makeup for colour and black & white photography

When doing a client's makeup for a photoshoot, there many factors I consider.

I approach makeup for colour and black and white photography quite differently. The general wisdom is that makeup for black and white photos is generally heavier, but I've found a few other considerations and techinques that best enhance each photo treatment.

Makeup for colour photography.

When creating a makeup look for colour photography, consider the following:

  • What time of day will you be shooting? (i.e. the darker the conditions, the more dramatic/saturated the look can be)
  • What is the inspiration for the shoot? (e.g. natural and light versus dramatic and sultry)
  • What will the photos be used for? (e.g. editorial = more vibrant; corporate = more neutral)
  • What will the subject be wearing (i.e. you can plan your colour palette accordingly)
  • Will some of the photos be converted to black and white? (i.e. you may need to create a look that works for both photo treatments)

Once you can answer these questions and know the lighting conditions, theme, intended use and colour palette, you can plan your look accordingly.

Makeup for colour photography is all about colour, hue, intensity, and how well the shades you choose A) compliment your subject's own colouring,  and B) achieve a look appropriate for your shoot's purpose. Although there are many shades that are universally flattering, you need to take into account your subject's complexion, eye, and hair colour. Also, the shades you choose will help set the tone of the look and, consequently, the photos.

I've created a few examples to show you what I mean. Please forgive me for using my own face as a demo again. I hope you're not sick of me! Also, please feel free to email me to volunteer to model for future tutorials!

For the photos below,  I wanted to create a look that was natural, flushed, glowing, but with on-trend elements. I stuck to a coral palette and created a winged eye with navy liner. I kept the eyeshadow subtle and left the brows natural. The emphasis is on the way the colours work with the complexion, and enhance the features rather than on shading and contouring. Here's the look in colour:




And here's the same look in black and white. As you can see, it works, but it doesn't really shine. The blush kind of blends into the rest of the skin tone, the brows look sparse, and the lips don't pop as much. You also kind of lose the structure of the face (although that could also be because I have the bone structure of an egg, but I digress). All in all, this look is functional but not ideal for black and white photography. It just doesn't bring the optimal level of drama. If you wanted to adjust this look to be suitable for both colour and black and white photography, I would do a bit of light contouring with a matte bronzer, fill in the brows, and use a slightly deeper shadow and lip colour.


Makeup for black and white photography

While makeup for colour photography is all about colour, hue, intensity and complementing your subject's complexion, makeup for black and white photography is all about contouring, finishes, and enhancing your subject's bone structure.

When creating a makeup look for black and white photography, consider the following:

  • How dramatic do you want the photos to be? (e.g. up the contouring for more drama)
  • What will the photos be used for? (e.g. for professional headshots, a musician might want more glamour; an entrepreneur might want a more natural/clean look)

Makeup for black and white photography is a lot of fun, because you can actually alter the structure of a person's face in the way that you contour and highlight it. Essentially, dark recedes white brighter areas come forward. Using a combination of matte bronzer, nude blush or brown powder and white powder or highlighter, you can sculpt the face according to your vision.

In most cases, this involves contouring the jawline, temples, sides of nose, hollows of the cheeks and creases of the eyes with your darker shade, and highlighting the cheekbones, brow bones, eyelids, bridge of nose and chin with your light shade.  Finish is also important. It's best to use matte finish for the contouring, but you can use either matte or pearl/shimmery finish for the highlighting. In this case, I used Benefit High Beam (a shimmery oyster pink cream) for highlighting.

You can also be more dramatic with brow shading, lip colour and eyeliner. By using lights and darks on various parts of the face, you are defining and enhancing the features and creating a look that pops. In the photos below, you can see that I used a very different approach than that from the colour photos. I'll admit, I went overboard with the contouring here, but I did so purposely to better illustrate my point.


Here's the same look in colour. Weird, right? 


Basically, contouring looks pretty awful in colour. If I were to adjust this look to work for both black and white and colour photography, I would wipe down the contouring, add blush on the apples of the cheeks, slightly blot the lipstick, and better blend the eyeshadow contouring.

If you made it to the end of this ridiculously long post, thank you! I hope this was helpful in some way!

Products used

Makeup for colour photography
Face: Sally Hansen Your Skin foundation in Porcelain; Lancome Effacernes Concealer in Porcelain
Eyeshadow: Inglot Eye Makeup Base; Two Faced shadow in Heaven and Velvet Revolver (from the Natural Eye palette)
Eyeliner: Sonia Kashuk kohl liner in Sapphire
Brows: Covergirl Great Lash mascara in Clear
Lashes: Benefit They're Real mascara
Cheeks: Cargo blush in Catalina
Lips: Elizabeth Arden Lip Pencil in Coral; MAC lipstick in Costa Chic

Makeup for black and white photography
Face: Sally Hansen Your Skin foundation in Porcelain; Lancome Effacernes Concealer in Porcelain; Benefit High Beam
Eyeshadow: Inglot Eye Makeup Base; Inglot shadow in Matte White; Two Faced shadow in Sexpresso (also form the Natural Eye palette)
Eyeliner: Stila stay all day waterproof liquid liner in Carbon Black
Lashes: Benefit They're Real mascara
Brows: Bobbi Brown eyeshadow in Sable
Cheeks: Studio Gear pressed powder bronzer in Bronze Matte
Lips: MAC lip pencil in Brick ; NARS Pure Matte lipstick in Vesuvio