“I look like a drag queen!” It’s an all too often response to getting your make up done for a boudoir or portrait session and one I recently experienced myself.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good drag queen! It’s just not the exact look I’m going for in my own professional portraits.

I understand. You’ve invested a lot of time, money, you had an idea of what you could look like when you had a team of professionals working with you, and in an instant, all that is taken from you. It’s the moment you see your reflection in the mirror; and you’re supposed to be confident with this look in front of a camera in a matter of minutes! You wonder ‘How can this be ok?!’ Everyone around you is telling you that you look amazing but you can hardly look at yourself without having a small panic attack. Although I know this is a very normal part of the process, I didn’t realize until just recently, why that is. Below are three observations about having my own make up done for a new headshot that I think will help better explain why this is necessary for a great end result. But first, here are my photos! The one on the left is exaggerated in photoshop to show you just how much make up I felt I had on. The photo on the right is the final product and what was actually on my face.

Boston boudoir photographer posing class

1) THE BUILDUP: When you put on your own make up at home, you see the transition happening slowly. You see the build up of make up. It’s much more shocking going from rolling out of bed, wearing nothing but moisturizer to full make up for film (which, by the way is more than just full make up…which brings me to point #2)!

2) FULL MAKE UP FOR FILM: There is a very big difference between wearing make up for every day wear and wearing full coverage make up for film. You may have heard this before but maybe you don’t fully understand why or what to expect. You think, “Sure, I’ll have more foundation and it will be fine.” But the truth is, foundational coverage is such a small part of it. Your eye contact is one of the most important factors of a great portrait. If your eyes don’t stand out, they will get lost in the photo. In order to help them stand out on film, your MUA (make up artist) needs to very much exaggerate them in order to balance out the lighting and the loss of contrast. But in person, it’s shocking! The same goes for your lips. So now…you have more make up than you’re used to wearing and you have both your eyes and lips beyond exaggerated. Of course this is a lot to take in at once!!

3) DEPTH: When I started teaching posing classes, I realized one thing that is obvious to some of the more elite photographers but maybe not to you, is that photograph are one dimensional. In person, our eyes auto-correct for distance and space between objects. We see things in 3-D, but in photographs you need to create that dimension on a flat surface. You can do this with posing. You can also do this with make up, and it’s one of the things your MUA should be doing. In order to create that depth (or to make your eyes “pop”), he/she needs to create layers. Those layers are created with eye liner, lashes, shadow, highlights etc. It’s also the many layers that you were not expecting when you look in the mirror, which is why it’s so shocking. You’ve probably never had layers in your make up. It is, after all, one of the reasons why you hired a professional, right?!

This is all super scary, I get it! It can be quite a lot to take in at once. It is however, an essential part of the process that you need to trust. We as photographers, hair stylists, makeup artists etc. all want the best for your portraits. It does after all, reflect on us and our work too. Our names are on the work we create. We take that very seriously, and we would never lead you in a way that we believe is harmful to your portraits in any way, shape or form. Because I was prepared for that reaction I would have, I just trusted the process and it was the smartest decision I could have ever made. I love the final product and am beyond happy with my make up!! If you have any questions about make up or fashion inspired portraits, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our email is info@shannon-michelle.com. Hope you found this helpful!!

Hair: Kai Mitchell of Salon 1803
Make Up: Shana Christoforo
Photo: Megan Ryan of Shannon Michelle Photography

FOR BOOKINGS OR INQUIRIES: info@shannon-michelle.com

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