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Why Glitter Makeup is not always your friend

Sorry about the eye staring back at you, but it goes to a bigger point about the use of glitter makeup in portraits and other studio photography.

First, understanding why people use glitter and shine makeup was something that took research.  Not because I didn’t know what it was, but because I wasn’t sure how it is used for a lot of things.  An eye, after all, is a very small part of the human face and a much smaller portion of the human body.  And yet, we spend so much time staring straight into it.

Glitter makeup is used by cheerleaders, gymnasts, dancers, stage performers and more.  They tend to bring your focus back to the eye, the face, which is where human drama is created for whatever performance is taking place.  A glittery toe, for instance, does not evoke near the emotion of intensity that can be generated in an instant by the face (a combination of eyes, eyebrows, mouth, jaw, posture, and angle).

But, it doesn’t do well with studio flash and closeup photography.  Here’s why.

Studio photography typically relies on flash.  Studio flash, momentarily, is very bright.  But that much brightness is utilized by the camera to capture all the significant detail of the face (especially) of the subject.  But since it IS a bright light, it also does a lot of reflecting.  As you can see, it’s reflecting off the subject’s eye quite clearly.  But it is also reflecting, in a different way, off the skin around the eye where the glitter makeup has been used.

The result is thousands of tiny speckles.  Some are so tightly grouped together that they appear as one giant reflection.  And although they truly are thousands of tiny mirrors reflecting the light, they also completely distract from the skin’s natural tons and colors.  Skin is beautiful, translucent and an essential element in the consistency of the face.  Glitter makeup almost completely destroys the skin’s color and translucence.  It leaves only a shine.

The outcome is what you see.  Now, this is a very very very tight crop on a recent subject’s eye.  I hope that’s it’s tight enough that you cannot identify the subject, but so that you can see why studio photographers often warn against using glittler makeup.

Many “natural light” (I still don’t know what this phrase actually means -isn’t all light natural?) photographers may want to start warning their subjects that glitter makeup adds considerably to the amount of retouching that needs to be done to maintain a good “flow” in the skin.  Right now, if I hadn’t said something about glitter makeup, it could easily be perceved as sweat, oil, or something else.

Any questions?