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makeup_artistBeauty Photography, is an area where I excel. It’s an exciting concept, far more time consuming and far more complex than one would imagine. This is where the collective creativity really comes together and I love the interaction with other creative professionals. This type of work is so highly specialized and very beneficial to Makeup Artist’s and Hair Stylist’s portfolios – as well as the models and photographers. I spend a great deal of time each year shooting with a few  super creative Makeup Artist’s and Hair Stylist’s on their own portfolio development and maintenance projects. I’m always excited to be involved with these projects. Their needs are so very simple, Fine Detail! I’m surprised to hear all of the time; “I can’t find anyone to give me the fine detail I really need.” I always use highly specialized lighting equipment, specifically designed for the finer detail needed in Beauty and Makeup photography – The Beauty Dish.


I use the Beauty Dish as my main light on every shoot these days regardless of Makeup work, High Fashion, Glamour, etc. There is just something about  the way in which it illuminates the skin and makeup pigments that can not be beat.

When a Makeup Artist is working on her own book she is usually going for something very unique and highly artistic. Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist’s will put a great deal of time and money into a single shot, because of this they always plan very carefully!  It’s not uncommon to discuss a shot for a month or more before shooting. The majority of Beauty shots I have been involved with have required two hours to six hours of preparation time. It then takes 15 or 20 minutes to shoot the model.  I test with new models because of the Continuous search for Gorgeous Models with unique, perfectly symmetrical facial and beauty features.

makeup_artist2While selecting Beauty Shot models for a Makeup Artists projects; we look for great complexion and skin, perfectly symmetrical facial features, lush full lips, stunning eyes, a strong cheek bone structure, such as those of European or Russian ancestry. New models need to understand that a Makeup Artist usually puts a great deal of time and money into one image for her portfolio. A single shot can cost the Makeup Artist well over $1,200.00 in products and time, so the MUA will be very picky in Model selection. I test shoot for Beauty Shot candidates all the time. Models I test shoot with must be able to do your own makeup, flawlessly. If you can not do your own makeup, the chances are that it is because of a condition that would make the model unsuitable for a Makeup Artists project, such as oily skin which causes the pigments to bead or dry skin which will absorb the pigments before we are ready to shoot.


Tip for Models: Be completely honest with your Makeup Artist and communicate! This is essential to a successful shoot! Hire the best MUA you can afford, this is not an area to cut costs. Even if you have skin conditions, a good MUA will have alternatives to accentuate your beauty features. While testing for Beauty Model candidates, I have occasionally run it models with allergies and/or sensitivities to various products, its so important to let your MUA know this in advance of the shoot, so that the MUA will have the products on hand needed for the project. Select a photographer who specializes in makeup and beauty work. There is nothing worse then being handed a pile of B&W’s after spending $400.00 for a rocking MUA/Stylist. In the Modeling Industry, you get what you pay for.

So now we need to face the facts, less the one percent of all the models and wannabe models are actually perfect for a Makeup Artists own Beauty projects. But do not despair. You can always hire a professional Makeup Artists. to assist with your special beauty project. In the San Francisco Bay Area, be prepared to pay a minimum of $125.00 a look or more depending on the complexity and supplies needed for the “Look”. The Makeup Artist will usually offer a deal on second and third looks, not as edgy and during the same session. Professional Makeup Artist are so good at contouring the face to enhance your beauty features.  I have been totally amazed more then once to watch a MUA change the shape of a models face just by shading jaws and cheek lines. They are worth every penny and a very valuable team member to ensure a successful shoot.

Do It Yourself Beauty Looks


It’s possible to do your own Edgy Makeup, if your creative. It’s usually not that difficult, but the concept and planing can be. Edgy works well when it’s simple and clean, regardless how complex it looks when finished. This is a Barbie look Mary really wanted to try, I believe we used three pair of eyelashes and a lot of Pink.It took Mary about 20 minutes to do this look herself and we are both so happy with the results here..

While this look or concept may look complicated it was actually very simple to do and shoot.  As you can tell the lighting and composure are no big deal. If there is one thing I have learned with “Do it yourself Beauty Looks” it better to keep them as simple as can be and leave the highly complex looks to a professional makeup artist and/or hair stylist.  It still never hurts to try, to push yourself and your skills to a new and higher level.  You just might surprise yourself  :)


Tiera and I had this concept once, I’m so happy with her work here. She required about 15 minutes to get ready, which was about the same amount of time it took me to cut the mask out of a piece of lace. We only took 9 shots for this look and we both decided we loved  it and wrapped it up for the night.I just love shooting with Tiera, she is so creative and excels with sizzling facial expressions and poses. I would shoot with her every day if I could!!

I like to believe I think outside the box. I do collaborate quite a bit  with the models I’m shooting with. I find this really helps the finished image when we  are all working  as a team towards a common goal. It also makes the shoot more fun and productive as well.

Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Many of you who have been following the progress of this article will note I have been adding to it slowly and certain shots have been completed. It takes time to do something right, but its worth it in the long run…   So in conclusion, if you are a model or a photographer in search of achieving a higher level, take a chance and go for it!!

Makeup Artist & Hair Stylist I Highly Recommend:

San Francisco/Sacramento:

Christalbell Saville MM# 313639

Victoria Vandal, MM# 1745249

Jonathan MM# 372184

Hollywood, CA:

Kerry Kaoru MM# 50751

San Diego, CA:

Makeup by Amy MM# 446620
(works fulltime for Playboy, hard to schedule, but worth it)

More to come real soon – Open while under construction :)


Posted in Category: Commercial Photography

About the Author

Posted by: Dave in: Commercial Photography on: June 2, 2009
I'm a Northern California Professional Photographer, based just outside San Francisco. I specialize in commercial product advertizing and architectural. I have been working with Bay Area modeling agencies for more then 10 years, shooting portfolio development for models and high-end makeup artists. I am highly creative and always unique. I shoot cutting edge projects, both in the studio and on location.

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216 Responses so far.

  1. Cindy says:

    I have searched for information like this for so long. As a makeup artist I really love the several points you made here. To many people forget it takes team work, its not just “all about me”.

    Much love

  2. beth says:

    davedavisphotography.com is my favorite place now!

  3. CASANDRA says:

    Some specialists say that softboxes are better for beauty lighting. Why would you prefer the beauty dish?

  4. karen says:

    wow when are we shooting? i live in auburn ca.

    Karen <3

    • Dave says:

      Hi Karen,
      I tried to follow your link, but that is my Model Mayhem profile. Send my a PM on MM. I am reshooting all of my beauty concepts for 2012 :)


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