Hair & Makeup Tips for Your Portraits

Part of the secret to looking good in portraits is strategically preparing ahead of time.  This includes carefully selecting the outfits you will wear in your session, making sure your outfits will complement your portrait session location, and arriving to your session with your hair and makeup done.  Essentially, handling these details before your session can add that extra “wow” to your portraits.  It’s also a great reason to pamper yourself.  Pampering ourselves by having our hair and makeup done can make us look good.  When we look good, we also feel good.  And feeling good during your session is a must.  Whether you choose to hire a professional hair and/or makeup artist, or choose to do your hair and makeup on your own, here are some tips to use when preparing for your next portrait session.


In general, your makeup application coverage should even out your skin tone, cover any redness, and cover the majority of blemishes.  I would recommend using at least medium coverage.  The camera may not pick up the effects of your makeup application if it’s too light.  If the makeup application is too heavy, it can appear cakey and/or overdone in your portraits.

Choosing matte makeup works best for portrait sessions.  Avoid using makeup that has shine or shimmer.  This can include eye shadows with glitter, make-up with SPF, and/or mineral makeup up.  Using these could create shine within your portrait that could provide unflattering results.  Applying translucent powder can help reduce shine.  You could also bring your translucence powder to your portrait session to re-apply in between poses.

Always start your makeup application with a clean and moisturized face.


While being careful not to overdo it, eye makeup should be applied slightly darker, and thicker, than normal.  The goal is to have the camera pick up the contrast and definition in your eyes.

Using neutral eye shadows can help accentuate your eyes.  Golden brown shadows can typically match to most outfit color combinations.

Eyeliner:  The use of eyeliner should define your eye shape without reducing the appearance of your eye shape.  To do this, choose darker browns.  Brown or brown/black is recommended.  Applying your eyeliner too thick could make your eyes look small.

Applying mascara will help add definition to your eyes.  Be sure to apply the mascara so that there are no clumps.  One to two coats of mascara should work perfectly.  You could also consider applying flash eyelashes to add more length and dimension to your eyes.


Apply lip liner and lipstick.  Choose a neutral color that is close to your natural color.  Your lipstick color should also complement the colors within your planned wardrobe for your session.

Be sure to blend when applying your makeup.  If you apply concealer, blend it into your skin and foundation so that it isn’t noticeable within the portrait.  The same goes for eye shadows.  You want the layers of your eye shadows to blend into each other to provide a complementary look.


If you plan to have your hair cut before your session, you should plan to have it cut 2 weeks before your session.  Freshly cut hair may not lay correctly for your portraits.  Also, if planning for a haircut, I would recommend keeping the style in line with your typical look.  It’s not recommended to try a new haircut or color change.  Stick with what you are comfortable with and what you like for your hair.

Style your hair on the day of your session with a natural look in mind.  Adding light curls can look complementary.

Apply hairspray to your hairstyle on the day of your session.  Also, plan to bring your hairspray to your portrait session.  This will help control fly-away hairs.  Be careful not to apply too much hair product as you want to avoid creating a sticky and/or heavy look with your hairstyle.


Nails should be groomed.  Be sure to have your nails trimmed, filed, buffed, and clean.  Natural nails, or neutral color painted nails, look best.  If going to a nail salon for a manicure, ask to have your nails buffed out.  This provides a very beautiful natural sheen for your nails.  If you’d prefer having your nails painted, choose neutral colors that complement the wardrobe choices for your session.  To ensure well manicured nails that are free of chipping, plan to have your nails done the night before your session.  Lastly, be sure to also groom your toenails if you plan to wear sandals or go barefoot during your session.  Having your feet moisturized will look great for your session.

Finally, when planning for your hair and makeup, it’s most important for you to feel like you look good.  Consulting with your photographer before your scheduled session can help you plan both your hair and makeup.  When having your hair and makeup done by a professional, be sure that you are comfortable and happy with the end result.  No matter how great your hair and makeup may look, it won’t look its best if you don’t feel your best.  Remember that looking good helps you feel good.  And feeling good helps for a successful session.