Please Don’t Book Inexperienced Makeup Artists

I sincerely apologise if I at all come across as rude. It’s not my intention at all. I write this post with a view to educate.

I would like to talk about wedding makeup – the amateur kind. This affects far too many people, but unfortunately far too few have spoken up about it. I don’t have a problem with speaking up though because I’d rather ruffle a few amateur’s feathers than watch another bride have her wedding ruined by an inexperienced makeup artist. I see it far too often.

My job, as well as many other things, involves scrutinising makeup. During the course of a wedding’s post processing, which can take between 20 and 40 hours, I get to see a lot of it… really close up. Portrait, beauty, fashion and wedding photographers get to know the stuff pretty darn well! In fact we get to see it closer than what most makeup artists do because we view it enlarged on the screen.

I’ve come to wholeheartedly appreciate beautiful makeup. I can’t fully express to you how happy I am to process images of someone styled by an experienced and skilled MUA (Makeup Artist) who uses good product and knows how to apply it. It’s an absolute privilege to say the least. So it may come as no surprise to you that I also know what bad makeup looks like. During processing there’s no worse feeling for me than to sit at my monitor with an image of someone’s botched makeup staring back at me.

Why does it disappoint me?

Firstly I feel empathy for the person wearing it. Some women feel better about themselves when they’re made up nicely. Not all women, but quite a few. I see it first hand, especially when I’m asked not to point my camera in someone’s direction until they’ve had their makeup applied. For some ladies good makeup is very important.

Secondly I feel for the talented makeup artists who get undercut by these amateurs and don’t end up landing the bookings they should. Every time I see poorly applied makeup I’m reminded that once again the talented MUA’s have been denied a job. The industry is rife with amateur makeup people taking on jobs far beyond their skill-sets. Many makeup amateurs apply poor quality product. It can be greasy, shiny (with too much Titanium Dioxide in the base), clumpy, patchy, gluggy, flakey or just look cheap. However, if amateurs do happen to use good product they very often do so with limited to no experience which makes their impressive makeup kits useless anyway. It’s not good for the industry and it’s especially not good for the bride.

This might be a good time to acknowledge that I understand full-well that everyone needs to start somewhere, and yes every great professional artist was once an amateur. However, I’m talking about a wedding day here. A wedding day that only happens once in a lifetime for most! I can’t stress how incredibly important the day is for people! This is why a wedding day is NOT the time for an amateur to be stepping up and applying makeup to a bride’s face. Amateurs need to understand this, respect the industry and most importantly, respect the bride. 

Thirdly when bad makeup is applied on a wedding day I feel for the photographer, and yes, I happen to be one of them. Unfortunately some makeup amateurs are so bad that not only do the results upset their clients; they make life very difficult for us. How is that so? Well I’ll get to that soon!

Before I talk about how it makes things tough for photographers, let’s talk a little bit more about the poor bride!

She’s about to go and share her day, her very special day with all the closest people in her life and she wants to look great! In fact, for some women, they believe there’s no other day in their lives where they’ll need to look more beautiful. For so many women a wedding is THEIR day for perfect makeup, but if a bride has chosen to book an amateur (to perhaps cut costs) then that perfect makeup will more than likely remain a dream.

I see it time and time again with amateurs attempting a bride’s makeup: As the makeup is applied it’s not looking good and this concerns the bride. As time passes the bride becomes more concerned to the point where she speaks up by politely making suggestions on how she thinks the amateur could make it look better. Unfortunately the amateur doesn’t have the experience to apply the makeup in the suggested way and the issue snowballs. I’ve seen a bride, while in tears, having to remove all of her makeup so that the makeup person could start again, but still ruin it a second time. Meanwhile the ceremony is fast approaching with tensions high and emotions elevating. From this moment on it’s almost impossible for a bride to control her disappointment and this can adversely affect her mood for the whole day. Of course this is when the bride turns to me and says, “Tom, can you please Photoshop this for me if I can’t fix it?”

While I completely understand her desperation, unfortunately it’s just not that easy. In fact it’s mind-bogglingly difficult! So this leads me to why amateurs at weddings make life so very difficult for the photographer.

A very large percentage of the population doesn’t understand what Photoshop actually is. It’s not a magic button. Photographers don’t load a photo into Photoshop and press the “fix everything” feature because that feature simply doesn’t exist. Photoshop is a process – a very involved process and the heart of the program is a digital recreation of a physical paintbrush. Sure, that paintbrush might be capable of so much, but it still requires the photographer to manually control it, digital brushstroke after digital brushstroke.

It’s this general misunderstanding of what Photoshop is that leads to an expectation – an expectation that is almost logistically impossible to fulfil, given that a wedding photographer’s image volumes are so high and their time constraints so apparent. The truth is that if people actually saw what was involved with “Photoshopping it” they’d suddenly realise their expectation is unrealistic. To fix badly applied makeup in Photoshop, if possible can take hours per image. If you start adding up the total images captured of the bride’s face during the day, it’s easy to see how incredibly time consuming and costly it can become.

Bad makeup is the makeup amateur’s responsibility. After all they’ve caused it. It’s not reasonable for the photographer to feel obliged to pick up a magnifying glass when it’s the makeup amateur who should be picking up the mirror!

Photoshopping badly applied makeup can easily be prevented by booking an experienced and talented makeup artist whose skills can be verified. Some people might ask me, “If the industry isn’t regulated how can I verify that? How can I tell if a makeup artist is good or not?’ It’s easy! Ask a talented and well respected photographer who they think does the best work. Like I mentioned at the start of this article, Photographers get to see a lot of makeup and as a result they know who the best MUA’s are! Some people might then say, “I can’t afford a good makeup artist like that!” However, the truth is that you can’t afford to book an inexperienced amateur!

Please think very carefully about it! If you go the budget option and book an inexperienced makeup artist, not only is it highly possible that you won’t feel like a million bucks (which is going to affect your entire mood for the whole day!), your photos are also going to remind you of how crappy you felt… for the rest of your life! No photographer wants to photograph someone who feels dreadful because their inexperienced makeup artist botched their makeup. It’s so hard to see! 

Even if a photographer was to take on the task of repairing the damage (which could end up costing you mountains of extra money), he/she can’t Photoshop your mood back to happy again!

Please book a professional MUA who knows their craft. You’ll be so glad you did… for so many reasons.

Thanks for reading!

Here are my recommendations for great Makeup and Hair artists who I’ve worked with many times and LOVE! ALL of these ladies are outstanding at what they do! 

Lara Quinn (Makeup)

 Sue McLaurin (Makeup)

Tracey Hilsum from Art in Makeup (Hair and Makeup)

Makeup 4 Brides (Makeup)

Hair 4 Brides (Hair)


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Melinda Farrell
June 4, 2017
I love things being straight forward with no beating around the bush.... I applaud and Thank you for this.
August 6, 2015
The best thing I have read in a long time. Well said Tom Hall. As professional makeup artists we know all this but it can be difficult to pass this on to brides without coming across as trying to push our services. There are many valid reasons for using professional wedding suppliers for your wedding day and this isn't just for makeup artists - professional photographers as well can make or break your whole wedding day experience. Tom Hall Photography is one of those amazing photographers that goes the extra mile to ensure every image is of artwork quality. What goes on behind the scenes in the days/weeks following the wedding day shoot is where a large portion of the magic happens. Make sure you put your wedding day in the hands of people who truly understand what is involved in creating and delivering the wedding of your dreams that will give you many beautiful memories and images to enjoy for years to come. Lisa Thomas - Director, Makeup 4 Brides | Hair 4 Brides