My name is Sarah L and I'm a makeup artist in Austin Texas. Last night I went to a portfolio review and what they told me was I need to work with better photographers. After seeing your story with upclose pictures of skin in your recent work I knew I wasn't getting that kind of work back from my photographers. How can I tell if the people I work with are good photographers?
Here is a link to my portfolio so you can see the work I've done [LINK REMOVED]
- Sarah L.
This is something that's a 2-part answer.
1. As a creative who works with other creatives in different fields, you need to be able to weed out the people who aren't going to help you out. You can't just be an expert in your field, you also need to be able to tell if a photographer can shoot/retouch, if a hairstylist can work with the type of hair the model has, and if the model can actually model.
As a photographer, I need to know all of this. Makeup, hair, modeling, styling.. Every aspect of a shoot. I need to wear all of these hats. Because 1 mishap could mean something small like just extra time during retouching, or something bigger like an entire shoot being ruined. It's definitely happened before, but we won't get into that.
Actually. One of my favorite traits from a makeup artist is when they come back to me with notes on the retouching. I don't find it as annoying as they might think, but more that someone who is looking at this photo from an entirely different perspective is helping me out. I appreciate it.
So you definitely should think about that for the future. It's definitely great to work with everyone, but you should always be trying to punch upwards. I'm probably butchering the phrase, but, "You never want to be the smartest one in the room"? If you feel like you don't trust the photographer, and don't like the model, why are you there? If you're the most competent person, you're going to be playing babysitter, always trying to add your input to make sure everything stays on course. Anyways, let me answer your real question.
2. Immediate ways to tell if a photographer is "good" enough to work with
Before I get into this. This is specifically just 2 quick ways for someone who is a MUA and needs to know if someone is going to represent their work properly.
2a. Blurry Skin
With full-length portraits and even 3/4 shots, blurry skin is basically unnoticeable. Especially on Instagram. That's why so many people get away with it. But once you start doing headshots and beauty, that's where it becomes easier to spot. The best way to spot blurry skin is by looking in the transitions from light to shadow in the face. Usually around the sides of the nose or around the cheekbone. If it looks weirdly out of focus compared to the eyes and lips, it's probably because they blurred the skin to hide texture and flaws. Some people will blur the skin, but then overcompensate with sharpening the photo so it looks in focus again, but without the flaws. This is once again, really tough to point out on Instagram, but I'll try to give a good example for it.
If they overexpose the skin and it doesn't look like it's on purpose then something is up(see: @BeautyIsBoring for good uses of overexposed lighting). Explaining "proper" studio lighting is tough and very subjective, but basically if you can see the person's skin and it's not too dark and not too bright, you should be good. Obviously, this comes down to the shoot and the concept, but it also goes back to learning what you like and want.
And when it comes to Instagram these are basically the only ways to tell if a photographer is "good" or not. Do they know how to retouch skin? And do they know how to light a model? If you don't think they can do that, then it's up to you whether or not you think they can properly show off your makeup.
At the end of the day...
The best thing you can do is learn more about photography. Go to the portfolios of photographers that you see as "elite" and see what they do best. Maybe look at YouTube videos of "do's and don'ts" for retouching. Just learn more than the surface level of "this looks cool". Once you can see the underlying details like quality of light and what bad retouching is. You'll be like Jonas in The Giver when he sees color for the first time. You'll be much more critical of the work that you receive back.
I hope this helped!
Have a good day,
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