So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist 10 – Avoiding Bad Makeup Classes

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The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

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me in action teaching Airbrush makeup.


As you may know, in addition to being a working artist, I am a makeup educator.

I started with my own private lessons which grew into workshops and then I began teaching in schools, first at a school in Los Angeles and now at a school in San Francisco. I actually very much want to resume teaching my own lessons and workshops but there is one thing hindering me: the rise of the bad makeup classes. It seems to be a cyclical phenomenon where sometimes there are lots of classes and sometimes there are hardly any. Right now the class/workshop/school situation is at Full Tilt. Some of them are by all accounts excellent, like Erica Carr’s Hairstyling courses which I am interested in attending myself. But some… ????? Seeing some of these workshops and schools makes me wonder WHAT exactly people are looking for in education and HOW are they vetting those to whom they are giving their hard earned money. Here are my suggestions for avoiding bad makeup classes and upping your chances of finding quality education.

– Do Not Shop Price
Do not be dazzled by an over-the-top high price thinking “oh it must be good”, and don’t shop the discount bin hoping for a bargain. Do your research and find out what you are getting for your money. Good classes will not come cheap. In fact I have a #BizTalk Friday MTG post coming entitled “Why I Can’t Teach You Makeup for Free”. NO good instructor will. Classes are expensive to produce, our knowledge is valuable and we deserve to be compensated fairly for our time and skill. Save up your hard earned $$$ for quality instruction. Good instruction will pay for itself quickly. If a class is too cheap or crazy expensive, keep looking.

– Find All About Out Who Is Teaching The Class
Real Talk: credits are very easy to find. A simple Search should pull up all types of credits and references for any actually working artist. Frankly one of the first things that should come up in a Search is a professional website with current work as any working artist would readily have (or an agent’s site if the artist works exclusively through an agent, or an IMDB profile if they work primarily in Production).

Even more frank, this info should be detailed prominently on the website for the school or workshop.

A working artist who does the work they say they do has nothing to hide. If you have to hunt, peck and squint to find out anything about the who is teaching the class or who is running the school, let that be a Red Flag.

– For Real Though – WHO Is Teaching???
There is an online advert I saw recently listing a workshop from a “celebrity makeup artist”. Not only is there no link to an artist’s portfolio of any kind, there is NO NAME listed. Yeah, no. I see this a lot, actually, particularly with a lot of these fakey schools. A potential student cannot possibly make an informed decision about a school or a class without knowing who is teaching and what is that teacher’s professional background. This information should be readily available. You shouldn’t have to search for it, you should not even have to ask for it.

– Do The Pictures Look Like Work You Want To Do?
No? Keep walking. Just as a client shouldn’t hire a makeup artist whose portfolio looks like mine expecting that they are going to do Alexis Vogel-style makeup, if a school or workshop is not posting images of the kinds of work you hope to do, keep looking. And if all they have are amateur/snapshots/Instagram photos, definitely keep looking. OH and make sure the photos are really theirs as well. Photo theft is rampant in the industry nowadays. If they have a bunch of bridal photos and then all of a sudden a photo of Beyoncé, one of these things is not like the others…

– Not All Credits Are The Right Credits
As great as my classes are 🙂 I focus on media makeup because that is what I do. Hence if you are looking for a great Bridal course, my classes would not be for you. Particularly if you want to learn the ins and outs of building a Bridal business. I don’t know the first thing about it, I don’t do Bridal. THAT SAID do not look to a Bridal artist to learn about being a freelance media artist. Unless they do both – which some artists do – someone who does Bridal exclusively or primarily does not know the ins and outs of my world. Likewise; do not take an editorial makeup class from an artist that primarily does TV, do not take a theatrical class from someone who primarily does clean beauty, do not take an FX class from someone who does not have a strong FX portfolio and background, etc. These things are all different and you should find someone whose work reflects what it is they teach. AND let me add this – anyone claiming to teach celebrity makeup should be a celebrity artist themselves. This is where the trade shows are great because they afford one access to that top tier artist whose schedule often does not permit too much time for teaching (The Makeup Show NYC*, for example, just had Troy Surratt and Nick Barose as Keynote speakers). Being a “celebrity makeup artist” does NOT mean an artist who did one random reality show person one time.

– Beware of False and/or Unsubstantiated Claims
Anyone who actually works will tell you that becoming a working makeup artist is NOT easy. It takes time and a LOT of work. I believe it was Forbes magazine who recently ranked Makeup Artistry #6 most difficult profession to enter versus how many people want to do it. It is not Mission Impossible, but it is mission difficult (to paraphrase Sir Anthony Hopkins character in MI:2). Therefore any place that talks about how you’ll be working in a week or this or that is just a scam straight up. Also I was reading an ad for a class that claimed all students would receive a Certificate that would allow them to get cosmetics for 60% off. :-|. First of all, a sheet of paper from a one day workshop is meaningless. Here in California, for example, Schools must be Accredited. Becoming Accredited itself is not easy, a course outline must be defined and approved by the appropriate governing body, courses must be a certain number of hours, etc. Therefore most Workshops are not even eligible for Accreditation. Secondly, no cosmetics company gives a Pro Discount of 60%, cosmetics companies are in business to make money. Most companies set their Top Tier at 40% and to get said discount, you have to prove that you are a WORKING artist, not just that you took a class. Shenanigans like these are why more companies are starting to charge for the Pro Discount, but let me not digress right now. A good course does not need to make things up, the value of the course is in the instruction itself. When it sounds too good to be true, it is. Run don’t walk in another direction.

If a potential student does their research, there are a lot of very good schools and workshops out there. If your plan is to be a professional makeup artist, then you should be a professional from jump. Do not become starry eyed and fall for the first handsome suitor that looks your way. Research and make a potential school or class earn your business. You owe it to yourself and your career.

And if you’re wondering, yes, I learned all of this first hand the hard way. A zillion years ago I paid a good sum of money (I want to say maybe $1500) for a class that promised I’d be working once I completed the course. I took the class without researching the instructors or the owners (who it turned out were sued several times for similar scams) or doing any kind of vetting whatsoever. Of course I never got any work out of it, in fact I did not even receive what most people would consider a complete class. Lesson learned.

Previous Installment: So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist Revisited

You Might Also Want to Check Out: So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist – Good Instruction

*CORRECTION: I originally posted that Troy Surratt and Nick Barose were Keynote speakers at IMATS NYC. This was an error on my part, they were speakers at The Makeup Show NYC. My apologies for the error.

The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist Revisited

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The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.
This article contains affiliate links which help keep Makeup to Go, going. Thanks in advance for your support…

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mosaic of makeup/hair work by Tania D. Russell (copyright respective photographers NOT STOCK IMAGE)


The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” (SYWBAPA) article series was started when I first started the Makeup to Go! blog and had no readership whatsoever. It is hard to believe it has already been 2 years since I started the series! The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series was written both in response to the numerous inquiries I had received about embarking on a professional career and because I was leading up to a LFAA™ Workshop and I wanted to establish some groundwork.

As “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” is an informative and well-written series – if I do say so myself 😉 – so I am revisiting it for those who may not have seen it when it first ran. Also I want to bring some of the information and Resources up-to-date as a lot can change in two years.

So You Wanna Be a Pro Artist – Preview
Pretty self-explanatory, this is just an overview of what I had in mind with the series.

So You Wanna Be a Pro Artist 1 – Getting Started

So You Wanna Be a Pro Artist 2 – Now Why

So You Wanna Be a Pro Artist 3 – How

These three articles – Getting Started, Now Why, and How are overviews designed to get readers to think about their approach to their careers. Students often kind of buck me on this or they just ignore it but then invariably a year later of freelancing under their belts they come back and tell me I was right. I know I was right LOL! I know because the people who told this to me were right. When I find myself at a career plateau I often go back and re-visit these steps in order to make a plan of what I should do next.

So You Wanna Be a Pro Artist 4 – Good Instruction
I am not as anti-school as I used to be (I mean, I do teach at a makeup school, after-all) but I am still adamant that you cannot trust your career to the first school with a fly website (some schools do not even have that). IF you decide that makeup school is the best way for you to learn this craft, you must must must vet a makeup school thoroughly.

So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist 5 – Going it Alone
Many makeup artists never go to makeup school, including some of the best to have ever worked in the profession. It is entirely possible to be a self-made makeup artist and eventually work at the top of the field.

In this installment I listed a lot of books because I am a fan of makeup books. Many of the books were old and hard to get then, so they are older and harder to get now. Here is one alternate book, as well as two newer books that were not out when I first wrote my article (note – these are Affiliate links);

    Making Faces – Kevyn Aucoin
    In the original article I listed Art of Makeup by Kevyn Aucoin. That is my favorite and in my opinion the most instructional of his books, however it is long out of print and if you do find it, it is expensive. Making Faces was Kevyn Aucoin’s second book and I would also probably say his most popular book. It, too, features many great break-downs, photographs and instruction.

    Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual: For Everyone from Beginner to Pro – Bobbi Brown
    Of all of her books this is by far her best, in my opinion. It is well photographed, has clear explanations, and covers a gamut of looks on a wide array of faces and complexions.

    Makeup Your Mind: Express Yourself – François Nars
    This is a visually stunning book using a really innovative overlay technique to demonstrate how to achieve the looks. François Nars is a true master so there is a lot to be learned in this book. This book may be a bit advanced for the average consumer but it is perfect for aspiring Artists.

So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist 6 – Kit Building
A newly updated version of my Preferred Products list is available on the FREEBIES page (click to go there). My own actual working kits have actually changed quite a bit since this post was first created, so I will likely do a new story on that altogether.

So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist 7 – Portfolio Building
So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist 7.5 – The Actual Portfolio
The two articles concerning Portfolios illustrate how much the world has changed in two years. Back then I stated: “Many predict that the newly released Apple iPad will become popular as presentation tools for in-person meetings, but that will remain to be seen.” HA! I cannot live without my iPad. I do still advocate, however, for artists having print portfolios. Many agencies still require them and I still run into people who aren’t into the iPad presentation and would rather see a printed book. My print portfolio book nowadays;

tania d russell makeup artist print portfolio book Follow Me on Pinterest

(click to see larger size)



…as done by House of Portfolios. They actually got the spelling of my last name incorrect as you can see (it’s Russell with two “L”s), but they immediately shipped me a corrected book at no extra charge.

So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist 8 – Testing
So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist 9 – Marketing Basics
The final two installments of the original series focused on the nuts and bolts of building a book and promoting yourself for work. Needless to say these two topics are intertwined: you gotta meet people to develop a portfolio and then you gotta go show your portfolio in order to meet people to get hired for work.

Most of the resources listed are still valid. If you do read the article, you will see that I have crossed Wix off as one of my resources, they just are not adequately reliable and professional looking in my opinion. Resources I would add:

    Weebly
    Even on the free end, these are very good looking and easy to navigate Flash websites with a mobile “back” to work on iPhones, iPads, etc.

    Moo.com offers high-quality yet affordably priced printing of business cards and postcard (promo cards). They also allow you to order in “packs” where you can have multiple card designs in one order. To try a free sample pack click here. (offer good as of the time I wrote this article. Moo may end the offer at any time…)

I hope some of my newer readers, or folks who may happen to just be drifting by on the internet, take a moment, make some tea or coffee and read through this series. I tried to really make the series both engaging and and chock-a-block with information. If you are interested in working as a makeup artist this series of articles is designed to help! Now that we have revisited the original series, look for future installments coming soon…

Previous Installment: Basics of Marketing

Next Installment: Avoiding Bad Makeup Classes

The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist 9 – Pro Makeup Artist Marketing Basics

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The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

This article contains Affiliate Links which help Makeup to Go keep going. Thanks in advance for your support! 🙂


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My collection of Set the Pace Publications (click to see larger)


At this point you’ve studied – either via school or DIY, you’ve built your kit, and you have the beginnings of a portfolio. You have now reached the point of the big NOW WHAT?

Well, young Grasshopper, Now What is marketing and promoting yourself to get work. Welcome to the Rest Of Your Life as a freelance makeup artist. This article is on Pro Makeup Artist Marketing Basics and this is the point where the rubber really hits the road. There are a sad number of really great makeup artists who do not work, and there are a lot of good not great makeup artists who work all the time. The difference is that whether you’re amazing or good or even not that great; those who are smart and who work hard at their careers will persevere. Whether or not one will make it to the lofty heights of the Pat McGraths or Joanna Schlips of the world is unknown (and to get to that level you really do have to be a great artist), but you can certainly be a working artist if you put your mind to doing so. For too long I, personally, fell into Group A: Everyone thought I was really good and really talented yet I didn’t work. This was because I am a naturally shy person and putting myself “out there” is not one of my favorite activities. Well, let me qualify, I’m actually a singer and I have no problem getting up and singing in front of people. Put a phone in my hand and tell me to call someone, however, and to this day I still have to psyche myself up to it. The difference is, of course, rejection. Yes. You will be rejected. Be it for meetings, jobs or tests you will not always get what you want when you want it. But as the Rolling Stones said “…you can’t always get what you want but if you try, sometimes, you’ll get what you need”. Eventually you have to eat and pay bills so you’ll have to decide – as I did – to either pursue your career with gusto, or go back to the office grind. With that said, here are my suggestions for getting yourself going…

1 ) Get “The Hair Makeup and Fashion Styling Career Guide” by Crystal Wright
In life, somethings are purchases and some are investments. The Hair Makeup and Fashion Styling Career Guide is an investment. Pictured at the top of this article is my collection of Ms. Wright’s publications (including the sadly no longer in print, 1st Hold magazine, which was the one and only true trade magazine of the print side of the hair/makeup/wardrobe industry). I still have all of her publications to this day and while some of the information has changed over time the principals have not. Crystal Wright is the former owner of the Crystal Agency (agency is closed, the site is just up as a shell to show the students of her marketing classes). As a former agent she built the career of many a new artist taking many of them to Star Artist category. I was never represented by her agency, but she has been a mentor to me over many years and her advice has rarely failed me.

Didn’t I mention this book in my previous So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist installment? Why Yes. Yes I did! It’s that crucial so pony up for $50 and go get this book, folks.

While I’m at it: If you can afford to do so, I’d also suggest taking one of Crystal’s “Packaging Your Portfolio” workshop. For the DIY-ers in the house, this is an interactive workshop – with Crystal Wright herself – that goes further in depth with the principals of the book. I took her very first class back in the day and you can see how that worked out for me 🙂 . If you went to school you might be thinking “why do I need to pay for another course” to which I’d respond thus: You just spent $10K plus to become a makeup artist. Don’t you want to actually work as a makeup artist now? I thought so. Take the class.

2 ) Plan Your Line Of Attack
Trying to plunge Gun-Ho into marketing without a thought out course of action is just folly. If you bought the Career Guide like I told you to, there is a whole section devoted to creating your initial marketing plan AND budgeting for it. This is an important exercise. If you have not yet purchased Career Guide, you can do this yourself with a bit of thought. Basically you need to think about the type of work you want to do and then plan a realistic course towards getting there. Say, for example, you love music and you would love to do music videos for someone like a Gwen Stefani. Chances are low at this point in your career that you would be hired to actually do Gwen’s makeup. How can you be down? Perhaps you can work as an assistant under her makeup artist. If you cannot assist her artist specifically, perhaps you can assist some other artist on the same agency roster as her artist. If that is your goal this is a way to break it down into realistic steps upon which you can take action. Do not give me the excuse of “how do I find out” about these artists, this isn’t the Stone Age. Get on the internet and research which artists are doing the types of work you want to be doing and which agencies they are represented by and get on that assistants roster. If you really want something you’ll do the work necessary to get it. Get organized and go get it! (To my knowledge Gwen’s makeup artist is Matthew Vanleeuwen)

3 ) Get Your Marketing Materials Together
I touched upon this a bit in the Portfolios installment of this series, but now I’m going to break it all the way down. There are four key items that are essential to your marketing “kit”. These are; your Website, your Business Cards and your Promo Cards, and your Portfolio.

– Website
This is the most important of your marketing tools. Your website needs to be clean, efficient, easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing. Websites with too many whistles and bells and dancing screens and loud music and this and that are a TURN OFF and that is literally what visitors will do. Back in the day your only option was to get a custom built site, which can be costly. Now days you can either get your site custom or you can take advantage of the many template sites that exist. These sites allow you to customize the look of the site, but the template provides the programming (the hard part) and you can get a clean, professional website up in a day. The price for these sites range from free (although the free ones have serious limitations) to expensive (my site first template website cost $79/mo !!) and all points in between so there is no reason why you cannot have a professional site within your budget. Important Note: While Flash websites have been the norm for a while now and they do offer significant advantages, it is important to get a non-flash ‘back” to your website that can be read on mobile devices. This is a reality in today’s market and you don not want to lose a job because the photographer could not see your site on his iPhone. All of the templates I recommend at the end of this section – with the exception of the Wix site – offer built-in mobile versions of the site.

Likewise, your website name – aka your URL – needs to be clean and straightforward. Ideally it should be your name. Names like Pretty In Pink Makeup.com or Tra La La She She makeup.com are not only silly and non-professional sounding, but they are difficult to remember. And frankly they aren’t hiring Tra La La, they are hiring you so you want them to remember your name. If you have a difficult to spell / super long name that can either work for or against you. Unique names can be great because they are memorable. Super long names or ones that are easily misspelled can work against you as you don’t want people to have a hard time getting to your site. In those instances you may want to go with a shortened version of your name or another (professional sounding) URL title.**

– Business Cards
All your cards need to have is your name, what you do (i.e. – makeup artist), phone number, email address and website on it. PLEASE do not put any artificial titles on it like “Celebrity Makeup Artist” or “Professional Makeup Artist” or the like. Those title scream amateur, even people at top agencies who work on top celebs do not refer to themselves as such. The fact that you may have done one C celeb once does **not** make you a “celebrity makeup artist”. And Professional Makeup Artist is just redundant. Of course if you are trying to get paid work as a makeup artist you are a professional makeup artist. Duh! lol . Here is my current business card (The moire effect is on the scan only due to the coating on the card. There is no moire on the card when you see it in person);

TDRcurrentbizcard pro makeup artist marketing basics Follow Me on Pinterest

© L. Ulrichova / Makeup by Tania D. Russell


I would wait a bit before getting a photo business card, reason being is you cannot take back a first impression. You want a photograph to clearly tell someone the type and caliber of work they can expect from you. I suggest not adding a photo to your business cards until you have a GREAT photo to add.

– Promo Card
A promo card is a visual leave behind and/or marketing piece featuring a few samples of your work along with your contact information. Here is my first (good) promo card:

TDRfirstpromo pro makeup artist marketing basics Follow Me on Pinterest

© J. Vogeding / Makeup & Hair Tania D. Russell


and here is a more recent: (Again, the moire effect is on the scan only due to the coating on the card. There is no moire on the card when you see it in person)

TDRsecondpromo pro makeup artist marketing basics Follow Me on Pinterest

© N. Horne, © C. Haylett, © Matthew Jordan Smith / Makeup and Hair by Tania D. Russell


While the progression is clear, what makes my first good card my first good card is that it is clean, professionally offset printed (laser zed cards are not good enough quality for an artists promotional peice), with one really good photograph that really showcased my style of makeup well (this is a postcard promo, so the back just has my return address/contact information as well as the photographer’s credit). I got a lot of mileage from that first card in terms of meeting more photographers and building my book further as well as my first little paid gigs. The second card was actually the card that landed me with my first agency.

So again, when making your promo card it is all about a clean, straight-forward design and great images that showcase your best work to date. In the resources section at the end of this article, I list a few places to get your promos printed.

– Your Portfolio
I have already discussed building a portfolio and putting one together at length. Check out my previous articles on Portfolio Building and The Actual Portfolio. While much is done via the web, as I discuss in those articles it behooves you to also maintain a physical portfolio book.

Once you have done these steps, there is nothing left to it but to do it. Let your friends and family know you’re in business (word of mouth is still one of the best marketing tools), and start sending those emails and making those phone calls. The more you do it, the more you’ll become used to doing it and the easier it becomes to do. If this is truly your dream job, you and you alone have the power to make it become a reality. Get started.

RESOURCES For This Section:
(UPDATE: A Lot Has Changed – See SO YOU WANNA BE A PRO ARTIST REVISED 2016)

Learn the Biz
Crystal Wright’s The Hair Makeup & Fashion Styling Career Guide

Packaging Your Portfolio Workshop by Crystal Wright Live

Template Website Services

Dripbooks
Swiftfolios – No Longer in Operation
Web Photo Master No longer owned by who I thought owned it and I’ve heard of users having LOTS of EXTREME problems with their websites using this service.
Livebooks (a standard among photographers. these sites are more expensive, but fully featured.)
Wix (Wix has a free version and a paid version. neither support mobile devices. The paid version has mobile device support. Still not the greatest option.)

Promo Card Printers
Modern Postcard
4 by 6 . com
Paper Chase Printing

**Why is my URL name Makeupwerks? Well at the time I wanted something that sounded like an agency. Fortunately I picked something that sounded professional and actually I do get inquires from people who think it is an agency, but in retrospect if I had it to do over again I would have just gone with my name.

Next Installment: Revisited

Previous Installment: Testing

The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist 8 – Testing

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The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

Continuing on in the mission of becoming a professional makeup artist, in this the 8th installment I was going to go into the basics of marketing yourself as a media makeup artist (which was going to be my last installment). However, a lot of you wanted me to go back and pick up on what I wrote about Testing.

OK, so here’s what I wrote previously;

“When you’re first starting out and have not yet started to book jobs, you obtain these photos by doing what are called “Tests” which is where you, a photographer and most often a hair stylist and a wardrobe stylist will collaborate along with a model in order to get photos for each of your books. “

That’s it. That’s all a test is. In theory.

The difficulty testing is the practical reality of what makes a GOOD test. Seasoned artists already know most of what I’m going to say so I’m going to assume that most of the fine people reading this are newer artists to the game. Here then are my suggestions for putting together portfolio worthy test shoots.

1) Start Building a LookBook
Also known as a “Morgue” (I have NO idea why), a Lookbook is a collection of tears of inspiration photographs. This is an internal process for you to begin studying and dissecting styles of makeup, styles of photography, how hair and wardrobe fits in, what artists are doing what work, etc. I believe this is a really really crucial tool. You cannot even pretend to want to be a part of this industry if you do not know anything about it. Building a Lookbook will arm you with knowledge and inspire your own creativity and help guide you in my next testing suggestion.

2) Your Tests Should Resemble Work
I can always tell when artists don’t Lookbook. I think the A-#1 thing I see wrong about a lot of tests I see of young artists is that they do not in any way resemble any work that you would ever see anywhere. Remember: The point of your portfolio is to show what you can do so that decision-makers can hire you. If they look at your work and cannot envision your work fitting in with what they are planning to do, they won’t hire you simple as that. This applies to anything from a headshot shoot to catalog to high-end editorial, clean or edgy.

3 ) Begin with the end in mind.
This comes from the landmark book “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”, written by Steven Covey. The idea is that in order to reach a goal, you have to know what your goal is. A lot of folks feel somehow that “winging it” makes them more of an artist. While creativity and spontaneity are important for an artist, very few jobs are just thrown together. Things may change as you begin working but you really should have a gameplan on what you’re going to do before you get started. Remember – a test is a coming together of a group of people to achieve a singular goal. Everyone cannot be fixated on his or her own individual fabulousness. Everyone’s vision Has To come together as one. It is worth the time to plan things out and make sure everyone is on the same page before the shoot begins.

4 ) Stay Focused.
This goes hand in hand with good planning; in order for you to have a successful shoot which yields multiple images to add to your book, you need to stay focused. If you are shooting – say – a hippy themed editorial and the shoot starts out outdoors with flow-y hair and makeup and bohemian clothing, it cannot end up inside in a studio shoot with slicked-back hair and smokey eyes a la Tom Ford Gucci. At that point it is no longer the same shoot and they won’t look good together. At all. You can’t shoot an entire portfolio in one day so do not try. Take your time and execute well thought-out and focused shoots.

5 ) You Will Be Better Served With Clean, Pretty Images.
This goes for makeup and hair and there are a few reasons for this. First of all, there is FAR more work doing clean makeup than there is edgy. Secondly, clean makeup actually takes a lot of skill and decision makers want to see beyond whistles and bells and really know you can do professional-level makeup. Thirdly, and this is real, edgy is either right or it is Totally And Completely Wrong. The line between a really striking, innovative image and some tacky amateurish looking schlock is a fine one. Better to have beautiful, simple images rather than sloppy “edgy” ones.

6 ) Don’t Pay to Play.
A lot of young artists, desperate to get good images, are tempted to pay a photographer to test with them. I cannot emphasize enough what a bad idea I think this is. A photographer that will only shoot with you if you pay them does not want to work with you. Therefore, not only is any hope at a true collaboration out the window, but so is the possibility of developing a longer-term relationship with someone who may someday hire you. Really, it is Mission Difficult to get a test together, but not Mission Impossible. Take the time to contact and meet photographers who will want to collaborate with you.

7 ) Forget This “Testing Fee” Madness.
Likewise, this neo-trend on various online “networking” sources of artists charging Testing Fees is ridiculous. Do you want great images to develop your portfolio or not? Your “payment” on a test shoot are the beautiful images you are going to obtain. Images which, if you work on a good shoot with a good team, will translate into your being able to market yourself for full rate jobs. And I am going to be real right now; None of these “testing fee” artists I see online ever have portfolios strong enough to get real jobs. Presumably that is why they have to waste time with this Testing Fee silliness. Don’t fall for the madness. Develop a solid portfolio and the money will follow.

Now I will add this addendum; There is such a thing as a Paid Test – but that’s different than what we are discussing now and I’ll get to that later. For right now, focusing on developing a working portfolio should be your priority.

8 ) Test Up Not Down™
I actually coined this now internet-popular phrase (although a lot of other people have been given/have taken credit for it :-|), What I mean by this is that EVERY time you test you should be striving to improve upon what you already have. Improvement can take a lot of forms and what constitutes and improvement will obviously change throughout your career, however, EVERY time you test should be an improvement. And remember; great makeup in an otherwise mediocre shot is just a mediocre shot. The entire photograph has to work from top to bottom for it to truly be Portfolio Caliber.

9 ) Focus More on Beauty Than On Fashion
This is obviously specific for makeup artists, but I’m a makeup artist and makeup is what this blog is all about. The main thing about a book is that it should show a range of styles of both photography and makeup. HOWEVER when you’re first starting out, the most important thing you can show is your potential. You can’t dazzle anyone with your amazing tears yet, but you can impress someone with your creativity and talent. Therefore you need photographs that really showcase your makeup. Fashion shoots are fun and edgy and amazing, etc., but the focus of a fashion shoot is the clothes so they may not show what you need to show of your work. Also, fashion shoots are much more difficult to put together as you absolutely need a good stylist with access to great clothes to make it work. A beauty shoot just needs a good photographer, a strong model and you.

10 ) To Re-iterate: Avoid Internet Dependency
New models and new photographers all need photos for their books just like you do. You will be much better served working through agencies for your models and photography/art schools for young photographers. The internet is the wild west; people are not necessarily who they say they are nor are their intentions necessarily what they say they are. There is a lot of game-playing online. You want to align yourself with people who are serious and on the same page as you as soon as you can. You may meet people via online sources, but relationships are forged in real life.

Note: People are crazy. Be careful when you set up meetings via the internet. I always try to steer such meetings to public places rather than people’s homes, and I let friends/family know where I’m going, etc.

Some of My Own Testing Hits and Misses
(click to see larger images)

• This is a very very early test and it looks like it. Nothing is “wrong” with it, per se, but there is nothing great about it either. I was lucky that I worked with good photographers pretty much off the bat so the photograph is technically good (crisp, well lit, etc.). This particular photographer did have an affinity for shooting in front of the same red brick wall for EVERY shot so I suppose this is one of the lucky exceptions to that rule. LOL. Makeup-wise, the makeup is OK but the brows need work. In my early tests I didn’t pay enough attention to the hair. This particular shot of the model was not flattering (although others in this same shoot were better). It’s just an “eh” image overall.

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco © M. Kless makeup by tania d russell testing Follow Me on Pinterest

…a VERY early test shoot…© M. Kless


• Early “fashion” test. The problem is the fashion. Those clothes were dated 5 minutes after the shoot was finished. Also I once again did not pay enough attention to hair. Makeup is pretty good, at least from a distance. As this is a long shot you can’t really see the detail of the makeup work…

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco © V. Moller test makeup by tania d. russell testing Follow Me on Pinterest

Early “fashion” test. © V. Moller


• Presumably this was supposed to be edgy, but who knows WHAT I was thinking. The makeup actually is not bad at all, but that shirt is RiDICULOUS. Had I just pulled her hair back with bare shoulders this could have been a nice beauty shot. Instead it is ridiculous…

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco ©R. McCall Jones test makeup by tania d russell testing Follow Me on Pinterest

An early attempt at “edgy”… © R M Jones


• This was probably my first really good test. All elements – photography, makeup, hair, model and styling – came together and produced an image that served my portfolio for years…

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco ©d brooks makeup tania d russell testing Follow Me on Pinterest

…probably my first really good test. © D. Brooks


• A test I did last year. Quite a difference, no? My tests nowdays blend seemlessly into my book and no one can tell if it’s a test/editorial/catalog or advertising or what unless I tell them. This is what you ultimately want from your tests…

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco ©N Horne makeup hair by tania d russell testing Follow Me on Pinterest

A recent test shoot…


Resources for this Section:

Both of the following really cover the A – Z of becoming a professional, working makeup artist and include strong chapters on testing and building a portfolio.

Crystal Wright’s Hair Makeup & Fashion Styling Career Guide, 5th Editioncrystal a wright hair makeup and fashion styling career guide testing
Please go buy the Hair, Makeup and Wardrobe Career Guide written by Crystal A. Wright. There have been complaints in the past about slowness in sending out the books. She’s a micro-publisher and sometimes the timeline depends on her production schedule. If you have to wait, Wait. It WILL be worth it (and apparently her shipping problems ended in 2010 and she now has plenty of books in stock). Crystal has been a personal mentor to me and to a lot of us out here, and back when she published the first edition of The Guide there was almost NO information on how to go about becoming a makeup/hair/wardrobe artist on the print/agency side of the business. Almost all the info there was pertained more to the film/tv/union aspect, which is completely different. As a former agency owner (the Crystal Agency) her book gives great insight on becoming a Working Makeup Artist, Hair Stylist or Wardrobe Stylist from the viewpoint of a person whose job it was to get folks like us hired.

Shortcuts to a Successful Career As a Hairstylist or Make up Artist in the Fashion and Entertainmentshortcuts by diana schmidtke testing On the other side of the coin, Shortcuts is written by successful men’s groomer Diana Schmidtke. Her book is from the view point of a successful working artist and is filled with anecdotes of what it took to get where she is now. I have not personally read this book (I need to order it) but all the reviews I’ve read have been highly positive.

Next Installment: Basics of Marketing

Previous Installment: The Actual Portfolio

The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist 7.5 – The Actual Portfolio Book

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The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

In the previous installment of STWBAPA I talked about building a portfolio as part of becoming a professional makeup artist and I made mention of the difference between an “off the shelf (or off the rack)” portfolio book and a custom portfolio book, However I didn’t really go into it really and several folks wrote in asking for clarification. Here you go;

Off The Shelf

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco tania d russell itoya professional presentation book Follow Me on Pinterest

stock photo - Itoya Professional Presentation Portfolio Book - inset bound


Off the Shelf books are pre-made portfolio. They cannot be customized in any way; what you see is what you get. These are the kinds of books that you can get in your local art supply store. They generally come in Black and they are usually either permanently bound (like the pages of a book the pages are inset into the spine so they cannot be removed) or wire bound. Common brands of these kinds of portfolios are Itoya and Prat

The only real plus to the off the shelf books are the price. They are significantly less expensive than their custom counterparts, hence they are where many new artists start. IF you are going to go the off the shelf route, I would suggest getting a ring bound book as pictured below. The reason being that it is extremely important to keep your portfolio pages clean and when they get scuffed up, to replace them. You can’t do that on the permanently inset books. Also not every type of client needs to see every photo you’ve done. It’s important to tailor your presentation to who you are showing it to. Again, you can’t remove pages from the inset books so it’s more difficult to change the order of photos or to take photos out. Lastly, you never want to show someone a book filled with blank pages, which when you’re starting out you obviously aren’t going to have a lot of portfolio caliber photos. With the ring-bound books you can take out the empty pages, but with the inset books you cannot.

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco tania d russell Prat Premium Multi-Ring Binder Follow Me on Pinterest

stock photo - Prat Premium Multi-Ring Binder Portfolio - ring bound


Custom Books

Here again is my book.

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco tania d russell Outside cover of my Portfolio Book Follow Me on Pinterest

Outside cover of my Portfolio Book


This is a custom, faux-leather, 9×12 book that I ordered from JC Presentations (the book itself is actually 9.5 x 12.5 so as to accomodate 9×12 size prints. 9×12 is a standard Professional sized print). As you can see, there is a price difference. However ordering custom allows you – for a price – to tailor the book to your needs. Custom books are Post Bound meaning that the pages are set on posts in the binding. Therefore you can take out, change, remove pages as needed or desired, but when the book is closed it lays flat like an inset bound book. It looks much better as it doesn’t have visible binding like a wire-bound book. You can dictate size, the number of pages, the type of pages, what type of material your book will be (leather, faux leather, fabric, etc.), the color of your book etc. The representative can help you sort through all these options when you place your order. Whether you decide to get a Custom book now or later, eventually you will get a custom book. Customs are the Industry Standard and they are what agents expect their artists to have and what working professionals (photographers, art directors and others who may hire you) will expect to see.

There are 3 basic businesses from which most artist order their books. As I mentioned, I get my books from JC Presenations. I’ve been ordering from them since they were in operation under a different name and I can personally attest to the quality of their product and the excellence of their service. Also their prices are very good as custom books go. The other two main portfolio businesses are House of Portfolios and Brewer-Cantelmo. As you’ll note, they are all comperable in terms of product. House of Portfolio and JC Presentations are comperable in price, with Brewer-Cantelmo being a bit higher. I’ve hear various things about dealing with each company, and I’ve also heard that Brewer-Cantelmo’s books are amazing. I do not personally know, that is something you’ll have to research for yourself. Of the three I would say that House of Portfolios is probably the best known.

What size book do I get?
The standard sizes for makeup artists are 9×12 or 11×14, with 11×14 becoming the most popular. 8×10 books are completely passé, do not get an 8×10.

Do I Still Really Need A Book?
I say yes. Even though much of what happens these days happens digitally, I find that when I go to meet people the do expect for me to bring a book for them to look at. Printed photographs have much more detail than digital images on a screen. People like to really look closely at your work and study the details so right now I still say an artist should maintain a physical portfolio book in addition to their online presentation. Many predict that the newly released Apple iPad will become popular as presentation tools for in-person meetings, but that will remain to be seen. Even so, however, if the client asks you to leave your book behind for a few days so they can show it to other people in the company (which is common) would you really want to leave your expensive iPad? I would not.

What Color Book Should I Get?
You can get whatever color book you want when you order a custom book. The issue is the content. I agree with Crystal Wright (former agency owner and author of the ‘Hair, Makeup and Wardrobe Career Guide’ that newer artists would be best served to stick to Black or Brown. If you are going to have some wildly colored book that stands out, you’d better be sure that the work inside stands out as well. Save the Hot Pink book for when you have Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar covers inside.

How Many Photos Should I Have?
This really varies depending on who you ask. Some folks say you should have at least 10 great images to start approaching people for work and add 10 more tears (published work) when you start approaching agencies. Some say your should have less than 30 images, some say less than 40. 40 is a lot of pictures and those pictures better really be killing it if you are going to have that many in your book because otherwise folks will just be flipping through without really reading. One absolute rule of thumb that everyone agrees on: A portfolio book should be All Killer No Filler. Decision makers will ABSOLUTELY judge you on your WEAKEST image. That’s the one they are scared you are going to do if they hire you for a job. If you cannot stand 100% behind an image and say you love it, leave it out. More is NOT better when putting together your portfolio.

What’s The Difference Between Waxskin vs. Leather books or Acetate vs. Polyester Pages?
That’s all the technical stuff that you need to know before you order your book. House of Portfolios has an excellent FAQ that answers all of these questions. Scroll past the part about their ordering policies, etc. and you’ll see answers to questions about supplying materials, getting your name imprinted as well as the differences between the kinds of pages, etc. These types of questions are basics of how Custom books are made and the answers will apply regardless of where you decide to order your book.

Next Installment: Testing

Previous Installment: Portfolio Building

The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.