How do you do the RIGHT editorial?

So you’ve been doing loads of photo shoots, maybe you’ve had your work published in one or two online magazines, but you’re just not at that stage where you’re really proud of your work, you just don’t feel like this is really the STYLE of work you want to be doing. How do you actually go about getting the RIGHT sort of images for your portfolio?  How do you get those publications that make photographers and clients sit up and go “wow”? How do you get those images that have other makeup artists thinking “I wish I could do work like that?”

Just yesterday I was chatting with another makeup artist about the work she has been doing, and how she’s struggling to find photographers who want to shoot the sort of images she wants to shoot, they only want to shoot boudoir, swimwear or even nude, which is not what she wants for her portfolio.

Yes, I understand.  I have been there too.  I remember when I was starting out, shooting in photographer’s garages, and sometimes the whole thing was so dodgy that I didn’t even want to leave the model alone with the photographer!  I guess that’s the mum in me coming out…  remember, we all start somewhere, and Success is really all about PROGRESS.

I read something this morning in a great book my kids got me for my birthday.  It’s called The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After Midlife (can you believe that’s what they got me for my BIRTHDAY???) and in it the author talked about the Progress Principle: “Pleasure comes more from making progress toward goals than from achieving them.”  Put another way, and something I hear a lot from Success Coaches and Thought Leaders, you need to “Fall in Love with the Process”  If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing on the way to achieving your goals, is it really worth it?

Now, I’m sure there are makeup artists reading this who are thinking, “Wait, I have to work for FREE?” To those of you, I would say, its definitely not free.  Maybe you won’t be getting paid actual money today, but think long term!  Becoming a successful makeup artist is not an overnight thing. It takes time.  I always say it’s a marathon not a sprint.  While you may not get paid NOW, doing quality editorial shoots will lead to more money in the future.  But again, it depends on what you want from your career, and your goals. If your goal is to get paid for every makeup you do, then you may get stuck on that roundabout of competing on price with every other makeup artist on the street.  However, if you want to have the sort of career where you are working on national ad campaigns, top models and celebrities, then having great published editorials is the best way I know of to get there.

If your goal is to have your work on the cover of Vogue magazine (and someone asked me how to do just that recently), the answer is always the same.  One step at a time…  One of my early mentors Tania Russell (you should check out her blog at coined the phrase “Test Up” and its one I have always remembered and tell to all my students.  What it means is that every Test (shoot) should up-level your portfolio (and your career).  Now it doesn’t always go like that, we all know the road to success isn’t a straight line, but the GENERAL IDEA is for you to constantly be striving to get better images than you did at your last shoot.

And that brings us back to the question, How do I go about getting the RIGHT IMAGES for publication? So here’s my 5 tips.

1. Know what you want.

It ALWAYS starts with clarity.  If you want more close up head shots and beauty images for your portfolio think of ways you can go about getting them.  It could be as simple as ASKING the photographer to take a couple of quick close ups for you before he shoots the model full length (or actually, you’re better off to ask him after he has been shooting for 30 minutes or so, and the model has warmed up).  Even when I was starting out and working on shoots that never made it into my portfolio, I would ask the photographer to take a couple of close ups so I could use them. It’s about give and take.

My goal when starting out was to get into commercial work.  I KNEW (again, from listening to mentors and others in the industry) that CLEAN BEAUTY was really important in my portfolio. Commercial clients would be scared off by all that crazy avant-garde stuff with colour, feathers and diamantes stuck all over the models face… or, to bring that into todays terms, stripey contour and highlighted nose-tips that can be seen from the moon.  Sure, it’s not super creative and may not get you a thousand new Instagram followers, but commercial work is well paid, and there is the opportunity of a lot of decent repeat business there.

sue mclaurin makeup artist, makeup artist, brisbane makeup artist, commercial makeup artist brisbane

This cover is one I shot for in 2009, it was a collaboration I flew to Melbourne for.  I shot with the photographer for over two days and only one of our shoots was published, in the (I believe now defunct) Canadian magazine Scout.  As you can see it’s very clean, almost no-makeup, but let me assure you, she had a “full face” of makeup.

2.  Find the RIGHT people to work with.

This can take time.  Especially if you’re just starting out and you don’t really know WHO is the right person! But, check out their work.  Look at photographer’s websites and Instagram pages, and start a list of photographers you want to work with.  Obviously, there will be those with LOADS more experience than you, but there are always photographers at the same level as you who want the same things. You just have to find them.  This is where you need to put in a bit of time and energy on doing some research.  Don’t wait around for them to find you!  Take control of your own career.  When you’ve found some, reach out to them.  Start to establish a relationship with several photographers, and be PERSISTENT!! Don’t give up because the first photographer didn’t get back to you.  Find another, and another.  Remember: People who take action are those who get RESULTS.

I worked with a few student photographers when I first moved to Brisbane, even though I was 20 years older than most of them, their youthful enthusiasm helped us both to strive for better and better images.  Just as you have dreams of becoming the next Rae Morris, Becca Gilmartin, Lottie or Roshar, there are photographers out there dreaming of having a portfolio like Jamie Nelson, George Favios or Steven Chee.

3.  Look at what is currently getting published.

Go onto and look at the magazines that are accepting submissions and check out the sort of work they are featuring.  Don’t just flick (swipe) through the pages.  Really look at the images to get a feel of what style of work is being published right now.

4.  Plan your shoot.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again… If you want something done properly, sometimes you DO have to do it yourself.  Come up with the concept.  Organise the moodboard.  Cast the model.  And then go recruit a photographer who shares your vision.  Don’t wait around for them to come find you!

5.  Get Feedback!

It is only through our mistakes and failures that we learn.  Nobody gets all of their work published!  (well, OK, maybe Lottie and Jamie Nelson do!) I still do shoots that get rejected.  And that is OK.  Keep going.  Remember the goal is progress, and if you keep going you will look back in a years time and realise how far you have come.  Feedback is super important because sometimes we are too close to our own work. Social Media is great for so many things, but getting good feedback isn’t one of them.  When it all revolves around LIKES…  and people are afraid to say what they really know, for fear of being attacked by the keyboard warriors!  Find a mentor or coach who will give you HONEST constructive criticism.

And then its just a matter of repeating the process.  And like Tania says “Test Up” .  Start wherever you are.  Maybe your at the beginning of your career, maybe you’re a 10 year veteran, doesn’t matter, there is always room for improvement and you can always up-level your career.

I’m really looking forward to seeing all your amazing editorials published!  Good luck!

Photo credits:

Macushla Wells
Nicole Corbett
Sam Theiss
Elisabeth Willis

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