My Last Week Beauty & Celebrity Shoots and Happenings

What a fun and hectic week it was for me! So much excitement with a lot of happy exhaustion at the end 🙂


Right before the beginning of the past week I had the pleasure to spend a day with one of my favorite makeup artists Vlada Haggerty. We went to visit Sephora in Pasadena, CA to check out cosmetics stands and advertisement to understand what brands we’re naturally attracted to based on their products and visuals.

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I think it is a great exercise for any Beauty photographer and/or Makeup Artist to make regular trips to cosmetics stores and wander around making mental notes on the photography, products, colors and supporting materials of various brands. Not only to stay in the know on what is current product- and advertising-wise, but also to educate and train your eye for better skin tones, framing and retouching by looking at the billboards, posters and brochures at the store.

And in general, if a trip to Sephora does not make you feel excited, you probably shouldn’t be involved in Beauty Photography at all 🙂

Makeup by Vlada Haggerty, photo & post by Julia Kuzmenko McKim, beautiful eye of Laura Gude of Osbrink Models <3

Makeup by Vlada Haggerty, photo & post by Julia Kuzmenko McKim, beautiful eye of Laura Gude of Osbrink Models

Later we went back to my neighborhood and sat down in a coffeeshop for a long chat to share what each of us aims for as a professional, what we would like to have in our portfolios, how we can grow together and so on. Again, a great exercise for a better team – if you have found a Makeup Artist with whom you enjoyed shooting and created great work, take them out for a coffee and talk about your big dreams and career goals. Chances are you two are on the same page and it will help you to figure out your big strategy together and plan your upcoming shoots.

On that day, I carefully asked Vlada if she wanted to join and shoot with us – me and my other favorite MUA Lupe Moreno – on the upcoming Saturday and she agreed. I knew it was a great idea for my ladies to meet each other in person and exchange their knowledge, but I wasn’t completely sure if they would see it in the same light.

Makeup by Vlada Haggerty, photo & post by Julia Kuzmenko McKim, beautiful lips of Laura Gude of Osbrink Models <3

Makeup by Vlada Haggerty, photo & post by Julia Kuzmenko McKim, beautiful eye of Laura Gude of Osbrink Models

To my delight, both of them were excited to collaborate all together and we did something I had never heard of before: we decided that Lupe would be responsible for skin work, so that Vlada could assist her and learn some of Lupe’s amazing skin tricks, and Vlada would do her creative colorful magic, so that Lupe could assist her and see Vlada’s wild creativity in action. And we did it! And I will talk about it a little later.


On Wednesday I had the honor to photograph the multi talented beauty Ashanti – Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter, record and movie producer and actress – with a great creative team in a beautiful house in Malibu. I was invited by another favorite Makeup Artist of mine – Ernesto Casillas, who does a lot of work with A-list celebrities on a daily basis. Obviously, if we had not shot our previous creative collaborations, Ernesto would have invited another photographer, which makes it very clear to see how important creative collaborations are for our artistic growth as well as our career development.


On Saturday we had a wonderfully wild day at the Dover Studio.

Both Lupe and Vlada were working on our beautiful models Morgan and Lauren of NOUS Models and I had a chance to test a couple of things besides this unusual team with two leading makeup artists.



I had received my new 60″ Octabox earlier in the week (I wrote why I decided to purchase it in my “Macro Beauty: Lighting & Gear” post recently) and I finally had a chance to try it out and in the process I made a few discoveries, so if you’re planning to get one, make sure these points are manageable for you:

  1. This light modifier is so heavy that you need to use a heavy-duty stand or a C-stand.
  2. The light head kept tilting down when it was on a C-stand, so I ended up swapping it for just a stand and pinning its legs down with a couple of heavy sandbags so it wouldn’t tip over. This way I managed to keep it at an angle that I needed.
  3. My poor old Einstein’s modeling lamp wasn’t powerful enough to illuminate my model even at its maximum value, and that was confusing the AF of my lenses, so I ended up setting an extra light near me just for the modeling light with its slave turned off, so its flash wouldn’t get triggered and interfere with my lighting. Not ideal, of course, and I think I might have to think of upgrading my lighting kit now.

Morgan of NOUS Models, makeup & nails by Vlada Haggerty, photo & post by Julia Kuzmenko (Octabox)

But overall I liked its light. Maybe not so much for full face and head & shoulders shots, but it definitely makes a big difference for extreme closeup shots, especially when glossy makeup is being used.

Here are some SOOC (straight out of camera) shots of the beautiful Morgan, so you can see the difference between the soft broad light of the Octabox and harder, more defining light of Beauty Dish. They were set at approximately the same distance from the model’s face:

Photographed with 22" Beauty Dish

Photographed with 22″ Beauty Dish


Photographed with 60" Octabox

Photographed with 60″ Octabox

100mm f/2.8 Macro lenses –  L-series Vs. non L-series

I also had a chance to finally compare the two sister lenses Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens (currently $849.00 at B&H, its price has dropped at least $200 compared to a few years ago) and my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens (currently $599.00 as it has been for many years) this past weekend.

The L-series lens was sent to me by my friends, the SLR Lounge team, one of the leading photography blogs, so I can compare the two and write a review for them, so stay tuned for that if you’re interested in the 100mm Macro lenses.

I’ll be honest, I went into it slightly biased, as I think the non L-series lens is just as great for a studio photographer, but I guess I will find out if I was wrong when I get down to comparing the images I photographed over the weekend.

Lauren of NOUS Models, Makeup by Lupe Moreno, Photo & Post by Julia Kuzmenko

Lauren of NOUS Models, Makeup by Lupe Moreno, Photo & Post by Julia Kuzmenko (Beauty Dish)

All in all, it was a wonderful busy week that taught me many lessons and left me with many gigabytes of material to work through, but what can be better than being busy with what you love doing the most.

Have a wonderful week ahead and thank you for reading!


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