Monday, May 20, 2013

15 Steps to Looking Great on Camera; Tips from Makeup Artist Serena Cook

Applying makeup is an art. When it comes to portraits, photographers know that a great makeup artist is indispensable. Not only does well applied makeup help to bring out one's natural beauty, it also gives the kind of confidence that that shines on camera. More than anything else, it's confidence that creates a stunning portrait.

I was lucky enough to work with talented makeup artist Serena Cook of Esoteric Makeup in Yelm, Washington. Not only can Serena create anything from fresh faced to dramatic beauty looks,  but she's also responsible for the gnarly transformation of some cute kids into the brain eating zombies in my recent zombie apocalypse survival family portrait shoot. Talk about well rounded!

Here's the thing...the makeup you wear everyday isn't always the most suitable makeup for having your photo taken. Serena breaks open some trade secrets so that those of us who AREN'T makeup artists can learn how to look amazing on camera.

Camera Ready Makeup: Portrait Photography



When you decide to get a portrait taken, whether it's a head shot for business or a family photo to cherish forever, you want to make sure that you're looking your best. My honest recommendation is to hire a professional makeup artist; even if you're going for a simple, natural look a professional can be that extra bonus that makes your portrait shine. A pro will know how to apply your makeup to make it look amazing for the camera, match your skin tone, and pick the right colors and the right technique for your individual features. Your time in the chair can also help to ease any nervousness and make you feel more confident that you're going to look great on camera. The better you feel, the better your pictures will to look!
There are a myriad of reasons why hiring a professional makeup artist can't happen, though. Finding a reliable, talented artist can be difficult, budget restrictions might mean it isn't feasible, or maybe you're just not comfortable with someone else doing your makeup. All of these are totally valid reasons; especially the last one since I'm the same way! Your next best option is to do your own makeup but sometimes this can be tricky. When Nicole asked me to share some tips on makeup for portraits I thought it would be a great opportunity to guarantee you can get good pictures even if someone like me can't be there.
  1. Properly hydrated skin is a must. Drink plenty of water in the days prior to your portrait session. Cleansing and moisturizing appropriately, gently exfoliating and trying to eat well can have a huge effect on the texture and condition of your skin. Even if you decide to hire a professional I can promise they'll be thankful if you walk in with hydrated, clean, well taken care of skin.
  2. It's a good idea to keep everything you used on hand so you can touch it up if necessary throughout the length of the session. That should include things like hairspray and extra bobby pins if you've got your hair styled.
  3. Lighting matters. If you're in a studio you will want to avoid anything with an SPF in it. The ingredients in an SPF can cause a white cast across your skin and reflect light at the camera when the photographer's flash is triggered. If you're going to be outdoors, make sure you wear an SPF but apply it before primer/foundation and give it time to soak in. This is a good tip even for everyday; makeup containing SPF doesn't provide enough coverage. You would have to use several times the normal amount of foundation or powder to get the sun protection listed on the label. It's far better to just use a separate product under your foundation.
  4. Studio lighting can wash out your makeup, so your application should be heavier. The opposite is true for outdoor portraits; apply your makeup with a light hand and in natural light if at all possible. Natural lighting can be unforgiving so keeping your makeup light and fresh will give you a much better result.
  5. Don't be afraid to ask your photographer for a test shot. It's a fantastic way to make sure everything looks good on camera with the exact lighting conditions in use.
  6. Prime! Prime your eyes with something like Urban Decay's Primer Potion to keep your eye makeup in place through your session. Prime your skin with a product appropriate for your skin type; key words for dry skin are luminous and radiant, for oily skin look for anti-shine and mattifying, for normal or combination skin a primer that is pore perfecting or ultra-smoothing should do the trick. These buzz words are also good for finding an appropriate foundation for your skin.
  7. Keep your eye makeup simple and do your eyes first. You can avoid removing foundation while cleaning up eyeshadow fallout if there isn't any foundation there yet!
  8. Fill in your brows with a pencil or powder unless they're naturally dark. Brows can get lost in studio flash and bright, sunny days. Since they help to frame your face you don't want them disappearing in your pictures.
  9. Make sure your foundation color is a good match that doesn't oxidize after application. Use your finger to dot your foundation on your forehead, nose, cheeks and chin then blend with a buffing brush similar to the Expert Face brush from Real Techniques. This will provide a streak free, photo ready application! Blend it well past your jaw and down your neck to prevent a line of demarcation. Also, avoid mineral makeup; it's great for daily use but can be too shiny for photography.
  10. Up the intensity of your blush for studio portraits as the lighting can wash it out. A well blended peachy-pink with subtle shimmer looks great on most skin tones while multitasking as a highlight and blush in one.
  11. Exfoliate your lips and apply lip balm prior to starting your makeup. This gives the balm time to sink in and ensures even application of lip products.
  12. Use a lip color similar your natural one or something in the pink family; whether its a pencil, lipstick or gloss is completely up to your preference. Layering products will make things last!
  13. Stick to matte textures, but if you love shimmer use it sparingly because it can cause a glare in your pictures. Good places for shimmer are the bridge of the nose, top of the cheekbone, the inner corner of the eye and the center of the mobile eyelid.

  14. Use a finishing powder to set everything, but silica powders like Make Up For Ever's HD powder should be used lightly because they can show up in an unflattering way with the use of flash.
  15. Blending is essential for all stages of application. Buffing brushes for foundation and fluffy, blending brushes for the eyes like the ever popular MAC 217 will prevent any harsh lines while guaranteeing your makeup looks more natural.

Correctly applied makeup can enhance your portrait but don't forget that your session is supposed to be fun! Try not to let yourself get so stressed out over your makeup or hair that you're stiff and uncomfortable during your session. Discomfort will show up on camera more readily than any level of makeup application. When in doubt, ask your photographer for a pro makeup artist or find one yourself before the shoot!


Head on over and check out Serena's work at Esoteric Makeup!

Image courtesy of [Marin] /

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