The Clueless Photographer’s Guide to Makeup (Part Two)

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MARY_COVER_WEBSIZEIn the first half of the Clueless Photographer’s Guide to Makeup series, we discussed why a photographer would need to know about makeup artistry.  And we also touched lightly upon a little of everything and anything a photographer should know, in order to communicate their needs and vision to the people we work with.  In this second article, we’re going to narrow the focus down to the most important element of makeup artistry: the eyes.  



Eye makeup can make or break a photo shoot… it’s that important.  Just take a look at how the model to the right is transformed with a little well-applied styling work.  Context is everything:  we wanted something colorful and fun, and the hues in her eye shadow compliments her complexion and eye color, as well as the wardrobe.  A heavy, black makeup look would kill the look.

Worse than no makeup at all is a bad makeup job.  I find myself fixing poorly applied makeup in post-production more often than I’d like to admit.  Taking and reviewing test shots before the actual shoot begins can save us lots of time after the shoot is over.

before after makeup


There is no hard-and-fast rule about what defines a clean/commercial makeup look.  But suffice to say that less is more, and the idea is present your model in a natural way.  This style is best suited for lifestyle imagery and catalog fashion, but can also been seen in edgier photography, such as all those black and white Calvin Klein ads featuring punky looking models.  The idea is to keep the focus of an image on something other than the model’s makeup.

At it’s most basic, a clean look should only fix blemishes, remove uneven skin tones, and maybe add a healthy glow.  But the limits to clean looks area always being pushed, and a little eyeliner or eye shadow can be added, so long as the model still looks natural.

Oh, and there’s no nicer way to say this, so we’ll just say it: to pull off this look, the model needs to have good skin and features, and look great without a lot of makeup.



Moving away from natural looks, we can have our makeup artists transform the shape of the model’s eye in unnatural ways.  A winged look is just one of the many ways to accomplish this.  The wing is a line drawn from the outer-edge of the eye, outwards, creating more of an almond-shaped appearance.  Multiple wings can be drawn as well, as in the example to the right.

Winged Liner


A cat eye is similar to a winged look, in that the makeup artist is extending the outer edge of the eye.  But it differs because the makeup goes around the entire eye, and alters the shape of the inner-corner of the eye as well.  The wing on a cat eye can even be filled in, for a darker, bolder look.

Cat Eye Makeup


A smokey eye can be a photographer’s best friend.  I’m sure you’re already familiar with this makeup look, because it’s so popular in the modeling world (even if you didn’t know what it was called until now).  Tyra Banks made the smokey eye her signature look, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an image of her not wearing it.

Almost everyone looks good with a smokey eye, and every makeup artist doest it a little differently.  But it can be way too much makeup for clean/commercial and lifestyle looks.  Save the smokey eye for fashion and glamour.

Most makeup artists seem to steer us towards black, gray and brown tones for smokey eyes.  That’s a safe choice on their part, but does tend to get a little boring after a while.  Smokey eyes can be done in any color.

Jim Jurica Glammodelz


If you’ve ever found yourself zoomed up at 200% magnification on a model’s eyes in Photoshop, then I’m sure you’re aware how many issues there can be with something as simple as eyelashes.

It really helps to take a moment and scrutinize your model’s makeup before the shoot begins.  Most people have gaps in their eyelashes that can be filled in with false lashes.  And clumpy mascara sticks lashes together, and just plain looks gross when viewed up close.  Boring lashes can also be made interesting with a few seconds spent with an eyelash curler.

When it comes to false eyelashes, I’ve noticed over the years that even pro makeup artists often get stingy with them sometimes.  The good brands aren’t exactly cheap, for a single-use kind of item.  But false lashes can have a huge impact on the final results.  Just look at the images to the right, and how the model’s eye is transformed after makeup.  Adding false lashes created a look that is clearly feminine and glamorous.

False lashes come in either long strips that can be applied all at once.  Or they can be bought as individual lashes, used to fill in gaps selectively.  In the studio, I always have a set or two of new false lashes on hand, for when they’re needed.  For non-pros, the single-strip variety goes on easier, and can even be pre-glued.

One thing to keep in mind with long lashes: Hard light from a high angle can produce some really harsh and odd looking shadows over the models eyes.




Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder.  But in model photography, the eyes are truly the window to the soul.  Dull, dead eyes or boring makeup will leave your viewers feeling dull and bored.  As photographers, we spend so much time conjuring up visions of who to shoot, where to shoot, and how to light it all.  It seems only logical that we play a role in makeup vision as well.


(click on any image for larger gallery versions)



GlamModelz Magazine staff photographer Jim Jurica, of Chicago, IL. is one of the most creative photographers on our staff. Whether he is shooting in the studio or on location Jim excels at thinking outside of the box. Jim offers conducts very popular workshops several times each year and they tend to sell out fast. To learn more about Jim please see his commercial web site: or directly by email here: Jim has published 16, articles with GlamModelz Magazine.

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