When working as on-camera talent for a corporate video job, I often have access to a professional makeup artist on site. It may not be quite equivalent to a trip to the spa, but it is purely decadent to sit down in a chair and have someone “fix me.” I have worked with countless talented makeup professionals over the years, and I am always grateful for their ability to transform me from a barefaced, sleep-deprived mom into someone who is broadcast worthy.
However, not every camera shoot garners a makeup artist’s magic, especially if that on-camera communication is taking place at home over WebEx. (Wouldn’t that be fun, though, if every virtual video meeting came with a “makeup artist on call”?)
In the event that you are left to your own devices—and makeup kit—here are some general guidelines to follow that are well within the skill sets of most women. You may not be as “camera perfect” as you would be at the hands of a professional, but you will certainly look “camera pretty-darn-good.”
Even if you do wear makeup regularly, any on-camera makeup requires a slightly heavier hand. With that in mind, you need to prepare your skin for what is going to be applied. Peeling, dry skin will flake even more once products are put on, so be sure to moisturize in advance. You want to make sure it has time to sink in.
Another thing you can do is apply a primer to your clean, moisturized face. This will create a smooth canvas and extend the life of your foundation.
Foundation can create the effect of a smooth, uniform complexion and cover up any minor imperfections. Typically, a liquid foundation will be more forgiving than a full powder one, which has a tendency to settle in wrinkles or fine lines.
Remember, foundation isn’t just for your face. Make sure your neck is covered as well so you don’t have an obvious line at your jawline where the foundation ends. If your hands will be in the shot, consider applying foundation to the back of them as well, especially if their tone will be in stark contrast to that of your face.
Shine is the enemy for any on-camera performer. What may look dewy and youthful in person can come across as just plain greasy on video. Powder, either loose or compact, can take that shine out of the equation. If you are in a studio, you also may sweat under the lights. In fact, if you are doing a high-stakes presentation on camera, you may sweat regardless of the heat generated by your lighting. Perspiration can slide your makeup off of your face. Powder can help to prevent that.
The camera tends to flatten your features, including your eyes, which can seem to disappear. With that in mind, it is up to you to draw them out, sometimes literally.
Simple eye shadow without a shimmer or sheen helps to emphasize your eyes. You don’t need to figure out how to create “the smoky eye” or master where to use all three shades in your eye shadow compact, but some color will add dimension that a naked eye does not have on camera. A good mascara and eyeliner will also go a long way toward defining your eyes. Most of the makeup artists I know apply extra eyeliner toward the outer edges of the eye and put a darker shade of shadow in the crease to create a sense of depth.
Your color choice follows the same rule as your wardrobe. Use the color palette that you are drawn to but don’t seek to make a statement. The cardinal rule, though, is to opt for matte over glimmer. Santa can have a twinkle in his eye, but you should not because of glitzy eye shadow.
Through the miracle of foundation, you have created a flawless face, but there’s a problem. Your face likely has no definition. Blush can alleviate your apparent lack of cheekbones on camera and adds some welcome color to your monochrome complexion. You will need to apply more than you think reasonable because the lights will blast out much of the color anyway.
While I wouldn’t suggest going Marilyn Monroe red, adding color to your lips can also help you define your features. A lip stain or matte lipstick can provide that pop of color but you want to avoid lip glosses, which will reflect the light in unpredictable ways. If you already wear lipstick, there really isn’t a need to stray from your norm. If you don’t, find a neutral color that doesn’t take you too far out of your comfort zone.
Finding the amount of makeup that makes you feel and look your best on camera might require some trial and error. Women who never wear makeup might be uncomfortable with anything on their faces, whereas other women who wear it every day may have no problem putting even more on. How do you know what’s right for you? Take advantage of that camera on your phone or webcam. Try different techniques, take selfies and compare and contrast. Once you’ve identified your favorite look, take note of how you created it. That way, you can recreate it when your next on-camera opportunity comes around, sans a professional makeup artist in the wings.
Learn More: On-Camera Coach
If you found this information valuable, check out my book, On-Camera Coach: Tools and Techniques for Business Professionals in a Video-Driven World, now available from Wiley Publishing. On-Camera Coach aims to take the mystery out of communicating through the camera and provides specific tips and techniques that can make your message sing—and you, the messenger, feel confident in a job well done.