Makeup Tips for Headshots From a Makeup Artist

I woke up like this…or not.

To get those crisp new headshots, you’re going to want to look your best. For those of us that aren’t Beyonce and don’t naturally “wake up like this,” that means we might need a bit of help in that department. However, everyday makeup and makeup for a photo shoot are two different things, and although they are similar there are some differences you might want to think about. For this article, I got input from Theresa Burden, a wonderful makeup artist based in the Raleigh-Durham, NC area.

Matison Card, model and actress.

My number one recommendation is…

Hire a professional. Seriously. Hiring a reputable makeup artist is a great option if it’s in your budget. They know what they’re doing, you won’t have to buy extra product that you may not normally use, and you’re more likely to get the most out of your headshot session. There are many factors that produce a fantastic headshot. A photographer that knows what they’re doing is great, but if you walk into a session feeling like your makeup isn’t up to snuff, I guarantee your lack of confidence will show in the finished product. But that’s not the only reason. “Professional Makeup artists use makeup specifically designed for professional photographs,” says Theresa, “A well-educated artist will know how and what to use on different skin tones, types, and conditions. Men need makeup too! In the makeup world, it’s called “grooming”. You won’t even know you have anything on. Grooming is designed to take away shine and even out skin tones.”

Hiring a pro isn’t in the cards? Read on!

Of course, sometimes hiring a pro isn’t feasible. While it’s not the best option, here are some tips for you if you decide to go it alone in the makeup department.

Take care of your skin

Although nobody’s face is perfect, we should strive to take care of our faces as much as we can. Having a clean, healthy face makes your job easier when applying makeup, and it makes the photographer’s job easier when retouching. There’s a little secret for you: EVERYONE needs a little help in the retouching department. I don’t care if you’re Gal Gadot or Jason Mamoa, everyone needs some love. Says Theresa, “Don’t skimp on good skincare. Healthy glowing skin always looks best in photos. If you have questions about your skincare routine contact me or your local esthetician.”

Amy Simon, model and actress

Starting at the foundation

“For foundation, less is more. For most people, you will have some areas that need more coverage than other areas. Know where to lightly apply,” says Theresa. “For discoloration, such as under the eyes, you will want to color correct rather than using a lighter color. Lighter colors will gray out the area.” I’d also add that you should lean more towards matte finishes as opposed to going for shine. You will come across as sweaty which is a nightmare to retouch. Now is not the time for that dewy look.

Those eyes…

The eyes are windows to the…well you know the rest. But, for headshots, the eyes should be the first thing that grabs the viewer, so you want to make sure that they give a good impression without going overboard. Clumpy eyelashes and too-deep shadows give an impression you might not want. To put your best foot forward in the eye department, “No harsh lines. You can do black eyeliner but just make sure it is soft. You can soften any eyeliner with eyeshadow or just use eyeshadow as an eyeliner. Matte or velvet shadows are usually best for headshots. Use eye primer to ensure smooth and long-wearing application,” says Theresa.

headshots of handsome man

Lips and beyond

“Use your natural lip color as your guide for lip and cheeks. A satin or velvet lip is great for headshots. Velvet means slightly less matte than matte. For bronzing, look at the more tan portions of your body. That is what your bronzer color should be. Apply very lightly to places on your face where the sun hits you. (Forehead, sides of the face, nose). Don’t overdo it and blend well,” Theresa says, “No HD powders! Long story short, they are meant for video, not photography. Detailing cream/light gel cream and a comb or toothbrush can help with fly aways. Don’t overdo it!”

Probably the most important thought to keep in your head is one that applies to the rest of headshot photography: Your headshot should look like you on a really, really good day. If you find yourself looking like you’re ready for a night out…on Halloween…then maybe you’ve overdone it a bit. Subtlety is key here, so don’t go overboard!

The artist at work!

I think Theresa sums it up best here, “Overall, keep it natural. This isn’t time to show off the makeup. It is for showing you off!”

Got your makeup situation all figured out? Then maybe it’s time to book your session!


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