A Makeup Tip I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Started Photography

A Makeup Tip I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Started Photography

When I began photography I didn’t understand the importance of lighting and the difference makeup has on an image. Looking back, if I would have first understood and attempted to master the techniques behind makeup, I would have understood the proper way to light my subjects when photographing them.

During my short experience as a retoucher, I had a lot of questions. Primarily, I always wondered where it was necessary to dodge and burn. I knew that there had to be some sort of guideline to follow. This question led to a lot of googling, culminating to the rabbit hole of makeup tutorials on Youtube. The most important thing I learned was the concept of contouring. Out simply, contouring is the art of expertly highlighting and shadowing the correct spots on the face in order to accentuate and bring out the subjects best look. Once I understood this concept, not only did I become a better retoucher but my lighting skills  improved significantly.

The purpose of contouring the face using makeup is to enhance bone structure and giving the face a more dimensional look. The goal should be to define cheek bones, making the nose look as thin as possible and producing an overall 3D glow. 

Highlighting and contouring go hand in hand - here are a few Youtube videos that explain contouring:

Julia, a fellow writer for Fstoppers put together a fantastic three part Dodge & Burn aticle: PART 1, PART 2, PART 3

Here are a few before/after photos from my Facebook Page worth studying. Take note of the areas I dodged and burned. 

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Golgo Thirteen's picture

Thanks man I had been researching the same thing a few years ago and didn't get answers this straight forward. I really appreciate that you have your OWN style of portrait btw. I can actually look at photos online and tell that they are your shots.

Keep doing that.

Steve Johnston's picture

WOW, Great info, can't wait to play with this effect

Aaron Brown's picture

This is great info, Dani. Cheers man!

Mike Swiech's picture

Nice article you've written Dani.

Kian McKellar's picture


Very helpful. Thanks Dani!

Kian McKellar's picture

Do you have any good examples for shading men rather than women? Or do the same principles apply?

Kian McKellar's picture

Nah I understand exactly what you mean. I wanted to make sure there wasn't more to it than that.

A K's picture

Very informative, thanks for posting.

Karl-Filip Karlsson's picture

Gets a little bit confused. what is the difference between dodge & burn and contouring? are they not the same? :)

Dexter Maneja's picture

dodge and burn is a STEP you do to CONTOUR or dodge and burn is part of the process in contouring. :)

saphire gaskas's picture

As a professional makeup artist and an amateur photographer I totally agree, every photographer should have a little understanding of makeup, so important

Kari Kumpulainen's picture

Thanks Dani for article,.

Eventhough d&b isn't new stuff to me, it was nice to see this article also took note about make-up and how understanding it makes use for us photographers.

Zack Williamson's picture

I was just thinking earlier this week that I need to learn basic makeup techniques for head shots since most of my work is sports and product. This is really helpful!

Christian Berens's picture

That's crazy, I can honestly say I've never watched a girl get her face fully done. I usually go on to other things, but those were great videos!! I can honestly say, I'm glad I'm not a girl, I can't imagine doing that every day (yes i know not all girls do lol)

Thanks for posting!! I'll definitely try and use some of those post processing tips!!

Fritz Asuro's picture

I actually never thought that my mom's study on cosmetology will benefit me :D

Darren Nana's picture

Great article Dani. Always helpful to see something a little different and before and afters are always nice to see, It helps people understand what the foundations (SOC) are of a good image. I often find myself looking at the back of the camera thinking "is that what a pro would be getting in camera?"

Jason Ranalli's picture

Completely agree. When someone who knows what they are doing gives you a generous glimpse behind the stage curtain I can better calibrate whether my shots are good enough out of camera or whether I need to refine my shooting and lighting a bit.

Gabe Hernandez's picture

I've been practicing this since seeing the article last week. It's helped a ton. Thanks!

Jason Ranalli's picture

I'm glad I'm not the only one that has looked up a ton of makeup tutorials on YouTube. I can honestly say it has helped my retouching but I have a long way to go with refining my lighting techniques.

Jure Matoz's picture

Awesome! I'm trying it now. Thanks for sharing.

Jay Goldz's picture

GREAT article, thanks for the share, I said a few months ago I was going to sit in on a makeup class to better understand for D&B, this beats that lol

Curtis Reese's picture

Thanks for this, I'm just now starting to get into dodging an burning. It makes a HUGE difference in the photo

red cat's picture

I've seen videos and books talking about dodging/burning but your article sum up the most useful information ! It'd save me and other photographers a lot of time & effort !
Thank you so much :)

semyon lorberg's picture

Pretty amazing stuff if one wants to achieve more than mediocre results. You are in NYC. Is any chance to see you during a shoot?

Varga Mark's picture

@Dani Diamond Awesome this Makeup Tip ! :).

Thank you a lot

Miro Hristoff's picture

Always knew this the true way to learn the Force :) Right now I am really stuck into learning D&B techniques to learn retouching right. This one helps a lot. Shared :)