How Makeup Can Improve Your Photography in Ways You Never Thought Of

When I started out in portrait and beauty photography, I tried to have a makeup artist for most of my photo shoots. Why? Because I had always been told it would help my retouching. This is true in most cases. As long as you work with talented makeup artists, you will shorten the time spent in front of your computer. However, this is not the only advantage. Since I learned to do the makeup myself, I have discovered how having makeup done can help your photography reach another level. Noticing these benefits, I do everything to upsell my clients to get makeup done at the studio rather than having them doing it themselves. Here is why.


Giving Confidence to Your Client

While this might not be crucial on a commercial or fashion set when working with professional models, with people getting their portrait done for the first time by a professional, it is. Making sure they feel confident and good about themselves is to me the most important thing to start a great portrait session. If they look in the mirror and feel good about themselves, they will most likely trust you and listen to your directions more easily.
New faces and private clients often do not feel very sure and confident when walking in the studio and that is normal. It is a human thing to be afraid of the unknown. Making them look beautiful – or even more beautiful than they already are – with a great makeup is a first step to help them feel good and relaxed.

Building Trust

Whether you have a makeup artist or you do the makeup yourself, the makeup time is a moment where you can establish a connection with your client. I love talking with them during that time, learning about them, what they do, what they like, etc. Creating some sort of friendship with them. I'd rather lose a bit of time laughing and talking with them, but then being able to get whatever expression I ask them because they feel like they are in good hands with me, than having a scared and uncomfortable client in front of my camera.
If you do not do the makeup yourself, make sure it does not bother your makeup artist to have a client talking while he/she works. Also learn when not to speak otherwise your makeup artist will probably hate you in no time... There is nothing worse than having a client moving around while putting mascara or liner on.
The relationship with your client is often easier to create while you are not concentrated on your light, composition, posing, etc. Which is why the makeup and hair time is often the perfect moment for it. Also there is nothing worse that total silent in a studio… 

Trust Is Cheap but Strong Advertising

Another benefit of building this friendship like relation is that if your client or model likes you, she or he will be more likely to give your contact to friends and family. Meaning more business for you!
Do not try to go on about how great your business is and be a bad commercial person. Just be yourself, build a great relationship with you client and talk openly about what you do. I have had clients booking me for their wedding after a portrait session only because I talked about my love for wedding photography with the future bride. She liked how I spoke about weddings and wedding photography. I then showed her a sample album and the contract was signed a few days later.

Building this trust while the makeup and hair are being done is something that can be very powerful for your business as well as for your pictures. So next time you start your session and have your makeup artist doing his/her work, do not go and sit in front of you computer to do your emails or some retouching. Take the time for your client, get to know her/him and build a relationship with them. Photography is somewhat a luxury and very personal service. This means that we should try everything to make our clients feel special and make their time in our studio a wonderful experience they will talk about to all their friends.


What do you do while makeup and hair are being done? Do you also value having a personal relationship with your clients? What do you do to make your clients feel special and unique?

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Paulo Macedo's picture

Yes it does help, not only the photographer but the model also.
I've been shooting models without the propper makeup, i've quited retouching those pictures, it's a nightmare.
Now i'm like, i'd rather pay the 30€ to a makeup artist here where i live, and have some very good to excelent results than wasting hours on frequency separation...

Josh Rottman's picture

Couldn't agree more.

Marius Budu's picture

Depends on what you shoot I suppose. I'm an art photographer and I insist that my models don't use any make-up at all. I want to capture people in their natural state.

I do some light retouching of non-permanent marks (blemishes, pimples, etc) when needed and that's that.

Stepan Maxa's picture

I cannot recommend enough for aspiring photographers (as am I) to get makeup artist for your shooting! Even if it's your semi-skilled friend, you will save a lots of time during retouching and you can start building your team + things mentioned in this article.
I was shooting w/out MUA, the models always say "I can do it by myself, don't worry", don't trust them... then I tried my MUA friend and since then I don't want to shoot w/out MUA!

Michael Burgan's picture

I'm a photographer that tried makeup out as an experiment to see how hard it was. And i find this article to be true. Its so much easier to build comfort with my models after spending time doing their makeup before i start shooting them. Now i always do makeup in my personal work. Actually considering investing in a air brush system of my own.