Makeup Artist’s Ethics On Set: How To Keep A Gig

IMG_0538Have you ever wondered why some makeup artists get hired over and over again and some only get hired once? It takes much more than just being amazing with your brushes. I hope that this post helps you improve as a professional and get more work.

As soon as you start planning a photo shoot, doesn’t matter if it’s a test or a paid gig, you will be evaluated by the team members. So, it’s very important to make the best first impression possible. The photographer, the hair stylist, the wardrobe people will be watching you and every little detail can make it or break it for you. Here are some things I consider the most important in making a great first impression and secure your relationship that will guarantee future work:

1. Communication.

Even before the actual shoot date it’s very important to be easy to reach and responsive. People appreciate good communication that makes the planning go smoothly and stress free.

2. Punctuality

Appreciate everyone’s time and be on time or even 10-15 minutes early on set. If you’re running late, which is quite possible if you live in a large city like Los Angeles or New York, make sure you notify the photographer or the person who is responsible for planning the shoot, in advance.

2. Personal appearance.

As beauty professionals, we must set an example and be pleasant to work with. I’m not saying you have to wear a full face of makeup, in reality, most professional makeup artists don’t, but having a nice fresh face, manicured nails and clean styled hair will help people trust you. I would also recommend to not wear strong perfumes on set. You will be working with a team of people and you definitely don’t want to irritate anyone with an overbearing scent. One tip I learned from an amazing photographer Julia Kuzmenko ( is to wear dark clothes on set. That way your outfit’s colors won’t reflect on the model’s skin when you’re standing out of the frame and the flash goes off.

3. Keep it clean!

IMG_9807.jpg IMG_9811.jpg   Photos by Vlada Haggerty

I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your kit and brushes clean and sanitized. Make sure you sanitize your brushes and products throughout the shoot and it is better if your client or the model sees it. Don’t let anyone assume anything, especially if this is your first time working with the team. I always carry my favorite brush cleaner by Cinema Secrets (it dries immediately, so you can clean the brush and use it seconds later) and 99% alcohol that I keep in a spray bottle (UPDATE: it was brought to my attention that 99% alcohol evaporates too quickly and it’s better to use 70% alcohol instead). Important thing to remember that bacteria don’t just live on the brush bristles, but can also spread to the brush handle. It’s very important to sanitize the entire brush.

4. Know what’s appropriate.

Morgan_0046-web.jpg Lauren_0099-web_new.jpg

Photos and post by Julia Juzmenko (
Model: Morgann of Nous Model Management

The best skill you can develop as a professional makeup artist is knowing what type of makeup is appropriate for a certain job. If you go too heavy on the makeup for a commercial shoot, most likely they will have you change it and chances are, they won’t call you again. There is time and place for creative makeup and that is what the test shoots are for. On a commercial shoot clean makeup is what the client usually wants, so try to master it as soon as possible. If you are not sure, ask for reference photos.

5. Put your phone down.

Don’t be on your phone when the model is in front of the camera. Makeup artist’s work doesn’t end when the makeup is done. Your best place on set is right next to the photographer at all times. It’s not easy for a photographer to take care of the lighting, framing, focus and making sure the background looks right. With all of this, they won’t necessarily see every single makeup detail that might need fixing. Trust me, a photographer will appreciate you taking the time to fix a little smudge on the lips or blotting some shine or even fixing a stray hair, because it will save them a lot of time in the post production! Don’t wait to be called to fix something, be one step ahead at all times.

5. “No amount of makeup can mask an ugly heart”- Kevyn Aucoin.

IMG_9577-3.jpgPhoto and makeup by Vlada Haggerty

I’m convinced that your personality and ethics are 80% responsible for getting you rehired. As much as we all care about being technical and perfect at our skill, being a nice and pleasant person to work with is just as important, if not more.

These are the areas that I personally focus on and have found to be the most important for maintaining work as a professional makeup artist. That being said, I believe that these qualities apply across the board in life.

What other things do you think are important? Let me know in the comments!


20 thoughts on “Makeup Artist’s Ethics On Set: How To Keep A Gig

  1. This was so helpful! Currently in a situation where I need all tips to possibly land a job. Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge. We need more artist like you that share with us newbies. Love all your work Vlada!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Makeup Artist’s Ethics on Set By Vlada Haggerty – Master Beauty Photography
    • Thank you, Nicole! That’s a good advice, I always thought the higher the concentration, the better. But after doing some research, I agree with you. I’ll update my article!


  3. I am so glad you posted this. I completely appreciate it, it’s so true. Everytime I get booked I try to be early and help out when makeup is done. Whether it’s lighting or even standing by when no one asks to be accessible. It makes a world of a difference, plus if your smiling and generally helpful it relieves your own stress too. Good job!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, with powder products I usually wipe the pans and spray them with alcohol until wet and let them dry before and after I use them. With creams, I never double dip and always scoop them out on a palette. Bacteria grows faster on a cream product.


  4. Hi Vlada,

    I found you on your photographers website and have been educating myself of the business side. Thank you for all this advice.
    What I want to know is how do you get dripping lips? What products do you use? And how do you achieve flawless dewy skin. What products do you use? Thank you so much for your generous spirit!!!

    Warm Regards,

    Guistina Chirco


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