How to photograph hair – 10 pro tips

How to photograph hair – 10 pro tips
Hair Romance x Olympus collaboration

It’s probably no surprise that to be a hair blogger, you need to know how to photograph hair. But whether you’re a blogger, or just looking to take a better selfie, these 10 tips will help you capture your hairstyle in the best possible way.

If you love seeing behind the scenes, you can find more of my Blog Photography series here.

When I first started blogging, it was really only meant to be a hobby. From a young age, I’ve always wanted to be a photographer. I began assisting fashion photographers and it seems destiny was at play: one of the first people I assisted just happened to be the best hair photographer in Australia: Andrew O’Toole.

I want to let you in on a few secrets I’ve learnt from behind the scenes and some tips and tricks on how to take better photos of hair.

Now, is there such a thing as a hair photographer?

Yes! And you’d be surprised at how much work there is in this specialist category. Salons and stylists shoot collections each year for awards, and there’s plenty of hair photography in advertising as well.

At first I thought that hair would fall into the same category as beauty photography. However, there are lot of nuances to photographing hair that are quite different from photographing people or clothes.

How to photograph hair – 10 pro tips

1. Choose a clean background

When you’re photographing an intricate hairstyle, you should create balance with a simple background so that it doesn’t clash with the detail happening in the hair. Use a plain white or block wall to place your subject against.

2. Light coloured hair is easier to photograph

You might wonder why so many hair bloggers have blonde hair or highlights. This is because it makes photographing the styles so much easier.

In dark hair, it can be difficult to see the shape of hairstyles and braids. A quick trick for bringing out the detail in dark hair is to use a hair powder or chalk to add an accent to the hairstyle. It makes such a difference to the finished style and it makes it easier to balance the colour in your photograph.

3. A technical trick for shooting dark hair

If you do have to shoot dark hair against a light background, I highly recommend shooting in HDR mode. This stands for “high dynamic range” and means that you can capture details in the shadows without blowing out the highlights. The thing I love about my Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II camera is the inbuilt HDR functions and easy settings so that I can do this at a touch of a button.

4. Extremely short depth of field

When shooting a detailed braid, I recommend shooting with a short depth of field. Choosing an aperture of f2.8, or lower if possible, will place the main part of the style in focus and the rest of the hair and the background will blur. I love my main lens, the M.Zuiko 12-40mm Pro as it is at a constant aperture f2.8, but I sometimes reach for the 45mm lens f1.8, which is incredible for shooting portraits. The colours it captures are just stunning.

5. Light to highlight

Wherever possible I like to use a little reflection or highlight to lift up the details of the hairstyle I’m trying to photograph. In my studio, I do this with extra lighting or by using a reflector. I don’t use flash, so when shooting on location, a reflector can really help bring light onto the hair.

6. Consider back lighting

The position of the light creates a totally different mood. Most of the time I use a front light. When filming videos and with some photography, I often use a sidelight. This just helps to add more light around the hairstyle and can work especially well for dark hair.

One thing to note: too much back lighting can accentuate any frizz or flyways. If you’re trying to photograph hair in a sleek style, a backlight is not really your friend.

7. Shine and more shine

In real life, too much shine spray can look a little bit oily to your eye, but it can photograph so well. In fine hair, a light hair spray can add the right amount of sheen to the hair without weighing it down. All of these products reflect the light back into your camera.

8. Plan out the order of styles

If you have to photograph a few hairstyles in the same day, it’s important to plan them out in the right order. I usually start with a hair-out style, then a half-up, and then a full-up style and lastly a braid. Progressively each of the styles will hide any wear on the hair. It makes it easier and faster to work and keeps the hair looking good for longer.

9. Clean hair is not always the best

Often clean hair is too soft to hold many hairstyles. If I’m trying to photograph clean hair, I reach for dry shampoo to add a little bit of volume and texture in the hair and make it easier to style.

10. Consider your arms

While you’re taking photos of the tutorial, think about the placement of your arms for the photo. Remember that anything that’s closer to the camera will appear bigger.

I try to keep my hands on the side and my arms at an angle so that they appear smaller and don’t block your view of the tutorial steps.

Bonus insight: Not everything you see in hair photos is real

I make a point to use only very minimal editing on my photos. I’ll definitely remove some minor blemishes, but I don’t alter my hair or body. In professional hair shoots for advertising and for hair collections, there is a significant amount of photoshopping that goes on.

If you are wondering why you can’t achieve that perfect photo, it’s probably because it’s not real. So don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, be proud that you’ve tried a new style and rock it with confidence.

I hope you like this peek behind the scenes with my tips on how to photograph hair.

If you’ve got any photography questions, please ask me in the comments below and for photography inspiration you definitely have to follow @olympus_au on Instagram and check out #olympusinspired, where I find and discover so many beautiful photographers.

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