Professional Headshots these days have come a long way from the school photos you took every year growing up, or the glamor shots of the 1980s.
Who needs a Professional Headshot?
To put it bluntly, everyone:
- Actors and actresses need professional headshots when they go to auditions
- Models need them when they go on go-sees
- And everyone else needs them for professional reasons, like LinkedIn profiles, corporate websites, company avatars… and the off-chance you get discovered as an actor or model
Today, headshots reflect a natural but polished look of the subject, focusing on the face. This means being able to apply a natural makeup look is important for those who want to wear makeup in their headshots.
Recently, I reached out to my incredibly talented makeup artist friend, Brittany Ariana, Master Makeup Artist at Makiaj to get her suggestions on how to apply natural-looking makeup for your next professional headshot. Here’s what she had to say
- Contour (4-6 shades darker than foundation)
- Highlighter (1-2 shades lighter than foundation)
- Setting spray
- Beauty blenders
- Beauty brushes
How to Achieve the Natural Make up Look
Step 1: Apply the base
You’ll be starting with a primer. Primers help create a smooth surface for the rest of your makeup, helps your makeup last longer, and creates a barrier between your makeup and your skin, which could help reduce breakouts.
After applying the primer, add a layer of foundation to your face and neck. The goal is to even out your canvas as a whole. You can find foundation in a variety of forms, including liquid, powdered, cream, and stick. It might take some time trying different brands and types until you find the one you like best that works well for your skin.
Once your primer is in place, use a concealer to touch up any dark spots or dark circles. Concealer is used to cover up blemishes and discoloration or brighten under the eyes. Note that when using concealer to cover blemishes, the color should match your skin tone, whereas concealer for brightening dark spots can be a couple shades lighter. If dark circles are present under the eyes, they first need to be color corrected with an orange or salmon tone and then a concealer or brightener can be applied over. When putting on a light concealer on top of dark circles, create a gray tone because light cannot cover dark.
When looking for the right foundation, try to identify the colors you see in your undertones. Do you see yellow, pink, red, yellow/green, or blue undertones? Does the foundation you’ve selected blend into the jawline? Make sure you are matching the skin undertones and not the skin condition (acne, rosacea, etc.).
Step 2: Contour and Highlight
If you’ve been on TikTok, Instagram, or pretty much anywhere on the internet, you’ve probably seen a couple of videos of people doing very detailed and impressive contouring of their faces.
Don’t worry, for your headshot you don’t need to do anything as intense as those videos.
Now that you’ve applied your base makeup, it’s time to start contouring and highlighting for that natural look. Adding dimension back into your canvas is essential after creating a flat color by applying foundation.
Different face shapes require different contouring techniques, so Brittany recommends googling your face shape to get the best suggestions for where to highlight and where to contour. Once you know where you’re going to apply each product, begin with the areas you want to highlight.
Quick note—don’t use a shimmer or glitter highlighter. You want to go for a natural look, so go with matte products that won’t reflect the camera lights.
Highlighting. Use your light highlighter on the areas of your face you want to draw attention to. You can apply highlighter to accentuate your cheekbones, de-emphasize your nose, lift your eyes, and add dimension to your forehead and chin. When you’re done, take a step back and note any areas that look too sharp or harsh. Use a brush or blender to soften those edges just a bit—too much and you won’t get the look you’re going for.
Contouring. Now use the darker foundation for your contouring and follow the natural shadows of your face. With your contour, you can give yourself the illusion of fuller lips by contouring the bottom of your lower lip. Or you can use it along your jawline to create more definition to your jaw. Apply some under the highlighter on your cheekbones for more definition there.
Now you can use your beauty blender or brush to carefully blend your makeup together for a natural look.
Just remember—we’re going for a natural look, so use a light hand with your contouring and highlighting. Too much contour can appear theatrical or even give a masculine look and feel to the makeup, and too much highlight and you can wash yourself out.
Step 3: Blush
Once your contouring and highlighting is to your satisfaction, use a natural-looking blush to add a bit of color to your cheeks. Brittany recommends using cream or liquid blushes as they tend to look more skin like and not settle into pores, fine lines, or wrinkles. Powder blush is ideal for oily skin types with no texture.
Blush is best applied on the apples (round part) of the cheeks, nose, temples, and chin to bring a natural flush of color back into the skin after foundation and concealer.
Step 4: Eyes & Brows
If you already have enviable eyebrows and impossibly long and thick lashes, then you can skip this step.
But for the rest of us who need a little help in those areas, it’s time to attach the eyes and brows.
Shimmery colors should be reserved only for the inner corner, center or the lid, or on the brow bone. Create soft depth and dimension through the crease using matte browns.
The original purpose of eyeliner was to give the illusion of thicker, darker lashes. For a natural makeup look, eyeliner should be kept more minimal and directly on the lash line. Pro tip: Aim for the lashes and you’ll never miss the lashes line.
If you decide to apply eyeshadow, make sure you blend it with the rest of your makeup to continue that natural look.
Similarly, use a light touch with your eyebrows. A soft brown pencil can be applied using hair-like strokes or opt for a tinted brow gel to hold hairs in place while lightly filling in gaps.
Step 5: Lips
When it comes to the lips, it’s good to start with a moisturizing lip balm to soothe any cracked or chapped lips. The camera can often pick up dry lips, and you don’t want that in your headshot.
Pro tip: The morning of your shoot, use a lip scrub and apply a balm or oil to hydrate the lips and prep them for your lip color.
Go with a simple pink, red, or brown lipstick that enhances your natural lip color. You don’t want anything too bold, and you don’t want to use something too shiny as the lights from the camera will reflect off your lips. Matte lipsticks and lip stains are a great way to get color without the shine of a gloss.
If lip liner is your thing, stay within your natural lip lines, and try to keep as close in color to your natural lips as possible.
Step 6: Set It
After you put all that time and effort into your natural-looking makeup for your headshot session, the last thing you want is for the makeup to run or smudge. Seal your look in place with a makeup setting spray.
And there you have it! One natural-looking makeup breakdown for your next headshot session.
Now you just have to decide what to do with your hair… and what to wear…
For more information, check out my other article to get tips on your make up for a professional headshot session.
Leonard Herndon is a professional photographer based in Phoenix Arizona. From events to professional headshots, he is passionate about capturing a moment in time using the tools around him. Follow him on Instagram