How to Apply Makeup for Photos and Videos – The Basics


The colours that we see in real life aren’t always a perfect match to the colors that the camera captures.

Working as photographer and makeup artist I learned a lot and I want to share with you information that can help you have a better looking makeup for photos and videos.

Here are the main things to pay attention to:

  • Application

Generally speaking the overall application should be a bit more heavy handed than the everyday one.

You need to build up a bit more colour (and texture, if there are going to be close up shots).

One of the biggest and most unpleasant things to see on a photo is patchy areas where it seems like there is no makeup at all.

  • Foundation

Cameras do not pick up on cakey foundation or foundation that is a slightly different shade than your skin tone.

If you have a foundation that is not a perfect match don’t be quick to dismiss it or throw it away because on camera it may look a lot better.

This is only if the difference is small – cameras don’t do magic, so don’t expect this to work if there is 5 shade difference.

About cakey foundation – most lenses do not capture great details, such as skin texture and can easily miss cakey foundation.

If you are using a phone – the ‘beautify’ feature, which is applied automatically in most phones nowadays, will smooth out most foundation flaws.

I usually change my whole set up and use a macro lens if I want to show how cakey certain foundation is.

  • Eyeshadows

Use a eyeshadow base – this will prevent creasing and will help the colours pop on camera.

You can use a concealer as a base in some cases.

Apply several layers especially if you are creating a more defined look such as cut crease.

  • Mascara & False Lashes

Don’t be surprised if you discover that your favorite mascara, that you use everyday and makes your lashes look fabulous in person, barely shows up on camera.

Even if you have beautiful, voluminous, long lashes, it can be a bit challenging to show them because of the angle and curve – even more so when taking selfies.

If you are preparing for photos and videos my advice is to use false lashes – they will appear a lot, lot better and will really compliment your look.

In most of the mascara adverts the models are wearing false lashes.

  • Blush & Contour

Blush & Contour are typically very easily picked up by the camera so make sure to blend them very well and start by applying a little bit at first.

Build up the intensity as you go along.

  • Highlighter

This one you can apply more generously.

Highlights usually look great on photos but don’t show up as much as when viewed in person.

You still need good lighting to capture the highlights in the best possible way.

  • Lipstick

Lipstick shades often look different on camera and this has a lot to do with white balance & lighting.

To make it a bit simple I will say that in some cases the camera will pick up more of the warmer undertones and other cases it will pick up more of the cooler undertones.

Many LED ring lights come with an adjustment setting – they can have a warm or cool lighting.

A good photographer will know how to make the necessary adjustments in order to achieve the most accurate capture of colours.

If you are taking the photos yourself and you cannot really do adjustments on the light, what you can do to take a test shot and try to see if the colours looks more yellow-ish or more blue-ish then substitute the missing tint.

If you see that your lipstick looks way too warm (yellow-ish) then add a bit of lipstick that has a cooler (blue-ish) undertone.

  • Different Textures and Products

All the things mentioned above are general guidelines.

Please remember that different products by different brands will look & apply differently.

If you are using new product for the first time – take test shots.

  • Lighting

For makeup shots the two best options are – natural daylight or LED ring light.

Depending on the results you are trying to achieve you will pick the correct lighting for you.

If there is going to be flash photography – avoid usings products that may contain light reflecting particles, to prevent flashback.

Flashback is a dusty, white outcast that appears on photos (when flash is used) and it’s quite unflattering.

  • Flash

Using the flash on your phone is probably the worst thing you can do to your photo – any photo.

There are ways to take good flash photography and they require a but more professional equipment and a better flash, such as OCF (off camera flash).

The flash should not be used as a way to fix makeup mistakes or make colours pop.

It actually creates a bigger misrepresentation of what the makeup really looks like.

If you are going to an event where there is going to be flash photography just prepare for it – don’t count on it.

My recommendation would be to use good continuous lighting (LED lights) instead a flash whenever you can.

Don’t create extra worries for yourself such as flashback when you don’t have to.

  • Test Shots

I always take test shots and you can do it to, just snap few using your phone.

The photos may not always be absolutely accurate but will be able to see right away if anything needs to be touched up.

Try to recreate the the scene while taking your test shots.

If you are going to be at an event that is during the day and outdoors – just take a regular daylight photo.

If you are going to be indoors at night and others may use a flash – then take few test photos with a flash.

  • Photo Editing

Sadly in the makeup world there are too many artists or just influencers that severely retouch and manipulate the images they publish online.

I have retouched tons of photos and yes, it is true, photos can be edited and anyone and anything can be transformed but it is misleading and I definitely wouldn’t recommend it.

Especially when you are claiming that you created a specific look.

There are a lot of apps that quickly became popular because they are so easy to use – well they look extremely fake, so please stay away from them.

One more thing to consider is the amount of photos that need processing.

Putting just a little bit more effort into the makeup application is always going to give you better, more natural results and it is a lot more rewarding and time consuming.

Those are the basics when it comes to makeup for photos and videos. I will be going into more details and specifics in my upcoming posts.

Meet the Author


Certified MakeUp Artist. Professional Photographer with 7 years of experience. Explored many photography fields but excel in Dance, Portraiture & Fashion.

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