Tips from a Makeup Artist to a Photographer About Collaborating

I was a photographer who became a makeup artist, and there is a world you may not be considering

For all us makeup artists out there, we can probably think of many things we’d like to say to all the photographers we’ve worked with. I’m sure all you photographers have a thing or two you’d like to say to us as well. Our paths cross constantly, and our careers require us to work together as a team to create a satisfactory result. I have a unique perspective on this topic; I’m a photographer who loved makeup turned makeup artist who uses photography to record her work. I’ve used photography as a creative medium since a young age, studied it in college, and was a working photographer for a few years, which included fine art work, music photography, assisting on set, and behind the scenes photography for events and fashion week shows. Makeup has been a tool of creative expression for me since I was very young, too.

All images by Michael Kuykendall. Used with permission. Makeup done by Olivia Pasquarelli. 

It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve honed my makeup skills and began working as the MUA for photo shoots and events. In the cross of my two favorite worlds, I’ve picked up a few tips for photographers from your best friends or greatest enemies – the makeup artists of the world.

Communication is Imperative

Communicating your creative vision to the makeup artist before the shoot is vital. You think this one would be a no brainer, but you’d be surprised. Let’s start out with the obvious thing here first: no one is a mind reader. Keeping a chain of communication between the entire creative team working on a shoot is essential. This includes mood boards, written concepts, photos of the model and set, locations, and wardrobe. This allows the makeup artist to come prepared with everything they need for the shoot. We have to lug around a lot of stuff, and if we can lighten our load, it helps us tremendously. It also keeps us organized. If we have a solid idea of what each look will be on each model, we’ll be more prepared and will move more quickly through each look.

A Clear and Cohesive Vision is Essential

Harmony is everything. Sometimes a shoot is just a photographer, a model, and a makeup artist. Sometimes a shoot is a photographer, photographer’s assistant, makeup artist, hair stylist, makeup artist’s assistant, art director, editor, stylist, and an army of models. Shoots can range from anything in between these two and more depending on the shoot, the client, the purpose of the shoot, and the budget. It’s important to have all the moving parts working towards one goal. If everyone is confused, things won’t run smoothly and the shoot will be stressful, forced, and limited in time. Communication is the key to keep everything fun, friendly, and productive.

Give the Make Up Artist Time

Don’t rush the Makeup Artist. Yes, we’re used to working under pressure, but I’ve worked on shoots where I haven’t even taken out my brushes yet and the photographer is asking me if I’m done. This is another case where communication is key. If we know how many looks we need to get done in one day of shooting, we’ll have a better idea of what looks we can realistically complete in the time frame given and whether or not we need to bring an assistant. Also, plan to have the MUA and styling team come very early to set up their stations and get ready. If you’re rushing and putting major pressure on the MUA, you might make things take longer since we’ll be stressed or scrambling.

Keep the MUA Around at All Times

Keep the makeup artist involved for the entirety of the shoot. Any good makeup artist knows to hang around when the model is actually being photographed. Lipstick smears, skin gets too oily under lights, hairs get stuck to foreheads, and MUA’s can be critical eyes in noticing these disruptions and quickly fixing them. A great way to make this easier is tethering to a monitor. This way the MUA and any other people on the styling team can keep an eye on what’s being photographed without crowding the photographer or disrupting the shoot. But the more work that can be done before the photo is snapped, the less work that’s most likely needed afterward.

MUAs are Artists Too (It’s in Their Name!)

Have mutual respect for each other. This is my most important tip for both parties involved. The photography industry can be one of big egos. The more we work together as a team, the better the result is. We’re all artists and we all have our own styles and visions, but we must be in sync to have a productive shoot for all. Trust me, makeup artists want your photographs to look great so we can add them to our portfolios. A great way to show this respect is everyone shouting each other out on social media. When you post an image, tag the MUA, the stylist, the model, and everyone else involved creating a beautiful image. In today’s world, we often find new clients and opportunities through Instagram and other platforms, why not boost each other?

Many of the photographers and models I’ve worked with have become friends, and if we all work together and get along, we can become consistent clients for each other. I love working with repeat clients and on the same models, because I get to know them and how they work, which makes my job easier. Creating beautiful images with other artists can be either an incredible experience or a horrible one, and a lot of that depends on attitude.

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