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home>>beauty & fashion>>professional>>professional.php

An Open Letter from the Professional Makeup Artist & Hair Stylist to the Assistant

As a professional photographic hair stylist and makeup artist for over 15 years, I spend a lot of time viewing portfolios for assistants, as well as showing my portfolio to clients and photographers. Here are a few ideas as to what I look for in a potential assistant's work, (and what you should look for in mine!)

A lot of people may have a 'I don't care' attitude about their personal appearance, but for me it's vital. A makeup/hair assistant's appearance is reflective of my image, as well as the photographer. When I'm dealing with a major national client, my image and everyone on my team must reflect that we not only know what's in style, but we know how to wear it. Appearance does count. A sloppy 'student' or punk look is an absolute no. No matter how great your book is.

When viewing a portfolio, I also check to see how it's put together. Is it sloppy? Messy, torn pages? Raggedly cut tears? It makes a big impression with me before I've even opened the book. If you don't care about your portfolio, why should I care about your work?

How diverse is your style? Everyone has a personal style in their work, and a portfolio that reflects that shows a professional no matter how long they've been working. But I also look to see diversity within that style. Is there a natural look, as well as the all out glamour? How far can you go with it? There's really no right or wrong, just show me YOUR version. Also be honest about your work. I can tell a 'fake' tear a mile away, and I can also tell when you've stolen another person's work. Being in the business, I read absolutely every single magazine out there, including the credit lines, so believe me, if it's not your work, I'll know it.

Are tears really that important? For an assistant, no. I know you're starting out, and I'm not really looking at who you've worked for. I'm more interested in how good your technique is.

So far so good, right? Okay, down to the nitty gritty. Now we get to the actual work. Your actual technique.


How perfect can you get SKIN to look? Even skin tone? Blemishes gone? I'm talking PERFECT. And if it looks like alot of foundation or powder on the face, forget it. Yeah, I know lighting is part of making skin look good, but how well did you do YOUR part?

Everything. Your technique may be good, but blending everything well makes your work go from good, to great. If I see any hard edges or sharp, splotchy lines... that tells me you're a beginner.

The hardest thing to do, yes. Are they perfect? No bleeding. Even lines. Perfect lip shape. If you can do a perfect lip line, you're hired. That's because I know how hard it is to do. Realize that a top client even with thousands of dollars in the budget, does not want to spend $1,000+ JUST to retouch the lips.


Is the hair just messy? it may be in right now, but even the messy look is still 'put together'. There's a balance to it. No frizziness, and definitely no 'bird's nest do'.

Go ahead, do that crazy hairstyle that you saw in Italian Vogue. That's usually the shot that I'll remember you by. The one where I'll stop and go 'wow'. I'll remember your name. But 99% of the time, that's not what I'm looking for on a job. Unless of course, I just happen to get Italian Vogue!

No, I don't mean the head itself, but the hair. You know, where you can see a hole right in the middle of the hairstyle ... a no-no. Another no-no is flyaways. A perfect clean hair style is supposed to be just that. Clean. A frizzy hair ruined your picture? Get it retouched. Believe me, that's the only hair on the whole head that I'll see, the one that got away.

Short hair, long hair, straight, curly, glamorous, casual. Show me all of it. If I see it, I'll know you can do it.

How well does your hair and makeup work go with the complete image? The majority of the work out there is not that illusive cosmetic client, but clothing,accessories, products. YOUR work is not important, but making the client look better is. Can you do that without your work taking over the picture? I've seen dark, dark red lips witha soft pastel sun dress. ?? What are you thinking? It doesn't work. Balance is everything. If you did your job, the point is for everybody to remember an amazing picture. THAT'S the shot people remember.

EVERYTHING matters in the picture in your portfolio. The model, the lighting, the photographer, the wardrobe... everything. If a single element in the shot doesn't work, don't put it in. One thing off can ruin a great shoot. Don't compromise. I've done many a shoot where everything was incredible, from the photographer, the wardrobe, hair/makeup, but the model was just too green to pull it off in the final proof sheets. Doesn't matter that the gown was a $8,000 Donna Karan, it still doesn't go in the book.

How current is your work? Does it look outdated or 5 years old? Get rid of it. Be current, show me that you know what's out there.

Attitude is everything. I'm hiring someone to be part of my team, and if we get along, you will work. I'm not hiring you to steal my client, kiss up to the photographer, and take over the shoot. Realize that my portfolio and my work is what got you this job. I need to make sure that the client or the photographer gets what they hired me for. And I need to make sure that I get what I hired you for. Your assistance! And by all means, be NICE! Yeah, yeah, everyone else has an attitude, but not you. The last thing I need is a bitchy assistant. Be nice to EVERYONE, don't complain, and if there's a problem, come to me! Not the photographer, not the client, not the model. DId the client or the photographer have a question? Come to me first. I'll let you know what to do. Be aware, that all the things that I'm looking for in an assistant; a potential client or photographer will look for in you as well.

Extra Tips and techniques

Do you have a model that you know gets shiny in 15 minutes flat? Here's how to keep makeup looking shine-free for hours, without packing on powder every 10 minutes. Apply a very light layer of loose powder 1st, with a powder brush, before any foundation or concealer. Then apply your makeup as usual on top. That light layer of powder will grab shine before it can break through the makeup.

Have a really long shoot ahead? Rather than apply alot of powder along the way (which results in a cakey look fast), apply a little loose powder on a clean face with a damp makeup sponge. By applying it wet, you'll keep skin matte longer, without having to retouch as often. To upkeep, just very lightly brush on loose powder lightly through out the shoot. This technique keeps makeup set and looking clean for hours.


About The Author
Article written by E. Von Freudenberg, Editor of The Beauty Newsletter: For a free subscription, email

Ms. Von Freudenberg is also a top celebrity makeup artist whose work has been seen in Allure, W, Rolling Stone, Paper, Detour and many more. Von Freudenberg Ent. All Rights Reserved.

The information of this page is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for your dermatologist's or professional's advice or treatment. For further details, please read our disclaimer.

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