Now that you have your domain name and your website, let’s talk about what goes in your online Bridal portfolio.

You need at least six photos in your online portfolio (of six different people), and no more than 15 photos of your very best work.

The photos need to be professional and the bride should look “model-like.” Real models are ideal, because as much as people argue “brides want to see real people,” the fact is that beauty sells.

Very few beauty-oriented companies use “real people” because studies show that you sell more with real models.

How do you get real model brides for your portfolio?

You will need to do “test” shoots. These are shoots where you work free just to get the good shots for your portfolio. Some in the industry call it TFP (Trade For Prints).

What do you need as a makeup artist to pull off a great test shoot?

  1. A beautiful model face
  2. A great photographer to capture the face in the right lighting
  3. A great retoucher (Don’t yell at me about false advertising!) I’ll touch on this in a bit.
  4. A good hairstylist

How do you get this team?


I would start by contacting great beauty photographers in your area. Someone who has great beauty shots with beautiful lighting in their portfolio.

You can contact good bridal photographers in your area and let them know that you would like to test with real models for shots that will work for self-promotion.

You may need to convince the photographer that this is also to his or her benefit as well. Start with Google. Be willing to hear “no thank you” a lot. Be persistent.


You can contact local agents and ask them for new models to test. Make sure you see them in person before choosing one, because you need good skin and good features.

Most models do have retouched photos, and you really can’t tell how good their skin is by looking at photos.

You can also scour Model Mayhem. This is a crap shoot for sure, but all you need is a good face. Don’t let height hold you back.

You really want someone 18 to 25 years old, as young skin is best. You may also want to do a shoot with someone in their 30’s to show some diversity. Many brides are now in their 30’s. Having a bride in her 40’s or even 50’s isn’t a bad idea, but again, I would pick a real model.

Show models with different color skin and ethnicities. If a potential client doesn’t see someone in your portfolio with her own skin coloring the chances are slim that they will want to hire you. Ideally your portfolio should reflect the demographic of the area you work in.

I suggest that you NOT use your good-looking friend or relative. Real models are more experienced in front of the camera and they are usually more photogenic.

If you absolutely can’t afford a real model and can’t get one to test at no charge, enlisting a friend is better than using a real bride.

The problem with using a real bride is that they haven’t signed up to be used in this way and asking a client to use their photo in your portfolio is a gamble. You do risk putting a client on the spot. They may say “yes” even if they are uncomfortable being used this way.


Hairstylists that do bridal hair also need portfolio shots with real models. It isn’t hard to get hairstylists that freelance in the bridal industry to do this free if the model is good.

You can check for freelance hairstylists on message boards, but just make sure you really like their work. If you do hair then do the hair yourself.

Get Proper Releases

You MUST have a model release that the model signs before you start your makeup application. Without a model release you cannot legally use the images.

What if the model doesn’t like the shots and says you can’t use them? After hours of work this could happen. Please make sure these are signed beforehand.

You will also need the photographer to sign an agreement to use the images before the shoot starts. He or she will need to give you rights to use the images for self-promotion.

The photographer owns the copyright to the photos and so getting this agreement in advance is very important. The hardest part about doing a test shoot is getting the images from the photographer, so make sure the photographer is reputable and is committed to making sure the entire team has images.

Typically, the photographer will have these forms. If not then you can find model release forms and release forms for the photography using Google.

Does all this sound like too much work?

It is a lot of work, but if you want to make good money you must put in a lot of work.

What if you have more money than time?

You can forgo all the free testing and hire a good model and photographer. This will cost you but YOU call the shots when you pay the money, and it puts you in complete control.

My favored method is to pay a photographer and use a model from an agency willing to test.

When you pay the photographer, you know you are going to get photos and you know how many you will get. This is all worked out in advance.

You should not pay the full amount until the photographer has delivered the images to you.

Hire a Retoucher

As a makeup artist, you don’t want to put un-retouched photos in your portfolio. This may sound like cheating to you, but now almost all photos are retouched.

You can’t compete with other artists who have “perfect” photos in their book without having some retouching done to yours. Retouching should be done by a professional! Plastic-looking skin isn’t going to go over well with potential clients.

The image you put in your portfolio should be color corrected, free of blemishes, and free of fly away hair. A good retoucher will cost you a little bit of money but in the long run will be well worth the money. Keep in mind that one great shot will sell you better than 15 flawed shots.

What should NOT go in your bridal portfolio

If you do other types of makeup work I suggest you leave this work off your Bridal website.

You can have a tab on your home page that opens to other areas of work but I would make sure Bridal is its own category.

You don’t want clients to surf through your SFX makeup looking for Bridal makeup. The best way to do this is to have a site JUST for potential brides.

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