Makeup Tips for Headshots & Portraits

Makeup Tips For Headshots


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One of the most common mistakes I see when shooting headshots are bad makeup choices.  Too much, too little, wrong colors, or no makeup at all.  I feel for you guys, really.  It can be a tricky thing especially if you are not confident with your makeup skills.  I will admit that I am NOT an expert in any way- which is why I’ve brought on makeup artist Meghana Prasad to help out with this blog.  Thanks to our fabulous model Jenna Kate Karn, we were able to take very simple UNEDITED headshots with different levels of makeup and common makeup mistakes.  Obviously Jenna is adorable and looks gorgeous in all the images.  For real- This girl is photogenic.  But you will get the idea.



1) No makeup

Mel: I don’t wear makeup everyday but I wouldn’t recommend going makeup free for a photoshoot.  I think Jenna looks really pretty in this image but a lot of that has to do with HER really engaging us.  This image of her could be interpreted as someone who does not want to take a lot of time on her appearance.  For someone in a holistic field, this could potentially work for you but everyone else kind of just looks they don’t want to put their best foot forward.

Meghana: For real life, there are plenty of days that I go makeup-free so don’t get me wrong–I’m not knocking those that don’t wear makeup on a daily basis! But for a professional headshot, no makeup at all is not a good idea. The lighting tends to wash you out and the camera can see better than the human eye–both reasons to use a little bit of cosmetic assistance when you’re having your headshots done.


2) Very little makeup

Mel: This image is obviously getting better.  Only a few slight changes and BOOM!  Jenna already gives off the illusion of being a “go-getter”.  (Cheesy but true.)  Her eyes are more defined, her lips have a gloss to them.  Nothing is less appealing than dry lips.  No one wants to hire ANYONE who has an icky mouth.

Meghana: The only things I added for this photo are mascara and lip gloss. I chose to do so because for many women, this is their go-to makeup for every day. I wanted to illustrate that though this looks great for an every day look, the camera can magnify any skin imperfections or blotchiness. Having someone who knows how to effectively camouflage these issues without making you look like you are wearing makeup can be really helpful for a professional headshot.



3) Perfect amount of makeup.

Mel: I love this headshot.  Jenna looks attractive and confident.  Her eyes pop!  The makeup does not distract and only emphasizes her good features.

Meghana: Here, her skin tone is even, she looks healthy and alive! You can now focus on Jenna’s beautiful eyes (I’d say they’re her best features!).

 4) Too much eye makeup

Mel: Now I am all for thick dark eye liner when going out to the club but it is not appropriate for most headshots.  It creates a very specific look that can be distracting.  You want people to see your photo and just think:  Wow, this person looks _______ (insert positive word) and I want to work with them.  I want them to do my taxes, I want to hire them in HR, I want them to play the role of the girl-next door, I want them to represent me legally, etc.  Dark eye makeup can be fashionable but just does not look professional.  Now, if you are TRYING to create that look as a separate option as an actor.  That is great! (As long as it fits your “type”.)  The only other exception is if you are truly that person who wears this type of make up every single day.  Your headshot should always look like you.  However, your image is also your brand.  Consider that and choose wisely.

Meghana: Remember when I said before that I loved Jenna’s eyes! I do–but choosing to over-emphasize a feature may be great for a party or runway but for a professional headshot you want to be pretty conservative with your makeup. Too much eye makeup can just be distracting in this context. The only exception to this rule is if there is a makeup look that you wear every single day and is part of your brand. So if Amy Winehouse liner is part of your brand–then you rock it!


5) Way too much make-up

Mel: So obviously bubble-gum pink is not Jenna’s color but you get the idea.  Too much makeup begins to look very fake and stylized.  If I was a casting director, I would be wondering what she REALLY looks like.  We had a lot of fun with this one but people really do show up for headshots with this much make up on.

Meghana: So we went a little over the top with this look–most people would know that this is too much. But there is a fine line to walk of having on enough makeup that studio lighting and the camera don’t wash you out but not putting on too much. Many people are simply not comfortable with doing this themselves, which is why I think hiring a makeup artist for your headshot session can be so helpful!




General Makeup Tips from Meghana:

  • Keep it neutral–glitter and bright colors have their place and can be tons of fun, but I wouldn’t recommend breaking them out for your headshot session. Stick to neutral colors and matte/satin finishes so as not to distract from the real star–you!
  • A dewy finish is all the rage these days, but stay away from shine when you’re taking a photo. It won’t look dewy and pretty on camera, it will likely just look oily.
  • If you have a signature look, don’t try to drastically change for your headshot. If that’s what you’re going to look like showing up at your job interview or audition, then that’s what your headshot should reflect.

Using A Makeup Artist

Using a makeup artist really takes the stress out of applying your makeup.  A makeup artist will come in with the tools and expertise to make you look your best so that you can relax and just have fun.  Getting headshots taken is a blast!  But I understand there is a stress and pressure there too. Having a makeup artist is just one less thing to worry about.

If you don’t choose to hire someone, that is okay too!  You should be able to  apply your own make-up so that you can prepare yourself for auditions.

Remember: Headshots should look like YOU on your BEST day.

Mel & Meghana (Funny thing: I didn’t wear any makeup! I wasn’t even THINKING about the fact that I’d be in FRONT of the camera!)


Special thanks to Meghana!  Check out her website here: Meghana Rose Makeup and become a fan of her facebook page.   Check out her blog for more tips on makeup!




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