Breaking Out of The Box To Attract Commercial & Editorial Work

What is the key to getting commercial and editorial work? The answer is: variety, balance, and editing.  Today, let’s talk about how to get there. 

What is Commercial and Editorial work?

“Commercial” is an umbrella term that encompasses jobs that sells something:  vacations, lipstick, pants, corporate services, etc.  Commercial makeup jobs can run the gamut between no-makeup makeup for HD video or glamour makeup for a jewelry brand’s print campaign.

“Editorial” is an umbrella term that encompasses jobs that support a concept.  That concept could a human interest article in a magazine, or it could be a designer’s collection at NYFW.  It could be a beauty story in an art magazine or the cover of Elle Magazine.  

How Do You Get This Work?

Let’s back up. What is the purpose of having a portfolio? Is it to prove your artistry skills? Yes. It is also to show your range? Yes. It’s to show not only your range on different faces and skin tones, but your range in concepts and shooting styles. Your portfolio must represent your work — so it needs to be as professional as possible. You cannot just use your Instagram because that doesn’t show that you can work with a team and if the majority of your photos are selfies, it doesn’t show that you can do makeup on a variety of features.

Variety, Balance, and Editing:

This means that not all of your makeup looks the same. It means that not all of your makeup has: brows, foundation, concealer, powder, contour, highlight, blush, lashes, eye shadow, eye liner, mascara, and multiple lip products. It means that your looks communicate a feeling or concept. It means that you know when to stop putting makeup on the face and call it done.

These are fashion makeups from the latest NYFW.  These makeups are balanced, sometimes minimal, and edited.  Not every model here is wearing a full layer of foundation.  Not every model is wearing a lip color or brows.  

Phillip Plein NYFW SS 2018 Photo By Peter White Marc Jacobs NYFW SS 2018  Novis NYFW SS 2018


Your portfolio needs a variety of looks on a variety of models with a variety of skin tones and shot by a variety of photographers. This is what shows prospective clients that you can handle the work for their upcoming project.

Stuck in The Insta-Clone Box

There’s something that can happen when you’re a growing makeup artist, especially if you’re located in a market with little to no legitimate fashion or commercial work. You may inadvertently develop a paint-by-numbers approach to makeup or you may find yourself doing the same look on everyone. Maybe it’s the “Bridesmaid Eye” or the Instagram Slather … Sometimes, this has to do with where you live and sometimes, it is generational.

Meet “The Bridesmaid Eye.”  Dark on the outer corner, light on the inner corner, black liner (probably winged), + lashes.

Where you live affects what you’re exposed to and being exposed to less of a variety of cultures and subcultures means your aesthetic might be limited.  Generational differences simply equate to the time you’ve had on this earth to absorb the world around you.  That affects your aesthetic, as well. 

One reason this happens is where artists are turning for inspiration. If Pinterest and Instagram are an artist’s major source of inspiration, then the makeup that results is likely to be similar:

Aside from the lip colors, these makeups are basically all the same and this look is pervasive on Instagram.  

If your goal is to work in commercial, you must have examples of professionally-shot commercial work on your website. These are examples of clean, commercial makeups that can work to attract commercial jobs as well as editorial jobs:

Photo By:  Jordan Liberty Photo By:  Courtney Dailey Photo By:  Courtney Dailey


You cannot prove that you can be trusted with the time and money it takes to produce a commercial shoot or video with selfies of makeup that looks like this:

When this model sits in front of the photographer to be shot for a Neutrogena campaign, that photographer does not have the time to explain to you why the brow is too heavy and the foundation is too visible and the highlight looks like grease under these lights. And she definitely doesn’t have time to wait for you to figure out how to make that happen.

If you want a career in fashion, then you must have examples of professionally-shot fashion looks on your website. You cannot prove that you can be trusted to execute a prescribed look a model in 15 minutes or less if all you have to show for yourself is an Instagram full of selfies.

Work in this industry is about time and money. Shooting a print ad or commercial takes time and every hour that ticks by costs production money in labor and rentals. Fashion shows cost a ton of money to produce. In these real-world situations, no one can afford your inexperience, and the only ways to prove that you can handle it is to either have photographic evidence (which not only shows your work but a connection to the photographer) or assisting an established artist and getting their referral.

Where To Go From Here?

Start looking at different kinds of references. Study the makeup coming out of the big fashion shows, red carpet, and vintage fashion. Familiarize yourself with iconic looks from something other than the 2000s. Get a good handle on your references and then really push yourself outside of your comfort zone to create something that isn’t cookie cutter, but totally you!




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