Senior Portrait Hair & Makeup Guide 

Hey girls! This is Kelly writing. I am the studio coordinator at Vernon Photography and through the years of assisting Andrew with Senior Portraits I have seen a lot of make up that photographs well, and a lot that doesn’t! So I decided to help you make the most of your Senior Portraits starting with your beautiful faces!

The most important thing to remember is we want to photograph you! So when doing your make up, stick to what you are comfortable with. As a studio, we aim to create portraits that look like we caught you on your best day! So instead of completely changing your look for your portrait session, maybe just step it up a notch! Besides, who doesn’t love getting all made up?

Want some inspiration?

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4 Mistakes to Avoid for a Killer Portrait Session by Jessica Belknap

#1 - Overplucking Your Eyebrows


I have some great news for those of you who have been on the fence about getting your brows shaped before your portrait session: full brows are in!

There is no need to stress about achieving that perfectly plucked and sculpted look for your photo shoot. Natural brows are beautiful.

Properly shaped brows draw attention to one’s eyes and balance other facial features. If you are unsure what look is best suited to your particular face, an eyebrow expert/artist will be able to determine the ideal shape and strength of brow for your particular face.

If your eyebrows really need to be tamed have them professionally shaped about one week before your scheduled photo session. Be sure to find someone who will help you even to maintain a natural and full look. You may need to pluck out a few stray hairs the day before your photo shoot, but getting your brows professionally shaped ahead of time will ensure that any post-waxing or plucking irritation that could occur is healed before your close-up.

As women age, their eyebrows thin and lighten. So live it up while you are young by rocking a fuller brow for your senior portraits, and capture your 17 year-old natural beauty.

#2 - Over Scrubbing, Washing & Drying Out Zits

 Acne can be frustrating and painful, but over-drying your skin will only make the breakouts worse, and will make applying makeup more difficult. During the days and weeks leading up to your portrait session, don’t over-wash or over-medicate your skin by applying topical acne medications more often than prescribed or recommended.
I always recommend that my seniors avoid applying any drying topical cream to their face altogether within 24 hours of their shoot.
What can you do keep your skin hydrated and healthy?
1. Drink plenty of water. This will hydrate your whole body, including your skin, and will help flush out toxins.
2. Apply an all-natural facial moisturizer after washing your face, morning and night. It may seem counterintuitive, but applying an all-natural moisturizer to your face will protect and sooth your skin. It will also discourage your own skin from producing excess oil which, in turn, may cause bacteria build up and clog pores.
Don’t worry, you do not have to purchase expensive face creams or lotions in order to keep the skin on your face and body hydrated and protected. You can purchase some wonderful all-natural moisturizers at your local grocery store. I love using organic coconut oil. It is a beautiful facial moisturizer for anyone, but particularly young people who are struggling with acne. Coconut oil is naturally antibacterial and has anti-inflammatory properties. Dab a bit on any breakouts in the evening and let the oil hydrate and heal those bumps while you sleep.

#3 - Changing Your Skincare Routine

Don’t change your skincare routine within two weeks of your photo session. Maybe you have been dying to try that new facial mask (cream, lotion, toner, etc.) that worked so well for your friend, but now is not the time! If you aren’t actively experiencing a negative reaction from your current regimen, stick with what is working and change it up after your photo shoot. Especially if you tend to have sensitive, reactive, or acne-prone skin, and it is within two weeks of your photo shoot, it is best to wait. It would not be fun to show up to your senior portrait session covered in hives, angry acne bumps, or with a dry and peeling face because you just had to try that new product and your skin wasn’t happy about it.
If you are still a month of two away from your session, and you feel like your skin may look and feel healthier with a different skincare regimen or cosmetic product, try it for one week and see how it goes. If you do not see an improvement or your skin acts up, you will still have time to return to your previous routine. 

#4 - Trying Out a Brand New Makeup or Hairstyle Before the Photoshoot

Fashion magazines, blogs, twitter, and Pinterest are great resources for gaining some hair and makeup inspiration. And it is a great idea to put together a style/inspiration board for a photo shoot. We all love a good tangerine lip or smoky eye on occasion, but your senior portraits are not the best place to try those things out for the first time. If you are considering styling your hair in a new way, or wearing a different shade of lip gloss for your photo session, try it out in the weeks leading up to your shoot. A hairstyle or makeup look may be an absolute work of art, but your photos should show the best version of and a good reflection of YOU. Remember: your grandma wants to recognize the girl in your senior photos! If you are hiring a professional makeup artist to do your hair and makeup for your photos, be sure to communicate with them. All makeup artists will want to know three things: 1. Do you have any allergies of which he/she should be aware? 2. Do you wear makeup on a daily basis? If yes, what style and colors? 3. Do you have any particular looks in mind for the shoot? When in doubt, stick with a clean, fresh, natural makeup look and you will love your senior portrait images all year and beyond. 

Top Tips for Your Senior Portraits 

  • Wax your eyebrows (if you regularly do it) 3-4 days before coming in, so the redness is totally gone.
  • Apply your makeup in natural light (Think Window light instead of Fluorescent)
  • Use matte makeup and avoid shimmer!
  • If you just HAVE to have the shimmers, pick one make up product to contain shimmer… eyes, lips or cheeks. But don’t do all 3!
  • If your skin tends to be oily, don’t feel weird about bringing Oil blotting cloths. You’ll be glad you did (especially if we’re going outdoors)
  • Apply your makeup & take a Selfie! Make sure you like what you see! 🙂
  • Stay true to you! Don’t try a hairstyle, cut or color that you’ve never worn!
  • If you aren’t into styling your hair, at least make sure it is dry and brushed for your photos. Knotted, tangled hair does not photograph well!
  • Feel free to bring your hairspray with you to touch your hair up in-between outfits. *This doesn’t include the drier, or irons, please have your hair styled before you arrive*
  • If you come with clips, barrettes, or headbands in your hair, please know that we cannot retouch those out!
  • If you’re blonde and using bobby pins, get the blonde ones! If you have darker hair, use the brown pins.

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We cannot stress this enough: If you color your hair make sure to have that done at least a week before your session, this will give your color time to settle in.

I wouldn’t recommend making any drastic changes right before your photos. Just incase you hate it! We’ve all been there….

Products, products, products. Don’t even get me started on the importance of good hair products; I could go on for hours! As a licensed Cosmetologist, I have seen the power of good products! So I am going to list a few that I love, and that work really well, as well as how and when to use them (or something like them!) . I am going to show you all from Redken (because I love Redken, but you can find comparable products!) The numbers on the products go from 0-28, to show how strong the hold is. It gets your hair ready to hold the style you want.
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I recommend always putting something in your hair BEFORE you blow-dry. It’s like the basecoat of nail polish. We all know the difference that makes!
So here are a few favorites:

Extreme Anti-Snap – This is something I use daily. It goes in your hair when it is wet (1-2 pumps) and then you blow-dry, or air dry.
It will strengthen your hair and help with shine. And it smells like an Air Head candy.

Extreme Anti-Snap
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Satinwear 02 – This is something you can use in place of the Anti-Snap, it does the same thing, you use it the same way, but it adds some heat protection. That means when you blow-dry your hair the heat of the drier won’t be damaging. You know the steam you see when you blow-dry or straighten and curl? If you don’t have any protecting product on your hair…the steam is literally your hair burning. But, if you use a heat protecting product, the steam is the product working to protect! Isn’t that great!
Satinwear 02
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Aerate 08 – This product is like a Gel, Mousse all in one. It is super light weight, so it will work in any hair type. I have thin, fine hair and this doesn’t weigh it down, but I have used it on clients with massive amounts of hair and the end result is just as beautiful. Use a “quarter sized” amount, rub it into your hands then run your fingers through your hair, starting from the ends and up to your roots. This goes in wet, and then you blow-dry. You can also you spray Mouse, any kind of Gel, or even Paste! My favorite Paste is Mess Around 10, you can use it in wet hair for blow-drying or on dry hair for texture!
Aerate 08

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Now that you have the products in your hair, its time to dry it! I only use round brushes, they give volume and help get your hair smooth and create shine, who doesn’t love shiny hair? There are a ton of brushes out there, so use what you know! Section your hair from the bottom up, and work your way up to the top. The more control you have of your hair the better it will turn out. Start at the roots and work down, try to keep the air blowing DOWN your hair instead of up. This will help to cut down on frizz and fly-a-way. Practice makes perfect!

Blow DryingRound Brushes
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So now your hair is all dry, and gorgeous I am sure. You can either leave it how it is, just put a little hair spray and walk out the door; you can use the Flat Iron to straighten, or Curling Iron/Wand. So many options! The products you use next will depend on what you want your finished look to be.

Iron Shape 11 – If you want to Flat-Iron or Curl, make sure you use a product that will protect your hair from the heat. I would hate for you to come in for your session with little fried ends! This is a great product because it is lightweight and wont leave your hair crunchy, it has good hold though, and it smells good (the scent is just as important (: ) I spray it over my head then flip upside down and spray the bottom, also spray a little in-between the top and bottom. You don’t need a lot, if you spray too much your hair will get wet, that’s not what you want! If you know your hair doesn’t hold curls well, but that’s the look you want for your photos use something with more styling hold, like Hot Sets 22. Once you curl your hair, while it’s still warm, run your fingers through it. This will make sure your curls and soft and crunchy!

Iron Shape 11
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I told you I love products. There is one for everything! These last 3 are ones you can use to set everything and keep it looking good on your way here!

Wax Blast 10 – I love this one, and it smells SO GOOD. Just use a little bit to give your hair some texture and volume.
You can spray it in and then mess your hair up, or spray it and smooth it down. It’s a really versatile product!

Wax Blast 10
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Quick Dry 18 – This is a classic hairspray. I wouldn’t recommend anything stronger than this for your photos. Why? Great question, you want you hair to move with you in the photos! Don’t spray so much hairspray that your hair stays completely still! We just want to tame the fly-a-ways!

Quick Dry 18
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Shine Flash – If you know your hair isn’t naturally shiny, this product will be your best friend. I believe it smells citrusy, who doesn’t love that? Just use a little at the very end! You’ll love it!

Shine Flash

Most importantly, with hair and makeup, just be true to you! That is what we want to photograph!


It all starts here – your skin is your canvas. By now you should know if you have dry or oily skin, so make sure to use make up that will work with your skin type.

If you don’t know your skin type, take this quiz: it will also suggest products for you!

Start pampering your skin 1-2 weeks before your session. You don’t want to just wash your face, you also need to exfoliate and moisturize!
Just know that the “Day-Of-Breakout” is very common, but do not panic, we offer retouching free of charge on anything you order!!
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The only type of tanning we recommend prior to your senior portrait session is natural light tanning at the beach or a pool.
We’ve found that other methods (spray, tanning bed etc) can be blotchy, and noticeably unnatural.


I know it sounds like the same topic, but now we are going to move on to talking about the makeup you’re putting on the skin you have been pampering!
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This is the base of everything! So we want to make sure it is done correctly! The best foundations for photography DO NOT HAVE ANY SPF, Shimmer, Reflection, or Added oil for dry skin. If possible, use a matted foundation. If you don’t have that, do not worry, use a matted powder to set everything at the end.
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This is super helpful to cover any darkness under your eyes, or hide any blemishes. This can be tricky to get the color right though. Make sure to apply it and then take a picture to make sure you cant see any color difference in your final look. The best technique for application is to apply the concealer like a triangle under your eye, with the point closer to your nose (Like this!) Then use your fingers, or a sponge to blend the lines. You can also apply this to the bridge of your nose, and in a small arc above your eyebrows if you want!

Concealer Triangle
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This is usually where makeup can go wrong. Either you don’t use powder on top of liquid or cream foundation, or you use the wrong kind! Make sure to use a color that perfectly matches your skin! Ask friends and family a week or so before coming to check your make up and make sure it matches! (Especially if you are being photographed during the summer! Your fall foundation and summer skin won’t photograph well together!) Make sure your powder does not have shimmer in it! The best powder for photography is matted.
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This can be used to warm your look up a little bit, just don’t over use it! The easiest tip I ever got was suck your cheeks in then apply bronzer in the shadow! Go from the top of your ear down to just above the lips. You can always rub it off if you need to! You can also apply it right in front of your hairline on your forehead, and on your nose. (Again, try to stay away from too much shimmer, but some is ok for bronzer)

Bronzer Cheat Sheet
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This goes right above the bronzer. Smile really big and apply to the apples of your cheeks! So cute 😉 (Again, try to stay away from shimmer, but some is ok in blush)


Everyone does eyes different, and we love that. Make-up is supposed to be an expression of you!

So here are a few tips to perfect what you already know!
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No, I am not about to tell you to draw your brows in with dark brown and make them look unnatural. But I do suggest using a powder (I just use eye shadow) that is 1 shade darker than your brow color. Take a thin brush and just lightly fill in the color. You don’t have to draw outside the lines, stay within your eyebrow hair! This will just define them on your face and help your eyes stand out!

Eyebrow Before & After
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Eye Shadow

There are so many different colors available. Pick something that will accent your eye color. Bringing out the color in your eye will make your photos 100x better! Here is one of the MANY charts to show you some ideas for your eye color I personally love to have a light base color on the entire eye, a medium color on the lid, and the darker color in the crease and bottom lash line. It frames my eyes well and gives dimension! Another pretty look is to do just the darker color on the lid and bottom lashes, and something light under your brow. Try a few different styles out before coming! Take a selfie, and see if you like it!

Eyeshadow Chart
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This is just as important as your eye shadow. Again, there are Tons of different ways to apply liner. Again, try some eyeliner combinations with your eye shadow and take selfies to see which one you like best! Avoid eyeliners that have glitter in them! Make sure to fill in the whole space between your liner and your lashes!

Eyeshadow Chart
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I LOVE MASCARA. You have to get the right one though! Try avoiding anything that will clump your lashes together, or separate them too much! Look for a mascara to lengthen your lashes, and even if you don’t usually, wear dark black mascara. It will make a difference, I promise!

I personally use two mascaras, because I love eyelashes. I use Clinique’s Lash Doubling mascara first, on the top and bottom, then their High Impact Extreme Volume Mascara on the top. I’ll never use anything else!
*little tip – a small winged eyeliner will help your lashes look longer!

Mascara Guide


If you love bold colors like I do, then bring it on! Anything that helps your personality stand out is what we want!
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Lip Liner

I know that the words “lip liner” make you think of an old lady, but…its really important! Lip liner keeps the lipstick from bleeding into the small cracks around your lips (which is never a good look!) So, for lip liners look for a color the exact shade or one shade darker than the full lip color you want to use. Or, you can use a clear liner.
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Lip-Gloss vs Lipstick

It is up to you if you want lip-gloss or lipstick. But, I recommend that you use SOMETHING. Nothing is worse than loving your photo then noticing your lips look dry. So if you’re not the lipstick/lip-gloss girl, then wear some chap stick!

And, make sure whatever you use will last your entire session.
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For Smooth Lips…

For the week before your session, use your toothbrush to brush your lips vigorously. Then apply chapstick to your lips and sleep in it. This will make your lips smooth and ready for lipstick. Chapped lips don’t photograph well.

Red Lips

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