Sarah Stafford Discusses What Photographers Should Know About Makeup Artistry On Set

If you work in portrait photography, be it commercial fashion or high school seniors or anything in between, at some point you will be on set with makeup artists (MUA) and hair stylists, if you aren't already. A good makeup artist can make or break your sessions, and a bad one can simply ruin everything. And since no amount of retouching can totally undo subpar makeup, hair, and styling, Staci and I decided to sit down with pro makeup artist Sarah Stafford in The Backyard to shed some light on the relationship between MUAs and photographers.

I'm discussing this matter recently because of one simple reason: I used to overlook the importance of a proper styling team on set. Often. Chronically, in fact. It was to the point where I didn't have a go-to makeup artist or hairstylist at all by the end of 2014. Reckless as that sounds, I somehow managed to build my photography brand decently despite this oversight. Since then, however, I've truly come to realize the incredible importance of a professional MUA and/or hairstylist on set, and I work very hard to keep the best ones at the ready for my projects.

Ironically, my model photography career started in 2009 with elaborate productions spearheaded by various makeup artists on set. At the time, I didn't do the projects justice because I was minimally knowledgeable about lighting, but I did work for hours with the MUAs to get things planned and prepared for the shoot. Sadly, by 2014 or so, I had all but stopped calling on MUAs out of "convenience" and not too long after that I simply never called on any professional makeup artists unless the client(s) booked one on their own.

In case I'm not being clear enough, this was a huge mistake on my part. Lesson learned? Absolutely.

And so I made the shift towards finally having professional makeup artists and hair stylists on my first call list. First and foremost on the list is my new friend Sarah Stafford, who Staci and I sat down with recently to discuss some of the more salient points of what a photographer should know when working with MUAs on set.

​Main photo of Sarah by Brian Vogel, used with permission.

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