How To Apply Makeup For Photos

ask the makeup artist: makeup tips for photographs

how to apply makeup for photos

I’ve been wanting to update my social media profile picture for some time, as it was outdated and let’s face it, a bit dowdy. I’d scheduled a hair color touch up and cut with my friend Brian who is the creator and owner of Makeover Workshop and asked if he’d be interested in showing me how to apply makeup for a photo shoot. I thought it would be a fun blog post to document the process, and luckily he had some open time on his schedule and was enthusiastic about the project.

If you have any events coming up this year (weddings, graduations, anniversaries) or celebrations of any kind where either professional or other posed photos may be taken, you may want to adjust and amp up your makeup. I’ll post Brian’s top tips for makeup for portraits or photography at the end, but the goal is to look like yourself, adding a bit of definition to your features that the camera will pick up. I wasn’t going for a “glamour” or party makeup shot here, just wanted a natural daytime look. This is more makeup that I wear on a day-to-day basis (LOTS more) but I was very pleased with the results, and picked up some tricks and products that I’ve incorporated into my quick daily makeup routine.

skincare and makeup

As someone whose makeup routine usually consists of maybe 6 products, this looked a little intimidating when arranged all together. But fear not…

So this is the one and only time you’ll ever see me without any makeup here. 🙂 Not terrible, but my features kind of disappear on camera, and I have some unevenness in skin tone that IMO makes me look a bit tired.

prepping skin for makeup

It’s important that skin is prepped and moisturized before applying makeup. Brian started off with his Re-Creation Skin Firming Serum and Super All-Day Moisture Crème. As Brian notes below, when being photographed, especially with flash, you want to avoid any high SPF products. He then added a bit of Moisture Glow, which adds a bit of radiance.

Rather than applying foundation first, Brian likes to start with the eyes, as they will be the focal point. First, a base of Eye Shadow Magnet in Natural to even out skin tone on my eyelids, and help eyeshadow to stay put. He used a flat Face & Eye Conceal Brush for this application, pressing the product on more than sweeping.

eye shadow base

Then some highlighter in the inner corners of the eyes and on the brow bone. Brian uses his Naked Glow Eyeshadow to highlight. This helps you to look more awake and “lifts” the brow a bit.

applying highlighter

The concept of Makeover Workshop isn’t just to have a professional apply makeup, but to teach you how to re-create the looks. Brian demonstrates on one side, then his clients do the other. It’s a great way to learn the techniques!

As I have hooded eyes, Brian utilized the same application technique as previously shared here, applying Sahara Eye Shadow above the crease (important to use a matte shadow for this), and a little bit of Broadway Eye Shadow on the lid.

Now here was a game-changer for me: black eyeliner. Brian applies at the lash line from underneath (note: you’re applying at the roots of the lashes, NOT on the water line) then just a little bit over the top from the middle of the eye to the outer edge (again right at the lash line).

applying eyeliner, tightlining After applying the top part, use the sponge on the other end of the liner pencil to smudge just a little, then using just the sponge, apply to the product picked up to outer part of the bottom lid. The effect is soft, but defined. Then, Brian went over the black eyeliner on top with a little bit of the Bark Eye Shadow to soften.

Lashes then curled and Lash Defining Mascara applied. Black of course.

tinted primer, concealer

Next, Brian applied the Tinted Primer in Light. After applying the primer, we agreed that was enough coverage for a natural light photo and decided to skip the foundation. But if you have redness, unevenness, spots or any pigmented lesions, a light application of foundation might be helpful. Then some Work & Play Concealer in Cool Light Medium under the eyes and (here’s a neat trick!) around the corners of the nose where most of us have some redness, and around the mouth to help define the lip area.

Now I’ll admit, by this point I was getting pretty twitchy because BROWS. Filling in and defining my brows is one of my most important makeup steps, and is the one thing I never skip. Ah, whew! There we go.

defining brows

I’ve been using Brian’s brow pencil in Blondi for some time now. It’s a great one-and-done product. Use that spoolie on the other end after applying to comb through for a softer and more natural look.

applying blush and lip color

Finally, an application of blush (Cheeky Glow Creme Blush in “Blooming”), lip liner…

apply lipstick with brush

And lipstick in “rue Rivoli” applied with the Lip Define brush. I love this color; it’s a soft coral that’s sheer but not too glossy. And it photographs really well…

makeup for photograph

Here’s the finished look. As you can see, it’s not “makeup-y” but my features are a bit more defined.

Oh, all right, because I know we all love these…Makeup Before and After:

the power of makeup

Here are Brian’s tips for Portrait or Headshot photography:

  1. For photos use sunscreen sparingly. Use very minimal moisturizers, foundations and primers that contain sunscreen if you will be using flash photography.
  2. If you are going to be taking photos outside then do you makeup facing a widow with diffused lighting coming in through the window. If the photos will be taken inside or in a studio do your makeup where the photos will be taken with that lighting.
  3. If flash/strobe light will be used for the photos know that the light will over expose the skin and makeup. Because of the over exposure from the flash you can use more makeup. In natural outdoor lighting less makeup is needed. Blush will wash out with flash/strobe photography, so be more generous. In outdoor lighting a lighter touch will be needed for blush.
  4. With foundation be sure to apply foundation down onto the neck and into the chest/décolleté area. Match the foundation perfectly to the skin tone. Use a bronzer to even out the lightness of foundation or unevenness from the forehead to the chest
  5. Be generous with moisture including serums and moisturizers for your skin before doing your eyes.  I prefer to use a moisturizer like Moisture Glow under all of my foundations, primers tinted or not tinted. The glow/illuminating moisturizer gives the skin a translucent glowing light from within appearance
  6. Use black eyeliner instead of any other shade of eyeliner this will give the most framing and pop for the eyes.
  7. Practice your makeup application a couple of times before your portrait/headshot. If you can have a professional do your makeup.
  8. On the eyes for Fair Skin use neutral colors: brown, taupe, cool tone browns and fleshy crème color. For Medium/Olive tones use brown, warm brown, dusty mauve, and sand/beige. On Bronze to Ebony skin tone use caramel, mahogany, golden brown, deep chocolate brown, burgundy and black tones.
  9. For all skin tones go easy on frost colors keeping them to a minimal on the eyelid and a very slight soft amount under the eye brow.
  10. Use very little powder on the skin or face. It shows up when photographing particularly if there is peach fuzz.
  11. Frame the face and eyes by filling in your brows with a brow pencil; I use Blondi Brow pencil, which is a neutral ash tone for fair to medium skin tones. Use Brunette (brown) brow pencil for darker medium tone and ebony skin tones.
  12. Line lips with a lip liner to frame and accentuate the lips. Use lipstick and/or gloss to finish.
  13. It’s important to curl your lashes to open the eyes particularly for photos. If you can have false lashes applied use individual lashes for a natural look. Apply a light coat of mascara to get the false lashes and your own lashes to meld together.

Brian offers Makeover Workshop classes year-round in Los Angeles and several other cities. If you’re interested in a class schedule you’ll find here, and you can also follow the Makeover Workshop Facebook Page for updates on schedules and classes.

Oh, and before I forget, I also want to mention this brush, which is great for de-clumping after applying mascara. And this stuff, for quick cleaning of your brushes.

Do you have any favorite makeup tips or tricks for photographs? Any questions for Brian, please feel free to ask in comments.

Thank you, Brian!!

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  1. KarenLa
    January 6, 2016 / 2:59 am

    You look fabulous and 10 years younger. Based on another blog you did on Brian I went to him and had a private session before I moved. He’s the best. I’m sorry I didn’t get to know him sooner. His eye liner pencil is great.

    • January 7, 2016 / 12:25 pm

      Hey Karen, great to hear from you! Glad the Pitchblack eyeliner is working for you xoBrian

      • KarenLa
        January 7, 2016 / 3:06 pm

        Brian, that eye liner pencil is the best, wouldn’t use any other. Goes on smoothly and stays.

  2. January 6, 2016 / 3:19 am

    Wow…you look amazing! And I appreciate the tips! Wish I lived nearby…

    • January 7, 2016 / 12:28 pm

      Hi Pam! Where do you live – maybe you can get some friends together and I can come in to town and teach you how to get the natural look we did for Susan xoBrian

  3. Beth
    January 6, 2016 / 4:10 am

    Great post!! You look amazing! Love the in-depth breakdown.

  4. Nancy
    January 6, 2016 / 4:31 am

    Thank you for the honesty, information, and fabulousness of this post! So many ideas to think about. Sending it along to sister and friends…we all could use a beauty boot camp this January!

    • January 7, 2016 / 12:38 pm

      Hi Nancy – I’d love to do a Makeover Workshop for you and your friends and teach you how to get the gorgeous natural look we did for Susan. I’m here xoBrian

  5. January 6, 2016 / 4:34 am

    Wowza! Stunning!

  6. Jill
    January 6, 2016 / 4:51 am

    Thanks for the info and you look bodasciously marvelous!

  7. Leigh
    January 6, 2016 / 4:59 am

    Fabulous post. But I must say, you look absolutely beautiful with no make up. I love to play with makeup, so this was a fun post.

  8. January 6, 2016 / 5:18 am

    don’t you just love consulting the experts from time-to-time? they are full knowledge and practicality. love your before and after photos. the first thing i noticed is that your eyes really pop in the after pix. beautiful!
    xxoo beth

  9. January 6, 2016 / 5:34 am

    Beautiful! Love the “enhanced natural” look, and I still think your haircut suits you so well. Thank you for an enlightening post!

  10. Duchesse
    January 6, 2016 / 6:02 am

    So interesting to watch the process! You look radiant and natural.

  11. susanburpee
    January 6, 2016 / 6:12 am

    Wow…you look so young, Sue. ‘Before’ and ‘after.’ I especially love the cheek and lip colour. Great tips. Some of them I also learned during a make-up make-over… when I participated in the Mid-Life Make-over series over at Daily Plate of Crazy. But the one about avoiding sunscreen for photos is new to me. Is that because the chemicals in sunscreen reflect the light and will make you look too pasty, or pale?

    • une femme
      January 6, 2016 / 7:22 am

      Susan, yes. Mineral sunscreens especially can throw off an ashy cast when photographed.

    • January 6, 2016 / 9:40 am

      Susan…made a good point about mineral sunscreen which can also be a challenge with some mineral powder foundations. Sunscreen/sun blocks can have so mush coverage and can reflect too much or block the light. Also, as I recommended above in #4 I’m mindful and about the chest décolleté area with photos.

  12. Judy
    January 6, 2016 / 6:23 am

    So pretty! thanks for the tips.

  13. January 6, 2016 / 6:29 am

    Great tutorial! I’m terribly make-up challenged so this was interesting for me.


  14. Suky Carter
    January 6, 2016 / 6:43 am

    Absolutely lovely! Love all your posts, I’m addicted to your blog. Thank you!

  15. Susan W
    January 6, 2016 / 6:50 am

    Such a radiant and natural look! Thank you for sharing your experience…

  16. January 6, 2016 / 6:53 am

    Great photo! It is you, looking your best.

  17. January 6, 2016 / 7:20 am

    You look great with the makeup, but I think you also look very good without it. I just learned that eyeliner from underneath technique and have been doing it very sparingly for an everyday look.

  18. January 6, 2016 / 7:23 am

    This could not have been better timed, as I am having my first professional headshot in 25 years taken later this week! I’m pretty good with my own daily makeup, but for this I decided to go with having my makeup done. I’ll be keeping all of the suggestions here in mind — thanks!

  19. Joanna
    January 6, 2016 / 7:37 am

    Oh, I wish I knew how to apply makeup to have a younger looking me. I did get a tip from the lady at the makeup counter. You can get your brows tinted when you have them waxed so you always have your eyes framed, even upon waking. Love it!
    You look fantastic! And, that shorter hairstyle makes you look younger and very stylish.

  20. Henny
    January 6, 2016 / 7:57 am

    You are so lovely and what a helpful post. Thank you!

  21. Charlene Crosby
    January 6, 2016 / 8:01 am

    Very nice! Subtle enough but really enhances you, especially eyes!! Wow :-}}

  22. January 6, 2016 / 8:32 am

    Gorgeous…love that lip colour on you!
    Thank you for the tips…I use about 6 products too but can see that for a photo shoot one may be enticed to up the ante!

  23. January 6, 2016 / 8:52 am

    I’ve noticed your new social media photo and admired your new look — fun to see how you achieved it. It’s very credible — I do scarcely any makeup myself, but I can see how manageable it would be for those who do, and it’s also clear how you could integrate some of the process here into your daily routine, leave other parts for occasional use. And I must say that you also look beautiful in your Before shot which really shows the great condition of your skin. xo

  24. Rhonda M
    January 6, 2016 / 9:17 am

    Wow! Gorgeous and very natural. I have had my makeup professionally applied twice and both times was disappointed. I wanted to look like a better “me” and not like someone entirely different… Guess I need to move to LA to find experts!

  25. Kathleen
    January 6, 2016 / 9:48 am

    Lovely look! I can’t wait to try the eyeliner tip… did it smudge below the eye later on?

  26. Jojo
    January 6, 2016 / 10:58 am

    You look amazing! I realized yesterday I need a new headshot for my LinkedIn profile now that my transition from red to gray is complete. Great timing – thanks!

  27. Sheryl Anne
    January 6, 2016 / 2:12 pm

    You have the most beautiful smile (and teeth). Any tips for a coffee/tea/cola drinker?

    • Joanna
      January 6, 2016 / 6:10 pm

      Crest white strips work for me.

    • une femme
      January 10, 2016 / 5:39 pm

      Hi Sheryl Anne, thank you! I had some pretty extensive dental work last year to replace old resin bonding that was cracking and chipping, so I’m trying hard to keep the new work from staining. I swish my mouth with water after drinking coffee, floss at least once a day, and use Crest 3-D white toothpaste and mouth rinse. My dentist also recommends drinking coffee with a straw, but I can’t bring myself to do that!

  28. Pam
    January 6, 2016 / 2:18 pm

    Your posts are some of the most incredibly helpful, informative, inspirational and visually interesting among the entire community of bloggers! Love this post today.

    Although I’ve enjoyed experimenting with makeup for nearly 50 years now, the most difficult thing for me has been the need to constantly adjust my techniques and types of products as I’ve gotten older. So many changes in skin, hair and facial structure. Mostly stopped using powder anywhere except eyeshadows and a tiny bit on the T zone.

    This past year I fell in love with Chanel’s Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Colour Sticks – I use them in many different ways and they look incredibly natural. Also wouldn’t be without iT cosmetics Creme Illuminizer for subtle luminosity in certain places, gives my skin a more youthful appearance without glitter or sparkles…

    I’ve never found a good makeup solution for my undereye dark circles/shadows for everyday use. Have tried every trick in the book from eye serums and creams to camoflage, different makeup and techniques, watched professionals do demos online. Mine are still visible. In my headshots, the makeup, lighting, retouching, etc eliminated the problem, but in real life – no solution yet other than to wear eyeglasses instead of contacts where the bottom part of the frame hides that particular area.

  29. Terri
    January 6, 2016 / 2:42 pm

    Love this lesson, and you look great. Would love to see a hair tutorial next, as you are truly making the most of having straight, fine hair.

  30. January 6, 2016 / 3:53 pm

    Wow, you look just lovely and glowing. Love the glow of your cheeks. I also hate my face without brows. My husband says I look tired. It’s always when I don’t put makeup on. I think it would be fun to go to one of his classes. Love reading about all of the little details. Thanks.

  31. January 6, 2016 / 4:15 pm

    Amazing post Susan! It’s always fun and refreshing to collaborate with you. Amazing pics showed up in this tutorial. You look the best you’ve ever looked!! xoBrian ps…I’m looking forward to the put together a lip tutorial.

    • elizabeth
      January 7, 2016 / 6:30 am

      Bravo, Brian! What a skilled artist you are!

  32. January 6, 2016 / 4:42 pm

    I already know you are totally beautiful in person but your makeup looks perfect here. Brian does a beautiful job. I like the natural look very much. Great post!

  33. January 6, 2016 / 5:02 pm

    A great post. Your natural beauty is enhanced by the expert makeup that doesn’t look like “too much.”

  34. Martina
    January 6, 2016 / 5:19 pm

    What a lovely makeup application! I love the lipstick color especially. I have to remember to tight lie, it really does make a difference on the eye.

  35. CJ
    January 6, 2016 / 6:03 pm

    You look positively radiant! Thanks for the step-by-step tutorial. . .an inspiration for the rest of us!

  36. January 6, 2016 / 6:54 pm

    Terrific post Susan, thank you. Brian did a lovely makeup, you look naturally pretty and “defined”.

  37. January 6, 2016 / 6:58 pm

    I forgot to ask my question! I have very deep set eyes so I always always have to apply mascara before I do anything else, then let it dry, then proceed. If I apply mascara first my makeup is dotted with black. Has Brian had this experience with others who have deep set eyes?

    • January 7, 2016 / 12:43 pm

      If you’re applying it first and letting it dry completely then you’re doing the right thing! it’s not uncommon with deep set eyes xoBrian

      • January 12, 2016 / 10:59 pm

        Brian thank you so much for your reply and your endorsement of my technique, people have looked at me quite oddly when I mention it. I’d be grateful for any suggestions, tips or resources for making up deep set eyes.

      • January 8, 2016 / 4:09 pm

        Sorry the moment landed in the incorrect spot.

  38. January 6, 2016 / 7:08 pm

    You look beautiful! I love you new hair cut too. I went shorter this last cut and so far it’s been well received by friends and family.
    I love your lip color! I’m committed to using up what I have this year, but I’m booking marking this so I can find the links when I’m in need of new lipstick and lip liner.

    I always curl my lashes first before I apply any make up. I don’t want to muss my eye make-up or dirty my curler. I must be old school b/c most people do it right before applying mascara today.

    I totally agree with Brian on light sunscreen for photographs! The less you use the better.

  39. elizabeth
    January 7, 2016 / 6:29 am

    Doing makeup for a femme d’un certain age, requires a deft touch — enough to lift and create a glow, but without heaviness AT ALL — and a defining touch — your eyes — so that we look great but NOT made up. This is a very tricky look to do and Brian did it beautifully! #goingtomymakeuptablenow #toreplicate

    • January 8, 2016 / 4:10 pm

      Thanks for the props Elizabeth! xoBrian

    • January 7, 2016 / 12:30 pm

      Doesn’t she look AMAZING? t taught Susan how to do the entire look and she now has all the products to do it – links to everything in the post, happy to help answer any questions you have. xoBrian

  40. Kim
    January 7, 2016 / 2:26 pm

    You look absolutely wonderful – so fresh!! Everyone talks about how important it is to define one’s brows – and I do believe them. It’s one skill I’ve never mastered – I always think I end up looking like Angry Birds! I’ve given up!

    • January 8, 2016 / 4:13 pm

      I think it’s time for a little hands-on brow tutorial in a Makeup Party. It would be great to help you out in person with a bunch of your girlfriends or a one-on-one through Skype. xoBrian

      • Kim
        January 8, 2016 / 5:37 pm

        Thank you Brian, unfortunately I live about 4500 km away. I would certainly be interested if I lived nearby!

    • Sheryl Anne
      January 9, 2016 / 6:06 am

      I use a powder brow definer, and a stiff angled brush. For me, it is MUCH more forgiving than a pencil. I have seen some makeup artists that even recommend using a brown eye shadow, and there are more color options that way, as well.The pencils always end up looking harsh. I like the Angry Birds comparison!

  41. cindy
    January 7, 2016 / 2:45 pm

    Quintessential California Girl-before and after. The before is the sun kissed-all natural-beach girl. The after is movie star worthy-chic and glamorous! And as always very informative and helpful.

  42. January 7, 2016 / 4:51 pm

    Great tips. I especially like the ones about using darker eyeliner. My eyes tend to disappear in photos, so I’m using that one. As a re covering powder-aholic, i so agree about how if can come across as “fuzz”. I’ve seen that result for years, but never associated it with my powder. Wow! Makes perfect sense.

  43. January 7, 2016 / 6:31 pm

    It’s great. You look so totally yourself, just more vivid. I totally agree on the brows, but I swear I’ve given up on eyeshadow. I suppose for photos I’d make the effort.

  44. une femme
    January 8, 2016 / 5:27 am

    Thank you everyone! Brian is very passionate about what he does, and is truly an artist.

  45. January 9, 2016 / 11:36 am

    A little make up does help. It was my husband who always encourage me to pu a little make up. I am lazy and go for the sunglasses, but he is right.
    Happy New Year, dear sue

  46. January 19, 2016 / 2:34 pm

    There are some great tips here. And what a brilliant idea for the makeup artist to do one half of your face and then for the client to do the other! (You look stunning.)

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