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Photographing Fingernail Art

Updated on July 8, 2013
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Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) | Source

Like hands, fingers and other art forms, finger nail art has grown in popularity in recent years and it has become an art form onto itself, albeit a temporary art form since the designs don't seem to last for too long.

The available materials and designs that are placed on a lady's finger nails seems to be almost endless. This does not limit itself to just painting designs, today many other things like crystals, are placed alongside the typical painted designs.

This photographic theme involves recording images of curiously and pleasing art work which is done on the nails. this goes without saying has to be done in very close up mode with macro being the exclusive realm. The images must show the design to its fullest and clearly as it is with anything that small. You will therefore need to uses a macro lens or a magnifying filter that allows you to go as close as three inches from the subject plus a tripod or something stable upon which to rest your camera.

As far as a light source, a regular flash unit will not be suitable first because it is too strong and second because of the position of it on the camera. You will need a flash ring which like its name suggest is a small flash unit in the shape of a ring and which goes attached to the lens front element. Its power output is just enough to illuminate the subject.

You will also need the aid of a remote shutter triggering device to help you avoid any shaking or movement which will blur the image. At the magnification required for such pictures any movement will become easily apparent.

Before starting the project you will need a model with long fingernails and someone who can design art forms on them. Alternatively, you can just search for people who already have the designs.

Another method is to visit a nail shop where this is done and ask them to allow you to photograph their customer's designs. Most of the time all it will require is for you to provide them with copies of the images which more than likely they will use in their advertising. So it becomes a win win situation for both you and the store. Off course do not forget to ask the client's permission as well.

These images should not be done out in the open sun since its light will produce harsh shadows. Better if done indoors with the ring flash.

Although you can often include parts of the finger and the hand, the best images are those that single out one fingernail at a time and the images is nothing but the fingernail. But there are occasions where including parts of the hand or other elements adds to the beauty of the scene such as a bride, then add these other elements to complement the entire scene.

If you also come upon acrylic or fake nails that are highly decorated, then you can also record these images of the nails by themselves without the fingers upon which they are meant to be affixed.

if you decide on doing the nails yourself then you should have some designs in mind and maybe some other props. Also keep in mind that before working on the hand you need to let the paint and glue set in since most movements or handling can remove or damage the art work.

Focus on designs that are elaborate, the more elaborate the better. You are trying to photograph something that because of its complexity and required effort can be considered art. Simply putting stickers with design on them will not do, just as a simple painted design won't either.

Some fingernail art is so elaborate and complex that it can only be used to be a photographic centerpiece since by their sheer complexity they don't allow the wearer to do anything else.

There are many product manufacturers shows that use these events to showcase their new materials and products and they are often full of very good photographically worthy samples, model and all. If you can attend one of these events then do so and record the images. Be aware that you will not have the complete control of the shoot unless you arrange for the company to let you photograph the completed samples ahead of time.

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Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) | Source

When you are ready to mount a presentation for your images consider doing so in a thumbnail format with many different images as well as blow ups of the best and most elaborate samples.

These photographs can be sent to photo stock houses as they often have buyers who are looking for this type of unusual imagery for their add campaigns and for other purposes. This theme is also suitable for many photographic publications, fine art galleries and for office or home decorative purposes.

Be mindful that since you will be doing a lot of close ups and macros, the technique and the quality of the shots need to be flawless since magnification will show even the smallest of imperfections and this can ruin your changes of making a sale.

Keep in mind that if using film there is a working limit to the size of the magnification that can be done. If you are going to shoot the project on film, then I strongly suggest that you use positive film or more commonly known as slide film, therefore you obtain a first generation image rather than a second generation as obtained from a negative.

Anything greater than the working magnification limit of the medium will quickly show degradation in the quality. If using digital your magnifications can be greater since most professional labs can reduce the pixel degradation by replacing pixels or rather, by adding pixels that are not there in the first place.


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Truckstop Sally: Thank you

    • Truckstop Sally profile image

      Truckstop Sally 5 years ago

      I do love a manicure and pedicure . . . my toenails are always painted red -- summer or winter. I have seen some fun "animal" prints . . . but never the sculptured work you show. Wow. It truly is an art.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Credence2: Thank you

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      pmccray: Thank you

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Luis, great photos of a truly intricate process. I had no ideas of the extremes people go thru to express themselves. Thanks for the illustrations as always, Cred2

    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 5 years ago from Utah

      Some of this art is extreme. I do so love the more moderate nail art. Well done. Voted up, marked beautiful and interesting.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      CassyLu1981: Thank you ,glad you liked it. The more elaborate ones have to be done by a pro.

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      WOW! Some of those are crazy! I can do the paint all day long but doing those that have shape and pop off the nail, not sure those are for me. Would look beautiful for a wedding or something but even then it would be too much. I'd worry I'd break it! Very interesting Hub :)