Why you should not shoot without professional hairstyling & make-up

Tip 18 for Better Shoots by Heidi Rondak

“A good team is half the battle”

PART 2: Why you should not shoot without professional hairstyling & make-up

Like I said in my last article a professional model is usually well-groomed and this limits the work in post-production to a necessary minimum. However, for your shoot, it’s, moreover, of great importance to have a hairstylist and make-up artist on board. While in the fashion metropolises these are two different jobs, in many smaller industries, one professional does both. Other than the title might suggest, the make-up artist is not only responsible for the facial make-up but also for the overall appearance of the model’s skin, finger- and toenails. In some productions, these tasks are divided too – be it because of the workload or the fact that someone’s a specialist in something required for the look, e.g. a nail artist. This also leads us to the fact that MUAs (make-up artists) can be allrounders but also have different styles and talents. Depending on your concept you might want to have a close look at their portfolios to find the right one for your production.

Why professional hair & make-up artists are an absolute must for your shoot

Let’s talk about hairstyling first. During a photo shoot, the model constantly moves and puts on different clothes. If you ever tried on clothes in a shop’s changing room, which I don’t doubt, you know how your hair looks like afterward… a hairstylist knows how to treat the hair for a long-lasting look beforehand and how to maintain it during the shoot. While the photographer and fashion stylist are looking for perfection in other details and the model usually can’t see her- or himself, the hairstylist is always close and ready to jump in arranging the flicks of hair that get lost and would ruin a picture. The same, on a smaller scale, applies to touch-ups of the eyebrows, and the make-up. Hair and make-up artists, therefore, guarantee that your fashion looks are adequately underlined with what’s meeting contemporary quality standards. They’re capable of identifying what would suit your model’s type and your brand best and create a look that’s made for the very light on set because they understand its interplay with the make-up products. At all times, good MUAs also pay attention to the model’s health and well-being, e.g. by using products according to the weather or temperature conditions during the shoot. For a wet-look in a cold environment, an experienced hairstylist would never keep a model’s head moist all day. And when working in the plain sun a make-up artist clearly uses sunscreen instead of body lotion. Therefore, hair and make-up artists carry big suitcases and bags around with themselves – they not only need to bring a large number of products but they also need everything in all varieties for different skin types. 

From the post-production point of view, there’s another important reason why professional make-up is essential. It shapes the face, emphases the highlights and mats the skin where it’s needed before any retouch is done. While photoshop, of course, is very powerful the more you need to correct in the post the less natural the result looks. Therefore, it is a goal to keep the editing minimal. A professional make-up also manifests a skin structure and thus a photo look that amateur make-up lovers can’t create in the same way.

Creating special effects with make-up artists

As the name already suggests we’re dealing with artists who are in their element when working with the appearance of humans. They can create both: the illusion of certain skin conditions and actual artistic elements – by using different techniques and materials on them. Concretely, if you e.g. shoot sportswear it’s the make-up artist who adds fake sweat on the model’s forehead so you can work without heating up the studio all day. Most make-up artists are thankful to be challenged when you’re looking for even more creative details like typography, bold paint on the model, or the like. Although this would be mostly editorial style, there are no limits to your campaign’s concept.

Show the make-up artist what you want – a picture paints a thousand words

Just like you are an expert in your job, hair and make-up artists are this in theirs. This means that there are specific terms for every make-up and hairstyling look which doesn’t correspond with your potentially amateurish descriptions – even if you have a clear vision of what you want on your mind. Therefore, the safest way to tell a make-up artist or a hairstylist what you expect from them is to show them sample pictures of it, otherwise, trouble is sure to follow in the form of disappointment or conflict on set. Researching mood images beforehand can be time-consuming, yet bringing them to the shoot is essential for a satisfying hair & make-up result. Ideally, as I already mentioned in my tip no. 11, your vision is flexible and you’re ready to accept working with a plan B or C in case the model’s anatomy or hair structure requires a different styling. Having different mood pictures to point out what you consider suitable for your photos can also help you to imagine and define the outcome in the first place. It will then prevent misunderstandings and unnecessary discussions which facilitates a good workflow and atmosphere during the production day.

What you should know about hairstyling and make-up – less is more vs. more is more

Depending on which season and market you sell your fashion there are different hair and make-up styles to be considered as modern. While, for example, the average American (female) consumer largely bets on a so-called “cakey” make-up (richly applied), in Europe more natural looks are desired. Here, over the past ten years, the trend has changed from a matt airbrushed look to very glossy and shiny (almost wet) skin, and currently, we’re working with slight highlights on nearly matt skin again – but more reduced.

Anyhow, your campaign should be designed to sell the right product eventually, so the following rules can be held true for all of the above options. In order to not overwhelm the viewer, eye-catching elements are better used separately (meaning in different photos), instead of all at once. To give you an example: vibrant red lips and dark smokey eyes can each look great but be an overkill together unless you advertise the very make-up. For fashion, an even better solution could be disruption. Contrasts can create attention in the first place and at the same time, they highlight the fashion piece. Furthermore, this edgy approach can appear more authentic and interesting to the costumers especially when they’re applied subtly in the details. Like this, a few messy hair strikes have the power to turn a photo distinctly modern and exciting. That’s why bleached or thick brushy eyebrows, shaved girl heads, seemingly undone baby hair, etc. are as well popular stylistic devices that all fall in the category “perfectly imperfect”. Knowing about these possibilities can’t only open up new perspectives for your imagery but it enhances your ability to brief your hair & make-up artist before the shoot more constructively.


If you enjoyed reading this article, or you found it helpful in one way or the other, I would love to know (reach out)! You are also welcome to support my work and writing by donating whichever amount this is worth to you. I will thank you with lots of telepathic love and more interesting journal entries. Cheers!

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