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How to Apply Makeup for Photoshoots

How to Apply Makeup for Photoshoots

I was a photographer before I became a makeup artist, so I had to work with other makeup artists for my earlier photoshoots. They were talented and definitely knew how to make a girl look pretty. The problem was they didn’t know how to make it obvious on camera because they don’t stick around to look at the pictures after the photoshoots. I’m not into the whole obvious makeup look unless it’s an avant-garde look or it’s costume-y, but some cameras and camera settings don’t pick up the slight shimmer or subtle blush that makes a look special. I eventually had no choice and did my own models’ makeup.

You may be wondering how this is relevant to you if you’re not a) a model or b) a photographer. Well, I think everyone takes pictures at some point. I don’t know how many times I’ve looked at my pictures after a party and thought:

“Aww, you can barely see my nose.”

“Wow, I look washed out and flat.”

“My eyes look so small.”

“Where did my eyebrows go?”

…and blablabla.

So I thought maybe there are other women out there with the same problems. If you’re still interested, read on! 🙂

Understanding Highlights and Shadows

I, personally, owe most of my nice pictures to contouring. There’s nothing like a good highlighter and matte bronzer to give you that extra definition to the face. If you want to figure out the shadows and highlights of your face, you should have a light directly above your head. This will help you distinguish where the light hits your face, and where the shadows are cast.


  1. Chin
  2. Forehead
  3. Above the cheekbones
  4. Nose bridge
  5. Apples of the cheeks
  6. Top of the lips (where the cupid’s bow meets the upper lip)


  1. Sides of the forehead or temples
  2. Hollow beneath the cheekbones (from the ear to the corner of your lips)
  3. Sides of the nose
  4. Jawline

Never use a shimmery bronzer for the hollow of your cheeks. That’s just confusing as the light doesn’t naturally hit that area. Use that above the cheekbones instead. Only use a matte bronzer for the hollows of the cheeks.

Another neat tip is to apply a liquid highlighter on the apples of the cheeks before you put blush. This creates a nice base for the blush and illuminates the color, making it look more natural.


Notice how my eyes are more defined once I lined by waterline.

The eyes are the most important part, so make sure to line the eyes in one way or another. You can use eyeshadow, pencil liner, gel liner, liquid liner or a combination of your choice. The most effective way of drawing attention to the eye in photos is by lining the waterline, most especially when doing a smokey eye.

Lining the top waterline isn’t always pleasant to do, but there is an easy way to do it. Simply close your eyes and run the tip of your eyeliner in between your undereye and your eyelid. This lines both the top and bottom waterlines at the same time.

Also remember to lightly fill in your brows. They may look perfectly fine when off-camera, but once the flash kicks in, it’s like an instant grayish cast on those brows, making them look much thinner and lighter than they are.


False eyelashes are must for anyone with less than perfect, thick eyelashes. Individual lashes are the most natural-looking, but one-pieces work as well, especially if you’re not doing close-ups anyway. When you apply makeup for photoshoots be mindful of the glue. Always apply black eyeliner over any glue marks because it will show up in pictures.

Lashes open up and lift the eyes. Some women choose to wear mascara, and nothing else, when they go out because it’s enough to make a person look fresh and bright-eyed. That’s because it truly does wonders towards opening up the eyes and making them look alert.

Overdo It

This is a lot more concealer than what I use on a daily basis. I made sure to cover up my dark circles and pimple marks, creating an even canvas for the rest of my makeup.

You have to choose between looking good in person or looking good in pictures. I opt for the latter because most of the parties I go to are in dark nightclubs anyway, so the people can’t really see my face that clearly. That’s when I do my makeup a little heavier than usual.

For parties where the lighting is bright or for parties that take place during the day, it’s a little trickier. You won’t get away with a dark hollowed cheek or a prominent nose contour. It’s better if you focus on the highlights rather than the shadows in this case. Use your natural tone as the darker color and lighten your highlights a shade or two lighter than you would usually do.

Test Shots

In this photo (and half of the photo above), I put too much blush. If I hadn’t taken a test shot, I wouldn’t have realized that my cheeks are too red.

As you go along, take test shots of the makeup and adjust accordingly. If the eyes need a little more definition, add a few millimeters of eyeliner. Are the lashes too thick? Change it or cut it in half and transfer it to the outer corner of the eye. Again, some parts may look good in person but in pictures it may not show up as much, so add or remove to achieve your desired effect. It’s easier to add and build up the makeup than it is to remove everything and start over again.


Be mindful of where you decide to set up. Is the lighting too warm or too cool? This can affect the overall effect of the makeup because some colors are more obvious depending on the color of the light. Notice how in cool lighting, your skin imperfections are more obvious, including dark circles, while warm lighting creates the illusion of more even-toned skin.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below and I’ll get back to you!




Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos loves all things beauty and make-up. She’s always on the lookout for the newest tips, techniques and trends, and is always eager to learn more. Her motto for beauty products is: “A hefty price tag is not synonymous with quality.”

Patricia Ramos

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  1. Kyle
    September 12, 2012, 2:48 am

    Great post!

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  2. ikandybybarbie
    October 26, 2012, 6:23 am

    This is a great post! Lots of great info for anyone who wants to look great in photos or for someone such as myself who is just getting started in the makeup industry and has yet to experience such a thing!

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