How to do headshot makeup: 20 insider tips

How to do headshot makeup: 20 insider tips

Headshot makeup tips from the Professionals here at Retratos Barcelona

Having a camera in your face is nerve-wracking. Everyone wants to look their best when having headshots taken. But for those of us who aren’t professional models, prepping our faces for a photoshoot can be a bit of a mystery. Should you slap the makeup on or come fresh-faced and hope the lighting works miracles?

If you want the absolute best results, we always recommend working with our professional makeup artists as part of your shoot. Find out more here!

But before you decide you need to call in the professionals, take a look at our insider tips for headshot makeup.

A professional makeup artist applying makeup to a young woman

For the very best results, we always recommend working with one of our professional headshot makeup artists.

The day before the headshot session

Now’s the time to start filling up on water. Skin looks plumper and more elastic when it’s well hydrated. It will also help plump out any fine lines, which can show up on camera. Your eyes will also look brighter and clearer if you’re hydrated. So grab that water bottle!

Water yes, facials and waxes definitely no. Don’t do anything that could irritate your skin immediately prior to a photography shoot, especially not one where you’re be having close-up shots taken. Better just to stick with your normal moisturiser to avoid any break-outs.

Use a gentle toner the morning of the photo shoot to close pores. Sure, open pores can be cleaned up with Photoshop in post-production, but makeup will sit better on cleansed and toned skin.

Right before the shoot

If you normally apply your makeup in unnatural light, then break the routine on the morning of the shoot. You want to be making up in full natural light if possible. Natural light is the most honest and will allow you to match makeup tones to your skin perfectly.


While you may love your freckles and laughter lines, you might be surprised to see how much they stand out on camera. Applying a primer before makeup will soften lines and give you a “blank canvas” effect that you can start to build makeup on.

Apply concealer more heavily that usual. Camera flashes can cut right through foundation and uncover blemishes that you thought were hidden. Apply a heavier concealer on under-eye shadows, red spots around the nose and any blemishes. Then apply foundation on top of that.

Speaking of foundation, this is not the time to go full-on glossy. While glossy shimmer foundations look great on Instagram and beauty blogs, on a professional headshot they’ll make you look odd. No one wants to look sweaty in their professional photos, so avoid shimmer effects and stay matte.


Shimmer is a no-go for eyeshadow as well. Stick to matte, neutral colours that compliment your natural eye colour.

Even if you don’t normally wear mascara, we recommend trying it out when you’re having headshots taken. Mascara can draw attention to the eye area subtly, making people feel more engaged with your headshot.

If you’re a big fan of falsies you can wear them, but make sure they’re natural enough not to be a big distraction.

Crazy eyebrows may be big right now, but do not try to be too creative in a formal headshot. Make sure you’re brows are neat and tidy – a good brow brush will hold them in place. But avoid anything that could take the protagonism away from your eyes.


Bold lip colours and harsh liplines are a no-no for a successful headshot. Colour can bleed into the tiny lines around the mouth and need constant correction. Plus camera flash can bounce off shiny lipsticks. We recommend going for a tinted lip balm if you want to draw a little attention to your lips.

During the shoot

You may get kind of hot and flustered once the shoot starts, whether from the lights or from nerves. Come prepared with oil blotting sheets to keep the face sweats at bay. A little light powder will have the same effect – just don’t mess your clothes up when you apply it!

If you’re running through different outfits throughout the shoot, make sure your makeup is neutral enough to work with all of them. Makeup that looks great with a vintage vamp look is not going to make as much sense when you put on a shirt and blazer. Simple is most flexible.

Don’t be afraid to ask the photographer for time to go and check our face or do touch ups. A good headshot photographer will make you feel comfortable no matter what, so feel free to take five and rearrange yourself if necessary.

A professional makeup artist behind the scenes

Our professional makeup artists have been trained in natural looking makeup for headshots.

How to do headshot makeup – that’s a wrap

Our final expert tip is… Keep it simple! If you’re not a big makeup person don’t feel pressure to change your look just for your headshots. Headshot makeup should subtly enhance your features, not disguise them.

You want people to be able to recognise you when they meet you and to give a natural, professional impression. Your makeup should help you do that.

Want to find out more about professional headshot packages at Retratos Barcelona? Find out more here