In today’s digital age, a professional headshot can be a powerful tool in portraying an individual’s persona and expertise. Whether for a corporate website, a LinkedIn profile, or an actor’s portfolio, the right makeup can significantly enhance the quality of a professional headshot. However, the aim should not be a transformation, but a polished, natural look that captures one’s authentic essence.

Here’s a compilation of expert advice from various professional makeup artists and professional photographers on achieving the perfect look for your headshot makeup.

Prepping the Canvas

Skin Hydration

Headshot Make-up Skincare

Start hydrating your skin at least 3–5 days before the shoot. Well-hydrated skin appears plumper and more elastic, which can be especially flattering in photographs​.

Gentle Toning: Apply a gentle toner on the morning of the shoot to close pores. While open pores can be edited out in post-production, makeup sits better on cleansed and toned skin​​.

Avoiding Irritants: Avoid facials, waxes, or any other skin treatments that could potentially irritate your skin immediately before the headshot shoot​.

Foundation and Base

Foundation Matching: Choose a foundation shade that matches your skin tone, especially in the neck and chest area. This will make sure your skin looks even and avoid color differences, especially in photos.

Find your skin’s undertone (cool, warm, or neutral) to choose a foundation that matches your skin tone perfectly.

Headshot Makeup

Formula Choice: Choose a formula that suits your skin type. For instance, if you have oily skin, a matte foundation could be a better choice, while a hydrating foundation might suit dry skin better.

Coverage Level: Decide on the level of coverage you prefer, be it light, medium, or full. Full coverage foundations provide an ideal option for photoshoots or events where you’ll be photographed extensively.

Primer Application

primer for headshot makeup

Use a professional headshot makeup primer to make lines and pores smaller and create a smooth surface for makeup.

A good primer makes your makeup last longer, keeping it fresh for a longer time.

Specialized Primers: Consider specialized primers that address specific concerns such as redness, dullness, or excessive shine. They can be especially helpful in minimizing the appearance of freckles and laughter lines.

Concealer Usage

Targeted Application: Use concealer liberally yet strategically to cover under-eye shadows, blemishes, and redness. You can use a peach or orange-toned concealer to neutralize dark circles, and a green-toned concealer can counteract redness.

Blending: Blend the concealer well into your skin to ensure a natural look. Use a beauty sponge or a concealer brush for this purpose.

Setting: Set your concealer with a light dusting of translucent powder to prevent it from creasing throughout the day.

headshot makeup concealer

Eye Makeup

Eyebrow Shaping

headshot makeup

Advance Preparation: It’s advisable to shape your eyebrows a few days in advance to allow any redness or irritation to subside. This also gives you some time to correct any mistakes or fine-tune the shape as needed.

Professional Assistance: Consider seeking the help of a professional brow technician to achieve a neat, flattering shape that complements your facial structure.

Filling and Defining: On the day of the shoot, fill in any sparse areas with a brow pencil or powder that matches your eyebrow color. Use a light hand to ensure a natural look, and set with a clear or tinted brow gel to keep hairs in place.

Mascara Application

Benefits: Even if mascara isn’t part of your daily makeup routine, wearing makeup for your headshot is beneficial. As it enhances the definition of your eyes, provides a fuller lash appearance, and adds a touch of sophistication to your overall look.

Technique: Start at the base of your lashes and wiggle the mascara wand through to the tips to avoid clumps. Consider using a lash curler beforehand to give your lashes an uplifting curve.

mascara for headshot makeup

Waterproof Options: Opt for a waterproof formula to prevent smudging, especially if you anticipate any teary-eyed moments or if the shoot will last several hours.

Avoiding Shimmer

no shimmer for headshot makeup

Matte, Neutral Tones: Stick to matte, neutral colors for eyeshadow as these shades are timeless, and they enhance your natural eye color without drawing attention away from your eyes. Moreover, matte shades are preferable as shimmer can appear excessive or distorted under photographic lighting.

Application: Apply a lighter shade on the lid and a slightly darker shade in the crease to add depth and dimension to your eyes. Blend well to avoid harsh lines.

Avoiding Shimmer: It’s crucial to avoid shimmer or glitter as they can reflect light awkwardly, making your eyes look overdone or altering the shape of your eyes in photos.


Lip Color

Choose a lip color that is one notch darker than how you normally wear makeup, as digital cameras can lighten colors. Avoid bold colors and harsh lip lines as they can bleed into tiny lines around the mouth requiring constant correction​.

headshot makeup lips

During the Shoot

shooting after headshot makeup routine

Oil Control

Come prepared with oil blotting sheets or a light powder to manage any shine that develops during the professional headshot shoot​​.

Makeup Adjustments

Don’t hesitate to ask the photographer for time to check your makeup or do touch-ups, ensuring you look your best throughout the shoot​​.

The crux of achieving a polished look for headshot photography hinges on meticulous preparation and the artful application of makeup to enhance (important: You don’t need a makeup artist for the perfect makeup for your professional headshot), not overshadow, one’s natural features. Beginning with a canvas of well-hydrated, toned, and irritation-free skin lays the groundwork for the subsequent steps.

The choice of foundation, its correct shade matching, and the desired level of coverage are quintessential for a flawless base. Incorporating a primer further smoothens the skin’s surface, ensuring longevity in the makeup’s fresh appearance throughout the headshot session.

The judicious use of concealer, adeptly blended, aids in camouflaging minor skin imperfections, which is crucial under the scrutinizing glare of studio lights. Shifting focus to the eyes, a well-defined eyebrow shape, complemented by mascara, accentuates the eyes’ expressiveness, a focal point in headshots. The choice of eyeshadow shades, favoring matte over shimmer, and the right application techniques add depth and dimension without diverting attention from the natural eye color.

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