Photo Shoot Prep, Part 2: Makeup and Wardrobe Tips From a Photographer

Photo Shoot Prep, Part 2: Makeup and Wardrobe Tips From a Photographer

In the first installment of this two-part series, we talked about skin care prep for a photo shoot, and the advice came from me. In this installment, we’ll discuss makeup, styling, and posing with award-winning photographer Erich Chen (Instagram: @erichchen), who recently shot my latest and most favorite set of photos. Erich’s work shows incredible talent and skill for capturing beautiful images that let real emotion and personality shine through, and I didn’t want to talk about photo shoots without looping him in.


Makeup For Photos: Some Simple Do’s And Don’ts

I think many of us, even non-models, are aware that there are differences between makeup that’s optimal for daily life and makeup that’s optimal on camera. Within the beauty community, for example, it’s often acknowledged that the kind of heavy, dramatic makeup often used by YouTube and Instagram makeup gurus is really best left to YouTube and Instagram. It’s a makeup style said to look far better on camera than in real life, where all those layers of base products and contour can look caked-on. On the other hand, people often fear that makeup applied with a light hand, while looking nice in person, may not show up at all on camera, leading to a washed-out face in photos.


Photo courtesy of the author


I inadvertently put this second stereotype to the test by failing to apply any more makeup than usual on the day of my shoot with Erich and was pleasantly surprised to find that it looked exactly the way I wanted to in our pictures: clean and fresh but not at all washed out. So I asked Erich for his thoughts. And he got some additional insight from his makeup artist friend with whom he’s worked many times.

“The type and amount of makeup depends on what end result you want. Lighter makeup will generally look more natural, while heavier makeup will be more dramatic,” he said.

Avoid products with the mineral sunscreen ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Erich and his friend explained that these ingredients cause a reflective shine in flash photography: the dreaded flashback effect. Silica causes flashback as well—even celebrities like Angelina Jolie aren’t immune. If your skin care or makeup contains these ingredients, check with your photographer beforehand to see if they plan to use flash. If they do, consider using different products instead.

Avoid products with the mineral sunscreen ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which can cause the dreaded flashback effect.

More important than makeup, Erich and his friend said, is your skin. “If a person has dry, flaky skin that would create bumps in the makeup, it will emphasize imperfections even more.” (Which totally validates my skin-first approach to photo shoot prep!)


Dressing For Your Photo Shoot

What you wear for your photo shoot will obviously depend in large part on the purpose of the shoot. If you’re taking a headshot at work, for professional purposes, you won’t need to consider a slinky evening gown or that cute Madewell bralette you just picked up. If you’re taking engagement or wedding photos, you’ll likewise have a pretty good idea of what kind of clothes you need to wear.

Even within those constraints, however, there are a few things to keep in mind. Erich cautions against clothes that are too trendy, since they’ll look outdated a few years down the road, and suggests avoiding clothing that’s too detailed or brightly colored. “Generally speaking, clothes that flatter your skin tone, eye color, and body shape are always a plus.”


photo shoot makeup


It’s not always easy for us to know exactly what colors and shapes truly flatter us the most. I strongly suggest working on your clothing options some time in advance of your photo shoot. Try on different outfits, take pictures yourself, and if you can, ask for feedback from trusted friends and family. We’re rarely objective enough about our own appearances to know for sure what looks best on us, so outside opinions can be valuable.


A Word (or a Couple Hundred Words) on Confidence

The last but possibly most important piece of the photo shoot puzzle is confidence.

I struggle with confidence a lot in photos. It’s not that I feel insecure about my actual physical appearance—day to day, I think I look fine. What I struggle with is my appearance in photos, because in the vast majority of cases, I loathe every picture ever taken of me, no matter what outfit, makeup, or angle is involved. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t like pictures of me, so when I need to pose for pictures, I stiffen up, and my failure to relax leads to yet more stiff and awkward photos that I will also dislike.

I struggle with confidence in photos. But after I loosened up (with the help of good conversation and possibly a glass of wine), we got some pictures I actually love.

What I learned from shooting with Erich was what a difference relaxing and having fun with the process can make. None of my favorite shots came from the beginning of our session. I still felt a little stiff and uncomfortable. But after I loosened up (with the help of good conversation and possibly a glass of wine), we got some pictures I actually love.

The lesson from this is to do whatever you can to loosen up and have a good time. You’ve followed my skin prep tips, adjusted your makeup as needed to what you want to convey in your pictures, and chosen classic and flattering outfits, so walk into your shoot knowing that you’re ready to look your best. Listen to your favorite songs beforehand; pump yourself up. Draw on your personal anxiety reducing tools and techniques if you need to: I did have a glass of wine and also some CBD. Finally, trust your photographer.


Photo courtesy of the author


I warned Erich beforehand that I really, really do not know what to do with my arms and hands in pictures. I don’t know how to pose. It turned out to be a total non-issue, because as a photographer, he provided the direction I needed. “In a photo shoot, I love using arms and legs to create flattering angles or just to make someone’s body posture more interesting,” he said, and he definitely pulled through.

Taking pictures is nerve-wracking for many of us, but it doesn’t have to be. As with any other endeavor, the more prepared we are, the more relaxed and confident we can be. In the end, that’s what brings the best results. So get your skin ready, put on your makeup, and smile!


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