working as a makeup artist

How I Started Out in the Wonderful World of Makeup

Growing up makeup had never been a career I had considered. It had never come up in those weird job match/career match software programmes in school and even though from a young age I had been competent with makeup, I just didnt think about it.

So how did I end up here? At 16 I stayed on at 6th form and did an Advanced GNVQ in Health and Social Care. From there I went to university and studied a BA in Childhood Studies. I lasted a year and a half before it became very, very apparent that this wasn't the way I wanted my life to go.


College work still inspires me now.
So I left. I took a year out and worked in a video rental store (which to this day aside from makeup is my favourite job of all time!) while I tried to figure a few things out. I went through all my interests and things I excelled in at school and started to narrow things down. I made a list and crossed things off and in the end I had two things left on there. Movies and fashion/clothing. I was (and still am) a very good sewer and I got consistently good results in textiles during school. So I set about gathering prospectus's of colleges offering a costume design course. It was during this research that I found a course at Hugh Baird College for Media and Special Effects Makeup. On the list of course objectives was a section about putting together a complete character including costume. When I mentioned it to Mum she became more excited than I had ever seen her and said she just "knew" that was the way I should go. Which was perfect because for some reason, so did I. 

I applied for the level 2 (and went on to do 3) a little later than everyone else, as I was still desperately searching for the right path but the course adviser (Sara) was utterly fabulous, interviewed me and let me start asap. It worked out about 2 weeks after everyone else. From the word go, I knew I had made the right decision. Makeup just came naturally to me and I found it was a skill that must have been running through my blood without me ever knowing. I had always been able to do my own makeup nicely, but pro artists know that's not always an indication of anything. My mum told me during this time that I was always good with makeup when I was little,  and she would often let me do her lipstick and eye makeup before she went out!

This was almost 10 years ago now. Not only did I learn the most valuble hair skills I could ever wish for but I made lifelong friends and I still miss my college years. It was quite simply, wonderful. 2 years immersed in makeup and hair and monsters and beauty. Towards the end of the two years, I suddenly realised that come kicking out time, there was going to be 30 or so other newly trained artists all looking for work. So, I hit the internet. I read everything I could get my hands on about what it meant to be a professional artist and how I could get there. Unfortunately, this side of the makeup course was sadly lacking and we really received no guidance in real working world scenarios. It was then that I came across what became my holy grail of information and that is the FAQ section of this forum EmElle's Industry Forums Forums. I read it inside out and back to front. Then over again. I searched and took notes and made a real business plan. It was here I learnt about the importance of networking and building my portfolio BEFORE my course finished. I needed something tangible to hit the ground running. 

My first ever shoot. Shot in my living room
modelled by my best friend.
I searched some more and found some semi pro photographers in my area. I contacted them and explained that I was in college and sent some of my college shots through. I asked if I could meet them and chat about testing with them. For any really new artists reading this a "test" is just that. You, the model, the stylist and photographer all give their time to test out a concept, lighting set up or just the team dynamic. Some photographers will give you images on a CD once they have chosen them others will give you prints and sometimes you will have to pay for the prints yourself either directly from the photographer or from a print lab. Make sure you agree the terms before your shoot so you know where you stand and avoid crossed wires.

I found a photographer who was willing to give me a shot and I worked with him a lot building my book and in turn getting experience and improving my skills. I also started to contact working artists and assisting them. I got the chance to shadow some amazing artists who I learned more from in one day than my whole two years at college, one of which was the off the scale talented Rachel Wood.

Early test shot with a photographer I ended up working (paid)
on multiple jobs and throughout Europe. Shot by Bruce Smith.

Things I learnt During This Time:


1. DO be proactive and contact people whose work catches your eye. If you don't ask you don't get and you have nothing to lose.
2. DON'T work with people that will not benefit your book or your contacts. Concentrate your time on real world, working creative's OR students like yourself with masses of potential.
3. DON'T take paying jobs for free/reduced rates because you are new or a student. You undercut pro artists in your area which will make you very unpopular very quickly and it saturates and dilutes the potential for decent paying work for everyone. You will be in over your head and one mistake on a job could tar your reputation for ever. I am not even being remotely dramatic.
4. DO use your tests to develop the skill of restraint. Crazy, creative makeup is always the most fun but if you're building a book with an aim to work you need clean, wearable, commercial looks. Look at top creative agencies and aim for looks that wont look out of place on their books. (A quick Google search for "makeup artist agent London" will bring up lots of examples).
5. DO "test up"...This phrase was handed to me from an artist I considered to be a "mentor from afar" when I was starting out. The crazy brilliant Tania D Russell. In fact I am probably subconsciously ripping off all of her advice in this blog. Testing up means always go for better models, better photographers, better stylists. Make each shoot better than the last. Its the only way you can progress. 
6. DON'T BE SCARED. You really have nothing to lose by contacting photographers and working artists and everything to gain. Fear of failure will only ever make you fail. Its a vicious cycle.
Another early shoot. This image got me more
work than any other at that time. Shot by
Chris Rout.
7. DO fill your time constructively. If you aren't physically working then work on working. (emails, phone calls, website, blog, youtube etc. )  Make sense? Good.
8. DO get a senior artist to critique your work. It can be hard to open up your work to criticism at first but if you take on board what is said without taking it personally or being defensive, you will grow as an artist. I still have my peers look over shots I am not sure on and always, always take their advice. Never stop learning.
9. DON'T take everything at face value or pit yourself against others. What I mean by this is; just because someone is pumping out behind the scenes tweets of all the fabulous "jobs" they are doing or adds the word "celebrity" in front of makeup artist, the proof is in their work. If their website looks like it was knocked up by a glitter obsessed teenager, they have no celebrities in any of their pictures (and I am not talking about meet and greet style pics either) or they are claiming EstΓ©e Lauder campaigns when they can barely manage an eyebrow/hold a camera steady then move on. Focus on you and your career and leave them to it.
10. DO be nice. Its a simple rule. Talent is half the battle but being nice and pleasant to have on set will get you rebooked more than your work. I see artists all the time whose work is lovely but not outstanding and they work 7 days a week, 365 days a year because people like them. They are nice people and deserve that success.

From those first initial tests I was able to approach local agencies who put me in touch with their photographers and allowed me access to their models. I did 6 months on counter with the wonderful Bobbi Brown cosmetics to build my kit and gain invaluable experience, the rest followed. The more I worked the better my book became. I got a great website and had high Google rankings so the work kept coming. The rest as they say is history!

As usual, any questions or comments I love to read them so email me (through my site) or pop them in the comments box or if you fancy it, tweet me @lucyferrr.


Printed Portfolio Books


A lovely reader had some questions about the use of printed portfolio books so I thought it would make a great blog post!

My Book: Glossy white 11x14.
My printed book (pictured left) is 11 x 14 inches and made by Pina Zangaro) . This seems to be the most common, standard size that our industry uses. It is by no means absolute though. I have known some photographers to have huge printed books because of the high impact and detail it gives when they are showing their work and likewise I have seen beautiful smaller 8 x 10 books. Its a personal preference at the end of the day.

Inside my book the prints are all 11x14 and fill the wallets as you can see in this picture. However makeup artist Vanessa Collins (see her print book and link further down) chose 8.5x11 for her prints so that they look uniform against her tear sheets from magazines and print campaigns. Such a brilliant idea that had never occurred to me!


 


I think the most important aspect of your printed book should be the print and work quality within it. Don't scrimp on your prints! Always go with the highest quality that your budget allows. If to start with that's only a few pounds then hunt down the best, budget printers you can find. Local independent labs can often be both high quality and low cost and many will do a deal with you should you be printing off lots of pictures at once. My favourite high end printers is The Print Space. They are by no means cheap but the quality is unparalleled in my opinion. I know a lot of photographers that use them too.

Matte or glossy prints? 

Again, its personal preference I think. I prefer the way makeup looks in a matte print. I also think that once you add the glossy wallet over the top, glossy prints can give off too much glare. Go with what you prefer.

How many prints?

Here is the philosophy I work to:

It is better to have 5 stunning pictures than 15-20 average ones.


In my book at the moment I have 26 shots of my absolute best work. No fillers. No mediocre tear sheets "just for the sake of it". No outdated looks or weak models. You are only as good as your weakest shot. Remember that. As your work grows and you expand your portfolio by working with better teams, then add and replace. Constantly work on your book to make it the absolute best it can look. Furtermore, you should be tailoring your book depending on the client you are going to see. Research the client and see what their usual preference is. If its clean and pretty then a book full of creative colourful work will either scare them or make them think you arent the right fit for them. Just like a book full of clean commercial work wont float the boat of a high fashion, editorial photographer.

Where and what to buy?

There are so many options when it comes to buying your portfolio book it can seem a bit daunting. One of my favourite companies is Brewer-Cantelmo. The choice and diversity of the books they offer is amazing and there is truly something for everyone. One of my first books was from them. It was a raspberry red fabric 11x14 embossed book. It was beautiful. Beautiful and totally impractical. The realisation of this was something quite heart breaking as I spent a lot of money on it. The fabric meant that as soon as it was handled a lot, the natural oils and grubbiness of peoples hands marked and stained the fabric and made it impossible to keep looking clean and professional. The slightest mark looked like a massive stain and made it rather stressful when I went on go sees to show my book. That's when I switched to the book I have now. Because its acrylic its wipe clean and the scratches don't show due to its glossy white finish.

Fellow Makeup Artist's book
When choosing your book its so easy to go with something visually stunning that matches your style. Whether that's bright red PVC (like my current iPad case ;) ) or purple suede (swoon!) but the practicalities of carrying your book around whilst lots of people touch it means that, unfortunately plain leather or acrylic is the most practical. Take Vanessa Collins (all round kick ass makeup artist) for example. Her book in the following picture is 11 x 14, black embossed leather. It looks smart, neat and professional. I would also say that 90% of the creatives I know have a black, leather book. Leather looks nice as it ages and handling leather books actually keeps them soft and lush looking.


Digital Books and alternative presentation

Ipad Portfolio
There is also a current "Digital Revolution" happening (just in case you hadn't noticed haha!) and many people are switching from printed books, to ipad/tablet books. I currently have some of my book on my iPad and should probably get a move on and transfer all of my book over so I have the option of showing my portfolio when I'm not expecting to. I wont give up my printed book anytime soon because it looks so pretty...I mean its still the industry standard. Obviously. Ahem. Having your portfolio on your smartphone or tablet device is a really convenient way of showing your work on the fly. It means you always have it to hand, which can only be a good thing.


My friend and all time favourite photographer Keith Clouston has an innovative and rather genius way of showing his book. You can see it on the following video by Pixiwoo's Sam Chapman. This way of promoting your book not only shows the client how your work actually looks in a "magazine" style setting but you can also leave a physical copy of it with them for their reference! Cool huh?




Any questions or comments please leave them below!