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Make-up for photography

Make-up helps people look their best


Professional make-up artists like Linda Reimer, shown here touching up a model, are invaluable to a busy photo studio.
Professional make-up artists like Linda Reimer, shown here touching up a model, are invaluable to a busy photo studio.

Since a photograph becomes a permanent record of a moment in time, persons captured on film or a digital camera's sensor in that moment must look their best.

“Looking their best” can mean many things, depending on a person’s objectives in being photographed. It may mean their most attractive, their most intelligent-looking, their most dignified, or most thoughtful and so on, or that they must look the part of whatever character they are meant to be playing.

Many different things come into play in creating a photograph that fulfills the objectives, including a person’s expression, carriage, body language, state of mind, actions, physical attributes, clothing and so on. If someone truly feels that they look the way they want to, then it is often easier for them to actually portray the image they wish to convey - adopting the body language, expression and so on that suit the role. “Looking the part” is where make-up for photography comes in.


WHY USE MAKE-UP?

There are two objectives in using make-up - appearance enhancement and character change.

Enhancement - The more common goal is to enhance a person’s skin and features in order to make the person appear as attractive as he or she can be. Make-up can be used to correct certain shortcomings and problems, such as skin imperfections and short eyelashes, and can even alter the appearance of a person’s facial structure.

Character change - The second goal of make-up is one we readily associate with the entertainment industry or Hallowe’en, and that is the creation of a much-altered or completely different-looking character - a vampire or space alien, for example. However, character change need not be so extreme; it also occurs in modeling, where the model’s look is altered to suit a particular role or character type he or she is meant to portray in modeling a product, for a specific advertisement or to suit a setting.

What would the theater be without the skilled hands of a character make-up specialist?
What would the theater be without the skilled hands of a character make-up specialist?

The young model who learns basic make-up techniques at the outset has a head start and will always look her best.
The young model who learns basic make-up techniques at the outset has a head start and will always look her best.

MAKE-UP FOR PHOTOGRAPHY

Many professional photographers employ make-up artists for professional models whom they shoot, and also sometimes for ordinary people whose portraits they take. Most often, however, portraits are taken of people who apply their own make-up, or who don’t use make-up at all, and it is not uncommon for models to be expected to take care of their own make-up needs. Thus, a model who has a good understanding of the theory and personal application of make-up has the edge on the model who doesn’t. Similarly, the person who is not a professional model, but who is sitting for a portrait and is properly made-up for photography will make a better portrait than someone who doesn't give make-up a second's thought.

LOOKING YOUR BEST BEGINS BEFORE MAKE-UP IS APPLIED

Professional models and the photographers who take their pictures know the most important enhancement of an individual’s face is not achieved by the application of make-up, but rather by a healthy appearance to begin with. Maintaining good health does more to ensure that a person’s eyes and skin look their best than any amount or style of make-up will do. Getting lots of sleep and drinking plenty of water are keys to great-looking skin.


Some people feel that make-up and trick photography can overcome all flaws in their appearance, but they cannot. Make-up can just make you look your best for the camera, and a skillful photographer can employ many techniques to downplay flaws (see Corrective measures for portraits and Overcoming imperfections.) and highlight a person's better features, but no techniques can magically change the bride of Frankenstein to a Julia Roberts, yet still have her recognizable by those who know her.

MAKE-UP IS ONLY ONE PART OF PREPARATION FOR PHOTOGRAPHY

The problem with photography is that it tends to capture a person’s flaws as well as his or her better attributes. Some say a photograph will even exaggerate less-desirable attributes. For example, you will often hear that the camera (1) adds weight to a person, (2) tends to make skin look rougher, (3) makes blemishes stand out and (4) causes features to be more defined.

Knowing your make-up is properly applied leads to greater confidence when posing for the camera.
Knowing your make-up is properly applied leads to greater confidence when posing for the camera.

Properly-applied make-up enhances attractive features; it doesn't create them.
Properly-applied make-up enhances attractive features; it doesn't create them.

Photography can do all of these things, but it doesn’t have to. The skills of the photographer, the image stylist, the hairdresser and the make-up artist can do exactly the opposite - make a person look less heavy, make their skin look smoother, remove many blemishes and skin flaws, and downplay facial features. A big part of their ability to do so comes in identifying and defining the flaws in the first place, so they can come up with a game plan to deal with them. At the same time, they must recognize the more flattering features of their subject, and take steps to emphasize them.

These four - photographer, image stylist, hairdresser and make-up artist - work as a team in many larger and some smaller professional studios. The team has one objective - to make the subject look his or her best in the final photograph, and the person handling the make-up is a big part of that team.

Most photographers do not have such a team on stand-by, but their subjects nonetheless undergo similar phases in preparing to have their picture taken. They typically have to handle clothing selection, hair-styling and make-up themselves. The tips they pick up here will hopefully improve their ability to apply make-up to achieve better photographs of themselves.


MAKE-UP TIPS

In this section, we discuss make-up tips and techniques for photography. The information will be of value not only to persons who model for the camera, whether they do so regularly or rarely, but also for photographers at all levels who wish to have a more in-depth knowledge of make-up and its role in photography.

SEND US YOUR TIPS

You may have a hint or technique of your own to do with make-up for photography that you would like to share with our viewers. If so, we invite you to send it in, preferably along with a photograph or an original illustration that demonstrates your tip. If we post it on the site, we will be sure to credit you as the source.

Special make-up and a costume often go together to create a character, like Anne of Green Gables.
Special make-up and a costume often go together to create a character, like Anne of Green Gables.
Further information...

Applying basic make-up

Black and white photography

Fantasy make-up