Five Makeup Products Your Camera Bag Is Missing

Since I started doing makeup on most of my projects, I discovered that some very basic makeup tools could have helped me in a big way on previous shoots. Before learning about makeup I had absolutely no clue whatsoever on where or even how to apply some very simple cosmetic products. Looking back now, I see how much time I have lost in Photoshop not knowing these simple things. My goal with this article is not to teach you makeup from A-to-Z but rather to give you a few easy tips you or your models can use to diminish your postproduction time. Less time in front of the computer means more time behind your camera, and who does not want that?

Cotton Swab and Makeup Remover

The two things I always bring to a photoshoot are cotton swabs and makeup remover. How many times have I had a model with mascara falling off leaving black marks, or a model with a tear that makes the liner go all blurry.

With a simple cotton swab — and if needed, some makeup remover — you can correct that very easily. No more “don't worry, I will correct that in Photoshop.” Remove it right on set and you are good to go. It is very easy to do: just rub the cotton lightly on the skin where the product must be removed.

If you are not sure how to do it, let the model do it. Just give her some kind of mirror or a phone (the front camera of an iPhone can make for a great mirror).


Speaking of mascara falling off, this is another thing I like to bring to photoshoots. Most mascaras have a tendency to wear off after some time. That is especially the case if you are working with hot continuous lighting or a strobe's modeling lighting on all the time. Because of the heat, the product has a tendency to fall.

I personally use Guerlain Cils d’Enfer and Guerlain Cils d’Enfer So Volume (Maxi Lash Waterproof if you need a waterproof one). Both are amazing and withstand the heat very well. Be careful, however, not to apply mascara before using a hair dryer or straightener. These will most likely make even the best mascara fall off.

Cotton swabs become even more useful when shooting with a model in the water. Even waterproof cosmetics can wear off.

Setting Powder and Tissues

Sometimes we have to shoot in a studio with no air conditioning or outside under the noon sun. These are conditions that make everyone sweat, including the models. Unfortunately, models are not “sweat proof,” which is the reason why I make sure to have tissues to pat off the sweat of their forehead. Be very gentle while doing that, especially on models with very light skin. You do not want them turning red. Also if they have put foundation on, do it very carefully and lightly, you do not want to remove the foundation totally.

Buying a setting powder as well as a brush to apply would be a great idea if you find yourself shooting outside or with strobes most of the time. This will diminish the shiny effect of a sweaty or oily skin. Both Nars, Makeup Forever, and Mac have a great HD setting powders. It lasts for quite some time. If you buy the white one which is meant to be translucent, apply it very lightly and make some tests with it. Putting too much of it will turn your model's skin to white under the flashes. Regarding the brush, the previously named brands have awesome brushes. If you do not want to spend too much, look at Morphe Brushes, Zoeva, or RealTechniques brushes. They are cheaper and will do the job quite well too.

Green or Yellow Corrector, or CC Cream

It is not rare to have a model turn up to a shoot with makeup on but still some red spots on the skin. There is the Photoshop way I showed you a couple of weeks ago, or correctors that are meant for these kind of problems. Red is usually corrected with green or yellow correctors. Green works the best, but if you are not used to it, you might apply too much and make the red spots turn grayish. Yellow is often easier and less “risky” to apply. Alternatively, CC creams can do wonders and are even more forgiving regarding the precision of the application.

The same brands aforementioned — NARS, Mac or Makeup Forever — have awesome correctors, CC creams, or tinted moisturizers that will do the job perfectly. If you do not want to spend too much on the products, look at NYX. They offer great products at a lower cost.

To apply correctors or CC creams, you can use your fingers to pat the product on the zone that needs it (make sure your fingers are clean though). Or if you have a bit more money, you can buy a concealer brush (such as a Nars 12 brush) for the correctors and a buffing brush such as RealTechniques Expert Face Brush.

Hair Spray

Last but not least, and probably less makeup related, is hair spray. How many times have I regretted that I don't have it with me. I now even take it when I photograph weddings. Cleaning tiny flying hair in Photoshop is a nightmare. A good and strong hair spray can make it go away or at least limit it as much as possible. Spray it in your hand, or on a comb, and fix the problem by petting the hair of your model. You will not get perfect hair, but it will lighten the load of work in post greatly. Perfect hair is nearly impossible without some kind of postproduction. If you are using Photoshop, be sure to check out Aaron Blaise's brushes — they are a must.

These tricks are very basic and easy to implement in your workflow. Even if you are someone who has no experience with makeup or cosmetics, you will see that these can change your portraits and the time spent in front of your computer. It is important to remember that retouching is not a replacement for makeup. Retouching should be there only to enhance things that could not have been done better at the time of the shoot. When photographing portraits, makeup is a very important step of my workflow and I believe it should be for every photographer. Even if it is only simple steps like presented here. It will make your postproduction easier as well as quicker and because you have less retouching to do, you are more likely to have consistency across a set of images.

PS : Keep in mind makeup should always be applied with clean brushes and some products, such as mascara, should preferably be applied with a disposable spooly.

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Prefers Film's picture

You should be aware that you probably cannot legally apply makeup to a client or model unless you hold a valid beautician's license. That's what your MUA is for (assuming they have a license). Also, mascara (and eyeliner) should generally not be used by more than one person.

Alice Avenne's picture

Wow, they have some odd laws in the united states. Any reason for this?

Prefers Film's picture

It can vary from state to state, and is probably partly due to liability, and partly to protect legitimate professionals from losing business to unlicensed individuals. I think it may actually be an esthetician's license for makeup, and cosmetologist for hair.

I worked for a cosmetics manufacturer for three years, and the laws by state were a nightmare to keep track of.

Mascara and eyeliner can easily attract bacteria, and lead to eye infections.

To those that downvoted my comment, I hope you don't let your own ignorance get you into any trouble. Note my use of the word "probably"? As a professional, it's your responsibility to know the laws where you work. You may also want to check the terms of your liability insurance, before you start applying makeup around a stranger's eyes.

Tam Nguyen's picture

WTF don't MUAs use the same product(s) on multiple clients? How is that illegal? Can you cite your source?

Louis Leblanc's picture

Not sure on the rules and legality of it (though the licences do exist), but there are very real hygiene concerns and standards MUA operate by. From what I understand, they sanitize what gets in contact with the client or use a disposable applicator (as in the case of mascara).

Prefers Film's picture

Since I did not say it was illegal, I don't find it necessary to cite a source. Best practices would dictate you use disposable sponges and the like for applying makeup, so that anything which touches one person's skin is not used on another person. That is not really possible with a mascara wand or eyeliner, although I believe there are single use mascara wands.

Emma Grigoryan's picture

well now that's something! I live on the other part of the planet than US and we don't have those rules here, although I understand what you speak. But cmon, is the model going to sue you that you corrected her makeup for the sake of her own beautiful image? or at least if that kind of lows are applied you can always ask/guide the model to do the same corrections under your supervision, at least everyone can put makeup on themselves without a license.
What comes to mascaras and eyeliners it is simple hygiene rules, you can use seperate mascara wand and just wipe it with sterilizing solution on each client and use brushes for the eyeliners.

Prefers Film's picture

You might be surprised at some of the laws which can affect photographers around the world. In Australia, while visiting our local photo school, I learned that every electric cord and outlet had to be tested and certified. This applied to every business of a certain size, so small studios might not be affected, but a shared space or rental studio most likely would.

Oliver Oettli's picture

Now this is hilarious. And the overblown fear of bacteria (aka laws like these) is the number one reason that people get sick in the first place. We need a bit of "dirt" to keep a working immune system.
Well that was off topic, but I can't help myself laughing about that "make up License":
Hey Dude, get off that girl, I got a license to powder!

Prefers Film's picture

Have you ever had an eye infection, or any issues with your vision? As a photographer, that could be career-ending.

Oliver Oettli's picture

Yes it could be. So could be a car accident, breaking my arm on a hiking trip or having cancer. This is a political / philosophical (or medical?) discussion and has nothing to do with photography. I just personally believe that having a "normal" immune system that gets trained here and there will keep us healthy, not a hypocrat fear of each and every possible bacteria. They will always be there, everywhere. The more strong we are against them, the better.
In 10 years of professional photography, working with MuAs, Models and on big project, I have never heard anything about "needing a Make Up License". And I live and work in Europe, mostly switzerland, not in an african jungle.

Prefers Film's picture

Europe is not a part of the United States. But thanks for your comment.

Alice Avenne's picture

Hairspray can damage the rubbery parts on your camera, chip off plating on certain metals and permanently stain some wooden furniture. It's a substance that should be used carefully as thereare many things can can be irreparably by a small dose of hair spray.

Quentin Decaillet's picture

Lenses can also be damaged from hairspray. Hairspray is a wonderful tool for limiting flying hair, but can be a pain to clean on some surfaces…

Alice Avenne's picture

Yes, if the glass is synthetic then it most definitely can. And even if it is real glass the coatings might be affected. Such a nasty substance when you think about it!

Akil Chashm Shodeh's picture

Because of the nature of the human skin and of the digital cameras in the way they catch highlights, I believe that beside all other cosmetics whose their benefits are likely more to be customization and/or exaggerating the lineaments; setting powder and tissues are meant to be of the utmost importance when it comes to shooting portraits. "Thank you for your beautiful article."

Jason Ranalli's picture

Nice article.

I will, however, make a warning against setting powders.

Makeup Forever has an HD setting powder that contains silica which when used with flashes creates major flashback and leaves a patch of white in the photo while you can't see it in person. I believe Makeup Forever makes several setting powders just make sure get the one without silica :)

Quentin Decaillet's picture

This happens when putting too much powder. Having tried both Mac and Makeup Forever translucent powders, I have never had any problem. Just be sure to apply with a very soft brush (Sigma F30 or one the Nars Kabuki Powder brush) and only very little product, then add more if needed. If the application is done lightly, you should not have any problem :)

Steven Mole's picture

they look like they've been to a party at Tony Montana's house...