12 Makeup Tips for Headshots

There’s the rumor that you should wear more makeup than normal when you’re being photographed. That’s actually kinda true. But it’s not about just slapping on more of each product you normally wear—it’s about knowing which features to emphasize and the products and proper placement of those to help bring your face to life for the camera.  And remember, your headshot is about YOU looking your best—not your makeup attracting the attention. So keep everything soft, well blended and natural so your natural beauty shines through.

Skin prep

Really, if your skin looks amazing, everything else will look beautiful. It’s important to prep your skin prior to applying foundation, concealer and powder so everything goes on smoothly.

1.     Exfoliate – This step should be a regular part of your skin care routine, but it is especially important when prepping your skin to absorb moisturizer and to help foundation lay down smoothly. I often mix sugar with my normal face wash to turn it into an exfoliant. You can also use a warm, damp washcloth to gently scrub. And “gently” is key…don’t be aggressive or you will have red, irritated skin. Don’t forget to exfoliate those lips too so they’re soft and smooth.

2.     Moisturize – Immediately following cleaning and exfoliating, while your skin is still slightly damp, apply a moisturizer. Find one that suits your skin. If you’re really dry, find one that is really nourishing. If you’re on the oily side, lean towards one that is lightweight and oil free. There are endless moisturizers to suit every skin’s needs.  Make sure those lips get a doze of lip balm to make sure they’re moisturized too.

Creamy Moisturizer - Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre

Lightweight Moisturizer - Dermalogica Active Moist

3.     Prime – Primer has become an essential part of getting a face photo ready. Primer helps prolong the life of your makeup, avoid unnecessary shine and can really help skin appear it’s most flawless. Focus the primer in the center of the face and work outward. Look for a primer to fit your needs. There are primers to reduce shine, redness, pore size, etc. 

Embryolisse Emulsion Hydra-Mat

L'Oreal Miracle Blur

Skin perfecting

Once your skin is clean, smooth, moisturized and primed, it’s time to take it a step further and even out the texture and tone with foundation, concealer and powder.

4.     Foundation – more than likely, foundation is a part of your daily routine or it totally isn’t. Regardless of your norm, foundation is a must for being photographed. Use a foundation that matches your skin tone, is SPF free and isn’t too dewy or moisturizing. A foundation that has a more skin-like, velvety or matte finish is going to photograph best and make your skin appear it’s most flawless in photos. I find I get the most even application with the use of a dense, soft makeup brush (one that’s about the size of a blush brush with synthetic fibers). Sponges and fingers work well too.

Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk (MY FAVORITE FOUNDATION EVER!)

5.     Concealer – concealer is important in neutralizing any imperfections that your foundation didn’t take care of, particularly under the eyes. For a particularly dark under eye area, start with a pink or peach-based corrector to cancel out darkness prior to applying concealer. Concealer will brighten the under eye area further and help it blend into the rest of your skin.

Bobbi Brown Corrector

Bobbi Brown Concealer

6.     Powder – Powder is the finishing touch to skin to even it out or reduce shine.  Don’t overuse powder. Just dust it over the areas that need a little extra coverage or shine control like either side of your nose, chin and center of your forehead. 


MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Natural 

Make Up For Ever HD Microfinish Powder

Eyes, Cheeks, Lips

The next steps bring color and life into the face. And they’re the most fun.

7.     Brows – brows are often forgotten but make a big difference. Fill in sparse or light brows to give them a definition and fullness so that they serve their purpose in framing your face. I prefer using brow powder (or just regular eye shadow) in a shade of gray to fill in brows with a small, stiff, angled brush. Start at the center and highest point of the brow with small, quick strokes and work your way out. Don’t overdo the product and be sure to follow your natural brow shape to keep ‘em from looking drawn on. Spray your brow brush (or a baby tooth brush) with a little hairspray then comb your brows up first, then over to give them some lift and keep them in place through your photos.

For light/medium haired gals / Bobbi Brown "Gray" Eyeshadow

For dark haired gals / Bobbi Brown "Smoke" or "Charcoal" Eyeshadow

8.     Eye Shadow – Keep it natural. This isn’t the time to play with colors. Neutrals like vanilla, champagne, taupe, gray, brown, bronze are safe for anyone. Keep the lid light and bright with a wash of color. Work a medium tone shadow in the outer corner and crease to give your eyes some depth. And if you want a bit more definition, smudge a darker shadow into on the outer 2/3rds of the top lash line. This is a fool-proof way to do eye liner to ensure the line is soft but still defines the eye.

Bobbi Brown / Browns Eye Palette

Urban Decay / Naked2 Basics eye shadow palette

9.     Lashes – CURL YOUR LASHES! Do not forget this step. This is the quickest way to make your lashes appear longer and your eyes bigger and brighter. Then wiggle the mascara wand horizontally into the base of the lashes and comb through the ends several times. Don’t be afraid to apply several coats of mascara on the top lashes. Long, full lashes will really make your eyes pop.  Also swipe a light coat on the bottom lashes as well. And this occasion isn’t a bad time to try a waterproof formula just to prevent any smudging.

Shiseido Eyelash Curler

Laura Mercier Full Blown Volume Supreme Lash Building Mascara

10. Cheeks – It’s really important to get some color into your face with some blush.  Make sure you’ve done your light dusting of powder on your cheeks prior to applying blush to make sure it lays down soft and evenly.  (NOTE: If using a cream or gel blush,  apply it after foundation/concealer before powder.) A fresh, bright pink works well on everyone. Use a soft, fluffy blush brush, swirl a little blush on the apples of your cheeks and blend along your cheekbones. Start with a little blush and add as needed to avoid overdoing it. Your cheeks should look flushed, not pink.

Bobbi Brown Blush in "Pale Pink"

11.  Lips – Finish your look with a natural product that is a hint richer than the natural color of your lips. If your need to even out your lip shape, start with a lip liner. Otherwise, just pop a creamy balm or lipstick on your lips. Avoid super matte or super glossy formulas.

Revlon Color Stay Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in "Honey"

Clinique Almost Lipstick in "Black Honey"

12. Bronzer – Take a look at your gorgeous self now and see if you have enough warmth and color in your face. If you feel a little pale, use a soft, fluffy brush to blend a matte to slightly “glowy” (NOT glittery or too shimmery) bronzer on your forehead, along your temples and cheekbones. Again, start light and add as needed. It’s always easier to add product than undo the damage and take away. 

NARS Bronzing Powder ("Laguna" for lighter skin tones, "Casino" for darker)