Makeup for Portraits

Makeup is often an overlooked part of portrait session prep, but it is SO important!  Everyday makeup can look washed out, shiny, or underdone in a portrait, so I have a few tips for you to look your best in a photo.

My first tip is to book a professional makeup artist if possible!  This is not important to everyone so is not a necessity, but if you want to look and feel your very best in your portrait, I encourage you to book an appointment at La Pomponnee or another salon to get your hair and makeup done for your portrait.  It takes about an hour and usually costs between $75-150.

If you are doing your own makeup, I can give you some guidance.  Your goal is to look like yourself with a few enhancements–this is not a time to try something drastically different than what you usually wear!  If you don’t want to hire a pro makeup artist, maybe take this opportunity to visit a makeup counter or try a few new things from the drugstore.

  1. Start with a clean, exfoliated (avoid any intense skin treatments a week or two before your portrait however), and moisturized face, and find a location with bright natural light to apply your makeup.
  2. Add your favorite primer to smooth lines and pores.  Can you tell I love MAC for portraits?  They know all about makeup for photography, and they have a counter at the South Hills Village Macy’s.
  3. Foundation–please avoid mineral makeup for portraits because it can reflect light and be picked up by my camera in an odd way. Revlon Colorstay and MAC Studio Fix are good options for portraits, but you can use your favorite.  Be sure it is a good match for your skin tone–if you have been using the same color year-round for years, you might want to go to a makeup counter and get matched properly!  Use a foundation brush or sponge to avoid streaks.
  4. Set with a translucent matte powder, and avoid shimmer and glitter–this is not a time you want to look dewy!
  5. Curl your eyelashes–this is a MUST!  Use two coats of black mascara (looks good on everyone) on top–best to buy a new tube right before your session so you won’t have clumps.  Eyeliner on top looks lovely in photos, but this is not necessary if you are not a huge eyeliner person.  Avoid too much on the lower/inner rims because this will make your eyes look smaller in your portrait.
  6. Don’t be afraid of blush and/or bronzer–sometimes portrait lighting can wash you out, so wear a little more than usual.  Avoid excessive shimmer and NO sparkle.
  7. Wear a lipstick color that is only slightly darker than your natural color–dark or bright lips can look pretty different in photos than in real life, so a natural tone is good unless you are a regular wearer of brighter colors.

Check YouTube for great makeup tutorials like this one. Check makeupalley for product reviews.

Make sure you bring your powder and lip color to your shoot to touch up.  Don’t fret if you have a surprise bump or spot the day of your session–do your best to camouflage, but don’t stress because it will be retouched out of your portraits.  That’s it!


Are you looking for a maternity, newborn, family, or baby photographer in the South Hills?  Powder Blue Photography offers in-home and in-studio portraits of newborn babies and on-location or in-home maternity and family portraits in and around the Pittsburgh South Hills and Mt. Lebanon areas.  Please contact Missy to schedule a maternity appointment and a tentative date for your newborn session.  Maternity sessions take place around 35 weeks (depending on mama’s stature), and newborn sessions take place in the first 10 days of life.  Family sessions take place anytime!

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