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Taking Great Tattoo Pictures

Updated on November 4, 2009

Whether you are a tattoo artist and are building a portfolio of your work or would just like to have pictures of your own tattoos to send to friends, getting a great picture can be more difficult than you think.  Here are some tips on how to take great tattoo pictures with digital cameras.

Tattoo by Chuck Kail
Tattoo by Chuck Kail

Macro Setting
If your camera has a macro setting you will want that on.  It often looks like a little flower symbol.  This will allow your camera to focus at its minimum focal length if it has one.  Check your manual or look it up online so you will know what that is.  Your focal length will be the shortest distance from the object that you will be able to focus at.  This may be some number like 24 inches.  Whatever that is your picture will be out of focus if you are any closer than that.

White Balance
If your camera has a white balance you will want to set that for the type of light you are using.  Incorrect settings will give the picture a yellow or bluish tint, select the one that looks correct.  Some cameras may have settings for "sunlight" or "fluorescent" etc.  Try the appropriate setting and view the results to see if its correct.  If you are not sure just take several pictures with different settings including the "auto" setting.

For Fresh Tattoos
Fresh tattoos can cause a glare from the moisture on the skin.  Dabbing at this with a fresh paper towel will keep this to a minimum.  Do not try to take pictures of tattoos with ointment on them or are otherwise very moist. 

Full spectrum lighting is best.  This can come from full spectrum light bulbs or from the sun. If you are taking pics outside you will want indirect lighting or just stand in the shade.  Since this article is geared for the amateur photographer we won't go into big pro setups.Stay away from using the camera flash on fresh tattoos.  This almost always results in flash burn somewhere in your picture. 

Take the Picture
Get as close as you can without getting inside your focal length.  Pay attention to your backgrounds.  Bloody paper towels are the worst.  Take lots of pics.  Wipe fresh tattoos between pictures.  Take pictures from different angles and distances.  And if you can download them and see if you have any good ones.  Don't use any that are out of focus at all or have any glare. 
When possible try to take some pictures on the day after also.  Often the day after pics turn out much better than the day of pics.

And did I mention, take lots and lots of pics.  There's nothing worse than spending a lot of time on a great tattoo and never having any good pictures to show of it.


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