How to get the perfect make-up on a hair shoot

Lan Nguyen-Grealis is an incredibly busy make-up artist on shoots and shows, editor of Phoenix and writer of the book, Art & Make-Up. She tells us how to get the cosmetic balance right on a hair shoot…

“One of the best jobs for a make-up artist is to work closely with hairdressers on hair shoots – both go hand in hand. It’s a time to explore new concepts and skills if the brief fits. However it can be easy to go all out with the make-up idea and over power the image, which isn’t always the best option. Teamwork and prep is the key, but also to have plenty of open ideas and options incase it doesn’t work on the day.

“Sometimes the hair will not be as planned, or the model may not look a certain way or even the lighting might not work, but when it comes to make-up, the bottom line is that it should be beautiful and work in balance with the hair. In fact, make-up is the glue that merges the look together, especially in a hair shoot, as it can be the difference of a good image or great image.

“I prefer the ‘less is more’ approach for hair shoots, as I like to step back once the hair is finished and ask myself some vital questions: Does it feel beautiful? Do all the features look good and well balanced? Could I make it stronger? Can I add anything that will make it better? Once the first light check has been done, this is a good opportunity to evaluate the shot and discuss as a team if it works and if the model looks their best.

“Most of the time I have an idea of what I want to create on the model based on the brief, but often I’ll decide on the final look when I have seen the model on the day. I like to tweak an idea but it needs to suit the model. It’s always great to have a creative vision, but sometimes the model might just be the wrong face for that look. It’s better to actually strip back and create either an eye or a lip, or something quite natural. Combined with strong hair, it can be so beautiful.

“When applying a strong statement make-up look, it’s important that it relates to the hair and doesn’t detract or overpower, especially if it’s a strong hair colour. These can often date the image, so I like to keep it my focus on beauty – I certainly never think the shoot is about my make-up, and you must ensure any make-up artist you work with respects that too.

“These certainly aren’t hard and fast rules, but here are some of my essential tips so that you don’t get a crazy hundreds-and-thousands-glued lip ruining your hair shoot!

  • With black and white photography, the focus is either eye or lips; always work with a view to having strong black to white areas as everything in between gets lost in the light. Definition and graphic is usually a good way to go.
  • Colourful hair and photography that involves coloured backgrounds and gels can be either graphic or pretty, but too much colour can be overkill. It’s often best to try and keep it as simple and clean as possible, as this can also date the image. Sometimes less is more here, especially with a bold hair colour or hairstyle.
  • Avant Garde looks can be a great opportunity to push the make-up in more of a clever statement, but often its important to check overall if it needs strong make-up. Sometimes the looks are so detailed and already very strong that it’s better to go more beautiful and natural to complement.
  • Hair campaign shoots are all about selling the hair, so make-up should certainly be on the same level and well balanced. It should be strong enough to make an impact, but soft and beautiful enough that it doesn’t start selling the make-up. Usually the more neutral choices for eyes and lips are the key.”

Toni&Guy 2017

Make-up: Lan Nguyen-Grealis
Photography: John Rawson
Toni&Guy photography: Andrew O’Toole