How to Build a Stellar Makeup Portfolio

by Milana
How to Build a Stellar Makeup Portfolio

Here, at Cosset Moi, we believe that creativity, discipline, and hard work always pay off. Whether you’re starting or you have been a working Makeup 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 with 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 be 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 Does It Matter?

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 of a Makeup Artist. It is a collection of photographs that display a makeup artist’s skills, strength, their best work.

It comes in two different formats:

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 be 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. Posting those images on social media will likely 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 makeup artist who 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, or 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.

Related: How Makeup Artists Can Get Published in Fashion Magazines

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 Chair for Makeup Artist

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 and build your personal brand. 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. 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.

  1. Squarespace: Squarespace offers elegant and customizable templates that cater to different aesthetics, making it easy for makeup artists to create a polished and visually appealing portfolio website.
  2. Wix: Wix provides a user-friendly platform with versatile templates.
  3. Format: Format specializes in portfolio-focused designs, allowing makeup artists to tell their visual story with minimalist templates that emphasize clean beauty and natural looks.
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And now to the most important part – how to get good-quality images for your portfolio. The answer lies in collaboration. For compiling good-quality images that make a stellar makeup portfolio, you need to learn about TFP and how it can help you.

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Ring Light for Makeup Artists

Quality Over Quantity

In the realm of makeup artistry, the axiom “quality over quantity” reigns supreme. Crafting an impeccable portfolio demands a discerning eye that selects only the most compelling and representative works. Rather than inundating viewers with a multitude of looks, the art lies in curating a collection that speaks volumes about your expertise and distinctive style. Each image within your portfolio serves as a deliberate brushstroke, contributing to the overall narrative you present to potential clients and collaborators. Remember, it’s not the sheer volume of images that captivates, but the thoughtful selection and impeccable execution that leave an indelible impression, setting you apart as a true maestro of makeup.

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How Can You Get Makeup Portfolio Images Through TFP Collaborations

TFP is a collaboration of creative professionals coming together to work 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.

Some basic guidelines for 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.
  • If you want to find this type of collaboration, you must network. Facebook groups with photographers, models, and stylists are the best way to start!

When artists from various fields team, up 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 when everyone is focusing on what they are best at, great things happen.

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A Few Things to Consider Before the TFP Photoshoot

  • Know your team. Ask yourself if you like the photographer’s work.
  • Are their retouching 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 take time and 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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Trish McEvoy Brushes

Know the Difference between TFP and a Job

From time to time, in search of a portfolio collaboration, you will come across 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.

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How to Get the Most Out of 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 homework to prepare your kit accordingly and develop makeup looks in advance.

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Clear Policies and Communication

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.”

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Vanity Mirror for Makeup Artists

To create a stellar makeup portfolio, getting amazing images is just a start. The next step is learning how to put all those images together. You need to edit and showcase them in a way that makes sense and has a story that your client will comprehend. Besides, learning how to edit a professional makeup portfolio is a creative exercise that will help you evaluate your skills and round up your aesthetic style.

In the business world, if you want to find a new job, you have a resume. In the makeup artistry world, instead of a resume, you approach clients with a portfolio. When you are starting, your first resume is short and general. As you have more working experience, your resume gets more narrative and can be tailored for the specific job posting. So, let’s go through some of the main points on how you should put together your portfolio images.

How to Know Which Images to Put in Your Makeup Portfolio?

It’s not about adding every good image you have and showcasing all that you can do. What you will need to do is set aside time to go through all of the images and essentially make a greatest hits collection. So how do you go about choosing what images are the best? For starters, every image in your portfolio must be professional in every aspect — not just the makeup. Your portfolio is only as strong as the weakest shot in your portfolio, and that’s what your future client is looking for. They look for the weakest spot in your collection because this shows what you consider good enough.

When you are selecting images, you should be looking at them from a few different points of view. For example:

  • How would a photographer look at it? Are the light and composition on point? The photographer would be looking at the image as a whole, not just the makeup, of course. You should also consult with a photographer or a retoucher if retouching is needed.
  • What would your model say about it? Does the model find the pose flattering? Does her skin look beautiful and real, and does her facial expression match the mood of the shoot?
  • How does the hair stylist see the image? Does the hair match the makeup?
  • What would a stylist say about the clothes and accessories? Does it look good and matches the mood of the shoot?

How Many Images Should You Have in Your Makeup Portfolio?

Try to have at least 7-8 images with different models included, and don’t go over 20 images.  Ten to twenty images should do it. You can stretch the higher number a bit more but bear in mind that it’s not quantity that sells, but quality. If it is an online portfolio, upload more if you wish. But organize it into different categories, so it should be easy for the user to navigate the site. Put around a dozen of your best works in the main portfolio, and the rest you can put in other specific categories such as editorial, commercial, wedding, etc. Showing more work is not valuable if the work you are presenting is different from what the potential client would like to see.

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Showcase Your Best Work

Every image should be on point. Even if you only have one or two strong contenders right now, it is better to have a small portfolio with a 100% ratio of beautiful images than to beef it up with work that is of lesser quality. If a client sees two beautiful images, they are more likely to consider taking a chance on you. Rather if you have a bigger portfolio with a lesser percentage of professional-level work.

If someone shows a weak image amongst strong ones, it tells potential clients several things. First, the artist doesn’t know how to gauge the quality of their work. And also that they do not always do professional-level work. Prevent doubt in your professional abilities by ensuring that only your best work is visible to potential clients.

Reach Out for Feedback

Once you choose images that you like, you should reach out for feedback. You may be attached to some work that doesn’t fit the rest. Go outside of your friends and family circle for feedback on the portfolio. They can be biased as you, and can’t give you a professional opinion. Reach out to photographers, makeup artists, or even designers to help you out.

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Have a Theme!

Make sure the whole book looks like it’s one person’s work. Once you have the final pieces selected, make sure they’re cohesive, and that they form your “brand.” Your favorite images and what is going to sell you to a prospective client potentially can be two different things. Apply a theme to your images. Certainly, you might have a personal aesthetic, which should be communicated through the application of your images. They should all look like they go together. Where I find a good analogy is in fashion shows. If you watch, for example, the Chanel show, you will see that all the looks from first to the last go cohesively together and we understand them as a collection. But they all demonstrate different aspects; there is something unique about each of them. And at the same time, we can see they are all related.

If you want to add variety and you want to work with brides, for example, you should plan to have a variety of bridal looks. That includes different skin tones, and a wide range of natural, moderate, and more glamorous looks. To make your portfolio work best for you, you have to have a focus. This doesn’t mean you cannot work in more than one area. But if they are vastly different, you may wish you have two separate portfolios or weblinks for each one.

If it is a big client, you can even customize your portfolio just for that one client. There is no shame in having multiple portfolios if you are looking for different kinds of work to do. It is always best to hone in on one or two areas so you can corner the market and make a name for yourself. Once you have a solid reputation, it will be easy to build another portfolio and transition to a different area of makeup.

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Consider Your Audience

What you put in your portfolio for clients to view, you get in return. If you don’t want a certain type of work to do in the future, don’t show those makeup looks in your portfolio.

Take into account who are you going to showcase your portfolio. Maybe you are showing it to future brides, fashion magazines, or a beauty photographer. Whatever the case, take into consideration when you select images – what would appeal to those audiences? Some of your super wild, out-of-the-box, frivolous, and crazy stuff isn’t going to make sense to a bride-to-be. No matter how good your bridal work is, a vast contrast in genres would likely create questions in their minds. Clients will take you more seriously and they will think you are the right fit for them because all of your work showcases the type of makeup they need. It would be a waste of your client’s time to go through all the makeup they are not hiring you for.

Make the First and the Last Image Stellar

People have short attention spans so put your best work first! The first image should be one that presents the message you want to send. And also how you would like to be seen as a makeup artist. Not to mention, it should be STELLAR! Put the most exciting, engaging, and communicative images first to capture the viewer’s attention and make them want to flip(or scroll) that page and see more. Along with the first, you should make the last image your strongest point as well. This is especially important with physical copies of your portfolio. In the physical portfolio, the client linearly goes through the book, and the last image they see is probably going to stick with them. So start by choosing the first and the last image and then connect those two with the others you have left.

Use authority to your advantage: If you did make up for a well-known person or a company – put it first.  Any recognizable artist, model, photographer, celebrity, or publication that people know about. People trust the decisions that authoritative figures make. If someone sees that you’ve worked with a big-name agency or photographer, they’re going to assume you’re fantastic. It’s how things roll.

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Organize the portfolio by keeping similar images together. For example, open with headshots then show close-ups, etc. Keep black and white images at the end of the book. Do your research on and study a top artist’s work.

Keep it Relevant

Keep your portfolio current. All the images should be either classic looks or looks that are currently in demand. Even if you did an impressive job 10 years ago, the makeup might not still be in style. No matter how much it hurts your heart, you have to tuck that image away until the look is back on trend! Bear in mind that this will not be your final portfolio, which you will have forever. You will continue to grow your body of work and your skills. So, a few years from now, you will create a new portfolio or add more images to it that will accurately represent the kind of makeup artist that you are and the kind of work you are looking to book. Trends and techniques change quickly, so don’t include anything that’s more than three years old. You don’t want to look dated.

Be Ruthless in Editing

Be ruthless, cut, remove, and take things out. Because, ultimately, what you want to end up with is a series of high-quality images. And those are the one that best represents your work and tells a story of who you are as a makeup artist. Or better said, a synopsis of that story. You need to be able to communicate through only a snapshot of your whole body of work what can you do for a prospective client.

The best portfolios do two things at once. They present your unique style, while also displaying your technical skills and techniques. Only when you know what kind of makeup artist you want to be, a portfolio serve its full purpose. Spend some time thinking about what type of makeup you want to specialize in and direct your portfolio in that way. As with many things, there’s no “right” answer, and you’ll need to use your judgment.

Patience and Persistence

 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.

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Start building your stunning makeup portfolio today and showcase your artistry to the world!

Crafting an exceptional makeup portfolio requires dedication, strategy, and artistic collaboration. Your portfolio isn’t merely a collection of images but a testament to your skills, creativity, and professionalism. As you progress through your makeup artistry journey, your portfolio will evolve, mirroring your growth as an artist. Remember, success isn’t an overnight achievement; it’s the result of deliberate effort and unwavering commitment. Follow these guidelines, embark on creative collaborations, and watch your makeup portfolio flourish, ultimately propelling your career to new heights. Stay tuned for Part 2, where we delve deeper into assembling a captivating makeup portfolio.

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