Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

How to Take Great Photos with Makeup

I’ve had several questions and requests regarding what makeup to wear for special occasions such as prom and weddings, so here are some tips!

Wear What You Love

Confidence is totally killer when it comes to pulling off any makeup look, whether it’s eyes done to the nines or just a bit of foundation. It’s important to wear products and colors that you’re comfortable wearing. Don’t let anyone push you into wearing more (or less!) than you feel happy wearing. If you don’t wear a lot of makeup and hate the way it feels on the skin–don’t think you have to wear full coverage foundation just to look good in photos. I also recommend, if you feel like you’re going a little out of your comfort zone, wearing the look prior to your special occasion to really see if it works for you.

Perfect the Skin

One of the things most often noticed first in photograph is skin, which really does round off any look you wear–it’s all about having a great canvas to work off of. Keep in mind that products that promise dewy finishes do not always work well in photographs, particularly flash photography, because they can give skin an oilier look. Another product to watch for is sunscreen, such as those with physical sunscreens, because they reflect light back, and this is what gives you a washed out look in flash photography.  You may also want to test out any translucent powders you use, too, which can sometimes give a white cast in photos.  If you’re not sure, try taking a few photos at home with flash and seeing how it goes.

Whether you apply eye makeup before or after foundation, make sure to remove any excess fall out, because you do not want any additional shadowing on the under eye. Eye brightening products and concealers are good for adding lightness to tired eyes, too, which can often be apparent in photos. However, make sure you really pay attention to blending so that the transitions between products and shades is natural and seamless.

Long Days, Longer Prep

For special occasions that span hours, such as weddings, proms, and the like, make time for proper prep to ensure longer wear out of your makeup. A lot of this entails layering products, which helps products adhere and stay on better and longer. Begin with moisturizer and allow it plenty of time to really sink in (typically 20 to 30 minutes), and then follow with a foundation primer, which will help smooth the surface of skin. Many primers also help combat oiliness, but it can depend on the formulation.

Depending on your skin type, you may also want to consider using a cream or gel blush, and if you really want to go the extra mile, set it with powder (or a similar colored blush). Foundation should also be set with powder (loose, pressed, translucent, whatever!), and for long days, carry around a pressed powder compact for touch-ups. It is with great hope that you won’t need to touch-up, but oilier skin types may still find it necessary. Just a slight application of more powder can help take down any oiliness and give skin a fresher look.

Lips can go through a layering process, too, or you can simply reapply as necessary. Exfoliate lips the night before, and apply a good lip balm to moisturize lips about an hour before you go to apply any lip products. Before you apply colored products, gently remove any excess balm that didn’t absorb (I usually just kiss the back of my hand). At this point, you can fill in your lips using lip liner in a shade that matches your natural lip color or that of your lipstick. Using a brush tends to provide more precise color application but also helps to cover lips in a very even layer. For longer wearing lipsticks, opt for matte, semi-matte, or satin finishes. Drier finishes tend to cling more to lips and therefore last longer. Similarly, darker colors (such as reds) tend to last longer than lighter colors (such as nudes).

When in Doubt, Test!

Whenever feasible, consider testing out your look at home or at some point in time before the special occasion takes place. If you have a camera, you can take your own photos to see how everything looks and make adjustments as necessary.

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23 thoughts on “How to Take Great Photos with Makeup

  1. Avatar of futuralon futuralon

    Good advice :)

  2. lena

    Great tips! Thanks :)

  3. Sage

    thank you so much for this post! i have prom coming up soon and ive definitely been stressing about what im gonna do for my makeup

  4. Wendy

    very helpful! thanks a lot.

  5. Avatar of Josefina Josefina

    Hey Christine! This was really helpful since my cousin is getting married this weekend and I was wondering about what foundation I should put on. My foundation has spf 15, will it give me that horrible white sheen?
    Thanks!

  6. Avatar of Jill AnGeLwInGz

    Good advice! I totally agree with wearing what you feel comfortable with. Remember a few years ago when masculine thick eyebrows were in fashion? So many people at Chanel (where I worked) tried to convince me to wear mine like that but I refused. Same thing with layer upon layer of too-dark bronzer. Yuck!

  7. Avatar of Michelle Michelle

    Thanks for this article! I’m attending a wedding next month, and I’m afraid the weather might be warm, so I’ll have to remember to layer my makeup.

  8. spacegeek

    Watch also for titanium dioxide as SPF in foundations–pictures can come out as though you have a white-ish clown face. Consider avoiding foundations that are dewey as they can show up as a shiny/oily face. Matte makeup is better for photos.

    Also lip color is important. A neutral lip can blend too much into the rest of the face. Consider a brighter-than-usual color for photos.

    Black and white photos are a different animal entirely. Contrast is important and focus on enhancing angles and work shadows and highlights.

    • Jenn

      Glitter too.

      When I photograph, they often show up as dead pixels if the flash catches them right.

  9. CeeBee

    Great post!

    Prepping your lips and using liner can make a HUGE amount of difference to how long your lipstick lasts – I usually skip sparkly or shiny gloss, plus anything with big chunks of glitter as these can reflect really oddly under flash photography.

  10. NessaM

    Great advice Christine,I have a question though? I have oily/ acne prone skin. What would you suggest is the best full coverage mattifing foundation and primer for oily skin?
    Would deeply appreciate it. Thanks. Xoxo

    • Make Up For Ever Mat+ Velvet is pretty good, though I don’t think it is technically a full coverage foundation. Look for foundations with matte finishes, though, and they should work well on oily skin. For primer, you could try Smashbox Antishine.

  11. Avatar of Rebecca BeckBeck

    I have a feeling I’ll be revisiting this post before I get married this fall :) I actually seem to have good luck with Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation set with powder – even though it has SPF 15, I’ve worn it to several of my friends’ weddings and flash photos of me have come out fine. Now I just have to find an eyeliner that doesn’t smudge at my outer corners and figure out false eyelashes…

  12. Sabrina

    Thank you for this~ It was very useful (:

  13. This is a great article – but as a pro photographer I would like to add a few things:

    1. Blend, blend blend!! The camera catches everything, and it is very difficult to photoshop out blotchy makeup without making skin look “artificial”. Use a CLEAN brush, no sponge applicators or fingers. Take your time in application or hire a pro.

    2. Wear what you like – but do kick up the intensity a bit. The camera and especially camera flash washes out makeup, so wear your makeup at “evening” weight.

    3. Watch out for HD Powder and Bare Minerals – Use colorless HD powder sparingly. Blend mineral makeup and blend it again. The Silicon powders and the SPF in mineral makeup are the two most common culprits of the “powder doughnut face” you see on celebrities.

    4. Use matte blush and highlighter: Camera flash often reflects shimmer blush and highlighter a little oddly – making your skin look greasy when it isn’t.
    If you don’t have a matte highlighter, a light matte eyeshadow can be used sparingly for a highlight effect.

    5. Carry blotting papers – especially if you are dancing or if you will be under camera lighting for a long time.

  14. Thanks for the tip! I’ll be doing my make-up on my wedding day and I wanna look my best on that day. I hope I can make my make-up last. Although I am skilled at putting on make-up, I still doubt if I can look great on that day. Thanks a lot! ^__^

  15. condesa

    great tips!!!
    May I add my personal ones for long-lasting makeup?
    use waterproof mascara and waterproof liner. Nothing worse than panda eyes or smeared eyeliner! (tears or sweat or an un-forecasted storm may happen).
    when you’re done with ALL your makeup , spray a bit of thermal water on your face. It will NOT melt it, but will fix it for long hours. It really works!!

  16. Chelsea

    love this!

  17. Glitterati

    Do you know if Mac Studio Moisture Tint SPF 15 can be applied when using flash photography? In general, I am very happy with the product, but I wonder if I should get a different product (e.g. Mac Face & Body) for an upcoming photo shoot. I am looking for a very light coverage only to even out the skin. Thanks for your help.