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How to be a makeup artist assistant

Why should you assist other makeup artists?

Assisting more experienced makeup artists is a great way to develop your makeup skills and network within your industry. When you go to makeup school you learn the basics. These foundation skills (ha) allow you to explore and create your own style safely, but you won’t be an expert. The skills you need to be a great makeup artist are honed over time through practice and experiencing different scenarios, lighting conditions, eye shapes and skin types.

How to be a great makeup artist assistant

  • Ask for clear instructions before the shoot, not sure what you are expected to do, ask. There may be no time on the day to provide you detailed instructions so find out beforehand.

  • Don’t be distracting while the artist is working, I have had assistants that chat to me non-stop while I am working, or chat to the model while I am trying to apply a red lip. I am usually busy ensuring the best service for the client so need to focus and build a rapport with the model.

  • If you don’t have anything to do, find something. You could tidy the clean the kit, apply moisturiser to the model’s hands, arms, check if the artist needs water.

  • Ask the artist if you can take behind the scenes footage for them. We usually have no time.

  • Be prepared to do the dirty work, washing brushes is one of the most crucial tasks my assistants can do that will actually be helpful to me.

  • Be their second pair of hands, my favourite assistants are always there anticipating what I will need and handing it to me just as I turn around to look for it.

  • Take note of how the artist sets up their kit if you can and how they work, every artist is different. I have a very particular way for setting up my work area.

  • Research their style and work, working with people that have styles that are totally different to yours will mean looks can be inconsistent.

  • Don’t take photos and video without permission and never post them without first checking. Lots of shoots are confidential until the release date. Posting Instagram stories of shoots can breach commercial contracts or mean a magazine won’t accept the submission.

  • Stay out of the way with your phone, the number of times I have been trying to take a photo and an assistant jumps in to take one on their phone is astounding.

  • If you are allowed to take photos and videos make sure you credit the artist and credit yourself as an assistant.

  • Don’t hand out your business card on set, this comes across as trying to steal the makeup artists clients that they have built up through their networking.

  • Check before taking tools from the makeup artist’s kit and always return them. I once had an assistant take my makeup chair when I asked her to do a minor lip touch up on some models, when my next model showed up I couldn’t find my chair. So many times I have had assistants borrow something from my kit and not bring it back to me, so when I need it I cannot find it.

  • Remember you are not the key artist, you are an assistant, you need to help the artist.

What should you expect in return for being an assistant?

If you want to assist other makeup artists you should treat it like a learning experience and so should they. I provide my assistants with a break down and brief of what I want them to do before hand. Most artists will not have a budget to pay you for assisting. For this reason many are hesitant to take on assistants. I prefer to take assistants to jobs where they will learn something outside the norm that could be useful for their business. Or if they are particularly interested in something but cannot access it, like fashion shows. On the other end of the scale are makeup artists that will exploit free labour. I once assisted an artist that asked me to apply 4 full faces of makeup for a wedding using my own products with no guidance from her. She didn’t show me anything and got paid $120 for each face I did. I walked away feeling like I had been taken advantage of. Of course she asked me to assist her again next weekend but I said no.

I often refer jobs to my previous assistants so being a good assistant is an important step for your business. There are enough jobs to go around and some artists have a bigger network so receive more jobs. I actively support and promote anyone that has assisted me where I can.

Happy assisting!

xo Katie

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