Creating a Make Up Artist Portfolio

What can I expect when I’m finished with my training or education?

Before we get into what you can expect, it’s better to make sure you know what not to expect. Regardless of what field of makeup you go into, you need experience.

In fashion, you will need to work as an intern or apprentice. In beauty, you will need to start small, like working in a salon or day spa, or even a makeup counter at a mall. Either way, you will need put your training into practice. In film and entertainment – well, you’re going to have to work hard. It has been said that in Hollywood it’s not what you know but who you know. While that is absolutely true in almost every respect, if you’re talented there are ways around it. There is always a way and if you’ve got the determination and the clout to be diligent, you’ll get there. Do NOT expect your school to get you a job. It has remained to be seen that any makeup academy or school does job placement. That part is up to you. Once you’ve gone through your training and certification and have a good grasp on what it means to be a makeup artist, you are going to need to build up a portfolio.

How to Get Work and Build Up Your Makeup Portfolio

Though this section of JobMonkey focus’ primarily on working as a makeup artist in film, there are endless avenues to explore in terms of getting experience and building up your portfolio.

Do I have to work for free?

You never HAVE to work for free but often because of your lack of experience it doesn’t hurt. This doesn’t confine you to a world of freeloaders, it honestly will give you a well-rounded background and practical on-the-job training. In order to find work, you can go to any active Film School and offer your services. In turn, it is best to ask for a written document giving you permission to use images from the job OR ask them to sign an agreement that you will receive a copy of the film OR project you’re working on. You always want to put things in writing because unfortunately, people say a lot of things and don’t always follow through. Student films or projects, such as fashion students, will always be a great way to also make connections. Most of the time, student projects will lead to future projects that are financed.

In the beginning you will be more timid with your work but in time, your confidence will build and when you’re ready to approach film, you’ll know or someone will give you the opportunity. From personal experience, I have found that as a makeup artist who has worked in film you have to let go of pride and drop your ego before going for work. You cannot have a bad attitude or an attitude of entitlement because that will only get you fired and in film or fashion, you do not want to be fired. It rarely leads to future work. You will learn so much by doing and in the process learn a lot about yourself. Being “green” (as is the term used for “new to the business”) simply means that you’re primed to learn. Take advantage of that because you won’t always have that leeway.

How do I get professional pictures of my work for my portfolio?

Most photographers will work with you. If you need to build up a portfolio and have some innovative or new ideas, a photographer is an artist and they love doing new things. It’s even better if they don’t have to pay you (as sad as that sounds). So research photographers, come up with some ideas that can feature your talents, and tell them you want to shoot with them. Sometimes you have to convince them. This is where it is good to have gone to through a film program – one of the luxuries of being in a film program or in a school that has an extensive art program is inevitably you WILL meet photographers. If you want to get into fashion, find a student photographer who’s work you like and work with them so you both build up a portfolio. A key factor in any industry when you’re beginning is barter. If you can trade services so both parties benefit, it will work.

Can I work for a local theater?

Absolutely! Local theaters generally like volunteer staff and makeup artists are hard to come by. If you think you want to work in that form of entertainment or just want to get your feet wet, local theater is a wonderful venue. You will be among a multi-creative staff, pick up some good and professional habits, work as an understudy for a key makeup artist, and begin to learn the importance of lighting, albeit for the stage. Any live training is going to leave a mark on you and train you for film. Because film can seem a lot like theater (with the absence of familiarity), there are still lighting factors, the meaning of story, acting, and learning how each part of the machine fits together. In essence, volunteer! You will never regret it and chances are you will learn more than you ever imagined.

Can I work at a makeup counter at Nordstroms or Barney’s?

Yes. You don’t need any training to work at a makeup counter primarily because the company you’ll represent wants to train you to do makeup the way they want you to do makeup.

It’s a good way to learn customer skills and technique, but the one key factor you will be missing is learning how to do makeup for camera or on film. That will not work to your advantage in terms of building a portfolio. In terms of portfolio, you need to have something solid to show your actual work. However, you may want to work for a specific makeup line and if you know that, don’t waste time, go directly where you want to work and start however far down the food chain you need to. If you are hardworking and innovative you will get where you want – and chances are you will have some incredible mentors along the way.

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