To consolidate all of my answers into one spot, I thought I'd put together a little photo series. It was meant to be a post, but I'm much too wordy for that. I'm definitely still learning about photography, especially over the last few months as I've been using my dSLR more and more for my blog. So, this is just what currently works for me, I'll publish updates if things change greatly.
Note that beauty blogging photography is different than photography for pretty any other on-line endeavor. It is very micro heavy and there is a lot more emphasis on true color depiction than other types of blog photography. If your pic of an eye shadow swatch is a bit off, I can guarantee that you will get comments and emails about it from readers!
So, while I do everything that I can to ensure true color depiction (taking pics in bright indirect sunlight, no reflections from strong colors in the room, manually setting my white balance, etc.) you'll see that I go beyond this with my grey card set and fixing things further in Photoshop.
My essential items for beauty blog photography:
1) Camera: Duh! I use a Nikon D3100, which is a great intro DSLR. I especially love that it is a bit smaller, since I have freakishly small hands for a tall girl. It has a lot of preset settings, though I do admit that I've learned a lot about how to actually use the camera so I don't use them very often.
Once you have a camera, even if it is just a $75 point and shoot, you need to know how to use it! Know how to use the micro mode especially, since most of the shots for a beauty blog are close ups. Know how to set your white balance, know what shutter speed and aperture are, etc. Know them and use them correctly.
2) Micro Lens: I use this Nikon Micro lens, which is more than enough for my blog pics, though if you want to do serious macro work isn't a great choice. About 99% of the pics on 15 Minute Beauty use this micro lens.
3) Remote! My camera doesn't use infra-red (boo!) so I'm stuck with a wired remote most of the time, though I did just buy one that works with an antenna. I feel very 1980's. If you anticipate using a remote from further than 6 feet away very often, I recommend getting a camera that uses infrared.
I use my remote for a lot of things, though most of the time it is simply because I would need to hold my hand at an awkward angle. So, I'll use my tripod and remote instead. Just this afternoon I was taking pictures of a few nail polishes. I had painted one on my left hand, another on my right hand. I simply can't hold the camera in my left hand and take pics with it, my hand doesn't work that way. So, tripod and remote (still too awkward to hit the button myself), waaaaay easier!
4) Tripods: I have a couple of tripods, and I fully admit that I simply bought the cheap options. I have a basic and pretty adjustable tripod that I bought from and ideeli sale. I also have one of those Joby Gorillapods, which look like little insects almost. The legs are very adjustable. I mostly use the Joby if I'm using a photo setup on the floor of my office, in which case the tripod is too tall.
5) Photo Editing Software: You really need to have something that allows you to resize pics, watermark them and do some basic editing. I know a lot of people that use free on-line programs. Personally, I use Photoshop. Photoshop Elements does a lot of what the full version can do, but for a lot less money.
6) Grey Card Set: I own this grey card set from Amazon, and I use it all the time. The white card is perfect for the white balance, though the other 2 cards are a bit more complicated. I'll often put the trio of cards off to the side while I take pics, and then use the little glimpse of them in the frame to correct the color and exposure. You can read more about it over on DPS.
You don't need to use these cards. They're only magic in that they are a white, black and a neutral grey. If you want to try out the technique without buying the cards, here's an image that I made which should do the same thing. Print it out on bright white paper and you're good to go! I do recommend buying the cards if you'll be doing this long term as they're more durable.
Tomorrow I'll go over the setup I use for taking pictures and I'll show you how I recently made a new photo background that's made a big difference!