Preparing for a photo shoot (or look fab/camera-ready for special occasions)

Greeting folks! I am Mary, a makeup artist based in Canberra, Australia. This is my second blog entry. I know it looks text heavy, but I've put a lot of thoughts and information into it, which makes it a valuable read for new models or anyone who wants to look fabulous in photos. Hope you enjoy!

beauty blog 1
beauty blog 1

  Want a beautiful glowing complexion in photos like those models? Then keep reading!(Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Jones at Makeup by me. Model: Stefania Knightley and Katie).

Most seasoned professional models know by experience what needs to be done before a photo shoot. However, if you are a beginner who is going to have your first portfolio shoot, chances are you are a bit lost on what would be expected of you from the photographer and makeup artist. This guideline is written to help anyone who is going to have a photo shoot in the near future (not just models),  The more strictly you follow these guidelines, the better your shots will turn out.

Long term maintenance (Who doesn’t want great skin and a fit body?):

1. Always take care of your skin, following a rigid routine of cleaning, exfoliating (This is a must and has to be done at least once a week!) and moisturizing. Apply a sunscreen whenever   you are going outdoor, even just for 5 minutes.

 2. Drink a lot of water on daily basis.

 3. Eat a clean and healthy diet, and exercise regularly.

 4. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

 5. Avoid excessive consumption of sugar. If the promise of a slimmer waistline hasn't curbed your sweet tooth, maybe the desire for smooth skin will. That might give the low carbohydrate diet a brand new justification. Excessive sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), causing damage to collagen and elastin, the protein fibres that keep skin firm and elastic (Hello, wrinkles and sagging! Weakened joints too!). These aging effects start at about age 35 and increase rapidly after that. So really think twice next time when you are allured by the chocolate cake or doughnut!

! To sum up: Live a healthy lifestyle. I know this is grandma’s nagging and you probably know better than this. But how many people out there literally follow these?

Short term preparation (Just before the shoot)

5 days before the shoot:

1. Check your hair. If it has been a while since you had a trim, now is the time. Do not go too wild for the hair style. If your hair is dry, get a deep conditioning treatment. Refresh your hair colour a few days before the shoot. Dark roots will look even worse in photos.

2. Have your eyebrows professionally shaped and then maintain them by plucking the strays every few days. Any waxing needs to be done at least three days prior to the shoot, otherwise makeup won’t stick to the skin around your eyebrow bone. Having a makeup artist shaping your eyebrows on the spot is time consuming and you might get puffy/red eyelids afterward too.

72 hours before shoot:

1. Avoid the following items (They can give you bad skin and swelling):


  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Red meat
  • Spicy, salty and processed food (Cause water retention in the body).
  • Fast food and oily food (Cause oily skin and break-out)
  • Excessive consumption of dairy product. Dairy can be a major trigger of acne in many people.
  • Sudden change of diet (May cause break-out and skin allergy).

Cosmetics-wise and the others:

  • Prolonged sun exposure. Sunburn shows up well in photos (Think of the redness and demarcation lines on the body). Due to severe dehydration and damage to skin tissues, makeup will further irritate the burned skin, causing the sunburn to last longer and possibly even develop blisters. Even if you decide to risk your skin health and wear makeup, no product will stay put on sunburned skin. The quick absorption of any water content from the makeup will only leave you a blotchy flaky look.
  • Skin care products containing Retin A, Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA; e. g lactic acid, glycolic acid) and benzoyl peroxide (Main ingredient in many over-the-counter products for acne treatment, e. g Proactive). These will cause skin peeling that cannot be covered by any makeup (Photoshop nightmare!); and due to the loss of surface cells, makeup product cannot adhere to your skin well either (You may look like wearing a mask).
  • Any new skin care regime or new makeup products. This is not a good time to test out new products and risk skin irritation and allergy.
  • Sleep deprivation. That means no partying. Lack of sleep will dehydrate your skin and mess up your body.
  • Smoking.
  • Illicit Drugs.
  • Stress. Yes, this one is hard to avoid. But at least try not to have the shoot arranged right before your final examination or when you are facing some significant difficulties in your life.

 2. Drink a lot of water whenever possible. Carry it with you everywhere you go and keep sipping.

 3. Get rid of your body hair by either waxing or shaving. Anywhere and everywhere it could possibly been seen! If you are shooting lingerie or swim wear, do not forget the bikini line.

 4. Fingernails and toenails should be well manicured, and polished colourless or French,   unless there is any specific requirement from the shoot. Many great photographs have been ruined by horrible nails.

 5. If you have facial hair and you are a woman, you need to have it waxed. Peach fuzz will show up on your skin and looks worse in photo (Powder + facial hair= mildew on skin).

24 hours before the shoot:

1. Exfoliate your skin (face and body) the night before the shoot, ideally followed by a hydrating mask treatment for you face. If you’ve never done exfoliation, you seriously need to include that into your skin care regimen. Lots of skin problems, such as dull complexion, dryness and acne, are either caused or exuberated by the lack of proper exfoliation.

2. Avoid dry lips by putting Vaseline or Pawpaw ointment on your lips before bed and the morning of your shoot. Exfoliate your lips the night before you shoot by brushing them with your tooth brush.

On the shooting day:

1. Clean and dry your hair before you arrive at the shoot. Do not over condition your hair, as silicone in many conditioners will weigh your hair down and make it difficult to style; especially when volume is needed.  Light styling products can be used to make hair behave. Do not use dry shampoo as all powder will show up in the photos, especially if you have dark hair.

2. Arrive with clean skin without any product. All traces of makeup should be gone from your skin. No eyeliner and mascara should be left. Tinted moisturizer is not allowed either.

 3. Wear loose and comfortable clothing to the shoot; clothes that bind will leave unwanted marks (especially from bra strap).

 4. Bring strapless bras, nude underwear and a tube top (clean, basic colours only. E.g black, white or grey).

 5. Carry your own mascara with you, in case the makeup artist does not use disposable wand. Not everyone practices perfect hygiene.

 6. Bring eye drops which can stop bloodshot eyes (That can ruin photos too).

7. Bring a straw so you can sip water after your lip makeup is done.

8. Bring some snacks/energy drink if the shoot is likely going to be long.

9. Avoid big meal before the shoot. Avoid food which may cause bloating or any uncomfortableness.

10. Bring anti-perspirant if you sweat a lot.

Other things might be worthy noticing:

1. Try not to schedule the shoot right before or during your period. Quite likely you will look slightly puffier and more bloated.

2. Re-schedule the shoot if you have any contagious diseases including flu, which can be spread by air or skin contact. No makeup artist will touch a face with impetigo either.

3. A few pimples are not a big deal as they can be easily covered by makeup or erased from the images by post-processing. Do not over-clean your face and use harsh products containing alcohol, Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) and benzyl peroxide all over your face, as these will dry your skin out significantly. Do spot treatment and use an oil-free hydrating lotion/cream in addition to minimize side effects caused by those products. If you have persistent acne problems, please consult a skin care professional.

Last but not least, makeup artists are like painters. They need a clean, smooth canvas to guarantee proper application of different products, in order to bring the best out of you. Taking care of your skin is not only a prerequisite for professional model, but important for maintaining your optimal health.

Phew...That's quite a bit of reading, is it? (A quite long writing for me too!) If you notice that I've forgetten something , or have any suggestion/opinion (different opinions are always welcome :) ), please feel free to leave a comment below or send me an message here

Your friendly makeup artist,


Copyright © 2012 Mary Li Makeup artist, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Nothing within this post, including text or images may be reproduced without my express permission.