I am not a makeup expert by any means, but makeup is kind of a big deal when it comes to photography so I make a point of paying attention to what the experts have to say.
Towards that end I came across a fun article written by Tynan Sinks (a contributing writer at Allure) about the best drug store makeup buys. His suggestions were surprising to me so I thought I would share his picks with you.
1. L'Oreal True Match Foundation. He described this foundation as light, natural with a soft touch and some SPF. (Because of the SPF, I would NOT recommend this for photoshoots- but we can talk more about this later.)
2. Wet n Wild Photo Focus Foundation. I did not know this but Wet n Wild is a cruelty-free brand (Yay!). He described their formula as luxurious with finish that dries matte.
3. NYX HD Photogenic Concelaer. He says this is creamy, hydrating and "should be in everyone's makeup bag."
4. Physician's Formula Butter Bronzer. The downside of this product is that it's $15, which is expensive for a drug store product but he said that it's hard to find a high end bronzer that beats it. So there you go.
6. Maybelline Dream Bouncy Blush. It has a unique putty texture that's great for blending.
7. Wet n Wild MegaGlo Highlighting Powder. This was originally a limited edition item but people went berserk over it so they brought it back. "As good as anything at Sephora's" is how he described it. And it's only around $5! Now you know how I feel about highlighters for photoshoots (see here) but for everyday, I know you all want this.
Maybelline's Color Sensational Lipstick is his pick for lips. Maybelline is "the MAC of the drugstore," he writes.
Maybelline's Volum' Express Mega Plush Mascara. About this he writes it's "the most underrated mascara in the drugstore." It's a gel-mousse that is light weight yet high impact. High impact is what I'm all about. I LOVE shooting eyelashes and think that even for everyday wear, mascara is worth the effort.
Tools of the Trade
Now this one isn't from Tynan but instead is my pick. Just recently the high end brand Japonesque started to carry their line of implements at Target. This is really great news because they offer really high quality products but now at a totally affordable price point. So if you are in the market for a new pair of tweezers or an eyelash curler, check them out!
Sleeklens offers a variety of presets and actions for Lightroom and Photoshop. These are, for those who are new to photo editing, shortcuts that help photographers attain a specific look to their images without having to go through a series of steps over and over again.
The Sleeklens Strike a Pose Portrait Workflow for Lightroom comes with a ton of presets, some of which are black and white, but most of which are color. They are stackable, which means that you can run one preset and then run a different one afterwards to more dramatically alter the image.
Downloading and installing the presets was a breeze- Sleeklens offers short videos that walk through the process- it only takes a few minutes. They also have a serious of videos that demonstrate a few selected presets and how they can be used. I watched all of them and found them extremely helpful.
One problem that I have with presets is that when presented with a long list of them in a drop-down menu I really have no idea which ones to try on my photo. But the videos help because you can see which presets they tried on, say, a portrait taken in overcast lighting with grass in the background. Then you can envision what it would look like on your similar images.
The Strike a Pose Workflow that I received included several presets in the following categories: "All in Ones," Base Edits, Exposure, Color Correct, Tone/Tint, Polish, and Vignette. Tone/Tint warm up is good for skin tones when shooting in the shade. Base Edit 2 is a good overall starting place with nearly any RAW photo because it appears to increase contrast and boost colors- basically bringing your RAW image back to what it would have looked like shot in JPG.
After playing around with the presets and trying them out on a variety of my images I have discovered that my favorites are the ones that are the most subtle: the Color Correct- Fix Green Skin and Color Correct- Fix Red Skin. Achieving beautiful and consistent skin tones across and entire gallery (and across different lighting conditions) is a huge part of my workflow- so these two particular presets are especially helpful. I do find that I end up tweaking the white balance even further with most photos, but they definitely get things going in the right direction.
As you can see, the "Fix Green Skin" preset removed quite a bit of the green tones in her skin caused by all that light reflected off the nearby vegetation.
Here you can see how the "Fix Red Skin Tones" preset pulled quite a bit of red out. This can be especially useful if you shoot portraits near brick walls.
Quite a lot of my photography is portraits shot at sunset where I’m nearly shooting into the sun. I love the romantic look this creates, and the solar flare, but I would also appreciate some help with the resultant haze, loss of contrast, and color. Thus far, my best results involve pulling the images into Photoshop and using levels, which seem to do a better job than Lightroom’s tone curve. Unfortunately I haven’t found a preset in this pack that seems designed for these particular shooting conditions. But it’s possible that I just need to stack a few of them together. It also might be something that's part of their "Chasing Light" package. They do offer, however, several different presets within Portrait Essentials that help boost the warm golden glow of a sunset if you want to add that to your image.
When I downloaded my Sleeklens presets I was pretty excited to try them out but it turns out that the brushes that also came with the pack were the actual game changer for me.
Lightroom comes with pre-loaded brushes, and it’s also possible to create your own for things you use over and over again. But the Sleeklens “Strike a Pose” brushes do things that I didn’t even realize were possible in Lightroom and solve some Lightroom-inherent problems that people have been complaining about forever.
Case in point: the Fix Red Skin brush. Ruddy complexions, cold noses & hands in winter, and blotchy/acne prone skin all need to be addressed when editing portraits. And up until now the only way I knew how to reduce red in Lightroom would reduce the reds for the entire image- including peoples’ lips! So the only real way to deal with this was to use a masking layer in Photoshop to selectively remove the red from parts of the image.
Sleeklens’s Fix Red Skin brush makes this a total snap. No need for photoshop or layers- just brush over the area that needs help. Interestingly, you can see what’s going on: the brush is actually applying a shade of pale green to counterbalance the red. And if one pass-over isn’t enough you simply hit “Done,” open the bush again, and paint over it another time. I absolutely love this new brush and it alone has been a huge time saver for me.
Another brush that I’m using a lot now is the Strike a Pose “Define Blond Hair” brush. When applied over blond hair this brush applies a light yellow color layer that subtly brightens it up. You can also selectively paint over a person’s highlights to emphasize them. This is an especially great tool to use on wavy blond hair because if you only paint over the parts that naturally catch the light it makes the hair look especially shiny and healthy.
If you are interested playing around with Sleeklens’s presets and brushes, they currently offer a free starter pack.
In general, if you want to do most of your edits in Lightroom, or are a person who finds working with layers in Photoshop to be intimidating, the Sleeklens workflow bundles could really help you take your portrait work to the next level. And for anyone who enjoys before and afters (I know I do) you can check out a ton of them on Sleeklens's pinterest page.
*Sleeklens provided the Strike a Pose Portrait Workflow to Samantha Grant Photography for a fair and honest review, which I believe that I provided. If you have any questions about my experiences using this collection, feel free to send me an email.
I am a teen, tween, and high school senior portrait photographer in the SF east bay area.