Hair and Makeup in Photos - Dreamstime

While reviewing a featured photographer's portfolio, I saw a perfect opportunity to write about the judicious use of makeup on women models. Nothing better illustrates how makeup can lend authenticity to a model in different situations than photographer Niderlander’s four shots of the same model made up in different ways for four different situations/moods/time of day

In the first image of a researcher or medical tech, the makeup is extremely subdued as is fitting in that situation. Most hospitals and research facilities forbid the wearing of perfume and heavy makeup. It is not professional looking and could cause unnecessary opportunities for contamination in a lab.

When the model is next photographed in an outdoor environment she is wearing what I would call ‘weekend day’ makeup. No need to be heavily made up while lazing around in a field on a sunny day. The makeup matches the scene.

In the red blouse the same model now has lipstick that matches the wardrobe and that fits a business situation. It is brighter and heavier than for a medical or health care situation.

In the red blouse the same model now has lipstick that matches the wardrobe and that fits a business situation. It is brighter and heavier than for a medical or health care situation.

In the last image the same model is vamped up for a glamorous evening. Without the sophisticated makeup the entire point of this last portrait would be lost. It's also easy to see how to create the illusion that you have many models just by changing makeup.

Use care when using makeup on older models. While it might seem to the amateur that older women might need more makeup than their much younger sisters, the case is just the opposite. Face makeup is more apt to cake and accent on dry and even slightly wrinkled skin. Lipstick can run into the lines around the mouth.

Just because the model is a guy doesn’t mean that he can skip the makeup table. I see many portraits of men that would be elevated from ok to great if a shiny face was dulled by a bit of a brush of powder. Makeup mistakes can be dealt with in post but why bother when it is so quick and easy to get the makeup right in the first place.

Hair is an important part of the stylist’s job. Often there should be both makeup and hair stylists on set to ensure continuity between makeup/hair/wardrobe. Pigtails are great on a pretty child or a snowboarder but look silly in an office. The most important aspect to hair is often age appropriateness. Remember grannies don’t always have to have carefully permed coifs. Pay attention to wispy locks. Get that hair out of your (model’s) eyes and off her face unless that is the like in the girl with the chocolate heart and long bangs here.

Extreme makeup or hair adds impact to the personality of the model or as tattoo girl shows, it’s essential to the punk persona. Her look is appropriate to the image that she wishes to portray but I don’t think she would work as a model for a hospital shoot without a wig or surgery cap.

What if you don’t have a makeup or hair stylist to work with on your budget? Check out local beauty and cosmetology schools. If you live near a department store with an extensive cosmetic department, contact the makeup artists there by going in or sending in a friend for the free makeup session. While there ask if there is anyone they know that is trying to get into styling for photo shoots that might want to give it a try in exchange for photo samples.

I have great respect for the hair, wardrobe and makeup professionals that I have worked with on shoots. If the occasion permits, I always recommend: Use a real pro. When you are photographing your friendsor family in casual settings, you have to take over the job. Double check for flyaway hair, smeared lipstick, blotchy skin that could easily be fixed with a dab of powder. And it all else fails, do the final make up in post production.

Photo credits: Lisa Cora Reed, Monkey Business Images, Niderlander, Victoria Alexandrova.

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April 28, 2008


thanks, interesting to see the difference make up can make in those 4 shots with all the same model.

April 22, 2008


Great article, Thanks Ellen.

April 20, 2008


Nice article

April 18, 2008


Excellent advice and great tips there :-). I used work as a cosmetologist, and once worked with a photographer doing glamor shots. It was very fast paced and hectic, but loads of fun!

April 16, 2008


Great tips Ellen.
The value of assembling a great production team of stylists for a shoot goes beyond measure. Working with Makeup and Hair professionals on set is a value add proposition for me. I don't even turn on the lights in the studio if I don't have a certified MUHA on set.

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