I just returned from a wonderful Glamour, Beauty and the Nude workshop in Atlanta where we had some great photographer and model attendees–not to mention one of the all-time, best, make-up artists any photographer could ask for, and like all workshops, we go for the best.

Prior to the fun and exhausting workshop, I had traveled to Palm Beach for an annual, private instruction with one of my best clients of that area. After arriving there and spending the night at a beautiful Palm Beach hotel, we did our first shoot that morning in a Palm Beach courtyard, before heading off to a wonderful resort on Captiva Island. While in Captiva, we moved locations each night before I headed out to Atlanta.

While both the Atlanta workshop and the Florida private instruction were fun and educational, photography based, they both differed in many things, from location to make-up artist budget, to obviously the group size of the photographer(s) involved. My client obviously had a larger budget, hence his decision for the one-on-one training and for flying in one of the top make-up artists from New York at a day-rate some photographers dream of achieving.

For the privacy of my client, I’ll keep the MUA’s (make-up artist) and the client’s name private, but I can assure you, the New York-based make-up artist had more tearsheets and experience than most photographers achieve in a lifetime. She came highly recommended from one of the top beauty and commercial photographers of New York, a photographer who I had introduced to my client back at the annual FotoFusion event held near Palm Beach.

Often people ask, what makes a great make-up artists and why do some, like those from New York and Los Angeles command thousands of dollars per day while others only hundreds or less per day? Well obviously the first answer is credibility, just like photography, the more credits (tearsheets, bonafide assignments, accolades, etc.) the more a creative can charge—New York and Los Angeles provide the breeding grounds for such success in credibility faster than other locations. In addition, this make-up artist from New York had paid her dues, just like the photographer of her caliber that recommended her, she had plenty of experience, she started from the bottom up too, but now she’s on top in New York.

She had gained the experience of directing, styling, and hair-styling through her career with very established publications and photographers, all an added bonus to those that hire her. Though some assignments call for separate creatives to do all the latter things, this private instruction was only limited by the passenger van we were utilizing for our driving and of course the extended-passenger golf cart on Captiva Island we rented.

Make-up artists day-rates very, depending on their base location, obviously the more expensive markets of New York and Los Angeles command greater rates than someone from hick town, USA. My client had the ability to afford the best and so he sought the best, an attitude he developed from a prior, poor experience.

While my client is no beginner, as he’s got tearsheets in other genres of photography, I have nothing against beginners working with beginners, though I highly recommend that when you can afford to move up the chain in anything photography releated, do so, it will make you better too as you can feed off someone with more experience too.

As far as the day-rate goes for a make-up artist, it all depends on the client and what that client expects the make-up artist to accomplish. I look at my A-list of MUA’s, their actual location, talent, experience and determine who is best qualified for my client while being able to meet the budget requirements.

I look at a the make-up artist’s can-do attitude and avoid those with an attitude. I look for nothing less and like my client, my decisions on who to hire come from my own previous experiences along with the goal(s) I’m trying to achieve. The make-up artist for our Atlanta workshop was as high-caliber as any photographer could ask for and she’s certainly on my A-list and she would’ve made my client proud just like the New York-based MUA, but obviously day-rates varied between the two.

Those variances were based on traditional working location of the MUA’s, their experience, their tearsheets, and their longevity of their established names. I can assure you, both have the talent my client and I would utilize for our needs—though like a patient looking for a heart-transplant would seek a surgeon with more years of experience and a bigger name, my client decided to go that course because of his own previous experience.

Much like photographers and models, make-up artists have to wait for that lucky break too, as the larger clients can afford to go with those at the top of their game, however, on occasion a chance is taken and a talent gets a lucky opportunity. It’s on these opportunities that those at the top of the A-list begin looking over their shoulders and others take notice and the evolution of rising to the top begins along with the ability to demand higher day-rates.

Passion and commitment will help bring that to life along with being at the right place at the right time and some elbow grease, but not everyone gets the luck and like a commodity, that’s why those at the top can afford to charge more—seems like a vicious circle doesn’t it? Well it can be for most creatives and that’s why some endure and others don’t.

Well I’m off to Chicago and we’re at a new location for our next Glamour, Beauty and the Nude workshop, so I hope to see you there, we have only one spot left! Thanks and God Bless, and remember to keep our military service members, their families and friends in your hearts and prayers, thanks, rg sends!

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