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Kate Middleton in a carriage at her wedding
Kate Middleton famously does her own makeup.
Photo: Fred Duval/Getty Images

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The Makeup to Use and Avoid for the Best Wedding Pictures

Celebrity makeup artists share all their tips and product recommendations.

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Your wedding is one of the few times where you’ll potentially spend thousands of dollars on professional photography. And while your photographer should know what they’re doing and presumably will do everything to ensure you have great pictures, your makeup can really have an effect on the final product.

I called celebrity makeup artists Mai Quynh, whose clients include Reese Witherspoon, Keri Russell, Elizabeth Olson, and Rosario Dawson; Fiona Stiles, who has an eponymous makeup line and whose clients include Jennifer Garner, Natalie Portman, Halle Berry, and Jessica Alba; and pro wedding makeup artist Lilit Caradanian, who also happens to be an Instagram beauty guru with over one million followers and her own makeup line. They offered some tricks and product recommendations for ensuring that your makeup lasts and looks great in pictures, whether you’re doing it yourself or springing for professional makeup application.

Skin Prep

Skin really is the canvas for everything you put on top of it. Quynh recommends a pore minimizing primer if you’re starting out with oilier skin. Stiles recommends prepping around the eye area if you’re concerned about fine lines or excessive dryness there. The goal is to not look too matte or too shiny. (Of the Armani primer below, she says, “It’s a little pricey but it is totally worth the investment, especially if doing your own makeup. Take some of that money you were hoping to put toward a professional makeup artist and invest in this tube!”)

Benefit Cosmetics The POREfessional Face Primer ($31)


All three agreed that foundation will make or break the overall look of your skin. Take a good hard look in the mirror (literally and figuratively) to determine whether it runs more on the oily or the dry side, because each type requires different products. All three makeup artists agreed that if you run oily or dry, those features can appear more obvious in your pictures; they also agree that a semi-matte finish will look best in photography. Quynh also notes that if your body is darker than your face, that contrast will only be more obvious in photos.

If you have oily skin, steer clear of anything too shimmery because it will totally be enhanced by the flash,” warns Stiles. “If you want more luminescence and you have more oily skin, rely on powdered products versus trying to have that dewiness in your foundation, because it will ruin your pictures.” She recommends looking for a foundation that has the word “luminous” in the description if you have drier skin. Avoid anything too matte.

Fiona Stiles Matte Finish Foundation (oily) (on sale for $7.50)
Chantecaille Oil Free Future Skin Foundation (oily) ($78)
Laura Mercier Candleglow Soft Luminous Foundation (dry) ($48)
Jouer Luminizing Moisture Tint (dry) ($36)


Choose one based on your skin type, the same as foundation. And when it comes to undereye concealing, a pro tip: Stiles feels that the now-ubiquitous YSL Touche Eclat concealer is a bit too sheer for heavy-duty cover-ups.

Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer (dry) ($30)

HD Powder

The most horrifying example of makeup-related photography gone wrong is, of course, a few years ago when Nicole Kidman and Angelina Jolie were photographed on the red carpet with visible chalky powder patches on their faces. This is the result of HD powder, which looks great on movie sets, where there is consistent lighting. But they have a “flashback” problem in flash photography, according to Quynh. All three makeup artists vehemently said to avoid them on your wedding day.

Photo: Jim Spellman/Getty Images
Photo: Lars Niki/Getty Images

Other Powder

Quynh is a huge fan of layering cream and powder products for better overall longevity. (So, for example, use a cream blush under a powder blush.) Use face powder just where you need it if you run oily, though, she suggests.

MAC Blot Powder ($27)

Kat Von D Lock-It Blotting Powder ($29)


All three said to avoid the temptation to slather on the glow, because it will be really prominent in photos. “It’s about having the right glow. Think subtle highlighter, not sparkly,” says Caradanian. Quynh agrees: “With a flash, you’ll catch certain areas of your face,” she says. She also notes that liquid or cream highlighters are easier to blend than powders if you’re not used to them. Put it on the high point of your cheekbones and a teeny bit on the tip of your nose, advises Caradanian.

Marc Jacobs Beauty Dew Drops Coconut Gel Highlighter ($44)


If you don’t contour in real life, don’t do it for your wedding, advise the artists. Even if you’re comfortable with the technique, still proceed with extreme caution. “If you contour, use sheer products,” says Stiles. Stiles and Caradanian both recommend contouring with a bronzer for a more subtle look.

Bobbi Brown Bronzer ($42)


Think a combination of matte and sateen texture, and avoid the ultra-matte liquid lipstick Kylie Jenner made famous. “It’s going to look flat and it will absorb all the light,” says Stiles. “You want to look juicy and yummy and dewy and fresh and young.” She recommends using a lip pencil under your lipstick to increase longevity.

Caradanian recommends putting a tissue over your lips after you apply your lipstick, then powder lightly on top of the tissue to set it. Lorac Pro Matte Lip Color is her go-to wedding lipstick for her bridal clients. She recommends Nude Pink for light skin tones, Pink Taupe for medium skin tones, and Mauve for darker skin tones.

Lorac Pro Matte Lip Colors ($19)
Charlotte Tilbury Hot Lips Lipstick ($34)

Setting Spray

Pros don’t always agree that this is a necessary step, but Caradanian swears by them. They can help to set makeup and can take away shine.

Skindinavia Makeup Finishing Spray Bridal ($29)
Urban Decay De-Slick Oil-Control Makeup Setting Spray (oily) (on sale for $18)

Lighting Tests

If you’re planning to do your own makeup, Fiona Stiles recommends doing several test runs at home and photographing yourself (or recruit someone to help you) with a real camera in different lighting situations and with a flash. Then do it again with your iPhone, because a lot of candid photos will be taken of you that way.


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