How To Get The Most Out Of Your Engagement-Photo Makeup Session

With the flurry of checklists, Pinterest boards, spreadsheets, and frankly, headaches that come with wedding prep, planning for your engagement photo shoot can understandably fall by the wayside. But engagement photos aren't just a way to get images for your save the dates. They can also serve as a dry run for your bridal hair and makeup look.

You can use the opportunity to research makeup artists and services in your area and book who you think can create a vibe that feels timeless, pretty, and authentic to who you are. If it doesn't work out? You still have time to course correct and avoid the fate of Marnie in Girls, who ended up looking over-contoured at the hand of her wedding makeup artist.


For tips on how to make every cent of your engagement look count, we talked to Lilit Caradanian, founder of Elcie Cosmetics, and Dean Fournier, pro lead artist for Lorac Los Angeles. Both makeup artists — who have decades of glamming brides under their belts — share their best hacks for getting the most out of engagement makeup, ahead.

Find A Niche Makeup Artist

It may be tempting to go with an artist who boasts an Instagram feed peppered with celebrity shots — and that's fair: Who wouldn’t want to look like Rihanna in their engagement photos? But makeup artists who specialize in editorial or even runway work may not be the best fit to capture your engagement photo look.

“Oftentimes, makeup artists who aren’t used to doing long-lasting makeup go super light on coverage, because they’re used to working with models who have perfect skin, or end up using too much makeup because they want it to stand out in photos,” Cardanian says. “A wedding makeup artist knows how to balance between the two.” Makeup artists who specialize in wedding and engagement shoot makeup are skilled in applying looks that translate well both in person and on film.

If you're thinking about using on-demand makeup services or a brick-and-mortar makeup studio, Cardanian suggests test-driving a particular artists’ expertise at least one time before booking for engagement photos, especially because the lighting during in-store makeup application seldom matches the natural sunlight most often used for picture taking.

Time It Right

Anyone who has dated around before finding their partner in life knows that timing is everything. When mapping out the day of your engagement photos, allow at least an hour to get makeup done and a few extra minutes to get to your shoot location.

The tip may seem like a no-brainer, but online forums are littered with horror stories of the affianced missing their photo sessions because makeup services at retailers and private sessions took much longer than anticipated. Be sure to get an estimate of how much time your artist will need to complete the look and watch the clock during your sitting to help guide the appointment along.

Test Tattoo Cover-Up, Too

If you choose not to flash your ink on your wedding day, check your makeup artist's camouflaging skills by having it covered for an engagement sitting, too. “Tattoo cover is no easy feat and may be the most important piece to test out before your big day,” Fournier says. “If you need a tattoo cover, be sure to share this ahead of time with any artist you’re interviewing and have them guarantee they can handle it.”

Doing a dry run in engagement photos also allows you to see exactly how the technique and shades appear in photographs. Finally — because tattoo cover-up can eat up a significant amount of time — undergoing the process for engagement photos will provide insight on how much time you’ll need in the chair before marching down the aisle.

Read Your Makeup Artist's Vibe

Late deliveries. Surprise requests from in-laws. Centerpieces that aren’t quite right. There’s always something that brings a little extra chaos to a wedding day — but your makeup artist shouldn't be one of them. When choosing an artist for engagement photos (and possibly the wedding itself), it’s vital to look at more than his or her subtle contour skills. “Personality and professionalism is always important in any service, but particularly on a day with so much emotional investment. If you are able, consider a couple trials to see which artist you click with,” says Fournier.

That means paying attention to important details: Is the makeup artist on time? Are tools clean and organized? Does she or he communicate well and have a chill demeanor? Cardanian adds, “The makeup artist is most likely the first person you see for the day of your wedding and you want the tone to be set calmly so you can enjoy your wedding morning."

Try Something Different

Rather than focusing on whether a makeup artist can deliver the exact version of your ideal wedding day makeup, Cardanian suggests tapping into whether that artist can capture the feeling you're going for. “Your engagement makeup doesn’t have to be the exactly the same as your wedding makeup,” says Caradanian. “Instead, the overall look should be something that you are vibing and loving.”

Fournier also suggests differentiating a bit between your wedding and engagement look. “I’m of the mindset that wedding makeup should be a reveal,” says Fournier. "For engagement photos, I recommend natural, everyday makeup — pretty much how friends and family see you in your daily life, but with a bit more polish. For your wedding day, you can still be natural, but it’s also a fun time to play with a touch of glamour.”

Consider Your Skin Type

When drilling down to the actual products used for your engagement shoot, consider your skin type — and choose products carefully. “Dry skin holds makeup a lot longer. If you're oily, make sure your artist is using oil-free or long-lasting makeup,” Caradanian says.

Eye makeup also deserves special consideration. “Your mascara and eyeliner should be waterproof or at least water resistant," she says, adding, "Your makeup should last all day, except your lips. Find a lip color you love and purchase it for retouch throughout the day — you're going to end up drinking and kissing after all.”

Go For Less Glow

The one mistake that Caradanian sees brides make in their engagement and wedding pictures? Going whole hog with illuminators. "Don’t go overboard with the highlighter," she advises. "Keep in mind, this is for photos only and too much highlighter just creates a lot of work for the photographer when it comes to editing. Less is more, believe it or not."

Because photography lighting can be bright, harsh, and add further shine to the face, the makeup pro also suggests one last product to keep at the ready: a setting or blotting powder to take away any shine throughout the day.

Keep Track Of Wear and Tear

On a normal day, you may not take note of how our mascara holds up on an hour-by-hour basis, but a close watch can pay off big when using engagement makeup as a test run for wedding makeup. A good rule of thumb: Keep your makeup look intact after your engagement shoot and set mirror-check reminders for two, four, six and eight hours after it was applied. “Wedding days can last eight, 10, 12 hours, and beyond, so definitely wear your makeup as long as possible and put it to the test in every way imaginable,” Fournier says.

That's not to say that makeup shouldn't budge whatsoever — laughing, dancing, eating, and drinking will take a bit of a toll. But overall, your makeup job should hold up with a few boosted touch-ups throughout the marathon stretch. “Even when using primers, it should be expected that some light touch-ups might be needed: mainly powdering your T-zone and reapplying lip color," says Fournier. "Foundation, brows, eye makeup, blush, bronzer, and contour, on the other hand, should last all day without touching up. If it all looks completely faded by the end of the day, I’d recommend using other products and/or another artist."

Plan Ahead (Way Ahead)

Makeup artists who specialize in bridal looks book fast. And if you live in a world-class city? They book even faster. That’s why Fournier suggests going with a “the sooner the better” approach to booking a makeup artist for the big day by securing your pro about a year in advance. If you like the way your makeup looks in your engagement photos, go ahead and book the artist for your wedding day.
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