What Photographers Need to Consider Before Hiring Makeup Artists

What Photographers Need to Consider Before Hiring Makeup Artists

Makeup artists can be indispensable to raising the production value of a photoshoot. They make models fit the brief, they introduce important elements to the color palette, they make clients feel fantastic, and they bring the magic to conceptual photographs. Not all makeup artists bring the same value to the table though, so it's important for photographers to consider a few key elements before hiring an artist to their team.

For this article, I spoke to Denver Makeup Artists Brandy Rich and Nina Marie Diaz, and Colorado Springs Makeup Artist Kimberly Clay, all of whom work commercially and in the wedding/portrait side of the business. They gave me a list of points to look at to help photographers judge whether or not a particular makeup artist is the right artist for the job.

Brandy's List

  • Are they in compliance with state regulations?
  • Do they know and use proper sanitation methods?
  • What is their relationship like with other professional makeup artists in their community? 
  • What does their portfolio look like, and is it possible to see unedited images?
  • Do they know what products to use, or avoid using, for photography?
  • Do they know color theory?

A good makeup artist will always minimize the time you have to spend on post-processing and will always be open to constructive feedback.

Model: Ty Hernandez MUA: Brandy Rich

Nina's List

  • Are they versatile? Can they do clean beauty as well as glamour?
  • Can they work with all skin types?
  • Can they work with all skin tones?
  • Do they practice proper sanitation of their kit?

A cheap makeup artist can be an expensive mistake.

Model: Gemma James MUA: Nina Marie Diaz

Kim's List

  • Do they understand and use proper sanitation?
  • Is their work consistent in quality?
  • What is their reputation like with other professionals?
  • How good is their time management?
  • Do they show versatility in the kind of makeup styles they can perform? 

Look for a makeup artist that is versatile in style, but consistent in skill, who can work within an allotted time frame, has good standing in their industry, and follows impeccable sanitation.

Model: Madison Flowers MUA: Kimberly Clay

It's clear that all the artists are concerned about one thing in particular: sanitation. If a photographer is looking for a makeup artist to work with, it's imperative to know whether the artist uses sanitary methods to ensure that the model or client is safe from things like the transfer of bacteria, which can happen if the artist doesn't properly clean their brushes or use single-use tools, such as disposable mascara wands. 

From my own experience with makeup artists, I can say that I have had to consider each one of these points. It's important to note that each of these can be expanded upon and customized to each job. For example, a photoshoot using strobes will affect makeup differently than a shoot in natural light, as certain products don't behave as well under a flash. A trade shoot with all afternoon to play doesn't require the same kind of time management skills as working with several models at a runway show.

It's best to know exactly what you will need a makeup artist to do and see if you can find an artist who has experience in that area. Many artists will also have areas of specialty, such as bridal, editorial, fantasy, glamour, etc. and will know what each requires. Bridal artists know what makeup will stand the test of time, sweat, tears, and kisses, while artists who specialize in commercial beauty will know what will keep skin looking natural and still behave well under flash.

The next time you need a makeup artist for a shoot, refer back to this list to ensure you're working with the right person and remember: sanitation is king.

Nicole York's picture

Nicole York is a professional photographer and educator based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. When she's not shooting extraordinary people or mentoring growing photographers, she's out climbing in the New Mexico back country or writing and reading novels.

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Such a useful article, Thank you, Nicole.

Absolutely. I'm glad you found it helpful!

How do you confirm that a make-up artist practices proper sanitation? Feels like the answer to that question would always be, "Of course I do..." Falls in the category of a model asking a photographer if they have shot nudes before... "Of course I have..." And my apologies, I ask the impossible question, how can you be sure? You probably can't, but if you find someone with a good reputation and solid portfolio you're better off than getting someone off Craig's list that spells mascara with two r's.

Hard to tell if it's your first time with them.
But my team artists, will separate their used brushes, combs, sponges etc. used at end of shoot and designate them for cleaning (this is a good sign).
On a shoot set if you check the brushes in their pouch or set they should flow free on finger flick test, sponges and combs should be clean looking as well and should never look too used/old etc. You can get a sense of the artists cleanliness based on how their kit is (clean, messy etc.).

Ironically, just learned today that in the State of NC you have to be licensed to be paid to be a makeup artist. I'm curious to find out now if as a photographer if I hire an unlicensed makeup artist for a shoot if I am now liable for any issues that may result from hiring them. http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/ByChapter/C...

... aaaaaand that's what I hate about being an "honest" photographer.

Love this, the amount of time it takes for makeup and hair is so important to the way the rest of the shoot flows. Great article!

Love the photos...thanks for the article