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4 Tips for building your makeup portfolio

As a makeup artist looking to work in Commercial, Editorial or Bridal work, your Portfolio is your resumé or business card. To be successful, you need to have a great portfolio.  Obviously, nobody starts out with a great portfolio, and even if you’ve been in the industry for decades, you will always be updating, tweaking and taking your portfolio to the next level.

Only a short while ago (10-15 years – before the advent of social media) Makeup Artists would display their best work in a physical portfolio, usually a beautiful leather bound book and photos printed out to 11 x 15 inches. (In fact, such portfolios were usually referred to as a “book”) As you can imagine, this got pretty expensive, my book alone cost over $500 even without printing out any images to go in it.  Makeup Artists would make appointments with photographers, designers, agents and other industry professionals, and “go-see” them and show their book, in hopes that they would get work.  Agency represented artists often had several copies of their book which their agent could send out to prospective clients too.

In this digital age, everything needs to happen a lot faster, and for the most part our portfolios have moved online.  Nowadays if someone asks to see my portfolio, I simply send them a link to my website (or Instagram or Facebook if that’s what they ask for).  So if your portfolio is your #1 tool for booking you work, how can you make sure it best represents you as an artist?

Top Tip #1 – Have a website!

A website shows that you are professional, and take your career seriously.  Your website should contain your best work, ideally just professional photos and tear sheets (published work).  Think of it as your “greatest hits” album.  You don’t need to post here every day (or even every month) and new work should only make it onto your website if it is as good as, or better, than the current work on your website.

Your website should be “All Killer, No Filler”, meaning if you only have 5 Killer images, then that’s all you put on your website (until you get more Killer images of course!)  Don’t feel you need to pad out your website with mediocre work, because you will be judged on your weaker images as well as the strongest.  Better to have just 5 killer images, than 5 killer, 20 mediocre and 5 that are there just to make up numbers.

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Top Tip #2 – Use Social Media to your advantage

Social Media is such a great tool, and especially so for us as makeup artists working in such a visual industry.  Facebook is fantastic for networking with other industry professionals, and Instagram is where you can show your prospective clients what you are up to on a day-to-day basis.  This is the place to be posting your work daily (if possible) whether that be behind-the-scenes shots, phone cam shots or professional shots.  You can also make use of the “Stories” on Instagram and/or Facebook, your clients will love having a glimpse into your life.  While we can’t curate our Instagram feeds by moving the images around, remember that most people aren’t going to scroll through all 487 images you have on your feed, so you can always delete and repost (and they even have #hashtags for that). Consistency and Engagement are they KEYS to getting your work seen on Social Media.  While some clients may book you through your Social Media pages, they are also great for driving your clients to your website.

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Top Tip #3 – Tailor your portfolio to the work you want to do

Know where you are headed! What does your ideal career look like? Who is your ideal client? Tailor your portfolio to those clients and those jobs.

If you want to book brides, there is no point having your portfolio full of zombies, SPFX, or even avant garde high fashion looks.  Brides (and commercial clients) will tend to get scared off by that sort of work.  Your focus should be on clean, natural beauty, and glamour (if you want to book glamour brides). If you want to do more formals or fitness competitions, then you would want to have some more intense glamour looks in your portfolio too.

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Top Tip 4 – Regularly Review and Evaluate your Portfolio

Building your portfolio is a part of being a successful Makeup Artist.  It’s not something you do once, your portfolio will be constantly growing and evolving as you grow as an artist.  Remember that your Portfolio is an advertisement to your prospective clients, so while it is important to show them your “style”, I believe it’s equally as important to have diversity in your portfolio to show that you can do different types of makeup.  So, have the majority of your images your preferred style (or a style that is commercially viable!) and then add in some diverse images to show that you have that capability too.

You need to develop the ability to be self-critical of your work.  As you progress as an artist, you will need to replace images in your portfolio as you get better images.  Sometimes this is hard, but it is important for your progress.  The key here is not to be emotionally attached to the images in your portfolio. If you’re unsure, ask a mentor or another more experienced artist for help and advice.

So what makes a “killer” image?  Unfortunately it’s not just great makeup.  Sometimes it’s the things outside our control that can turn a great makeup into a weaker image.  You need to consider ALL the aspects of the image, model, photography, hair, styling, lighting as well as makeup.  They all need to come together to create a beautiful image.  These days we are taking so many images for social media with our phone cameras, so it’s important to learn how to take the best shots (lighting, angles etc.).

So, my challenge to you today is to have a look at your website and your social media. When was the last time you updated it? Which are your weakest images, and could this be the time to retire some of those and replace them with newer, better images?

If you’re unsure of how to put together your best portfolio, what should stay, what should go, and what sort of images you should be looking to include, I offer a Portfolio Review session as part of my one-on-one coaching, where I will help you review your current portfolio and make suggestions for what you can do to improve it.  Click here for further info.


Did you like this blog post?  Please comment and let me know what you liked best, and feel free to share it around to your makeup artist colleagues, and share the link to your website in the comments below, so we can all check out each other’s work!



Photos thanks to:
Dreamlife Wedding Photography
Tom Hall Photography
Brooke Shaw Photography











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