As a Portrait & Fashion Photographer, having a solid roster of professional hair & makeup artists (HMUA) should be at the top of your priority list for your business. I have a great roster of hair & makeup artists with different skills sets, personalities, schedules and styles. Editing and retouch-ing is a part of photography business, but I have learned that one of the most valuable things you can have on set is a good beauty team. I’ve been taking clients since 2009 but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to really understand the value that hair, makeup and styling bring to each shoot.
I’ve worked to build relationships with not only local artists, but artists around the country and help connect photographers with hair + makeup artists in my area. I think there are 3 big factors to working with hair + makeup: simplicity, communication and trust!
Photographer: Travis Curry | Model: Maddie with Major Models NY | Makeup: Carolyn Thombs | Hair: Jasmine Burnside
Keep it Simple + Build!
The first shoot I did with a team of professional hair & makeup artists was in January of 2012 when I worked with some of the stylists at my local hair salon. I had really no direction or visual references for them, but I also wanted to do really creative, avant-garde images. My thought was “ooh you’re working with these cool hair stylists, so they can do really cool stuff!” I think it was a great learning experience for everyone, but for me as the photographer, I tried to do too much that I was not experienced in. You know, we often want to add in all the bells and whistles, which can easily lead us down the overkill road. Less IS more! My concept had something to do with fire and ice, but I thought I could just show up and make things look cool. I was wrong! Any shoot needs a level of pre-production to make sure your team is equipped and ready to bring the vision to life. I had wanted to do this icey look for the model, but that required makeup and extra supplies that wasn’t readily in anyone’s kit. I also didn’t have a visual reference so, there’s that! I got a couple of nice images from the shoot that I used for a while, but nothing that could stick around in my portfolio for years and years. I tried to go BIG with no plans or clear direction.
I see a lot of people who try to produce these big, highly conceptualized photoshoots when they first start working with creative teams and models. If you’re new to working with your team, I would suggest that you take a step back and create solid, beautiful images that show off your photography, the natural beauty of your model and the clean work of your hair & makeup. You can always build throughout your shoot and if you have time at the end, play around with some-thing more conceptual. Most clients that book you want to see clean, beautiful work. If you look at hair, makeup and styling for the top magazines and campaigns, you’ll notice that all of those elements are all very clean and very well done.
At the end of a shoot, if my client is up for it and if we have time, we may do a bonus look, like a cool hair style or a bold lip. This gives my HMUA a little creative license to play and we usually have a lot of fun with the bonus look. For my portrait and headshot clients, I have to keep things realistic, and then again we also cannot pull out some fantasy beauty look and set in the final few minutes of our shoot. Clean beauty and clean images pay the bills.
Photographer: Travis Curry | HMUA: Amie Decker
Communicating with Hair + Makeup Artists
When I started working with artists, I knew very little about hairstyling and makeup. I make sure to ask questions and absorb as much information about hair and makeup when I can because it helps me communicate with them what I want in the future. YouTube is a great way to learn so in my free time I like to geek out on beauty and watch videos and read up on tips from pros like Lisa Eldridge, Scott Barnes and Cesar Ramirez. I don’t follow a lot of Photographers online, but I do follow a lot of hair + makeup artists! It helps me learn and be more educated about all of the elements that go into my photo shoots. If you’re new to working with hair and makeup artists, don’t be shy – ask them questions because it will help you both learn more about each other.
Don’t Let Your Ego Get in the Way
Good communication with your team is like GOLD. Remember: you are the Photographer and part of your job is being responsible for bringing the vision to LIFE! This means that if a hairstyle is not working for the vision of the shoot, then you need to communicate to your stylist to fix it. As a professional stylist, you should be open to this feedback and able to fix it. As a Photographer these changes are important because you wouldn’t want your client to request a reshoot or spend your entire week recreating a hairstyle in Photoshop. It’s important to not let your ego or emotions get in the way: there can be so many different personalities on set, you need to make sure you keep it professional and keep your team happy on set. Your team is a HUGE part of the success of the shoot.
Use Visual References
Using visual references is the best way for me to communicate with my team about what I’m looking for. This also helps when we are consulting with our client so that they can get an idea about how they will look in photos. I often am pulling inspiration from runway looks, campaigns, editorials and past shoots that I’ve done. I may show my hair stylist one look from a campaign while I’m showing my makeup artist a photo of an awesome lip from the runway.
Plan Out Looks Collaboratively
When I work with my headshot and portrait clients, the hair and makeup looks are very consistent. We usually do a very clean, minimal makeup look and then we build based on what my client is using their headshots for. At the start of the shoot, we go through the clothing looks and then plan out the hair & makeup with the clothes. I’ve been fortunate to work with my artists for a few years now that we get each other, so communicating ideas comes easier with each shoot. We always consult with a client before we start anything so that everyone is on the same page about the shoot.
Trust Your Team
I like to be around when hair and makeup is being done; that time is when a lot of the bonding between everyone on set happens. It helps people relax and get excited for the shoot! If your team is bonded before you start shooting then your shoot will be a success! However I also like to give them space to get started, so I usually leave them alone in my office after we consult with the client/model. I use this time to finish setting up in the studio or catch up on emails and calls. Once I finish I pop in and check on how things are going and stick around to chat with everyone while we finish up the first look.
Photographer: Travis Curry | Model: Ivey with Major Models NYC | Makeup: Kelley Unthank | Hair: Kayleigh Burton
When we are hired as Photographers, it’s under the impression that our client trusts our ability and our vision. It’s important that you find the balance of being in control of the shoot but also letting your team do their jobs. I think this goes back to being able to communicate with your team about what you (and your client) want but also what they feel is best for the shot. I have brought my HMUA ideas, but because of my client’s haircut, or their eye shape, we have to change it up. I always put trust in my creative pros to know what’s going to be best for the shoot.
Have fun shooting and working with your new teams!