What It Takes to Become a Successful Beauty Model

Note from Julia Kuzmenko: “I recently had the pleasure of meeting and working with a successful Los Angeles-based Beauty model, who absolutely blew me away when she shared how eager she was to do everything in her power to make the life of the photographers and makeup artists she worked with easier. She went above and beyond of what I imagine a regular model does to succeed. And the very fact of how considerate, determined and resourceful she was in the beginning of her modeling career, is what I think had eventually led her to great jobs and viral images that you might have already seen somewhere before. I wish every beauty model thought and treated her colleagues just like this girl!

Meet the beautiful inside and out, Jessica Cook.”

When I first got into modeling at the age of seventeen, I thought I knew what the job needed from a model. All I had to do was take direction well, emote whatever feeling I wanted “captured” on camera, have a variety of poses that I could easily transition into, and not be a BRAT while doing it.

I wasn’t entirely wrong, but there was definitely more to modeling than what I had originally thought.

I knew I needed a strong book in order to get work, so I started doing test shoots with up and coming photographers, which soon lead to me being requested for jobs.

And those job requests had a common detail among them, which I hadn’t seen yet, “beauty”.

Beauty is a particular subset of photography where the focus is primarily on the face, more so than anything else. I started researching online on how to become a great beauty model and all of the articles said the same thing – come to the shoot with your hair clean, a fresh manicure, clean face and a strapless bra.

Click to Enlarge. Jessica Cook, makeup by Vlada Haggerty, photography & post by Julia Kuzmenko. Same team for the featured image of this post.

On my third test as a beauty model, I found a true connection with the photographer I was working alongside – we had good communication and were having a lot of fun. I wanted to take this opportunity to ask as many questions as I could milk from her, but all I could think of was a blanket, “What is your biggest pet peeve as a beauty photographer?”

She told me to come around and look at her computer.

There I saw an image of a shoot she did earlier that day, “See this?”

She zoomed in a little bit on this picture of a beautiful blue-eyed, blond hair, beyond gorgeous model and all I could see was millions of little blonde hairs covering her chin and cheeks. This tiny little facial hair is known as “peach fuzz”.

She continued the conversation and said, “This is my biggest pet peeve and worst nightmare as a retoucher. I now have to go in and remove all those little hairs all over her face and then put pores back into her face. “

Click to Enlarge. Jessica Cook, Photographer: Solmaz Saberi, Makeup: Liz Castellanos, Hair: Traci Garrett, Styling: Jordan Grossman.

I was completely blown away. I had no idea that a camera could pick up “peach fuzz”, but in beauty, photographers use what is called Macro Lenses. A Macro Lens is a camera lens designed for photographing subjects at a very close distances, and it allows photographers to fill the frame with the subject and capture more detail.

You can’t cheat a lens that literally shows the pores on your skin!

Click to Enlarge. Jessica Cook in the Nourishine Lipgloss Mary Kay ad, Photographer: Philippe Salomon, Makeup: Keiko Takagi, Hair: Deycke, Styling: Marc Sifuentes.

So I asked her, “What would you have had the model do differently to prevent you from having to do so much work in Photoshop?”

And she replied, “I would have her remove her facial hair. If she had just taken care of it before she came to that closeup beauty shoot, it would have saved me hours of retouching.”

Jessica Cook for Milani Cosmetics, Photographer: Kenny Sweeney, Makeup: Bebe Booth, Hair: Candice Birns.

On my next shoot I made sure to come with clean hair, freshly manicured nails, a nude bra and a freshly shaved face.

While we were shooting the photographer had me come around and look at a close shot of my lips and said, “You have absolutely NO hair on your face! Everyone has at least a little “peach fuzz” on their face!”

It paid off!

Now, to get things straight, it is perfectly natural for everyone to have a little “peach fuzz” on their face, fact is, everyone does – but it really annoys retouchers.

Note from Julia: it does not just annoy retouchers, it increases the time, and therefore the cost of post-production, and someone will have to pay for it – the client in commercial shoots, or the photographer in creative collaborations and tests. And it’s not only about the time and money. When too much retouching is necessary, the skin ends up looking less natural, which jeopardizes the results of the entire project, especially if it is a skincare or a makeup campaign. So while it is rarely openly required to remove facial hair, photographers will prefer and recommend models who are thoughtful enough to prepare for closeup shoots, to their clients for the best beauty jobs. 

Click to Enlarge. Jessica Cook in the Nourishine Lipgloss Mary Kay ad, Photographer: Philippe Salomon, Makeup: Keiko Takagi, Hair: Deycke, Styling: Marc Sifuentes.

The strategy of research seemed to be helping my career a lot. The more I knew the processes around modeling, the more I could help, and the better I’d become.

With all of this finally being recognized, I started on the offensive: assisting photographers, stylists, makeup artists. I looked to Google to educate myself on how to assist these professionals.

I learned what was special about different lenses, makeup and color matching, the effectiveness of clothing in an emotional inceptive sense. I also learned about lighting and what the different setups can do for a model.

Click to Enlarge. Behind The Scenes. Model: Jessica Cook, Photographer: Solmaz Saberi, Makeup: Liz Castellanos, Hair: Traci Garrett, Styling: Jordan Grossman.

All of this was to learn what exactly goes on behind the camera. It’s important for a model to know what it takes to execute a successful photo shoot, and what you can do to make the project fun for everyone involved.

Photographers would rather work with models who are professional and take their job and appearance seriously, so we should take our skin very seriously. If a beauty model isn’t taking care of her skin it makes the job so much harder on the team.

As a model, you are the canvas. You are the person bringing the photo to life, so take care of your skin or you will have missed opportunities, especially if you’re a beauty model.

Click to Enlarge. Jessica Cook on Si Revista Cover. Photographer: Lenka Ulrichova, Makeup: Monika Monroe, Styling: Kate Riney.

All in all, no matter what type of modeling you do, it takes a team of people to capture an image, so have a good attitude towards the people that you are working with, be respectful of everyone’s time, and you’ll be doing your job right as a model.

It takes a lot of effort and hard work, but the pay-off can result in “iconic” images and a memorable process that everyone in the team will cherish.

Hope you enjoyed my insights and till next time!

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