side to side) & from extension edge to cuticle (front to back).

3. Use a white background for social media posts.
Okay, this one may be more of a branding preference. I like bright, clean images to showcase my nail looks but black backgrounds work, too. If I need to brighten up an image, a white backdrop is easier to keep consistent than a brightened black background.

4. Hold the camera at different angles.
If you tilt your camera different ways, you’ll see how it changes the look of your nails. So, if you have a heavy enhancement but really want to showcase the look on social media, don’t just throw the photo away. Change the angle of your camera to get the most flattering angle as possible. And remember: what you think is awful or heavy is beautiful to someone else. Don’t sell yourself short in the name of perfection. (It’s a fallacy anyway.)

5. Don’t use your camera’s zoom to get a tight shot.
This distorts the image before it’s even taken. If you want to get in closer, physically move the camera closer to the hand or take the photo & crop it afterwards. Tighter shots are also more attractive on social media. (And they’re better for critique!)

6. Use good lighting.
Amateur or seasoned, ALL photographers can wax poetic about how important good lighting is for capturing moments. Natural lighting is usually best, so high five if you’re near a window! If you aren’t, experiment with moving your table lamp around & see how it affects the clarity & overall attractiveness of your shot. Try softening the light by taping a disposable table towel around the light source. You can also use a detachable selfie ring light like the one I have here. (If you see lots wavy lines in your nail surface, however, you may want to forego the extra lighting to prevent highlighting heavy polish application.)

7. Store your photos in a mobile notes app like Evernote to record your progress.
Evernote is a mobile & desktop app that sorts your notes into notebooks &/or with tags. I use it for SO many things: bookkeeping, invoice tracking, blog writing, storing art ideas, all kinds of stuff. I love it because it’s a well-maintained app, photos & PDFs are text-searchable (#nerdmoment!), & it syncs across all my devices so I can access my info anywhere, even offline. I like to store my nail photos in a notebook labeled “Nails”.

I create separate notes for each of my clients. Then, I add new photos into the note & include the date, service, & color/nail art recipes for that look. I add to the note with each appointment so I can track my sculpting progress with each client.

For natural nail looks, I stick them in a note titled “Nail Art” inside my Nails notebook. I label it with the recipe & the client.

At the end of the week or if I immediately notice something really off about the photo, I make a note of what I did well & what I can improve next time.


Ready to give it a shot? (No pun intended!) Take photos of all your nail services for a week & store them in a separate folder in your phone’s photo album or in an app like iOS Notes or Evernote. At the end of the week, analyze your photos & see where you can improve & celebrate your victories IN WRITING.

Feeling bold? Post them to Facebook or Instagram & tag me: @theabundantnailtech.

Thanks for sharing!

Tell me here: Do you use photography regularly in your business? Why or why not?

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