A Photographer’s Guide to Working With a Makeup Artist

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A Photographer’s Guide to Working With a Makeup Artist

Makeup Artist Natalie Sky prepping model Kiah in the studio of Devorah Goldstein Images, Rockland County, NY

In the beginning, it’s just you and your camera.  You shoot flowers, your cat, your kids.  Then your friend’s kids. Then their friend’s kids.  You read blogs, you update your gear, you attend a workshop or three. Over time, you find that you’re gravitating toward certain styles of photography — you like headshots, or boudoir, or glamour, or you just like the idea of offering a more high-end experience for the family sessions you’re becoming known for.

At this time, if you specialize in seniors, weddings, or glamour, you may consider offering the services of a makeup artist.  Sure, you may have had your makeup done for your wedding, but you’ve never worked with one as a photographer.  I’ve seen questions about working with a makeup artist come up regularly on online boards and in conversations with other photographers.  Having worked with several MUA’s (makeup artists) on headshot, portrait & fashion work, I’ve had the chance to ask them about how they work and what their expectations are from me as a photographer.  For this article, I’ve asked my friend, Russian-born, Brooklyn-based makeup artist Natalie Sky for a makeup artist’s point of view, giving her many of the same questions I see online.  Natalie does both editorial work and portraits & events.  Her warm nature and wide-ranging skills have earned her lots of happy and repeat clients, both in front of, and behind, the camera.

If a photographer you’ve never worked with before contacts you, how do you check them out?

I generally like to see a Facebook business page & a professional website before I work with any photographer, either a strong social media presence or a well done website with quality images.

What information is helpful to you before the shoot?

The questions I usually ask before a shoot are:
  • length of shoot (maximum run time)
  • outdoor or indoor, if outdoor – is there adequate space to set up for a makeup station, if not – will we be preparing prior to arriving to the location of shoot
  • ideas (pictures) of makeup that the photographer has in mind – Pinterest boards are convenient and easy to access on the day of the shoot.
  • an image of the model or client
  • where will the images be used (portrait, editorial submission, model’s portfolio)
  • will there be a hair stylist?
  • if the shoot is TF (“trade for” images) – how & when will I receive images

What do you prefer in terms of working space? What should the photographer provide for you?

It is always nice when a photographer has a studio – but that’s not always the case, so my main concern is usually where will I be setting up for makeup (home base). I expect the photographer to provide a location, mirror and adequate lighting.

How much time should a photographer budget for the makeup per person?

Generally 1.5 hours should initially be enough for 1st look application, 15 minutes set up time, 5-7 minutes for small touch ups in between looks.

Are you usually paid by the photographer or the client?

Depending on who set up the shoot, I’ve had a photographer, private client or agency pay. I prefer to be paid by the photographer or agency (if working with a model).

Do you stay at the shoot as part of your fee, or is that additional?

It’s helpful for me to be able to see how the makeup is photographing when the shoot begins, so I can adjust the makeup if necessary.  I stay for the shoot if the photographer has communicated in advance that they expect touch ups and/or a look change. I charge differently according to a shoot rate and a look rate – if I’m only doing one look, no touch-ups, I will leave when I’m finished.

In terms of images from the shoot, what is standard or expected by a Makeup Artist? Prints or digitals? High res or low? Free or not?

Expected images are hi-res digital retouched, and free – I’ve never been asked to pay for images.

What is the most helpful feedback you’ve received from photographers?

The most helpful is when a photographer will give an honest opinion as I’m working. If the makeup is not going in the direction that they had in mind, I would rather they speak up and say it (nicely) while I’m still with the client – at that time it’s easier to stop and change. Rather than not, and have an unhappy photographer and client.

The most important thing a photographer should know about working with a professional makeup artist is …?

Communication is key – I cannot read the photographer’s mind. Tell me what you want and like and show good examples. The day will run more smoothly and we’ll all be happier with the images.
If you haven’t worked with a professional makeup artist before, I encourage you to take the plunge!  Offer your clients “the next level” and bring the look of your work up several notches by partnering with a pro. Keep your eyes open for the work of local makeup artists by checking the credits on the sites of wedding photographers in your area, seeking out local cosmetology school graduates, and speaking with cosmetic counter makeup artists — several of them freelance as well.
What do I look for in a makeup artist?  A calm demeanor, an organized and clean kit & work ethic, and an overall easygoing personality.  Remember you’ll be spending a couple of hours at a time together, so find someone you click with.  I check their Facebook pages and websites, too, and I’m looking for examples of many different styles, not just the same bridal look over and over.  A qualified professional should be able to give you anything from a natural, simple look to extravagant or avant garde, though they may excel in certain styles.  As Natalie says, the more information you provide your makeup artist with prior to the shoot, the better prepared she can be to create the perfect look — like the one Natalie created for my model below.
Devorah Goldstein is a portrait and fashion photographer in Rockland County, New York who was born too late to photograph Audrey Hepburn.  You can find her on her website and on Facebook.  Natalie Sky’s work is featured here and on her Facebook page.
Model Kiah, makeup by Natalie Sky for Devorah Goldstein Images, Rockland County, NY
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A Photographer’s Guide to Working With a Makeup Artist