TOP TIPS: Building your Makeup Portfolio

When starting up as an aspiring makeup artist, it’s never easy to get the best photos of your makeup when you’re doing the makeup on yourself and taking the pictures on your iPhone 5s with shabby lighting, bending your back so far it almost snaps. Believe me, I’ve been there and realised the (literal) ugly truth of how they turn out, and most importantly, how others perceive these “photos of your work”.

We all hate the feeling of being gutted when you do an absolutely stunning makeup on your friend/a client and the phone just refuses to take a damn good picture!


This was one of my more “creative” makeups inspired by an image I saw on google. As you can see, the lighting is harsh, there is an obvious background and the photograph does not look professional.

So the question is. What do we do? How do we build up our makeup portfolio?

You will need to work in a team with others including models, photographers sometimes stylists and hairdressers as well. Everyone will be working with you for the same reason – to update and improve their portfolios!


Three years ago, on the first lesson of our makeup class we were told to create a Model Mayhem account and put whatever pictures we had of our makeup looks, advertising ourselves to photographers and models equally eager to build their portfolios.

When I say whatever pictures, I literally mean ANY pictures of makeup you have done.

Model Mayhem is a website that helps makeup artists, stylists, photographers, models, etc to organize and collaborate photoshoots, offering their time in trade for a better portfolio.

The process is called Time For Print (TFP) which basically means you and all of the other collaborators are offering your time, skills and products for photographs of the end result that you have all worked towards to add to your portfolio.

You would be surprised the amount of people trying to “make it” into the creative media industry, and believe me when I say, there will always be someone willing to work with you, regardless of how little photos you have to start off with of your work. Don’t be ashamed or scared to put your name out there attached with mediocre pictures of your work.

The main aim here is to create and build a portfolio you are proud of, as well as improve yourself and your knowledge of how makeup looks on camera.

When I was first starting off in the makeup industry, I was very enthusiastic and got on the website straight away, contacting everyone I could asking if they would like to collaborate. After messaging many people and scouring the website for potential collaborators, I finally hit the goldmine! I got in contact with a model (who funnily enough I am actually good friends with now) who had connections with a photographer and made it happen. It was literally as simple as that. A month later the model, the photographer she knew and I had agreed on a date, and a photoshoot was organized soon after.


Enter As you can see compared to the previous image, this photograph looks much more professional and vibrant, clearly showing the model and the makeup in a flattering way.


Model Mayhem is a great way to meet new people. For my first photoshoot I was very nervous and self conscious of what the model and photographer thought of my makeup skills, so I brought along my sister. Not only do you have their help and support, but also you are meeting complete strangers so it will keep you at ease knowing that there is another person there with you. Don’t be afraid to ask for references and snoop about facebook pages and see if they have a website to ensure they are the real deal, as safety is always the most important thing!


A moodboard is a collage of inspirational pictures put together in an attractive fashion to show your ideas visually to someone on what look you would like to achieve. This is a great way for models and photographers to get a good idea of what you are after. Moodboards can be an inspiration of anything.


Moodboards can incorporate locations, hairstyles, makeup, fashion and model poses.

Once you share these moodboards with the photographers and models you have connected with, it will spiral into something completely inspired, the photographer giving ideas, the model giving ideas and eventually you will have a planned themed photoshoot! Concentrate on the images you would like in your portfolio, such as pinup, and create moodboards around that theme and collaborate with others who have the same ideas as you.


Outcome of moodboard shown above.


There has been times where the model, photographer and I have all been in a group chat and we just couldn’t get any decisions made on location, day, time etc and we have only had a limited time to plan it. It is always best to plan atleast three weeks in advance, that gives you time to prepare any moodboards, facecharts or plans with what you’re doing with the hair, makeup and clothing. It also gives you time to decide on the location and manage your time well.


Believe it or not, the makeup industry is smaller than you think. If you knock down one domino, the whole of them will come falling around you. You do not want to be in the situation that nobody wants to work with you or hire you because you acted in an unprofessional way on a collaboration. It is always imperative that you maintain a positive, professional image and manner, taking consideration for others and their ideas, and not just going along with what you think. At the end of the day, everyone working with you is there to benefit their portfolios, they will all have ideas that they would like to try out so try to be open minded and flexible with what you are aiming for. This applies as well with talking behind others’ backs. Nobody likes a bitch, so don’t be one.


It is better to have more than what you need than to have nothing that you need. Plan and pack everything the day before the photoshoot. Nothing ever goes to plan, so make sure you bring extra colours, clean brushes etc because things can change. Most of the time you will be working outside, so bring plenty of towels to lay your stuff out on, as well as hand sanitizer, tissues and babywipes. Ensure that all the brushes you are taking with you have been cleaned, and know your models skin type (and shade if possible).


If you message independent bridal boutiques, clothing stores and even somewhere that sells accessories like handbags, shoes within small businesses, they would seldom say no to free advertising! All they need to do is lend you items to help with your photoshoot, and they will not only receive professional photographic images of models wearing their brand, but also free advertising. You have nothing to lose by sending a simple message to a few boutiques telling them about your collaboration and an opportunity for them to take part in this, and future operations. It’s a win-win situation. If they say no, it’s their loss. Move on.


People will be more likely to come up to you and ask YOU to collaborate if you are active on social media. May this be instagram, facebook, twitter etc if you are active and keep posting about your makeup and what you are all about, people will be interested! It also builds up your followers, meaning you will be recognised more by others.


Websites like vistaprint specialise in business cards, brochures and price lists for a decent price. You can get premade cards or design your own! What is good about business cards is that you can have them on you at all times, and hand them to people who say that they work in the beauty industry – as they will have your work number, email address and facebook page (or just whatever you feel comfortable with putting on it). You can also ask to leave leaflets and business cards on the checkouts of shops, pubs, cafe’s or even your local hairdresser in hope that people will pick them up and be intrigued. This is another way to get your name circulating.


Every collaboration is different, as people, situations and ideas are not always the same. Sometimes you will be working in a studio, other times you will have absolutely no space working in a tiny car with the models head on your lap. It really can be that different! The best advice I can give you is to be yourself, be chatty and talkative to ensure a comfortable environment for everyone, be friendly and get to know them so that they will want to work with you again. One of the most important things is to make sure your model is always comfortable with what you are doing, and you are not completely poking her in the eye or something along those lines! One thing I’ve learned is that most photographers are very patient and they are not bothered about the amount of time you take (unless it is a ridiculous amount of time) as long as the outcome is to everyone’s liking. Photographers would rather you took your time and had the makeup absolutely immaculate than take 10 minutes and the makeup looking absolutely horrendous.


Things that a lot of people can struggle with is taking constructive criticism, as everyone likes to think that they have done the most perfect job and there is absolutely no flaws. But that is not always the case. Or ever the case in fact. There is always room for improvement. More often than not, models may ask you to change the colour of their lipstick, or a photographer might tell you that you need to even up the eyeliner. Do not take this personally. If you take minor things like these personally you have no hope to succeed as a makeup artist, as constructive criticism are the words in between “makeup” and “artist”.


There may only be a specific or theme that you like, such as bridal. This is great for if you just want to do bridal makeup, but sometimes people like to be something different in your portfolio so that you don’t just look like a “plain jane” that has one type of style. As your bridal business grows, you may want to expand into boudoir, fashion and photographic makeup etc. It is hard to do that when you are so deep within the wedding industry that you cannot find your way out. It is always good to have images that show that you’re more than just a bridal makeup artist, that you can do it all. One mistake I made is that I focused more on Avant Garde makeup than any other, so now I don’t have many “beauty” images to promote myself for bridal and other makeup types.


There has been a time or two when I have spent a good amount of my time creating different looks on the model, the photographer has done his thing and then just deleted all of the pictures without sending them. It is always best to check the reputation of the photographer and how they operate. If there’s a photographer who deletes every image they take after you’ve spent an 8 hour day recreating several looks, then it’s just a waste of everybody’s time. It’s a really horrible feeling knowing that you’ve worked hard and slaved away doing makeup for a full day for the photographer to then delete all of the images from that day. The best way to choose is to talk to different people, look at a range of portfolios and see what suits your style best. It is always great to meet people for a coffee or so first of all, just to get to know them a little bit and discuss ideas between eachother.


There are many places to look for potential collaborators and meet and connect with models and photographers. People looking to collaborate in your area can be found on facebook groups especially made for that purpose – to connect and work together! Check out your local events and see if there are any networking nights. Don’t be afraid to reach out to beginners like yourself, such as college photographers and performers who are also looking to add to their experience and portfolio. People in this industry can be found literally everywhere! It’s just all about how to find them, talk to them and collaborate!


Don’t feel beat down if someone rejects your offer to collaborate, as it is not personal. Sometimes people just have full enough portfolios with enough images of what you are offering them. It can sometimes take a while to find someone looking to do the same themes and add images similar to your ideas to their portfolio. Not everyone is after the same thing, and it is always important to remember that. On the same side of the coin, do not feel bad saying “no” to others if they ask to collaborate and their work isn’t something that you are looking to build your portfolio on. It’s always important to know when to say “no”, otherwise you do not get any benefit from the collaboration if it’s not to your taste.


Well that’s everything for now! If I think of anything more I won’t take long to update this post! I hope that you enjoyed reading and picked up a few handy tips. 

Please let me know what you think in the comments section below. 

Thank you for reading! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s