Home Artist's Lounge How to Build a Stellar Makeup Portfolio

How to Build a Stellar Makeup Portfolio

by Beatrice Madonna

Here, at Cosset Moi, we believe that creativity, discipline, and hard work always pays off. Whether you’re starting or you have been a working Make up Artist for years now, you are at the right place! Building a makeup portfolio is a critical part of your journey as a makeup artist.

We want to provide beauty artists The Ultimate Guide to A Career in Makeup Artistry. And we are kicking it off with a series of articles on the business side of makeup artistry. In this very first PRO article, we are talking about The makeup portfolio and why it is crucial. Let’s create a list and tick everything necessary to build a book of portfolio images that you will proud to show off!

As they say, having the right information at the right time is of utmost importance for success in any field.

I never dreamed about success I worked for it 

– Estée Lauder

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What is a Makeup portfolio and why it is substantial?

A Makeup Artists’ Portfolio is their identity, their Resume, CV if we may. Like in any profession you need a place to showcase your accomplishments. The Portfolio is exactly that for a Makeup Artist. It is a collection of photographs that display a makeup artist’s skills, their strength, their best work.

It comes in two different formats:

  • Physical (book) form, or
  • Online (which is way more common today)

To be real, nowadays you don’t need an actual physical portfolio. The online portfolio will serve its purpose more than enough. You can always create a physical version later if you begin working with an agent who requires it. However, the process of building it and putting it together is the same, just the format has changed. One day, if you wish to have a professionally done physical copy of your makeup portfolio, follow the same steps.

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How to build a makeup portfolio?

If you are diving into the world of makeup artistry, then offering makeovers and taking photographs of your closest is and it will stay an excellent place to start. If you are going to a makeup school, you can take pictures of your models. Or you can even take photos of yourself. Everyone must start somewhere. It is posting those images on social media will likely to get you your first clients.

But random, amateur images of your work scattered across your social media don’t make a professional portfolio and won’t land you serious clients. Your social media accounts are not your portfolio. And if you want to be a successful make artist that gets to choose the clients, you will need a portfolio that reflects that you mean business!

A portfolio needs to be carefully edited to tell a story of who you are as a makeup artist. It shouldn’t be a collection of ALL your work or of all the looks you can do. You should look at it as a pitch, presentation to your potential clients. So it should be well-designed and coherent. The design and curation of your makeup artistry portfolio can instantly give viewers a feel for your aesthetic.

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Related: How Makeup Artists Can Get Published in Fashion Magazines

First step: Build a website

Even if you don’t have many professional photos done yet, a professional-looking website that features only a few images can help get you noticed online. A refined and polished site can show that you are an expert when it comes to classic looks. At the same time, a contemporary and edgy portfolio might be the perfect look for a fashion makeup artist. A simple and minimal template for your website can express that you love to do natural looks and clean beauty. Every aspect of your website, from the fonts and colors you choose to the layout you create, will help give viewers an understanding of who you are as a makeup artist.

A website is also a place where you should highlight your experience and achievements. Listing previous clients and publications is a great way to demonstrate the caliber of your work. If you haven’t worked with many clients yet, you can use the space to share what kind of work you’re looking for. Regardless of your experience, adding a brief biography is always a good way to introduce yourself to potential clients. Make sure your contact details and social media icons are clearly listed on your website as well, so people can easily get in touch.

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How to get great images for your portfolio?

And now to the most important part – how to get good quality images for your portfolio. The answer lies in collaborations. For compiling good quality images that make a stellar makeup portfolio, you need to learn about TFP and how it can help you.

What is TFP collaboration?

TFP is a collaboration of creative professionals coming together working for the same thing, getting images for their portfolios. It means that each party is volunteering their time and talents and not being compensated by any other party. The people involved can be photographers, makeup artists, models, hairstylists, wardrobe stylists, set designers, nail artists, creative directors, retouchers, etc.

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Abbreviation TFP stands for Time (or Trade) for Print (or Portfolio). You may also see the phrase TFCD used. TFCD stands for Time/Trade for CD. You will also hear the term test. But the keyword here is collaboration.

Some basic guidelines of TFP collaborations are:

  • You will be working in exchange for high-quality images. You can use these images for your portfolio or your marketing. So can everyone else involved.
  • Anyone involved in the photoshoot can arrange these photoshoots. You don’t have to wait for someone. Most often, photographers are the ones initiating collaborations.  But anyone who wants to build up their portfolios and work on their project can organize this, including you.
  • A photoshoot is a team effort, so treat it like that. It’s everyone’s creative ideas coming together to create something amazing! Don’t be the director of the shoot and tell everyone what they should be doing, especially in the midst of the shoot. Be professional and a good team player.
  • If you want to find this type of collaboration, you must network. Facebook groups with photographers, models, stylists are the best way to start!


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Notice: If you have a full portfolio and the project isn’t going to be published somewhere that will grant you a significant amount of exposure, you don’t need to work for a TFP.

You can produce excellent work at TFP photoshoots!

When artists from various fields team, and have a unified vision of the final outcome, they can create outstanding results. Everyone can focus on their job, and not think about something that is not their expertise. While you may not know what kind of wardrobe, hairstyle, lighting or nails will enhance your makeup look – other creatives will know. And vice versa. You don’t need to think about anything else but your makeup. And when everyone is focusing on what they are best at, great things happen.

Of course, there will be times when the results are not what you hoped it will be. And that’s okay. Building a portfolio is not an overnight event.  With time you will know what kind of team you need, and you will have a better understanding of the co-creating process. With time, as you develop your makeup skills, you will also develop some knowledge about other professions and learn to communicate your ideas better.

A few things to ask yourself before the shoot:

  • Know your team. Ask yourself if you like the photographer’s work.
  • Are their retouching is good or bad? If every picture looks like the person has plastic skin, this is not going to be a good representation of your work.
  • Ask yourself who else gets booked on the shoot? All elements must work together because, unfortunately, no one is going to single out and look at your makeup on the model in the end. So hair, styling, lighting – everything should go well together.
  • You should take into consideration that shoots takes time and also money, so your job would not only be to do makeup, but to reach out to other artists and help organize the whole shoot.
  • Communicate with the others for every detail of the shoot. Make sure you get most things covered before the shoot so that during the shoot, everyone can do their job. Changing direction in the midst of the shoot is not a good idea.
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Related: Top 20 Makeup Schools in the World to Propel Your Career

Difference between TFP and a Job!

From time to time, in search of a portfolio collaboration, you will come across on job posts masked as TFP. 

The difference between TFP and a job is significant:

  • A JOB is where the client seeks professional staff (models, photographers, MUAs) to create images for commercial usage, but only pays in tearsheets or prints. If anyone has financial benefits out of it, it is called a job. And you should be paid for it, as well as the rest of the team. Never do commercial TFP work.

Don’t confuse this with working in exchange for an editorial tear though.  An editorial test is when you shoot a fashion or beauty story and submit it to magazines in hopes that the magazine will feature your beauty or fashion story. This is a creative project that can give you a lot of exposure.

How to prepare for a TFP collaboration?

Create a mood board

First and the most important thing is for everyone to be on the same page with the vision of the shoot.

If you are the one approaching other artists, create your own mood board. It will be easier to approach them with a specific idea. Instead of just saying “Hey, I love your work, let’s shoot together”. Come up with your own story and create a mood board for it. Maybe you just want to do a clean beauty look and you don’t think it is necessary. But even if you think you don’t need one, you do. The whole shoot has a vibe to it. And to figure out even the smallest details, like the color of the background, how the model would pose, how the hair would look – you need to have visual direction. Check out in the video below what is the process of creating a mood board and how it can help you catalyze your ideas.

Again, if you are the one represented with a mood board and a vision for the shoot, you must check it before the shoot and take it as a homework to prepare your kit accordingly and develop makeup looks in advance.

Be patient


As we mentioned, building a portfolio will not happen over one shoot. You shouldn’t expect to get dozens of pictures from the shoot. But you can expect at least two or three images for your book. These will only make a part of your portfolio. You will need to be part of multiple photoshoots to collect all the images for your portfolio. The process can take up to a few years, to get where you want. And even when you make a stellar makeup portfolio, you should update it from time.

Outline your policies

Be sure that all parties involved have a clear understanding of what to expect from you. Also, express what you expect from them in return before the shoot.

If you think it is needed, write up your TFP agreement, and outline your policies. Include a form containing: the photographer’s name and business name (if any), the location, the names of the models involved, the types of services and the values of the services you’re going to be expected to perform.

Many artists experience a situation where months after the shoot, they didn’t receive any images. To prevent working for free, add this statement, “IF THE TRADE ITEMS PRODUCED FROM THIS SHOOT ARE NOT PROVIDED IN 30 DAYS, THE PHOTOGRAPHER IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PAYING THE FULL PRICE OF THE SERVICES PROVIDED.”

Prepare yourself and start looking for your creative soul mates and work your way to the top! <3 Follow us on Instagram for more amazing tips!

Read in part 2 how to put together your makeup portfolio!

Download NOW - The Ultimate Makeup Artist Career Guide 




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