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How To Apply Makeup For Photos

Learning how to apply makeup for photos is not as difficult as you might think. Since most people (apart from celebrities and on-air personalities) don’t get the opportunity to use a professional makeup artist before special events or photo shoots, it’s helpful to learn how to correctly apply makeup for photos yourself. Featured below are easy-to-follow instructions on how to apply makeup for photos.

Applying makeup for photos is different than applying makeup for everyday wear. Because the camera magnifies every detail (which means pores, zits, and wrinkles become more noticeable), there are certain techniques that are used to help minimize these flaws. In addition, a camera’s flash is so strong, it tends to ‘wash’ people out in photos, meaning they look like they don’t have any makeup on.

How To Apply Makeup For Photos

How To Apply Face Makeup For Photos

Makeup Primer

To start with, apply a makeup primer to your freshly-cleaned face. This will minimize the look of pores, wrinkles, and fine lines, while also creating a more matte appearance of the skin. In addition, makeup primer is very helpful in ensuring longevity of your makeup (especially throughout the course of a long day, or under the bright lights of a photo shoot).


Gently dab concealer (at least 1 or 2 shades lighter than your overall skin tone) under and around your eyes, around your nostrils, and on any red or discolored areas (such as blemishes). If you want a more dramatic look, use this ‘highlighting & contouring‘ technique to create a more sculptured, chiseled face with the use of concealer and bronzer. At minimum, use concealer to lighten and brighten areas on your face that are darker or red-colored.


The next step is to apply a high-definition foundation all over your skin, using a foundation brush (to distribute the perfect amount of product to leave the skin looking completely flawless). What differentiates HD makeup from traditional foundations, is that it is specifically created for photo shoots. The particles in the foundation reflect light better than other foundations, which helps create the illusion of perfect skin, even under the harsh eye of the camera lens.


To minimize the look of oily skin (which naturally occurs in the T-Zone), and to ‘set’ your face makeup (which helps prevent it from ‘melting off’ throughout the day), apply a setting powder with a fluffy brush all over your face.


Even if you don’t usually use blush or bronzer, this is a necessary step in applying makeup for photos. Because the camera frequently ‘washes’ people out, applying blush to the apples of your cheeks will help bring ‘color’ to your face, giving you the look of a healthy, radiant appearance. Coral or pink-hued blush colors add life to your skin tone, without looking unnatural.

How To Apply Eye Makeup For Photos

Eye Shadow

For most photo shoots, it’s advisable to stick with neutral colored eye makeup (unless you’re doing an editorial fashion photo shoot, that requires an ‘avant garde’ look). Start with applying a light-colored neutral eye shadow (such as a bone or champagne color) to your entire eyelid. Then use a deeper toned eye shadow (like khaki or taupe) to define your crease. As a final step, use a dark color eye shadow (like chocolate brown) to accentuate your eye shape, by applying to the outer edge of your lash line (on the upper eyelid).


Use a black or dark brown liquid eyeliner to carefully line the top eyelid (at the lash line). Start at the outer edge of your eye, drawing inward. The line should be thickest at the outer part, tapering  down as your move inward. Liquid eyeliner is more dramatic than pencil, which is why it helps your eyes ‘pop’ on camera.


Before applying a mascara to your eyelashes, curl them with an eyelash curler. This will help ‘open’ your eyes, creating the look of longer, more pronounced eyelashes. Use a black thickening and lengthening mascara to up the wattage of your eyelashes, which will bring attention to your peepers in photos.


Using an eyebrow pencil (one or two shades lighter than your hair color), fill-in any sparse areas on your eyebrows. To learn the full step-by-step tutorial on creating perfect eyebrows, follow this how-to guide.

How To Apply Lip Makeup For Photos


To create definition for your lips, and to ensure greater longevity and wearability of your lipstick, start by filling-in your lips with lipliner that matches the shade of lipstick you will be wearing.

For photos, it is recommended to wear a brighter lip color than you might normally wear (for everyday). The reason is because the flash on a camera tends to remove whatever color you have on your face, leaving you with a ‘ghostly’ look. Not only will bright lip color help ensure you have ‘color’ in your face, it will also help people focus on your pretty smile when looking at the photos.


As a final step, apply a bright colored lipstick on your lips. A berry or bluish red tone are especially effective in creating the illusion of whiter, brighter teeth.

Voila! In just a few simple steps, you’ve mastered the art of applying makeup for photos. Now, just relax, have fun, and say ‘cheese’!

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  1. Thanks for the amazing tips. Step by step. …. and what other foundation would you recommend for photo shoots?

    • Christina-Lauren says:

      Hi Kassandra! Glad to hear this makeup tutorial helped you. One of the best foundations for photo shoots is called Make Up Forever High Definition Foundation, which you can buy here:

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