Working With Photographers: Tips for Makeup Artists

Regular touch-ups
Providing touch-ups during the shoot

Making contact

If you’re still in the early stages of your career and trying to build up your portfolio, reaching out to photographers in your city or region is a good first step. Whether you’re calling, emailing, or DMing, it’s a good idea to be specific about what you want to do.

For example, rather than saying “I’m a makeup artist, check out my work!”, try saying “I’m a makeup artist who specialises in X, and I’d love to collaborate with you on Y.” The more specific you can be about your – and their – interests and skills, the more likely you are to attract the kind of collaborator you want to work with.

Of course, not all of your queries will get a response first time around. The trick is to be persistent without becoming a nuisance! Remember, you are offering something as well as asking for something, so try to make it clear in your communications that you see working together as mutually beneficial.

Meeting before the shoot

Meeting with the full team (makeup artist, assistant and model)

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Learn about photography lighting

To get the best out of any collaboration with a photographer, educate yourself in the fundamentals of photography. Beginning with the basics—exposure, shutter speed, aperture, composition and so on—will give you a solid sense of how cameras work. This in turn will help you understand what the photographer is doing during the shoot.

Once you’ve grasped those photography basics, educate yourself in photography lighting. Understanding how light works, and how photographers use modifiers to control it, will allow you to maintain a useful dialogue with the photographer if/when they ask for your input.

Just as you prefer to work with photographers who understand makeup artistry, photographers appreciate makeup artists who understand the difference between, for example, hard and soft light, and how different lighting effects require different makeup products and techniques.

The more you know about lighting, the easier it will be for the two of you to work effectively together.

Testing out different modifiers
Understanding lighting

Before the shoot

Once you’ve got a collaborative project in the diary, it’s time to start doing your research. You can never be too prepared, so commit as much time as you can spare to getting ready.

Do your research
Firstly, familiarise yourself with the photographer’s work. This will give you a sense of the kind of looks they have shot in the past, the kind of clients they’ve worked with, and so on. Understanding how they like to style and light their images will give you a better chance of delivering the kind of looks they need.

Ask questions
To prepare for the particular job, ask as many questions as you need to make sure you understand what the photographer is hoping for. What is their vision? What looks do they want you to create? How many? Will you be required to stay for the duration of the photoshoot, or will you be free to leave once it starts? The more you know, the better.

Get to know your model
It will also be useful to find out which model or models you’ll be working with. Looking at photos of them will enable you to identify their face shape, complexion, bone structure, hair style, and so on. All of this information will help you to prepare for the shoot and save you time on the day.

Express your vision
Though it’s important to understand the photographer’s creative vision, it’s also vital to express your own. Communicate what you hope to achieve. Also, what you are capable of achieving. Managing expectations—even if you plan to exceed them!—will avoid you being asked to do things you aren’t qualified to do.

hair styling for photoshoot
Planning the look

Clarify the logistics
Find out as much as you can about the logistics of the photoshoot. Will it take place in a studio, or on location? If you’re planning to drive yourself there, where will you park? If you’ll be working outside, will there be somewhere to take shelter in the event of bad weather? Anything you can find out will help.

State your needs
Like a rock star providing their rider (though possibly with fewer bottles of bourbon), feel free to provide a list of everything you’ll need on the day. This might range from basics like access to a power outlet to specific refreshments. Though it pays not to be too demanding, you are entitled to a comfortable working environment, so don’t feel bad about making your requests.

Agree the terms
Wherever possible, you should clarify and agree the terms of your collaboration well before the day of the shoot. This includes how long you will be expected to work for and what you will be paid, and when.

Of course, you may not be getting paid at all if this is a ‘for trade’ collaboration. In that case, you are providing services to one another free of charge in order to produce images or clips that you can both add to your portfolios and use for self-promotion.

Speaking of which, if you are being paid for your time, clarify in advance whether you will be entitled to use the final images in your own portfolio. If so, specify in which format you’d like to receive them.

planning of different makeup looks with final outcome

Face charts for different shoots and one final image

During the shoot

Make yourself presentable
As professional makeup artist Tamara Tott explains in her Makeup Hygiene class, you should arrive at the photoshoot in a presentable state, looking (and smelling!) good. Your kit should be clean and organised, with all of your products and tools ready for use.

Work hard but take it easy
Be prepared to work hard while also maintaining an easygoing vibe. Though you may have a lot to do and not much time to do it, allowing your stress to show risks creating a tense atmosphere between you and the model, and/or you and the photographer.

Look after your model
Speaking of working with the model, remember that part of your job is to take care of them. That means making them feel relaxed, beautiful, calm and confident. The better the model feels when they get in front of the camera, the better the final photos will look. So it’s in your best interests to keep them feeling positive and enthusiastic about the shoot.

styling and looking after the model
Makeup application

Stay focused
At the same time, though it’s important to create a friendly atmosphere and build a rapport with the people you’re working with, you must also stay focused on the task at hand. Warmth and friendliness are important, but they should never come at the expense of your work.

Let the photographer work
Similarly, though you may want to be involved with the photoshoot to some extent, take care to stay out of the photographer’s way. Let them do what they do best and avoid overstepping. If they ask for feedback or assistance, by all means chime in. But if they’re in a state of creative flow, don’t disturb them with unsolicited feedback or advice.

Be ready for touch-ups
You will probably be asked to do touch-ups and tweaks as the photoshoot unfolds – for instance, adding a bit of powder to the model’s face when it gets shiny under the heat of the studio lights. So it’s a good idea to wear a small bag or apron containing the products and tools you need for touchups. This will enable you to work efficiently, keeping interruptions to the shoot to a minimum.

Do your best
The most important thing to do is give the job your all. Take pride in your expertise and seize the opportunity to express yourself creatively using your hard-earned talents. Even if the results don’t turn out as perfectly as you might have hoped, if you know you tried your hardest, you’ll have no regrets.

Applying makeup
Frequent touch-ups

After the shoot

Be patient
Once your work is done and the shoot is over, you may be eager to see and share the final images. Try to be patient. Give the photographer the time they need to complete their post-production work. Hassling and rushing them will only cause tension and make them less likely to want to collaborate with you again in future.

You may also have behind-the-scenes shots of your own that you want to share. But make sure you have permission to do so first – the photographer or client may want everything kept under wraps until, for instance, the ad campaign is launched or the editorial is published.

Give credit where it’s due
When you do eventually post and share the shots, be sure to credit and tag all of your collaborators. It’s good manners, and you would want them to do the same for you. The more exposure your respective names get, the better for everyone. And of course, without good photographs, it would be impossible for you to share your creations. That’s why giving photographers proper credit is so important.

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Keep in touch
Also important is keeping in touch. If you’ve followed all of these guidelines, one successful collaboration should lead to the next. By staying in contact with any photographer you work with, you will expand your network and increase your chances of securing more jobs from them in future.

If you’re a photographer or makeup artist (or both!) with tips to share on making these kinds of collaborations count, feel free to share them in the comments!

Want to learn more? Explore our classes on Makeup Artistry and Beauty Photography.

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