Flash Photography Makeup Tips for Women of Color
Most of us have been in this situation at least once. You are out with your girlfriends or significant other after spending a couple hours perfecting your makeup and getting photo ready to show off the events of that evening. Selfie cell phone lights are flashing all night in dimly lit environments or you may even have been photographed on a red carpet depending on the occasion. Then you are mortified when you finally see the images uploaded online, but you are not quite sure what went wrong. That dreaded white or grey cast otherwise known as makeup flashback has you looking like Casper or has emphasized almost every flaw on your face you thought you were trying to airbrush out. If you are a person of color, sometimes the skin contrasts in these sometimes embarrassing photographs seem to show up much worse than our fairer skinned counterparts.
The enemy here is direct flash photography and poor makeup choices for the photo opportunity.
As a professional photographer and makeup artist, I am responsible for ensuring my clients not only appear flawless when photographed, I also make sure the correct lighting is used to produce the best portraits. With my photographer hat on, I can honestly tell you not all flash situations produce these ghostly results because professional photographers typically use diffused or bounced light. The direct flash light from cell phones, or unfiltered harsh camera speedlights are the main reason makeup flashback can occur.
As an MUA, I will recommend you hire a professional to do your makeup, especially for events where you know flash photography will take place because we know how to apply makeup for the camera and it is our job to make our clients feel confident about their look. If you are set on doing your makeup yourself, which is perfectly fine and encouraged so you can learn how to enhance your own skin, here are my expert tips to avoid washing out your melanated features in a flash photography situation.
Adopt a Good Skin Care Routine
This will be a tip I will always mention first as good makeup advice. If you take great care of your skin, you can minimize the amount of makeup products you need to apply to get a flawless finish. Keep your skin moisturized. Even melanated oily girls, like myself, need to keep our skin hydrated. Drinking plenty of water does not hurt either. Good and consistent skin care will contribute to an inner glow that will always come across on camera.
Prime Your Skin
Use a primer before applying your foundations to even out texture, fill in fine lines, reduce large pores, and give your base a smooth canvas to work with. Primers I keep in my makeup kit and use depending on my client’s skin type are Becca Ever-Matte Poreless Priming Perfector, Becca Velvet Blurring Priming Perfector Base (a new favorite that keeps skin hydrated and still absorbs oil very well), Benefit POREfessional, and Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer. Avoid primers that may add an illuminating effect or additional glow. The camera will pick up anything on the skin that reflects light and illuminating primers could make the flashback worse.
Find Your Correct Foundation Shade
The struggle to find our perfect foundation shade has always been there for my Melanin Goddesses, but the makeup industry is starting to recognize there is a strong demand for people of color who need darker shades with different undertones to include us. We are grateful for the the Shade Collective community and up and coming makeup brands such as Fenty Beauty that are champions for the brown skinned girls and all the shades we come in.
The rule I use to match most of my clients is match to your chest and if you cannot get the perfect color match, try to select a shade that is slightly darker while keeping your undertones in consideration. If you have yellow undertones in your skin, a foundation with neutral undertones can make your skin look gray when photographed under harsh flash. I typically mix shades for my clients to get a better color match.
Also try to use foundations that are more matte or have a satin finish to avoid that light reflecting glow. Some foundations I keep in my makeup kit are Becca Ever-Matte Shine Proof Foundation, Becca Ultimate Coverage Foundation, BH Cosmetics Studio Pro HD Foundation and L’oreal True Match Foundation (the C10 shade has performed well on some of my ebony skinned beauties). Use concealers to highlight your face no less than a shade lighter than your complexion. A concealer that is too light on darker skin can give a reverse raccoon like appearance under a harsh camera flash.
SPF Will Not be Your Friend the More Melatonin in Your Skin
The debate on whether to avoid foundations with SPF for flash photography continues. As mentioned before, pro photographers have the experience to set up the proper lighting to avoid makeup flashback if you are wearing a foundation with SPF. In my experience, the higher the SPF on a darker skinned individual, the worse the camera flashback will be from a direct flash, but I am hesitant to tell anyone who may be wearing makeup in a daytime outdoor setting, that may carry into the evening, to go without it. You have two options in this case 1) use a foundation that has a low SPF value (no higher than 30 SPF for melanated skin tones because the more pigment in your skin the higher your natural SPF is) or 2) wear a moisturizer with SPF underneath your matte or satin finish foundation. If you are not wearing your makeup for a daytime event, you can avoid foundations with SPF altogether.
Set Foundation with a Pigmented Powder
When you know you will be photographed under a direct flash, it is best to avoid using white or colorless translucent powders to set your foundation. My beauties with dry skin may not need to use powder at all. If you tend to generate oils, reach for a colored power instead. The BH Cosmetics Studio Pro Matte Pressed Powders stay in my makeup kit and are good to set under-eye concealers, all over the face and for contouring. My other recommended holy grail, and best friend to the brown skinned girl, is the Sacha Buttercup Setting Powder which I primarily use to set highlighted areas of the face. It is a yellow toned powder that brightens the area where applied, but does not cause the stark flashback under flash photography. You also want to avoid bronzers with a shimmer or mineralized makeup that contain silica. These will reflect the light and highlight any texture imperfections in your skin. It is best that your bronzers, like your contour powders, are matte.
Makeup Setting Sprays are a Must
Get your hands on and use a mattifying makeup setting spray especially for my fellow oily ladies. Not only do they help merge all those powders on your face to create an even, seamless and long-lasting finish, they slow down some of the oil production that can generate during a fun night on the town, or in warmer climates. Try Makeup Forever Mix & Fix, M.A.C. Prep + Prime Fix + or NYX Makeup Setting Spray.