As makeup artists, we all know that our portfolio is our business card, it’s the way we advertise our services, show our prospective clients the type of work we do, our signature look (if we have one) and its where they can find out all about who we are as an artist. I talk a lot about the importance of building a strong portfolio (especially a website!), and how regularly reviewing your portfolio helps you progress as an artist. (you can read some of my portfolio tips HERE)
Regular reviews will show you the strengths and weaknesses of your portfolio, in relation to where you are hoping to take your career. If you want to do more commercial and lifestyle work, you need to show that sort of work in your portfolio… If you want to do more destination weddings, you might need to have images of beachy brides… etc etc
The best way to go about building the sort of portfolio you want, indeed NEED, to book your ideal clients is through targeted testing. What do I mean by targeted testing? Testing, or TFP, (which means Time for Print, or Time for Photos), is collaborative shooting where everyone is contributing their time and talents and getting images for their portfolios, and Targeting Testing is testing with a pupose, testing to build the portfolio you need to book the sort of work you want to be doing (and getting paid for!)
Testing or TFP differs from a COMMERCIAL shoot, where there is a client, and the purpose of the shoot is for someone (usually said client, or the clothing designer) to make a PROFIT from the images taken at the shoot (eg. By using those images for advertising, whether in print, webstore OR EVEN SOCIAL MEDIA). If you’re invited to COLLABORATE on a shoot where there is a client involved or someone who stands to make a profit by using the images to advertise something, then you should be being paid, as should the photographer, model, hairstylist, fashion stylist and anyone else involved.
Testing is a fantastic opportunity for up and coming artists to build their portfolio or work, and for established artists to keep their work fresh and up to date. As an artist who works primarily in lifestyle, commercial and bridal, I don’t often get the chance to “play” and be really creative in my day-to-day makeup jobs, so when I come up with a great idea, or get approached to collaborate on someone else’s idea, I often jump at the chance… and there is no thought of payment. The opportunity to be creative, get great images for my portfolio, and the chance to maybe have those images published in a print or online magazine is payment enough!
Often photographers or models will approach makeup artists to test with them, and if you like their work/look it’s a good idea to jump on board, as you shouldn’t have to organise too much yourself. However, this can be a bit hit and miss. The photographer may not actually be that good, you may have to wait ages for your images. It’s really important to do your research. Don’t just jump at the first opportunity, I learned that the hard way! Too many shoots with unusable images, or not getting images back at all!
3 Tips for Successful TFP Shoots
1. Know what you want… (targeted testing)
Have had a good constructive look at your current portfolio, to determine where the “holes” are, and what sort of images you need to fill those holes. Think about the sort of work you want to be doing; does your portfolio portray that to your prospective clients? If not, you need to get those sorts of images in your portfolio. Before you say YES to anyone looking for a makeup artist, OR, before you approach photographers, stylists and models to work with you, get your ideas very clear.
Whether you’re answering a casting call, or setting up your own shoots, its important to have the details in writing. Make sure you know how many images you can expect to receive, and whether you will have a say in the final images, or if the photographer will just send his or her selections (remember that they might not necessarily be the best makeup shots). If you have the details in writing, it can help if things go awry after the shoot.
2. Answering the call
You can keep your eye on the Facebook testing/TFP groups, and answer posts looking for makeup artists. Obviously when you do this you have less say in the shoot, and the sort of images that you will get but if you are just starting out, or can’t get other people to work with you, this is a great way to start, and to get your name out there. You’re also “competing” against all the other makeup artists who are answering those posts, so think about how you can stand out… maybe read my post on Standing Out in an Overcrowded Space HERE: Also, another suggestion, add that photographer to your list of people to network with – be pro-active! You might not get the gig this time, but keep on their radar for next time.
The key here is to know whom you are potentially working with. Don’t just answer a casting call and hope for the best. Make sure you take some time to check out the photographer on Instagram (or other social media), and look at his or her portfolio of work. Is that the sort of work you would like to have in your portfolio? Will working with that photographer elevate your profile? Does the photographer credit the makeup artists s/he works with? (If not, then I would probably think twice about doing an unpaid shoot with him or her). Follow the tags and check out the makeup artist’s work too. I have been known to contact makeup artists to ask them about photographers who have approached me to test. If I don’t know a photographer, but I check out their work and see they have worked with an artist I know, I’ll call that artist to ask her about the photographer.
If you’re answering a casting call, you can’t expect to have too much say in the creative direction of the shoot, but remember you are the makeup expert, so if you don’t agree with something, remember this IS a collaboration, so you should feel confident in expressing your opinions.
3. Setting up your own tests
What about it you’re not getting the sort of images you want and NEED to build your portfolio? Then its time to take control of your career destiny and set up some of your own shoots. The artists who are PROACTIVE are the ones who end up with the amazing portfolios and work everyone talks about. I have to thank the wonderful Becca Gilmartin for this Golden Nugget. It was Becca who taught me that yes, I could creatively direct my own shoots, and even submit them for publication. Thanks Becca ❤
Create a “mood board” with ideas and images, the story that you are hoping to achieve. Only once you have this clear visual idea, then you can approach people to come onto your project. You can approach photographers whose style is similar to that which you want to shoot. Photographers are busy too, and a lot of them would love to have more time for creative shoots, but the organisation is what puts them off. If you can approach a photographer with your ideas, you’re much more likely to get a positive response. Even if they don’t want to work on your project, they may have a project in mind and be willing to collaborate with you on that one. Make sure its a photography that you can get along with and work well with. As its YOUR shoot, the photographer may be expecting you to creatively direct the shoot. Its a good idea to have this conversation beforehand! I usually give the photographer an idea of what I want (and the model, I will give her an idea of the poses I want) but the way I see it, the photographer is the expert in lighting, the model is the expert in modelling, so I usually let them do their thing, and just make small tweaks if I really need to.
Model choice is always important when you are trying to create your portfolio. I always aim to have diversity in my portfolio, though that is sometimes tricky. The right model can make a shoot, and the wrong model for a shoot can just make things difficult and maybe not work.
The most important factor for me, is someone who is comfortable modelling. Your best friend might be the prettiest girl you know, but if she’s not comfortable in front of the camera, that is going to show. When you are first starting out, it’s not always possible to get the experienced models, but have a look at the other work they have done. I always prefer to have a model with great skin, not only does it make my work look better, but it makes life a lot easier for the photographer too when it comes to retouching.
You can find models from a variety of places. Ideally you want agency signed models, but the agencies may not give you their girls if you are just starting out. By all means approach the agencies and ask (especially if there is a model you particularly want) or ask if they have any new faces who need shots for their portfolio. Other places to try are facebook groups, and even Model Mayhem.
When casting non-agency models, have a chat with them, and have them send you an unretouched photo of themselves with NO MAKEUP on. Most of the agency sites now have a “digi” section, where they put up quick snaps of the girls with no makeup to help with clients when casting.
If you’re having trouble finding models yourself, ask the others who are working on the shoot if they can help. You may find that the photographer has a contact in a modelling agency, and they will give him a list of girls who are looking to test. Models need to update their portfolio as much as we artists do (sometimes even more so), and of course new models need images. If you live in a larger city, there may be several modelling agencies in town. You may have better luck with some of the smaller agencies, and remember, it’s a process, as your portfolio gets better, your profile does too, and you can approach better photographers, and the bigger modelling agencies.
Always remember that all the elements of an image need to be great to make a “killer” image… Its not enough to just have great makeup. You need great photography, great lighting, a great model, great styling, great hair, great posing. Your aim should always be to “test up” and get better and better images from your TFP shoots. However, even if you do a shoot and the images don’t wow you, look for the lesson learned. Being a makeup artist is all about Constant and Never-Ending Improvement. Commit to that and think about what you can do better next time.
All images in this post are the results of Test/TFP shoots that I have been involved in, and I thank all those creatives who I was lucky to collaborate with on this work:
Photography: Elizabeth Maleevsky
Styling: Kymberly Louise @ Arc Creative
Model: Emily Gurr @ Viviens
Published in Refashion Magazine (Canada)
Photography: Elisabeth Willis
Styling: Georgia Rostagno
Model: Lizzie R