Makeup tips for your best look on camera

Are you worried how your makeup will show up in your photos? Independent beauty consultant Cyndi Coakley with Mary Kay and I teamed up to create several looks for the mature woman that will look great for both headshots and branding photos, especially under unforgiving studio lighting. We want to help you find the best look for your next photo shoot.

Thanks, Cyndi for guest blogging. Model is Carla Saylor. Photos are by me, Heike Martin Photography.

Time for a new headshot or branding photos?

With so many makeup options and choices from colors, to products, to creating a look to match YOUR style – 
How to do you BEST show up for YOU but also give the BEST look for the camera?

Do you remember those days of FLASH photos with WHITE faces in the 80s and 90s? Ok, so some of you do and others are shaking your heads with complete wonder!? Just ask someone 40+!

Many foundations/makeup cover-ups of those days included Titanium Dioxide, a sunscreen ingredient, that reflected the FLASH of the camera, creating that WHITE face…. so the products you wear can make a difference to your end result and offer LESS editing and MORE you in the process. 

So setting, lighting, type of shoot all matter.  No matter the setting, pick a look and style that fits YOUR personal style… don’t go with a glamour look if it’s not the STYLE you want to portray.  Usually a more natural gal, be sure to wear a look that creates a polished palette on your skin but reflects YOU.  Even if you don’t generally wear makeup, check out the tips below for a look that will help YOU show up as your best through the camera.  Just a hint of products to create a flawless finish will give you a more natural, less edited result.

Setting and lighting can impact your best makeup options.

The SETTING (indoors or outdoors) will help you focus on the best options for your makeup because the LIGHTING will also be different in these settings. 

Makeup for headshots on white background
Creating a makeup look that will work well for headshots with a white backdrop.
  • For Indoor, professionally light head shots or branding:
    • Avoid any foundations with Titanium Oxide or Zinc Oxide as mentioned above. 
    • Intensify Makeup just a bit for the more vibrant lighting. Take a few pics and see how it looks through the camera. 
  • For naturally lit branding or portrait sessions:
    • A lighter more natural finish or your every day look is great for these shots.
    • A BB Creme or CC Creme is a great NATURAL option for a flawless finish even with sunscreen, because the natural light gives a different finish than the indoor, professional lights.  I’ve had several photographers mention how great Mary Kay CC Creme looks on the final pics.  Less editing and a more flawless finish.
    • Consider the time of day to match your look, opting to add a bit more depth to your colors for later afternoon or evening weddings or photo shoots. 
Complimentary colors for headshots
A little fun with complimentary colors to make your headshot pop.

Top tips for shining through with the BEST YOU through the lens:

  • Wear a color correcting foundation over a moisturizer to give a smooth finished look to your skin.  Avoid products that appear too matte, heavy or powdery.  Often a dewy or luminous finish with a soft translucent powder is a great option.
  • Wear a lip shade to compliment both your outfit and your skin tone (undertones are warm, cool, neutral or olive).  Can’t choose – do you usually like yourself more in Gold or Silver Jewelry? or Warm or Cool colors?  If you like both you’re probably a neutral and can choose either.
  • Add cheek color to match your comfort zone… Pop of color or just a neutral glow, use the same thought process as selecting the lip shade.
  • Give those brows some LOVE! Brows are the frame to your face.  Short little strokes to look like hairs to fill in and even out brows. Brow tints are also simple and easy. Give it a little practice before your shoot. Remember – brows are sisters, not twins.  They are not EXACTLY the same and therefore don’t need to look that way.
  • Mascara is always a GREAT option to POP your eyes.
  • Let’s pop those Eyes:
    • Don’t usually wear eye makeup? Pick a soft, smooth natural matte color to simply even out your eyelids.
    • Love eye color? How best compliment your eye shape and color?  Think of art class, when you were painting a tree you have it dimension but adding light or dark colors.  Same for our eyes.  The areas you want to POP forward – use a light color.  The areas (like prominent brow brows) that you want to set back, contour with a darker color.  
    • To select colors that best pop YOUR eye color (go opposite on the color wheel) and also complement your outfit.
      • Green eyes: accent with pinks, or purples
      • Blue eyes: warm browns, bronze, golds
      • Brown eyes: Have fun – wear what you LOVE 

Want to take it up a notch for smoother, younger looking skin? Think about highlighting those areas on our faces that have a shadow? A highlighting concealer or underage corrector with light reflecting properties is a great option for under eye area, smile lines, and around our noses.  Fewer shadows give a younger looking appearance.

Headshot makeup that pops.
Lighting, backdrop choices and clothing all help to draw your eyes to the face. That is a headshot that gets noticed.

Still feel unsure – reach out to your photographer for any tips she may share.  Ask a Beauty Advisor or Beauty consultant for a personalized consultation to find your style. Most of all – have FUN, let YOU shine through to the camera lens, and your headshots and branding portraits will show a great end result.

See more tips on makeup for different skin tones and ages. “How much makeup is right for your headshot?”

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Photographer Heike Martin


Heike Martin is a headshot and branding lifestyle photographer based in Manheim, Pennsylvania. She specializes in helping you magnetize your brand with intentional, eye-catching images. Fun, relaxed and professional.

I can’t wait to capture your essence.