Hi gang! I have had new photographers tell me they are intimidated by the thought of working with a makeup artist. They don’t know how to find one, they don’t know how much to pay them, they don’t know how to communicate with them. And, in all honesty, working with a makeup artist for the first time can be intimidating. New photographers often times don’t know what to tell them to do, and they are afraid to look stupid – mainly because they seem to think the makeup artist has probably worked with other, more experienced photographers.
If you fall into this group, please, before you read any further and watch this video first. Then come back to finish this article. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Okay, you’re back! Great! Now that we are ready to tackle this challenge head-on, here are the 7 most important things to know when you work with a makeup artist:
Number 1: Just because somebody has a website or a Facebook page that says they are a makeup artist, doesn’t mean they are any good at it. This should be a no-brainer, but come on now. When you look at their samples, if their work sucks – even if it’s because of bad photography — there is a strong likelihood that their work will suck just as bad in front of your camera.
Number 2: There is no single makeup artist who is amazing at EVERYTHING. I have worked with VERY talented makeup artists who do incredible creative work who can’t do a simple clean makeup look without making the person look like a drag queen. On the flip side, I have also had makeup artists who can make the average people look absolutely beautiful, but tell them you want them to do something creative and they are lost.
In other words, you may need to find more than one makeup artist to meet all of your needs.
It’s no different than the fact that there is no single photographer who is amazing at all genres of photography. Well, except for this guy I found on Facebook, apparently. He said he was the absolute best at any kind of shot, and it was on the internet so it must be true.
Number 3: YOU have to make decisions about what you want and communicate it to the makeup artist. This is probably the MOST important lesson on this list. Often new photographers tell me that they were very disappointed with a makeup artist, even though the artist’s portfolio was awesome.
When I dig a little deeper into their experience I find out that the makeup artist showed up for the shoot, approached the photographer like an eager puppy dog and asked, “What would you like me to do?” and the photographer’s response was something like, “make the subject look good,” or “do your thing, I trust you, you’re the professional at makeup.”
I know that some of you watching this video have done that and my response is: SHAME ON YOU! You deserved to be disappointed! That was a cop-out answer, you passed the buck, and didn’t take responsibility for your work!
You either have to know what you want and communicate it or you have to be honest that you don’t know. In the second case, you need to work with the makeup artist to collaborate on an idea or concept that you both agree on.
That brings me to:
Number 4: Collaborating. Finding and working with a new makeup artist is like beginning a new relationship. It is both exciting and frustrating at first, and the real fun comes as the two of you get to know each other better. With hard work and lots of effort, the relationship will grow and prosper and eventually you’ll be completing each other’s sentences.
That wasn’t a joke. One of my favorite makeup artists is Russian. We have been working together for over 15 years and we can speak four words and it is the equivalent of four paragraphs, because we understand how the other one thinks and works.
In other words, the relationship aspect of photographing people isn’t just about the subject.
Number 5: Plan Ahead! Remember, just like your subject doesn’t want to look bad in a photo, your makeup artist doesn’t want his or her makeup to look bad, either.
If you have your makeup artist start out with some crazy color on your subject’s eyes or heavy contouring and then decide you want a clean beauty look, you are asking them to FAIL. You have just made their job impossible.
You have to plan ahead and your planning should include discussing everything with the makeup artist a day or more before the shoot, to prevent instances like the one above.
Number 6: Help your makeup artist build their portfolio. Talk to any makeup artist and they will express frustration in killing themselves over an amazing makeup job only to have the photographer shoot the model from head to toe so that you can’t really see any of the details of their hard work.
Even if you don’t need a close-up, it only takes a minute to shoot a few well-composed close-ups of the subject so that your makeup artist has something to add to their book. A makeup artist is going to go the extra mile for any photographer that looks out for them.
Number 7: Reward your makeup artist. I am not referring to attaboys here. Makeup artists, just like you, would prefer to get paid. Plus, many have built their careers to the level where they will not do trades.
If you can find a young or new makeup artist who needs images for their portfolio, then there is nothing wrong with doing a trade. Before you agree, though, you need to understand two very important things. First – remember number 6 on my list – make sure that you don’t go off and shoot everything you want without considering what will help them to market themselves.
Second, while your gear is expensive, you can use it over and over again. Every time a makeup artist applies makeup, they are using materials that cannot be reclaimed or re-used. So be honest about your work. If you are not paying your makeup artist and if your images are not truly amazing and likely to help their portfolio, at least offer them a kit fee.
A kit fee is some money to cover the cost of the makeup and eyelashes and hair spray that they will use during your shoot. I assure you that stuff is not cheap. At an absolute minimum, hand them some money for gas.
A small gesture like this goes a long way towards building your relationship with that artist, because it shows them that you respect them and the work that they do.
If you still have any doubts about why you should work with a makeup artist, be sure to watch this video for 6 really great reasons why or check out this video that shows off my beauty shots. Between these two, you can really see what a great relationship with a makeup artist can do for your work.
And remember gang, whether or not you use a makeup artist, your best shot is your next shot. So until next time, keep learning, keep thinking and keep shooting. Adios!