Makeup basics for male models of all skin tones

One time I showed up to a video shoot without my microphones and I felt like I was going to faint or throw up.

The same thing would almost happen if I opened my lighting case and my makeup was gone.

I bet many of you are surprised I would say that, but I think my Ziplock bag full of magic dust may be the most important single thing in my kit.

About 10 years ago a cosmetologist who I was working with on an extended project showed me how to do basic makeup on guys for photoshoots, something I am sure half of you will find interesting and half of you will find, well, basic. Ever since then, I have used my makeup on all of my male model test shoots (unless I had a makeup artist) because you get great results with minimal effort and it will pay off significantly when it comes time to retouch the images.

The main reasons for using make up is to even out a subject’s skin tone, and reduce reflected light which may make them look oily or sweaty, and to streamline your retouching process.

All you need to do is cover the skin on their face with a thin layer of tinted powder that matches their skin tone. If you apply too little, the subject will look too reflective on camera. If this happens just add a little more. Also keep in mind that the model’s oils will start to seep through over time, so you’ll want to reapply between looks as needed.

I like to use Revlon Photo-Ready Pressed Powder shades 001, 010, 020 and 030. and BLK / OPL Deep and Dark loose powder. And I will also use disposable makeup wedges, which can be thrown away after each shoot. That way you aren’t spreading germs among your models.

    Revlon PhotoReady Powder 001

Revlon PhotoReady Powder 001 is a clear powder is a clear powder that can be used to knock down shine on any skin tone. It’s also a good choice for when you want to pull one over on a shy middle-aged male businessman or when you want to have a matte finish on a model with freckles.

Revlon PhotoReady Powder 010 is a light color of powder that will work on the lightest of skin tones, like a subject who lives in Northern Europe and avoids the sun!

Revlon PhotoReady Powder 020Revlon PhotoReady Powder 020

Revlon PhotoReady Powder 020 is a light to medium colored powered that is great for most people of European dissent.

Revlon PhotoReady Powder 030Revlon PhotoReady Powder 030

Revlon PhotoReady Powder 030 is a little darker and is great for most Hispanic, Middle Eastern, North African and Asian models.

But the bright people at Revlon decided to stop there, as though one-sixth of the world’s population didn’t exist.

BLK/OPL TRUE COLOR® Soft Velvet Finishing Powder DarkBLK/OPL TRUE COLOR® Soft Velvet Finishing Powder Dark

BLK / OPL or Black Opal has a line of loose powder that comes in four shades. and I use the two darkest colors, BLK/OPL TRUE COLOR® Soft Velvet Finishing Powder Dark, BLK/OPL TRUE COLOR® Soft Velvet Finishing Powder Deep, which works with most models of African dissent.

BLK/OPL TRUE COLOR® Soft Velvet Finishing Powder DeepBLK/OPL TRUE COLOR® Soft Velvet Finishing Powder Deep

To apply makeup, I like to use Makeup Wedges because, unlike a brush, I don’t have to clean them between models and I don’t have to worry about spreading germs between subjects. You just need to add enough to knock down the shine and cover over discolored areas. If you take a test photo and it still looks shiny, just apply more powder, which you will probably need to do anyway between looks. In any event, make sure you cover everywhere, including eyelids, all the way up to their hairline, and blend thoroughly.

When applying BLK / OPL, it may look reddish at first and off color but it will adapt to their skin tone if you keep blending. You’ll want to use a paper towel like a lobster bib when applying, because it sometimes will falls off the sponge sometimes.

If the person’s face looks lighter or darker after application, just have them wash it off and try a neighboring shade.

And Last, but certainly not least, a google search showed that it might not be illegal or legal for a photographer to apply a model’s make-up in some U.S. states unless they have a cosmetology license, so be sure to search the regulations for your jurisdiction. If you’re not permitted to do it, just have the model apply their own make up at your direction.

Elinchrom ELC500 Monolight
Prev Review: Elinchrom's new ELC 500 Monolight, HHS, TTL, and an LED Modeling Light
Next How I made it through the Great Recession as a photographer
How I made it thorugh the great recession as a photographer