Hair and Makeup for Headshots

Not long ago I really didn't know much at all about makeup because other than casually observing my wife's makeup setup on occasion, I have had no direct experience with those sorts of things. However, I've learned quite a bit over the last few years working in headshot and portrait sessions with various makeup artists, as well as experimenting with various lighting and post processing techniques and how they impact the look of makeup in a photograph.

Even though to this day I have no makeup application skills, I've become quite opinionated about what constitutes 'natural' makeup for a headshot session, how it should be applied and when enough is enough. I've found through trial and error that poor makeup product, and/or the wrong application or amounts of product can literally take a perfectly good headshot session and throw it down the tubes.

Makeup for casual social events, work or hitting the club might all work good and well within those contexts, but when you bring some of those things into the portrait studio things don't always work out as planned. It was frustrating for a bit trying to figure out why this was happening and I've concluded two important things about makeup for a headshot portrait session:

1) Today's modern cameras are REALLY high resolution in relation to what used to be typically available for TV and Film. I'm currently running a 45MP (that's roughly 45,000,000 pixel dots on the sensor) as my main studio portrait camera. That's a LOT of pixels and detail that simply wasn't around even 5 or 10 years ago. At that resolution, the quality of the makeup products and skill of the artist applying them has become increasingly on display. For this same reason on the video side of things, makeup powders for controlling shine have all but disappeared due to 4k and higher video standards emerging. What used to work as a quick fix for shine now can be seen in crisp detail, and it just isn't working out so well. Many artists have moved away from powders for shine to newer liquid based and other remedies for shine. It's for this same reason that I don't recommend makeup at all for men in a headshot session - it's just far too easy to see it, and no one expects to see makeup on men.

2) Lighting in a studio headshot session is extremely bright and revealing. It's a two edged sword - the lighting is usually quite flattering and even across the human face and looks great in headshots, but it also (along with all that resolution from item 1 above) exposes any and all flaws in makeup product or application technique.

For these reasons, I highly recommend hiring a professional makeup artist for a headshot session. But it shouldn't be just any makeup artist; it needs to be one that understands exactly how to apply natural makeup, AND understands the implications of applying that makeup in the context of a studio-lit headshot session. I work hard to find, vet and create a positive feedback-based working relationship with my selected artists on behalf of my clients.

If you hire my HMUA artist for makeup, then hair assistance (not full styling) is typically included. Your face should be clean (no makeup) and moisturized, and your hair should be neat, clean and generally styled how you like it prior to arrival to the session. Generally, my HMUA will simply help with fly-away hairs and add volume when necessary to your hair style. Makeup will be applied to our in-studio standards for natural makeup which also meets my photographic requirements. Feel free to discuss your own preferences for makeup and hair with my artist.

John Glover