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The Whole Picture—A Professional Beauty Photo Shoot

By: Jesse Hill and Aniko Hill
Posted: August 3, 2010, from the August 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.
The Kitchen Collaborative

Photographer: Jesse Hill; Art Director: Aniko Hill; Model: Amanda Riley/Ford Models; Makeup and Hair: Hilla Peer; Photo Assistant: Stephanie Cottle

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The morning of the shoot requires the models and fashion team to be the first in the studio, with two to three hours of hair and makeup before any shots are taken. During this time, the photographer and assistants are completing their final test images and readying the set for the first shot. If multiple models are planned, then multiple makeup artists, hair stylists and wardrobe stylists may be needed. Typically, the lead makeup artist handles the application of the makeup while an assistant makeup artist may handle the on-set maintenance.

The lighting in the makeup room is critical. Traditional mirrored lights aren’t enough when showing the fine details of the face; on The Kitchen Collaborative’s shoots, there have been numerous occasions where the model had to be sent back into makeup after shooting the first test image. Today’s cameras are of such high resolution that every little mistake is amplified, and when the big lights go off all the imperfections are revealed. Sending models back and forth from set to makeup is incredibly time-consuming, and this is why it’s advisable to provide extra lighting in the makeup room for beauty shoots.

A well-planned shot list is also essential in achieving all the images of the day. The photographer needs to know what equipment is needed for each specific shot and how to pace the day. To ensure that the shot list is executed as planned, it is important that the set operate smoothly. In general, the photographer is the only person who should verbally direct the model on set. This method keeps the model from getting distracted or confused, which in turn can slow down the day. It also ensures that the goals are communicated consistently and effectively; photographers are best accustomed to directing people and understanding the nuances of posture and facial expression.

Professionalism and focus are also critical elements, and it’s recommended that cell phones and small talk be kept to a minimum on the set and in the makeup room.


Oscar Wilde famously stated, “No object is so beautiful that under certain conditions it will not look ugly.” This idea is particularly true in beauty photography; even the most beautiful face can look harsh under the wrong conditions. Beauty photography requires total control of the environment, and proper lighting is both an art form and a science—this is why most beauty shots are done in a studio. Although lighting can be done beautifully using a combination of natural and synthetic light sources, there are so many factors involved in the production that being in a studio makes the process more reliable and efficient.