Makeup tips for professional headshots

Makeup for headshots:

Natural light acting headshot of woman in MelbourneOne of the big considerations that people often seek advice on is how to do their hair and makeup for their headshots.

I can see why people stress about this aspect of the process. You might not wear a lot of makeup, or you might usually keep your hairstyles simple.

But that’s okay.

You don’t need advanced foundation contouring or smokey eyes for your personal branding photoshoot. Even for actors, it isn’t necessary. The main objective is to look like yourself – but a presentable version. ‘You on your best day‘ – as they say.

I think this is the key to my advice on this area. You need to look like you. 

Which is why I don’t push or insist my clients use a professional HMUA. It can help of course – especially when you find a specialist who understands applying appropriate makeup for photography. There are some absolutely stunning portraits out there that have utilised the talents of hair and makeup artists. They can certainly make you look natural, and style hair great for the camera.

However, if you’re not keen or don’t have the budget for a professional, then that’s okay. I’ve written a few key pointers to help guide you in the right direction for applying the right makeup looks for your headshots and branding sessions.

The example images on this page (and throughout my portfolio), are great inspiration for simple, beautiful makeup applications that suit headshots.

Top tips for headshot makeup:

Woman smiling outdoors next to tree - Melbourne headshots - Headshot photography - linkedin headshots1 – Don’t pile on the foundation – and make sure it matches your skintone.

If you’re using foundation, make sure you don’t use too much. You don’t want to have thick, cakey makeup. Keep it light and natural. Even a powder foundation is great.

Apply in natural light so you can make sure it matches your natural skintone and is blended nicely.

2 – Avoid sunscreen in your products.

Sunscreen hiding away in your makeup is great until the camera comes out.

If you can, avoid products with sunscreen as they’re the culprits that create shine in your photos.
You should be able to stay out of the sun for most (if not all) of your headshot or branding photoshoot.

3 – Stay away from dark eye makeup.

Dark eye makeup distracts from your eyes themselves. They’re arguably the most important part of your headshot, so you want to keep them looking, bright, open and the centre of attention.

Heavy eyeliner under the eye can shrink the overall appearance of the eyes. Dark, smokey eyeshadow can seem overpowering.

I always suggest that you start with a simple look to get some shots, and if you would like to add more makeup on as we go, we can ‘build’ on the look. This is more common in actor sessions if you’re trying to portray different looks for various roles and characters.

Natural light Melbourne Actors Headshot of girl with blonde hair4 – Keep your lip colour ‘you’.

Lipstick is great, but keep it to colours that you regularly wear, and represent you.

This might mean avoiding lipstick altogether and using a simple balm or gloss. It could mean wearing bright red. Whatever it is you usually do, stick with that.

Lip colour is something that can make people self-conscious. If you start wearing a vibrant, hot pink lipstick that you would never wear otherwise, you might start to worry about what you look like, if it is on your teeth, and if it suits you.

You need to feel confident and on top of your game!

5 – You want to aim to look like yourself.

The simplest way to do this is to stick to makeup looks that you would wear to an important client meeting, job interview, or acting audition. Remember to keep it appropriate for what you’re headshot or portrait is for.

There is no need to doll up as if you’re having a night out. Simple, natural looks that keep the focus on you are perfect.

Top tips for headshot hairstyling:

1 – wash the night before.

Keep your hair clean and neat by washing it the night before. This helps avoid the pre-shoot stress by not rushing around washing, drying and styling your hair at the last minute.

Corporate Headshot Photography Melbourne - Melbourne Corporate Headshots - Professional Linkedin Headshots - Personal Branding Photography2 – Keep your hair knot-free.

This will make a big difference in your final headshots. Bring along a brush to keep it tidy and presentable.
(Don’t rock up to your shoot after having your convertible roof open either!).

3 – Bring hair pins, ties, or product to assist with additional styling.

I don’t think I need to explain this one. Bring these things just in case you need them. It never hurts to be prepared.

4 – Stick to styles you’ve tried before.

Don’t try an involved updo if you’ve never done it before. Or do – I won’t tell you how to live your life.

But sticking to styles that you know look great, work well, and are achievable is a great idea. It doesn’t even need to be anything fancy. It could be a simple matter of running a straightener through your hair, and leaving it out. You might go and get a professional blow-dry in advance because this is what works best for your hair.

5 – Use a bit of hairspray or product to help control frizz and flyaways.

A light spray of hairspray, or other hair product, can help keep things in place.
You don’t need to go over the top dance-competition style, but a little product never goes astray.


If you’re unsure, chat to your photographer before your shoot. You are always more than welcome to book a professional hair and makeup artist if it will put you at ease. The most important thing is to look like you and to feel great. 

To learn about my headshot and portrait packages click here for business, and here for actors.


Julia Nance Melbourne Corporate Headshot

Julia Nance is a headshot and portrait photographer based in Melbourne, Australia. Her vibrant creativity is inspired by her experiences, from photographing whales underwater to travelling in Europe. With a vast background in a range of photographic areas, it is Julia’s natural ability to connect with her subjects that ultimately drew her to the art of portraiture.
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