When I decided to make Senior Portraits my niche back in 2009, I knew that I wanted to work exclusively with one makeup artist.  First of all, I wanted to set myself apart in the market and by including makeup in all my sessions, I knew that I could offer my clients something they weren’t getting anywhere else – creating that experience for them. Finding a make-up artist is easy with these tips.


Secondly, it just makes my job a little easier!  There is the rare high school girl who knows how to apply makeup perfectly and beautifully, but let’s be honest…..most often, that is not the case.  Oftentimes, my clients don’t even wear a lot of makeup, and if they do, they do not know how to apply it effectively for photography – especially natural light photography.


I didn’t want to refer my clients to a “bank” of approved makeup artists either; I didn’t feel connected that way.  My goal was to have everything be cohesive.  So there I was, wanting to find a makeup artist I could work with, but wondering where to find one….

But then I got lucky – I was hired to shoot headshots and my client had hired a makeup artist for the shoot, and well….the rest is history.  Jami Cox and I have been working together ever since.  She applies makeup for every one of my Senior Portraits and also does hair styling for the sessions that include that – and she stays with me during the shoots to assist with touch-ups, etc.


Over the years, we have cultivated not only an amazing work relationship, but also a friendship; and my clients love her.

Tips on Finding the Right Make-Up Artist

So how do you go about finding a makeup artist?  How do you coordinate schedules?  How do you pay her???   How does she know what type of makeup to apply?   These are all the most asked questions I get either from my facebook fans or from my mentoring clients, so I thought I would outline some things to look for in a makeup artist:


  • Education/Training:  Obviously, you want to hire someone who has proper training; however, I do believe some people have an innate talent for makeup – and that any type of school can simply enhance it.   Look for makeup artists at local makeup schools; recent grads or even current students who are willing to learn more and get hands-on experience.


  • Know what you want:  you can’t train someone to apply makeup the way you prefer it if you don’t know what you want. For instance, do you want to keep your high school senior girls natural or are you more open to a fashion/editorial look?  Do you like a contoured face or prefer to keep it more even – some of these things will depend on your own shooting style.  For me, I am a natural light shooter 99% of the time.  I like to start out very natural for all my girls, then move into more eyes or lips, depending on what their outfits are.  I like Jami to do a little contouring, but just enough to enhance.  I personally do not like thick, heavy black liner inside the entire eye – I think it ages the girls quite a bit; and although Jami will do a fab smokey eye occasionally, she will keep it on the outer lids, unless we are purposefully going for an intense look. But again, she knows what kind of eye shape she can do that on without it looking odd or out of place.


  • Eyelash Application:  Yes, this is a big deal to me, since I do suggest that all my girls wear eyelashes, but we do not use theatrical lashes or ones that are too big. I simply want them to enhance the eyes, not overtake the face.  A good makeup artist will also know that the lashes are applied onto the lashes, and not on the eyelid.  If you can see the separation, this does not work and looks really bad in close up shots (which are my favorite).


  • Personality:  This is of the utmost importance to me.  I am bringing my client to someone who will be touching their face, sometimes for hours!  This person has to be professional, but also someone they can relate to – someone who can help put them at ease.  My clients are usually a little nervous at the start, but Jami is gentle in her words to them, being careful not to say anything insulting or something that could make them self-conscious.   She communicates easily and clearly with them.  Before the shoot, I send out in-depth instructions and information to prep my client, and when we arrive to do makeup, I go over the makeup part once more, as does Jami.  We both communicate at length about (1) What is the client’s comfort level with makeup (2) Are there any allergies (3) Are they a regular makeup wearer and if not, then we talk about how it will feel much heavier than normal, while assuring them that it will still look natural.   An easy-going personality is a big plus, since you are going to be working pretty closely with this person.


  • Punctuality/Professionalism:  Jami cannot stand that makeup artists have a bad rep about being late, flaky, etc.  She is not only on time, she’s early – always.  She takes her job very seriously and makes sure her kit is always clean, organized, and that she has all the products and supplies she needs.  She always has all the color palettes she needs for all different skin tones.  Her kit is HUGE – she actually just condensed it, but for years it was two huge makeup cases; she said she would rather be prepared than not have something we needed.  Kits are very expensive to replenish, which leads me to:


  • Payment:  Fees are something you need to discuss at length with your potential makeup artists; make sure you are paying them sufficiently but not cutting into your own costs.  If you are including makeup in your sessions, then your session fee should reflect it.  I have session fees and a minimum order for each of those sessions, so I know I am meeting my sales goal.   A good starting point is asking what their kit fee is; sometimes makeup artists who are right out of school do not charge as much because they want the experience, etc.


One more thing I want to cover is scheduling.  I like to choose my session dates months in advance, then clear those dates with Jami before opening my calendar up to clients.  She subscribes to my calendar which is synced with my online booking system and is able to see when dates are booked.  This is great because it also frees her up to book weddings and other jobs.


Adding a makeup artist to your sessions may seem like a daunting task, but I can honestly say that it has been extremely beneficial for me and my business, and definitely adds to the experience that my clients enjoy.  A nice side effect is that I have a partner in crime and someone to act silly with on shoots.

Check out a video of Jami in action here:





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Published by Renee Bowen

Renee Bowen is a nationally published Modern Portrait Photographer based in the suburbs of Los Angeles, CA, where she resides with her husband, actor Andrew Bowen, and three teenagers. A Louisiana native, Renee found her place amongst the stars in 1995 and has been there ever since. She is well known for her expert use of beautiful, natural lighting and for giving her clients an experience they remember forever. Most notably a High School Senior photographer, Renee keeps her business boutique so she can spend time with her clients and is able to create relationships with them that goes far beyond the typical "Senior Pics". Renee is also a Mentor to other photographers from all over the country and offers specialized training on the art and business of photography - teaching others how to be successful at Senior Portraits.

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