Makeup Tips for Your Portrait Session

Having great makeup is one of the keys to having gorgeous photographs.  I highly recommend having your makeup done professionally because it makes a huge difference in how your portraits will look.   For my regular session, professional makeup application is included for one person. If you have additional people at your session, or if you have booked a mini-session and would like to add professional makeup to your session please contact me for pricing.

You are welcome to do your own makeup for your session, but even though you may be comfortable doing your own makeup for everyday wear, it's a bit different for natural light portrait photography. If you prefer to do it yourself here are some general tips that will help create a great makeup application for your natural light photo session.

Step 1:  Even

The first step and most important step is to even out your skin.  Clean, even skin is extremely important for beautiful portraits.  Even if you think your skin is pretty good, please wear concealer, foundation and powder to your portrait session.

  • A day or two before your session exfoliate your skin, and tweeze your eyebrows.

  • On the day of your session start by washing your face and applying a light moisturizer designed for your skin type, and an under eye moisturizer to help your concealer blend better.

  • Apply your makeup in natural light.

  • It's very important to wear foundation so that your skin tone will be even. Please use a regular foundation with coverage, not a tinted moisturizer or BB cream. Choose a color that properly matches your skin tone. I also recommend using a foundation brush or sponge to help you blend your foundation well.

  • Use a concealer to cover dark circles and blemishes. Please do not skip this step. Make sure to blend well.

  • Do not use bronzer or do any contouring because this makes your skin look muddy in your photographs.

  • Set foundation with a translucent powder to reduce shine.

Step 2: Define

Your next step is to define your eyes!

  • Use matte colors as much as possible. No sparkles please because these will look like white dots on your skin in your portraits.

  • Look at the chart below for the type of eye makeup you would like to achieve. I recommend most women aim for the "medium" look.

  • Choose neutral colors. For blue eyes I recommend browns. For brown eyes I recommend plums or grays. For green or hazel eyes choose browns.

  • For those who prefer a natural look choose a light neutral or soft warm color eyeshadow color over your entire eyelid, and add mascara.

  • For a more dramatic eye, add a darker color to contour the eye. Blend well.

  • Here's an example of how you can apply eyeshadow: Sweep the lightest eye color shade over the entire lid-start at lash line and blend upward to just underneath the brow. Brush a darker shade along the crease. Start at the outer eye and blend inward toward your nose, no more than 2/3 of the way across. For a more dramatic eye you can also blend in a darker color along the crease. I recommend watching the video demonstration below.

  • Eyeliner is very important in natural light photography because it helps define the eye. Use eyeliner on the top lid starting from the inside and go all the way to the outside of the lid. Stay very close to the lashes. If you choose to wear eyeliner on the bottom lid make it soft, or use eyeshadow instead of liner. You can also use a brush to apply a darker shade of eyeshadow to line your bottom lid.

  • False eyelashes can also be applied at this point, but this is totally optional. Cut the lash in half so that they aren’t too big. Apply to the outside edge of the lid.

  • Add lots of mascara to finish the eye.

 I recommend the "medium" look for most women.

Step 3: Color

Adding color to your cheeks and lips is your final step!  For cheek and lip choose colors that are in the same color family (warm or cool) as your eye shadow.  For example, if you choose cool colored eye shadows, choose cool color cheek and lip colors.


  • Lightly dust a pink or apricot color on the apples of your cheeks. Do not contour with the blush.

  • Do not use blush with sparkles in it because they will show up as white dots on your cheeks in your portraits.


  • Choose a color that you like and suits your skin tone, and matches your outfits, but do not choose a nude color, or a shimmer.

  • Use lip gloss on top of your lipstick.

  • Bring all of your makeup to your session for touch ups, but especially your lipstick and lip gloss. This is very important!


If you would like to watch some video demonstrations to help you with your makeup application, I've included several for you below.  


Here's a video showing you how to get the complete look by following the three steps:  Even, Define, & Color.

Here are some videos to show you how to create a few different eye looks.


Here is a video to help you choose a blush color, and instructions on how to apply it.

For further tips please see my Pinterest page or makeup tutorials on Youtube.