When you are shooting your portfolio your choice of makeup artist can make or break the outcome of your shoot.

Things to consider when hiring a makeup artist

Photo © by www.JoeEdelman.com

In my experience, you can divide the best makeup artists into two distinct categories.

The first group is almost always beauty or makeup school trained. They are technically excellent in their application and likely to be creative, however if you give them 10 faces to work on, when they are finished – you will be able to see enough similarities from one face to the next that you can easily identify who did the makeup.

The second group may or may not be beauty school trained. They too are technically excellent and almost always very creative without being cliché’. The big difference is that if you give them ten faces to work on, they approach each face uniquely and work to bring out the unique features of that face. When they are done you will have ten faces that look incredible but you will not have ten faces with the same kind of makeup.

For your portfolio – you want a makeup artist who is from the second group. Your modeling portfolio or acting headshot is NOT about how great your photographer is or how creative your makeup artist is. It is about marketing YOU.

With this in mind – do your research – consider the following when selecting your makeup artist…

Their portfolio

Have you seen samples of their work? Do they only show photos with cool and crazy makeup or do they prove that they are able to produce ‘WOW” versions of clean and attractive makeup for a commercial modeling portfolio or acting headshot.

Have you seen samples of their work that were created with the same photographer that you have hired to do your shoot? For me, my makeup artist is a crucial part of my process. Working with an artist that I do not know or who does not share my same standards will severely handicap my work and affect the outcome of the shoot.


Do they do it? Are they any good at it? If your budget is limited you need an artist that can do both and do both really well. Hair will make or break a photo faster than the makeup will.

Color science

How much do they know about it? Ask them if they know what color fluorescent lights are and what happens when you photograph pale pink lipstick under fluorescent lights. Why does this matter? Because photographers use many different types of light. In my studio I shoot with everything from studio strobes to tungsten and fluorescent lights and outside in direct sunlight and heavy shade. Even though our eyes don’t realize it – each of these types of lighting is a very different color and the cameras and makeup realize it. While the camera can compensate for the color, the makeup doesn’t. A good makeup artist understand enough color science to know how to compensate for the different types of lighting so that you don’t wind up looking washed out or too harsh.


Yes – that is high on my list. Cheap is rarely good and of course expensive doesn’t guarantee quality. The photos you are producing are your marketing tools. The results of this shoot determine your ability to get work. Save your pennies – hire the best and accept nothing less.

What do you get for your money?

It is worthless to have the makeup artist come in and do your hair and makeup and then leave while you go on to do several outfit changes without them. After the first shot your hair will be a mess and your makeup will probably already have smudges. You need an artist who is going to stay for your entire shoot.

Remember – your portfolio shoot is the most important shoot that you will ever do as a model. Of course you will hopefully go on to do incredible shoots for national ad campaigns or magazines, but without top notch results for your portfolio, you will never be hired for those big jobs.

Do they have a good eye?

As a photographer, I require my makeup artists to be on set and looking over my shoulder the entire time I am shooting. Their job is to be a second set of eyes to insure that hair is in place and that outfits aren’t wrinkled or disheveled. You would be amazed how many photographers don’t take advantage of this and as a result how many makeup artists will sit down in the makeup chair and take a break while the model is on set.

Are they a good teacher

I instruct all of my first time models to ask lots of questions while in the makeup chair. It is not uncommon for a model to receive a call from her agency and be told that she has booked a job and needs to show up “camera ready”. That means you have to do your own hair and makeup. Obviously your makeup artist will not be able to teach you how to apply makeup while she is preparing you for a photo shoot – but most of them are able to multi-task and at least while they are doing base work and hair will have plenty of time to talk to you.



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