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What New Photographers Should Keep in Mind With Makeup Artists

Makeup artists are an incredibly important part of a photography set. Some models can’t always do their own makeup if it’s a very specific look. And makeup artists are just generally better at it if the details are that important. You’d be amazed at what a great makeup artist can do vs what a model can do. It’s the difference between using your phone and the expensive camera that you own. However, it also means you need to treat those folks with respect. Here are tips on working with makeup artists.

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Treat Them with Respect

I’ll start this off with this: if you’re just collaborating with them, present them with an idea. This isn’t a be-all end-all. Instead, it’s a primer. Respect and clear communication will permeate throughout the rest of the production.

Do you treat your models with respect? Well, you should also treat the other members on your set with respect too. That means you should be curteous and ask for what’s available within the budget. Are you two are collaborating with zero budget? Well, keep that in mind and just think about how you’d want to be treated. Makeup artists often bring their own kits and accessories with them. But you have to keep a lot of things in mind like sanitation and all. 

Oh, most importantly, abide by safety on the set. I know of a few sets that were shut down because someone went partying like crazy right before the shoot. Then everyone got COVID. Be professional. I know that’s a lot to ask of many photographers, but do it.

Here’s an obvious one that isn’t always incredibly apparent on set; say please and thank you. If you’re giving them an order, be direct, and say please. Think about it, here are two different statements:

“If you could make her eyes a shade of gold that would be great.”

“Can you use the gold eyeshadow and go light on it to blend it into her skin, please?”

Which one is kinder and more direct? The former statement doesn’t even mind your manners. It’s a suggestion to someone and they have to take it. We’ve put it into our vernacular that what you mean is to make your model’s eyes gold. But instead, you’re offering a suggestion to do so. A makeup artist wants you to take the lead if this is your shoot and idea. You can always be direct, but you can still be kind. When you’re direct and assertive, you provide more clarity on a set about the direction things need to go in. Ambiguity just creates anxiety on a set.

Don’t Tell Them, Show Them

If you told someone “smokey eyes” what do you think that means? Well, get into specifics. Talk about colors. More importantly, do your research beforehand. Come up with storyboards and ideas ,and share them. But also be sure to coordinate it with the wardrobe. 

I often use and create mood boards using Behance. I’ll do one for the idea that I want to shoot and another to show off the wardrobe or the makeup. Share these with your models and makeup artists beforehand.

Essentially, what we’re saying in this section and the one previous is that you should be specific and communicate with them what you’re trying to get across.

Clearly Communicate Time on the Set

Lastly, always communicate timing. This also means you need to manage timing well. Sometimes you don’t have a full-day rental on a studio location. If the rental is for three hours, then a makeup artist shouldn’t be spending a whole lot of time doing makeup. It instead should be reasonable. I used to communicate that when a shoot is done, one person can’t hog all the time. If a makeup artist takes a half hour to get the look done, you should make sure that you have at least an hour and a half of set time. Folks should be showing up early to set up, break down, and shoot. 

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