“Do you want a make up artist for your portrait session?” When I used to ask a potential client this question, women would answer “No, thanks. I can do my own.” Men would give a look that said having make up applied was an idea from a far distant planet. Those who chose to have make up and hair done were much happier with the results than those who opted out. That was then. Now it’s not an option. When I get a commission to make an executive portrait, the hair and makeup artist is part of the session. Period.

Makeup or Photoshop?

In September, 1994, Photoshop version 3 debuted layers. Photographers discovered Gaussian Blur for smoothing skin on a layer then masking the original, sharp eyes, eyebrows, lips, ears and hair. I heard more than one of them say “I don’t use make up artists. I use Photoshop instead.” Take a look at this photo of my friend Cheryl without makeup. Her natural no-makeup face is on the left. The version on the right has her skin blurred. This effect is so smooth her face seems to be made of plastic “Barbie doll” skin.2205-B5C02-001normal and blurred

Makeup Doesnt Cost, it Pays

One of the objections clients offer is that hair and makeup are too expensive. Not really. To stay in business a photographer has to paid for every aspect of their work. This includes retouching. An hour spent retouching a photo that isn’t charged on the client’s invoice is an income opportunity lost forever. Multiply that loss by six or seven photos from a session and the loss becomes staggering. Imagine giving away almost a full day’s income! Photographers can’t shoot for free. We can’t retouch for free either. Hair and make up save the photographer time in the retouching chair. Reflect the retouching charges in the services price list and all of a sudden a client can see the savings by having professional makeup and hair on site.

Makeups hidden benefits

Makeup for photography is different than everyday makeup women (and don’t be surprised) some men wear. It’s designed to stand out with the lighting the photographer uses. There are some hidden benefits too. The time a client spends in make up becomes a transition between the hectic busy-ness of their day and the photo shoot. This time is calming. For women it’s a time to be pampered. They know they will look great. This builds confidence. That confidence translates into a better result for the camera. Another bonus is the great hair and make up tips and product suggestions they’ve gotten from the artist.


Hair, makeup and retouching in Photoshop

These photos of Cheryl were made under exactly the same lighting. The first is the no makeup or hair styling. The next one is with hair and makeup and the third adds about ten minutes of retouching in Photoshop. 2205-B5C02-001-2-3 compared

Makeup is for men too

Even if the makeup is just some translucent powder on a very soft brush lightly applied to a man’s forehead, skull if balding or shaved, nose-especially the tip and the rounded edges of the cheek bones; it makes a lot of difference. First the powder makes the skin less reflective. Think of it as dulling spray on a reflective surface. Secondly most guys have never had a soft brush run over their faces. The brush feels great. It also relaxes them. The powder I use is from MAC. Both of the gentlemen below have had full makeup. 2849-0030 2819-0077 Sam Dunning Mark Thomas

If it’s a male client’s first time in the makeup chair, I’m sure to tell him that it’s “OK to leave it on after the session is finished. Your friends and colleagues will never know you’re wearing make up.” Instead they just might say “You look great! What are you doing to look so good?”2192-PSW LV lightingKevin is a commercial photographer from Atlanta. He works for fashion, architectural, manufacturing and corporate clients. When he’s not shooting, he contributes to Photoshop User magazine & writes for Photofocus.com.