Hey y’all! This article is oriented around selecting a make-up artist for a photo shoot.
Make-up artists—or “MUAs”—are useful for nearly any portrait shoot, enhancing a person’s natural beauty or adding a funky element to what you’re doing. It’s important to find the right MUA to ensure that you don’t end up with Katy Perry, spider-like eyelashes on a senior portrait shoot (or, realistically, almost any shoot).
A great MUA can make or break your creative vision for a shoot, and some can even serve as another creative director if you want.
The general rule of thumb is to scroll through a MUA’s work on Instagram and analyze if they have done the style of shoot you want to do—do they usually do wedding makeup, for example? Then, they may not be quite right for beauty close-ups, though they are likely experienced in that as well. That being said, you also want to do your research to see if the MUA you want to work with has done shoots too similar to what you’re proposing. MUA’s want to show they are versatile and look for shoots that fit their style but also fill gaps in their portfolio.
Here are examples of two different MUAs who do really incredible work—you can see that both would better suit one style. Anne (@mstimssmakeupartist) does beautiful makeup for weddings, though she is capable of doing all styles of makeup. Crystal (@ewwjalanis) does a lot of makeup for editorials.
More specifically, I’d recommend that when starting out, if you or any of your friends know anyone currently in beauty school, you focus on working with them. That can provide a great way to both build a portfolio that showcases make-up in some way.
Regardless, once you’ve done your research, don’t be afraid to send them a message! On Instagram, send lots of DMs to various people and remember that the worst someone can say is no. Your message can be concise at first, an elevator pitch of who you are and any ideas you have, along with any other details about the team that you can provide. Here’s an example of a message one may send.
“Hi (MUA’s Name)! I hope this message finds you well. I’m reaching out to you because I really appreciate your work and was wondering if you would be interested in collaborating on a photo shoot with me and (Model’s Name) sometime. I am hoping to do a shoot in (Photography Style, ex: Lifestyle), and can send more specific reference images based off your interest. My work can be seen here on Instagram or on my website, (Your Website). Thank you for your consideration—I look forward to hearing from you!”
If the MUA doesn’t respond to your DM, you can always send an email, too! (Just not if they leave you on “read.” That’s probably just a passive-aggressive “no.”) If you have not worked with a make-up artist in the past, do not be deterred when some are reluctant to say yes or respond with their rates. Essentially, they may not have a way to vet your work and they want to make sure it’ll be a good way to spend their time. On top of that, make-up is exorbitantly expensive: some kits cost upwards of $3,000! That’s like buying a whole new (nice) DSLR every single month, if not more frequently. Bearing this in mind, be extra appreciative whenever working with any MUA throughout your career.
So, someone is bound to say yes (congrats!). As you move forward, find reference images for exactly what you want created throughout the shoot. If that image doesn’t exist, draw it! Be sure to also send images of the model(s) you have selected as soon as possible, so that the MUA can prepare properly for the shoot.
Then, when your MUA arrives on set, be sure to watch the whole process and comment on anything that needs changing. Pay special attention to skin tones, especially with models of color, since a lot of beginner MUAs are oftentimes unsure of how to work with different skin tones. Since you sent the models’ photos in advance, to most this mistake is a reason to not work with that MUA again. Basically, be watchful! The best photographers are present in all stages of the process; in return, professional MUAs will always stay throughout the whole shoot to tweak any problems, or just blot a ton of sweat now that it’s summer. Plus, observing throughout can ensure that you’re getting what you want—and it’s way easier than fixing it in Photoshop later on! (Some things, even the FilterGrade presets can’t fix.)
More helpful resources on selecting a MUA:
- This link describes the value of a good MUA and ways outside of Instagram to source them: http://digitalartistshandbook.org/the-value-of-mua-for-photo-shoot/
- The trendy “Thought Catalog” also has a post about make-up artistry, with a five-point list on things MUAs wish all people knew—can be helpful to keep these in mind while on a shoot: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ira-pablo/2014/07/5-things-every-makeup-artist-wishes-everyone-knew/
- The final link is specific to wedding make-up selection, but a lot of the points hold true for all portrait shoots. MUA Heather Cotter says to have photos in mind, “but to hold that idea loosely, because part of what you’re paying for is the artistic part”—MUAs personalize make-up to you. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM72Du8Rnms