Why it is important to understand the role of makeup and hair stylists

Posted on Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Before you say “It’s Just a Little Powder”

"Just a little powder" or "simple and fun." Those phrases for many pro make-up and hair artists can cause the blood pressure to rise and shoulders end up somewhere around the ears. Why? Because those words are many times uttered by someone who might not understand the full scope of the job. They could possibly feel that because their mom/wife/girlfriend/they do their own makeup and hair. How difficult could it be? Imagine how it would come across if I looked at mood board and said "that a shot should take no time at all" and "hell, I could probably get it with my camera on my phone." A comment like that would not only be disrespectful to the photographer but could also be interpreted as being under-minding. Not cool.

So along with the whole application process, there is a requirement to understand how the shot is going to be lit so that the makeup and hair work matches up with the vision of the client. The HMU artist needs to know if the shot will be warm because hair might then appear more brassy or faces appear washed out; or if the camera being used has a tendency to make reds appear more vibrant, which could make lip or blush color as if it is jumping off of the face. And gone are the days of good old soft film. Artists are dealing with the hard sharp reality of HD with many projects being shot on 6K and 8K motion cameras where retouching involves EVERY SINGLE FRAME. Every hair, wrinkle, crease, dry skin patch is seen up close and personal. 

Yes, you could argue that photoshop and retouching is the solution to everything, but there is a crucial and very important aspect to the job of a makeup and hair artist that enough importance is not put upon. And that is the power of the artist making the person in his/her chair feel confident and important. It will come across on set when they are in front of the camera, the shot will happen faster, they will be more engaged etc.

The power of a good creative team to dress and glam the person that will be appearing in front of the camera, especially when you are working with non-models, is worth its weight in gold. Makeup that makes a man look like he has nothing on his face it is not easy, nor does it entail "just a little powder."  Here is everything involved in the grooming of actor Brett Gray in this photo by Jai Leonard:


Bretty Gray photo by Jai Lennard


1.  Skin prep to prepare the skin for the makeup application so that it would melt into the skin and keep oil at bay.

2.  Custom blending not only the makeup shade but also the depth of coverage so that it would not look "makeupy."

3.  Color correcting every single area of discoloration on the face so that they appear to “disappear”  without creating "cakeyness."

4.  Color correcting darkness under the eye and on the eyelid but without looking overly done and feminine.

5.  Grooming eyebrows so that they are polished but not feminine looking.

6.  Filling in hairline so that it looks natural and any thin spots in the hair.

7.  Drawing in hairs in mustache and beard so that they look natural.

8.  Setting all of this with powder, but not so much that you see the texture of the powder on the skin while keeping the skin a natural matte skin finish. 

I am so thankful to the producers, photographers, art buyers and art directors who understand and appreciate what goes into the “magic” that happens behind the scenes. I appreciate when I'm included on pre-production calls and when I'm sent the mood boards and production books so that the surprises on set are minimized. And when a call is made to discuss the workflow so that there is sufficient crew for my department.

For those of you who found this article to be insightful and enlightening, I hope it helps to create a dialogue with your team before your next project.

Love and Lipstick,

Margina Dennis