Professional photographs. At one point or another in our lives, almost all of us will have to have some taken—whether for work, a wedding, or some other purpose you don’t anticipate until the shoot is booked and the prospect of photos becomes a reality.
No matter why we’re getting our pictures taken, most of us want to look our best in them, and our skin is a major component of that. I had a shoot a couple weeks ago. You might assume someone who runs an Instagram account about skin care would be pretty comfortable in front of a camera, but the truth is, I normally loathe having my picture taken and normally loathe every picture taken of me.
To soothe my nerves pre-photo shoot, I did what I always do: skin care. Here are my tips for preparing your skin to look its best before any photographic occasion.
No matter why we’re getting our pictures taken, most of us want to look our best in them, and our skin is a major component of that.
The Basics: What You’re Trying to Achieve
Unless you booked your photo shoot months or years in advance, it’s likely that you’re not going to be able to achieve any particularly drastic changes in your skin between now and picture day. And that’s not the point. The point is to get your skin to look its best on camera in the condition it’s in right now.
Cameras record images by capturing light. For your skin to look its best on camera, therefore, you’ll want it to reflect light brightly and evenly. Smooth texture, even tone, and plenty of hydration and moisture are your friends here. That’s what we’ll be working on.
What Not to Do
In the run-up to a photo shoot, what you don’t do with your skin care is as important as what you do. Now isn’t the time to run the chance of a breakout, an allergic reaction, or redness-causing irritation—no matter how miraculous that enticing new product might sound, the potential benefit isn’t worth the risk. So:
Don’t add any new products to your routine. Even if you feel you know your skin pretty well, every unfamiliar product carries some possibility of a reaction. That holds true even if the product doesn’t contain any ingredients known to bother your skin.
As an example, I’ll tell you the story of my greatest skin woe. Amorepacific is a prestige Korean beauty brand whose highly fragranced products tend to sport mile-long ingredient lists. Generally, we consider fragrance an irritation risk, and the more ingredients a product contains, the higher the potential of a reaction or breakout. My skin, however, loves many of Amorepacific’s products.
Don’t add any new products to your routine. Even if you feel you know your skin pretty well, every unfamiliar product carries some possibility of a reaction.
The one Amorepacific product it can’t handle is the Vintage Single Extract Essence, which happens to be the Amorepacific product with the shortest ingredient list (only six ingredients), and which contains no fragrance. There is nothing in the Vintage Single Extract Essence that I haven’t encountered in plenty of other products, nothing in there that has ever irritated my skin before. And yet, for some reason, every time I give this beautiful, alluring product a chance, it breaks my face out in a bumpy, itchy, stubborn rash that takes a week and lots of TLC to heal. Moral of the story? Trust no new skin care product when you have a photo shoot coming up.
Don’t overdo the actives. While we are shooting for a fresh, clear canvas on the morning of a photo shoot, we are not shooting for raw, overexfoliated, and possibly bumpy, flaky, or broken-out skin. Depending on your complexion’s tolerance to exfoliation, the line between just enough exfoliation and way too much exfoliation may be very fine indeed. Step back from your actives to make sure you don’t accidentally cross it.
How to Prep Your Skin For a Photo Shoot
Now that we’re clear on what not to do, let’s look at what to do to prep your skin for radiant pictures!
Do exfoliate—but not too much. As I mentioned above, we want to avoid overexfoliation at all costs. So while we want to achieve a nice fresh and smooth surface, we want to make sure that we don’t go overboard. I suggest exfoliating several nights in advance of your photo shoot, and using a product that is below what you know your skin’s limits to be. That will look different for every person. Chemical or physical exfoliation is all on the table. The most important thing is to choose a product that you know works well for your skin and doesn’t work too well.
Do focus on the calming and hydrating products. To achieve the most radiant possible skin at your photo shoot, you’ll want to reduce any redness as much as possible (another reason not to overdo the exfoliation) and pack your skin with plenty of plumping humectant moisture. This is the time to layer your trusty hydrating toner and use your most soothing and brightening sheet masks.
Do use an extra step to clarify skin and clean out pores if those are an issue for you. Again, don’t use any unfamiliar products, but if you have a clay mask or other pore-clearing mask that you have used before and can trust, bring that out the night before your shoot. Use it only where needed and follow up with your usual nourishing skin care.
Do save one of your favorite sheet masks for the morning of your shoot! That extra dose of hydration will bring a stunning glow to your face. If you want to turn up the wattage even more, add a little liquid illuminator, like NIOD’s Photography Fluid, to your moisturizer or foundation on the day of your shoot.
Why Does All This Matter?
Confidence is key to taking your best pictures, and the more confident you are in the way that you look, the more confidence you’ll be able to project at your photo shoot. Just remember that the days before your shoot are not the time to try to fix long-standing issues using new and untested products. Your beauty in this moment is already enough. As you prepare to take the best photos of your life, focus on enhancing what you already have, and be ready to smile!