Makeup Artists - Why you Need One and How to get One for Free

Makeup Artists – Why you Need One and How to get One for Free

There is a debate about whether a makeup artist is a necessity or frivolity at a photo shoot. I know you can do amazing things with Photoshop, but c’mon people – no makeup artist?! Has the world gone insane? As a former professional makeup artist, I will tell you exactlywhy you need a ‘MUA’ and how to get one for f-r-e-e.

Before you take my word for it, I’ll tell you quickly why you should listen to me.  I was a professional MUA for five years before diverting to photography. I was the key artist for national television, magazine shoots and have done a gazillion weddings. Weddings where, I might add, the wedding photographers often found a way to get in touch after just to say they were amazed at the difference my techniques made to their job photographing the bride. So you can take it to the bank: sometimes, you will need a MUA. Ok. Done tooting my own horn. Back sufficiently patted.

Why You Need a MUA

1.} ‘M’ is for More – You’ve heard it said: “you need more makeup for photography”. It’s probably going in one ear and out the other by now. But it is absolutely reason #1 why you need to think about makeup. The camera wipes away more than half of a gal’s face paint. I wish it were that easy to wash it off before bed! A MUA will have the proper coverage products to do the job. Just packing on extra doesn’t work – you need more coverage, more pigment, different colours.

2.} Who has the time to erase blemishes on 50 headshots? Or clone out dark circles? Just let the MUA worry about it so you don’t have to.

3.} Happiness is underrated – Your clients will be happier I guarantee it. Lots of women feel more comfortable when they’ve ‘got their face on’ and the hair & makeup process eases them into their session. They feel pampered and fussed over and that, in turn, will make them more confident for their session and happier with the results. Plus, your business will seem more obliging and thoughtful and clients always appreciate the extras.

How to get one

By way of definition, let me mention that a beautician is not a makeup artist. A hair stylist is not a makeup artist. A cosmetologist is not a makeup artist. A veterinarian is not a makeup artist (get the point?:) A makeup artist is a makeup artist. And not all MUAs do hair. Personally, I would find someone who does both for the full effect.

1.} Online – there are a few different sites where you can find talent of all sorts. I used to use Model Mayhem to find makeup jobs in my area. You can do a search for MUAs with all sorts of backgrounds and experience who are willing to work in exchange for money or simply TFP (‘time for prints’) which means they want a copy of the images for their portfolio.

2.} Schools – find a makeup artistry school near you with students looking for experience. Here are a few to get you started.

3.} Sales gals – Over on the forum here at DPS, there’s a discussion about professional MUAs and whether they are needed or not. One poster suggested finding a Mary Kay beauty consultant near you because they ‘aren’t allowed to charge for their services’. You’re right, they’re not allowed to charge but technically, neither are they allowed to apply makeup. Calling you local MK rep is a great idea and very resourceful, but you’ll want to check that she is allowed to be doing makeup. Also, MK reps aren’t trained to do makeup – it is a sales job and there is very limited emphasis put on makeup training. They are not makeup artists.

4.} Cough up – after years of experience, I would absolutely go the experienced MUA route and cough up the dough. A way of getting a MUA without the pinch to your pocket is to counter their fee into yours or offer a MUA as part of a package or an added option. An experienced MUA who no longer works for free is definitely the fool-proof way to go if you don’t want to have to deal with inexperience.

You’ve read all the way to the end and now you know why you absolutely positively without a doubt need a makeup artist at your next shoot! 🙂

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Elizabeth Halford is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

Some Older Comments

  • Yucel February 29, 2012 08:31 am

    Shimmer... gotta remember that... how can we teach, or know how, to determine if the makeup is the wrong, unflash friendly type ahead of time??

  • Yucel December 22, 2010 10:13 am

    This is really a great why we must go the MUA route for a photo shoot.

    While many models have the right experience to punch out their makeup, most folks just have not got the background to know what does and doesn't fly w flash.

    Here is something on what a pro makeover did for these 9 women:

    Us photogs have a harder time explaining this to our women clients, many of whom do great jobs on their own street and night makeup.

  • Mark February 28, 2010 03:53 am

    I'm a professional photo retoucher. Work for a company that I have a NDA with so can't divulge too much. We don't use Photoshop. Our parent company develops software programs. The proprietor was a former photo retoucher - back when it was done manually/with an airbrush. Our software program approaches the task at hand from a totally different direction than Photoshop (Photoshop is meant for mass production/user friendliness).

    With that said we tell the professional photographers we work with NOT to use too much makeup - especially eye makeup. Makes post production so much more difficult when drastic changes are needed. In the fashion world it seems that less money is being spent up front/on the set. Our company was up nearly 30% for 2009 amidst a terrible economic recession/depression.

  • Julie February 24, 2010 07:18 am

    Very excellent post. It has been very difficult for me to find anything good on this topic. thanks.

  • Beautiful Horizon Photography February 23, 2010 03:09 am

    I am a hair stylist,make up artist, and photographer, This article was very helpful.

  • Andy MIlls February 19, 2010 11:24 am

    @Wayne there is no need to bite her head off over the issue, especially as technically the MUA is being paid. Elizabeth is talking about hiring the MUA on a TFP/CD basis - while the MUA does not receive cash, their "payment" is the prints from the shoot which he or she uses to promote their skills and get further work. It's an arrangement that can be beneficial for all parties involved.

    @Mindy - there are (obviously) different styles of make up for different styles of shoot, which a make up artist will be able to produce for you; in other words, you don't go for a glamour look when doing a straight portrait. When you produce a portrait for a client, you want them to look their best and a decent MUA will help with this, especially if the subject has blotchy skin or other skin "issues". You can "fix" these problems in PS after, but you do run the risk of the skin looking fake, and the less work you have to do to each photo, the better.

  • Kieron February 19, 2010 09:30 am

    I prefer to see the natural beauty come through. I just ask models to apply light makeup sparingly if any at all. Having said that, I suggest to grooms that they apply makeup for weddings as compared to the bride (who is often caked in makeup) their shiny faces stand out!

  • wayne February 19, 2010 08:36 am

    @Elizabeth, you must have a more generous electric company than I do. Mine doesn't take I.O.U.'s.

  • Elizabeth Halford February 19, 2010 08:00 am

    Wayne, it's all about passion. Not always just business. I am passionate about my craft and I don't always find that it is prudent to bring money into the equation. I have a massive heart to do end of life photography as a gift to the dying. I don't charge them for that.

  • Jim February 19, 2010 07:44 am

    While I appreciate your effort in writing this article, I find several points that I disagree on. As far as fashion or glamor shoots, I usually have no say as to what the models are wearing or their makeup. That is decided by whoever is sponsoring the event or shoot. Weddings can go either way... what usually happens is that I give suggestions if asked. It's her day and I found out a long time ago that most are set in what they want long before they ever talk to me. For portraits or shoots that I pay for, I don't want a lot of makeup. I want a natural look. I found that a top of the line concealer for shine and maybe some LIGHT eye liner / mascara works fine. Sometimes eye shadow is used but it has to be light and subtle. I have tried several MUA's and found that they tend to apply way too much makeup, especially for low light shoots. To me, it makes my subject look fake. But, that being said, it is my personal way of shooting and I don't expect everyone to shoot the same way.

    The 2 photos side by side can't be fairly compared. The before photo is much warmer and brighter than the after photo.

  • wayne February 19, 2010 07:06 am

    @Elizabeth: No, we don't all work for free sometimes. I never do. It sets a bad precedent and is bad for the entire industry. No one expects the gas station to give them free gas. Photographers, makeup artists, and other creative types shouldn't be any different. It's when we start engaging in practices like this that the general public starts to believe they can get something for nothing.

  • Anne February 19, 2010 06:50 am

    I have to say, to my eye, the natural picture is better than the made up one. The shadowing on her right eyes is terrible. Of course you can see the make up has changed the color of her skin and softened the mole. I don't know that that makes it a better portrait. My portraits are of pregnant woman and usually black and white which is very forgiving but I have to say most my gals are natural or very little make up and come out quite beautiful. I know that is partly because in our neck of the woods women tend to be very natural.

  • Chuck Hockenheimer - Photographer February 19, 2010 06:49 am

    The "after" picture has had some softening done. Look at the hair and notice that the "before" picture is sharper. That is not a bad thing but I have discovered that it is much easier to correct the make-up before the sesson than to have to retouch 50 proofs afterwards!

    The hardest part of the deal is convincing the client to pay a couple of extra bucks to hire a MUA to do something they think they can do themselves.

  • Elizabeth Halford February 19, 2010 05:47 am

    @wayne: Hi and thanks for taking time to read this post. Your sentiments have been voiced by others and so please see above for my answer to that :) When we work TFP, we're ALL working for free, the photographer included. And I wouldn't be suggesting anything unfair or deviant because, as I said in my post, I made my living as a professional makeup artist for 5 years. I worked for pay AND for free and the free stuff led to paying jobs. We all work for free sometimes.

  • FreddyC. February 19, 2010 04:25 am

    Sorry why try to cheat readers, this is made in Photoshop, copy the double photo, cut and paste the second half in luminosity on the first one,and you will see it's the same shot,

  • Robert A February 19, 2010 04:06 am

    Having a makeup artist available at the same time as a scheduled shoot just introduces more complexity into the process than there needs to be. If the Photographer and MUA have conflicting work schedules, the whole thing breaks down because now you have 3 schedules to coordinate. Also, unless the MUA is totally in tune with the Photographer and his/her needs as well as the expectations of the client, there could be a disconnect on the shoot which could cause disastrous results in the final outcome (the Print, Portfolio etc:) Also, a MUA being the professional that they are might want to put their ideas into how the client should look and disregard the Photographer's instructions introducing unnecessary conflict amongst all parties (client, MUA, Photog) and cause disruption on the set. I have found that there are almost no instances where a portrait cannot be enhanced in Photoshop at least as good if not better than having a MUA on set. With the tools, actions and third party plug-ins for Photoshop, the possibilities are endless. And last but not least, I agree with TFP but professionals worth their salt want to be paid and paid well for their services. These are costs which are eventually borne by the client who may not be able to afford the extra costs yet they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect the same way someone is who can afford a MUA. Leave the MUA issue to the client to deal with prior to the shoot and if they want one, then feel free to accommodate them but leave the liability on their shoulders...

  • That Guy Designs February 19, 2010 03:41 am

    Oh Kidman, looks like someone was into the nose candy again... tsk tsk.


  • wayne February 19, 2010 03:24 am

    How awful that you would advocate getting a makeup artist for "free." How is this any different than those web sites that give tips on how to get a photographer for free? In fact, most of your tips could easily be applied to getting free pictures.

    Why do you think a makeup artist is less worthy of being paid for his or her work than a photographer? In many situations, I'd argue that the makeup artist has more training, education, (in some places even licensing) and a harder job than most photographers. And just like a professional photographer, a professional makeup artist has to pay for professional supplies and business expenses.

    Makeup artistry is just like portrait photography -- you get what you pay for.

  • liz February 19, 2010 03:13 am

    I enjoyed the article - gives food for thought - thanks

  • Mindy February 19, 2010 03:07 am

    I don't agree with this at all; perhaps for fashion work or "glamour" make up is necessary, but I think make-up often detracts from the appearance of people in portraits, and can make them look very unlike their natural selves. Eyeliner especially can make eyes appear narrow, slitty and hard (even when applied by a professional). I advise women to use a very light hand when applying makeup before having a portrait made.

  • B February 17, 2010 03:19 am

    I don't doubt the truth of this article; for many portrait shoots, good makeup is a huge bonus and a photographer should be a photographer, not a makeup artist, stylist, and whatever else.

    But man, that before and after example is unfortunate. First of all, the before picture looks better because the model's smile is better and the expression is more natural. Maybe she wasn't as comfortable with all that makeup on? Secondly, there's more than just makeup going on those shots. Look at the hair and the background. At the least, the lighting is significantly different.

    Decent article (though it feels rushed), but bad example.

  • Brittany February 16, 2010 10:48 am

    I'm actually quite glad that this article was posted. For a while now I've been stubbornly refusing to join Model Mayhem until I get some decent portraits up, however I am frantically searching for a decent makeup artist. I believe that makeup is very useful in photography...especially for the type I want to do! Thanks for the advice and useful sources!

  • Elizabeth Halford February 16, 2010 03:28 am

    @steven smith: No, we don't want pasty faces that's why you should use a professional, not the model's cousin who 'knows some stuff about makeup' :)

  • Ben February 16, 2010 02:05 am

    Hmmm, the "before" picture looks much more beautiful to me...

  • Steven Smith February 16, 2010 12:24 am

    Sad that we hate to see the natural beauty of a model and prefer to see a pasty face.

  • Elizabeth Halford February 15, 2010 09:39 pm

    @sharon: Very good point. Although usually when we get them to work for free, we're also working free as are the models. As mentioned, this arrangement is called TFP and it also often goes for everyone in the shoot. It's just a way of working together to enhance everyone's experience and portfolio.

  • Sharon Davidson February 15, 2010 09:36 pm

    I find it interesting that everyone is working at getting MUA's for free and then in the next breath complaining that nobody wants to pay them as a photographer?

    If you want a free MUA, should you still expect to get paid for your prints / time?

  • Andy MIlls February 15, 2010 11:36 am

    An MUA can be invaluable - not only can they do the makeup, but often they will help on the shoot, noticing something that you miss (like stray hair, etc.)

    No offence meant here, but all too many women simply do not know what makeup to use, and how to apply it properly. Nor do they know how to achieve a certain "look" (whether it's natural/girl next door, or full on glamour). An MUA will usually use a high quality brand(s) of makeup that she knows will work under certain conditions - not all makeup is suitable for use under flash lighting (usually the cheap stuff) as it can reflect, causing odd effects.

    A professional MUA will also be aware of hygiene so they do not pass on hepatitis/herpes/cold sores, etc. by using "dirty" brushes. A professional MUA should also be insured.

  • Steff February 15, 2010 10:42 am

    That is not a result of shimmer that is the result of not letting silica powder set long enough on the skin. I posted this photo in that thread. Shimmer creates a different undesirable effect but with a real MUA it can be used and as someone who has worked as a MUA, at least you realized Mark Kay and Avon and whatever else are not really MUA's.