When I first started playing around with photography back in university, I was also working part time as a visual merchandiser and make up artist at a cosmetics company in London to fund my rather ambitious final major project. This was the first time I’d ever photographed people in a studio environment (at this point, studio environment meant an empty stock cupboard with a white bed sheet and tungsten lighting) and I was in a fortunate position that many of my work colleagues had volunteered to be photographed for my project and so were capable of doing editorial make up on themselves or each other, saving me the cost of hiring someone.
Although I definitely picked up a lot of hints and tips from working on my project with the girls at the cosmetics company, it was fair to say that they all had a much higher skill level than I did in both hair and make up. Their contouring was better, their eyeliner flicks were more even and their attention to detail was spot on. I was too new to photography to be making any money out of the industry – having only picked up a camera maybe three to four months previously, with no prior experience – so I was lucky that two of my good friends Emily and Jemma were both looking to expand their make up portfolios. The three of us then spent about 9 months working together on mock editorials to increase our online presence, whilst building up the skills base we needed to launch our independent businesses.
In December 2010, Tigz Rice Studios celebrated it’s first year of existence, which also marked the point where I felt I had enough experience behind the camera to start charging for my photography. Having recently discovered the world of burlesque, I’d been working solo for a few months as many of the girls were capable of doing their own hair and make up to a reasonably high standard. However, the difference was noticeable enough for me to go looking for a hair and make up artist again, which is when Miss Honey Bare fell into my life over gin cocktails one Sunday lunchtime and landed herself the role of resident stylist.
“It’s important to hire a makeup artist if you want to have a professional finish to your photos – just as it is equally important to hire a photographer who knows what they’re doing”, starts Miss Honey Bare, when I mentioned this article to her whilst we were preparing the studio for a day of shooting. She’s currently halfway through the daily ritual of setting up her make up kit on the table by the large bay window after having gone through all my client notes and inspiration images the night before. Having worked with Honey for over a year now on more shoots than I can actually recall, I’m pretty sure I still haven’t seen the entirety of her hair and make up kit, which seems to grow daily with new shades, colours and brands. “Make up artists will use specialist products that look great in HD including highly pigmented shadows and lipsticks that really pop out on film.” This week Honey has invested several hundred pounds into new brushes alone and is talking about plans to invest several hundred more into new colours and replacements of finished products. The same amount of money I would happily invest in new lenses or studio equipment but would never dream of spending on cosmetics! For each and every product on that table she can tell you if it is suitable for dry, combination or oily skin as well as whether it can set off any allergies, which can be particularly helpful if you’ve got a client or model in with sensitive skin. She continues, “It is my job to know how to highlight and contour the face to ensure the most flattering effect on camera, just as a good photographer needs to know how to light their subject.” Having witnessed women being transformed into screen sirens daily in my own studio, I couldn’t agree more. The skill of a make up artist is not just making sure a client looks great in natural lighting, but knowing how it will appear under the studio lighting. They will have more knowledge of what can be done and how to do it both time and cost effectively – and sometimes suggest even better options that you’d first thought of. “Even if you are given full control of ‘designing’ the look it is imperative that you know how the photographer is going to shoot the subject and what kind of work will be done in post-production.” says London based hair and make up artist Kath Gould, who previously worked as a photographer before pursuing her love for styling. “Of course, I always focus on the hair and makeup as that’s my primary responsibility” – says Kath – “but keeping an awareness of lighting will also effect how the makeup looks in the finished photo.”
A major advantage of building a strong working relationship with a make up artist is that their attention will be primarily focused on styling, whilst your main focus is posing and lighting, allowing them to notice things that perhaps you might not have picked up on until the post-production stage. “A good make up artist will find the correct balance of stepping in to retouch at appropriate times and not ruining the flow of the shoot.” Says Kath, whilst Honey continues, “It’s a team effort and there needs to be communication to achieve the desired outcome.” As a photographer, it is important to build this into your workflow
From a photographer’s perspective, the more that can be captured perfectly on film (or digital negative) will save you time in Photoshop later on, particularly if you plan on selling multiple images to your client. For every hour spent with a make up artist, there is the potential to make back that time and much more in post-production. The most noticeable results of make up will be in the quality of skin tone and texture – although the differences will be noticeable across all the facial features.
However, the benefits of a make up artist aren’t just noticeable in Photoshop. For many clients – particularly private clients commissioning portraiture – the experience of a hair and make up artist is a decadent one that helps boost self-confidence in front of the camera, which often leads to better posing. For many women, their current make up routine is the accumulation of many years of experimentation and practice. Although they are comfortable with their own skills for normal everyday use, the pressure of looking good on camera can often be too much. Speaking to a good friend Alison, who recently booked a make up artist for her wedding, she replied, “You’d think you’d know your own face best, but what you don’t know best is your make-up bag and that’s where the magic comes from.”
“Booking hair and make up was an integral part of my photo shoot”, explains Lola La Rouge, a burlesque songstress and recent client at the studio. “Having a make up artist’s expert eye over me the whole time, making sure my hair and make up remained picture perfect from every angle, meant I never had to worry about my hair and make up and gave me the confidence to work the camera. This is so valuable, as ultimately it helped me get that perfect shot I’d been hoping for. “ And Lola isn’t the only client who’s sung the praises of their make up artist either: when asking my boudoir and burlesque clients for a testimonial after their photoshoot, I often find that the first thing they mention is the feel good factor of being pampered in hair and make up, which is normally the part of the shoot where the client starts to relax into the unnatural studio environment. “Bringing a professional, calm and enjoyable personality to a shoot is invaluable” responds Kath. “Put your customer or client at ease by talking them through the look you aim to achieve. Most of all it’s about keeping people relaxed and making it an enjoyable experience,” increasing the likelihood of your client being happy with the results and therefore the earning potential from the commission.
If you haven’t worked with a hair and make up artist before in the studio, the process of adding someone new into your working environment can be a daunting one. It is likely that you’re rates are already reaching a healthy sum to cover studio hire – equipment and of course your time – factoring in the fees of another freelancer would either mean taking a lower cut of the profit of putting your prices up (and hopefully you’ll opt for the latter option!) Just like photography there are hundreds of make up artists out there, covering a range of abilities, styles, skill levels and budgets. Whilst it is tempting to go for a cheaper make up artist to keep the price down for your clients, it is good to sit down and really think about how much value you could add to your business by bringing in this new service and perhaps doing some market research from your existing clients to see what they would be willing to invest in this kind of service. It is also worth aiming for someone of a similar skill level to you who will compliment and grow with your style, perhaps becoming a resident freelancer in your studio. The price of a make up artist is usually a good indication of their ability, although its always a good idea to ask for examples of their portfolio first to make sure their work will compliment your photography.
Ready for your moment in the spotlight? Why not book your own boudoir shoot with me today – check out my boudoir photography packages here and then drop me an email with your preferred date. I can’t wait to hear from you!