Make Up and Hair Tips for Great Portraits and Headshots

Andrea Marie Ortega makeup artist.

What are the key makeup techniques that look best in a portrait? We interviewed one of our favorite makeup artists to find out. She shares her tips and suggestions in this article.

Andrea Marie Ortega is a San Francisco based professional makeup artist and educator. She has provided the make-up for me on several shoots.The headshots and portrait that accompany this article are of Andrea at a recent session where we created her identity photos. We illustrate the techniques she discusses in this Q&A in these photos.

On a photo shoot with lights and a crew, we usually have a Makeup Artist (MUA) like Andrea. But you can use many of these hints for less formal shots. If you know you have an event where you will want make-up for photos, you can also contact Andrea to have your makeup and hair done in advance. This article is not just for women either. There are tips for men at the end of this article.

What are some makeup basics that people can keep in mind prior to having their portrait taken?

Concealer is major. Be sure to have a concealer that is the correct tone of your skin. Use it to cover up any discoloration on the skin such as blemishes, dark circles around the eyes, redness around the nose and cheeks, sun damage brown spots, etc. A concealer that does a really good job of mimicking skin is MAC’s Studio Finish Concealer. When applying your concealer use a tapping or patting motion, so that you don’t irritate the skin. In other words, try to avoid rubbing the concealer into the skin; this will only create more redness. An even skin tone will make any photo more flattering! For women, be sure to accentuate your features so that they won’t get lost in the photo. Use mascara on your lashes, a bit of eyeliner on the upper eyelid, bronzer or blush, and lipstick! Even if you are not used to wearing any makeup, do it for the photos! The goal is to look like a polished version of yourself, so that you will photograph flawlessly. When in doubt, use a professional makeup artist.

Andrea Marie Ortega makeup artist.

What are some things to keep in mind for hair in a photo? I know as a photographer I hate retouching all those stray hairs.

The most important thing to worry about for hair is frizz and fly-aways. This goes for both men and women. Fly-aways are the hairs that seem to have a mind of their own, that don’t lay down with the rest of the hair. They can be tamed with the right product such as TIGI Bed Head’s Hair Stick. Lightly rub the stick across your palm and use your palm to smooth the loose hairs into the rest of your tresses. For women, applying a little heat to your hair, such as blow drying, curling, or flat ironing will give your hair a smooth and polished finish.

We all hate that shine we get in flash photos. What can be done besides major retouching?

A good blotting powder should be dusted onto the face, focusing on the forehead and nose, which reflect the most shine in photos. Use a brush to pick up the powder and apply it to the skin. MAC’s Blot Powder in your appropriate tone will do an excellent job of absorbing shine.

You stressed lipstick, even if someone doesn’t normally wear it. Tell us about that.

Find a tone that enhances your natural lip color, and don’t be afraid to be expressive. Lipsticks are a great way to express who you are! Have fun with color and try them on before buying. There are so many out there and there is bound to be one (or 5) that makes you feel amazing!

And you are a big mascara advocate.

USE IT! Try to find a mascara that won’t clump or smudge. And use plenty of it. Your eyes will grateful once you see your photos.

Andrea Marie Ortega makeup artist.

I haven’t worn makeup since the high school drama club. What about us guys?

Tips for Men: Skin is what you have to work with, so make the most of it. Men should be using a daily moisturizer to keep the skin healthy and prevent signs of aging. Kiehl’s has a great line of men’s facial products that won’t have all of those femme scents attached.

For photos, be sure to have a powder on hand to blot out shine like MAC Blot powder in the appropriate shade. It is a translucent powder that comes in light, medium, medium dark, dark. If you don’t have hair on your head, look out for the forehead on up. This area will pick up the most shine, and can be quite distracting in photos. A fabulous product from MAC is their Skin Refined Zone, which is a lightweight clear cream that will really minimize shine. Gently rub it into the nose, forehead, and head. Other things to look out for: eyebrows – comb them into shape, nose hairs – trim them, lips – apply lip balm to relieve dryness, inner eye gunk- clean it out, and get a haircut a few days before your photo shoot!

Thanks Andrea. You can contact Andrea through her website at You can see my portraits and headshots on my website at

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