How to Photograph Your Tattoos

As a new tattoo artist, one of the best ways to find clients is on social media. However, if the pictures of your tattoos don’t stand out, it’ll be hard to get the attention of future customers.

In this article, we’ll break down what you need to know to build your online portfolio by explaining:

  • How to take high quality pictures of your tattoos
  • The Do’s and Don’ts of photographing tattoos
  • How to avoid being overlooked on social media

Social Media is the New Portfolio

If you are first starting out - whether you’re trying to get into a studio or build your client list - the first thing they're going to look at is the pictures of your tattoos.

While you’ll still need a physical tattoo portfolio to show shop owners, they will be more likely to hire you if you have followers who want to come get tattooed by you (and bring paying clients to the shop).

Note:

Several years ago, customers used to go through an artist’s portfolio in the shop to get ideas. Nowadays, however, clients will want to look at your work online, not in person. This means that the portfolios of every artist in your city is easily accessible to people who want to get tattooed. If your pictures look good, you’re far more likely to get their business.

How to Take Great Photos of Your Tattoos

1

Background

Samuele Briganti uses all-black tattoo backgrounds.

If you go onto any famous tattoo artist’s Instagram, you'll see that all of their tattoos have a nice, clean background. 

You want to make sure there’s nothing in the background that can take away from the tattoo. For example, you don’t want your tattoo setup or spilled ink, tables, or your feet in the background of the image. 

This is especially important when it comes to your reputation. For example, if you're tattooing in a tattoo studio, and you take a picture in the lobby where there's a couch in the background, it could look like you’re tattooing in someone’s house. This is the last thing you want to put in your portfolio, especially while you’re looking for a job. Tattoo shop owners will see that and completely write you off immediately. 

Even if the tattoo you took a picture of is completely healed, your pictures need to show that you understand proper hygiene. You will not be given the chance to explain why the background is imperfect.

How to Set Up a Tattoo Photo Background

When in doubt, aim for a completely blank background. 

For example, you can put a black sheet up on the wall. It’s plain, and you don’t have to deal with multiple colors, so it creates a nice contrast to any design you tattoo. 

The second best option is a solid-color wall. 

2

Lighting

Tattoos by Tattooing 101 Instructor Brandon

Taking a picture with flash is not going to give you the best result. Your tattoo will look blurry, and there will be a big flash on it. This makes it impossible to see any of the details you did in the tattoo.

Instead, we recommend setting up a ring light. They allow you to tone down the lighting so you can capture the right mood. 

Most ring lights (also called “O-lights”) come with an attachment you can put your phone on to take the picture. They’re also easy to move around or move the light further away or closer to the tattoo. 

Note:

Filters do not provide the same quality as good lighting. Don’t rely on “lightening up” the photo after you’ve taken it.

The skin around a fresh tattoo will be irritated and red. Bactine can help calm down that redness. Just spray it on at the end of the tattoo, then let it sit and calm the skin.

If you are tattooing with white highlights, it'll help them brighten up a little bit and have them “pop” in your actual picture. 

Note:

If you work in a busy street shop, you might have tons of clients and feel like you need to rush to take a photo and get to work with a new customer. However, if you want to open your own shop, you need to take that extra time now to get great pictures and build your audience online

Taking the time to get good pictures will help you build up a portfolio that lets you work in a famous tattoo studio, or even open up your own studio with tons of clients where you are booked up for months. 

4

Add a Watermark

To stand out in the industry, you can put a watermark over all of your pictures. Whenever you're done taking the photo of your tattoo, put the picture in Procreate and add your watermark at the bottom of the picture. This can be your logo, your name, etc. - whatever it is that shows who you are. 

Your watermark should not be super bright. You want to put it on a new layer and lower the opacity. You should still be able to see it without it becoming overpowering and taking away from the tattoo. 

Additionally, your watermark shouldn’t cover up the tattoo at all or be on their actual skin. Instead, place it somewhere on the plain background.

5

Consistency

When you pull up your online portfolio, all of your pictures should look similar. While the tattoos will be different, the pictures should be set up exactly the same because that looks more clean and professional. It also looks like you know what you're doing, which will help you get more clients.

Prepare for a Tattooing Career with the Artist Accelerator Program

Learning how to present your work online is an important step in your journey, but it can also be pretty eye-opening to how difficult building a career in tattooing can be. Without the right knowledge, it’s impossible to level up your skills and become a professional tattoo artist. 

However, finding the straight-forward information you need to progress is difficult. And with so much out there online, it’s hard to avoid picking up bad habits from incorrect and outdated resources.

This is one of the biggest struggles new tattooers face, and too many talented artists have given up their goal of getting into tattooing because of the years it would take to unlearn their bad habits. 

That’s why aspiring artists are learning to tattoo with the Artist Accelerator Program’s structured course. As a student, you learn every step of the tattooing process from professional artists with the experience and advice you need to build your skills and create incredible tattoos. 

With the Artist Accelerator, you can stop wasting time searching through incorrect information. You just get the clear, easy-to-understand lessons you need to start improving fast… along with support and personalized feedback from professional artists in our online Mastermind group.

Over 2500 students have already gone through the course, with many of them opening up their own studios. If you want to join them and learn the skills you need to start tattooing full time faster…

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
  • Professional tattoo artist coaches
  • Private mastermind community
AUTHOR
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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