Behind the scenes at many weddings across the globe a battle is brewing between your photography team and your make-up artist (from here on in I’ll just refer to make-up artists as MUA). No, they aren’t fighting about what shade of lipstick you should be wearing, they are jockeying for position on where you will have your hair and make-up done and basically where your entire morning will unfold.
Obviously I’m a bit biased as a photographer but I consider myself fair and reasonable and I’ve tried my best to see both sides of this debate. I’m sure my take on things will upset some MUA’s but honestly most of you are amazing and reasonable to work with and I have all the respect in the world for your job. If this blog does offend you, maybe it’s time to look in the mirror (see what I did there). However, I have seen this growing trend in weddings with more stubborn MUA’s and it’s an issue that should be sorted before the big day begins to avoid stressing out the bride, hence I had to write this blog and clear the air.
Okay, so let me dig into what all the fuss is about, here is the core of the debate. Some MUA’s want their bride in the bathroom with a big mirror where it’s comfortable and easy for them to work. They have plenty of outlets, mirrors, and easy access to their equipment. The photographers want the bride by the beautiful flattering window light so they can make gorgeous natural pictures that tell a story.
So what’s the big deal, just get ready in the bathroom and the photographer can do their best and then they have the whole day to get good pictures. Better yet what many MUA’s offer as a compromise is to do all the make-up in the ugly bathroom and then at the end we can fake it by the window for a few minutes. That seems like a fair compromise right?
Wrong, extremely wrong and let me explain why. Our clients hire us to tell a story, and a huge part of the day, sometimes hours, is the getting ready portion. I’ve captured so many beautiful magical moments in the getting ready part of the day. The bride reading a note from the groom, bridesmaids receiving presents, the mother of the bride watching on and tearing up, the list goes on and on. It makes a world of difference when those moments happen in beautiful window light rather than an ugly bathroom.
Another problem with faking it is it can sound good at the time but more times than not things run late and you run out of time. I’m not done yet, having the whole process done in stunning window light or at least a nice room gives your photographer time to be creative and experiment shooting through mirrors, having the dress in the background, etc. You are paying your photography team a lot of money for pictures that are meant to last a lifetime, do you really want them having nothing to shoot in an ugly bathroom for 3 hours then scrambling to be creative crammed into 15 minutes of frantic shooting?
I’ve explained our side of things and that sounds well so what the case for the MUA. Why are they being stubborn? A few arguments from the MUA side of things I’ve heard are “ I don’t want to make my bride hot” or “I can’t see well with natural light or it’s uneven light” or “I need a mirror.” My rebuttal to that is if you’re in a hotel room than heat shouldn’t be a problem, jack up the AC and of course from the photographer’s side of things don’t place her in direct sunbeams. As for a mirror, just bring a medium sized handheld one so the bride can check on things. For the MUA not being able to see well or uneven light, that’s a bit of BS. I’m a photographer so you can’t fool me about how light works. If you face directly out a window the light is completely balanced. Plus our eyes have amazing optics and guess what we can adjust to variant lighting conditions. I’ve worked with hundreds of MUA’s who have done make-up by the window with ease and with beautiful results so I know it can be done. Don’t let them fool you with playing the old, “you won’t look beautiful.” If your MUA can’t make you look beautiful while working by a window then you should find someone else. I don’t know too many photographers who take beautiful pictures in dark ugly bathrooms.
To be fair many MUA’s can be turned off and defensive to photographers because honestly photographers can be pushy and aggressive. Our team’s approach is to have a talk with our clients ahead of the wedding. We ask them politely if they can ask the MUA to do everything by the window and this avoids the annoyance of a MUA getting set up and having to move later on (I can see why that would be really annoying). Our team also offers to help with moving any furniture, their equipment, and extension cords (although any good MUA should have their own) to help make things comfortable for everyone.
In the end neither vendor should cause any stress to the bride on her wedding day so this should be addressed early on. Unfortunately the reality is that this does happen on the wedding day and a bride has to make a decision. To avoid any stress on your big day, make it clear ahead of time.
For MUA’s working weddings, I highly recommend you figure out how to do make-up by the window and don’t scare the bride by saying you won’t look pretty, that’s cruel. It’s your job to make them look pretty and so many MUA’s do a fantastic job so if you don’t know how to do it, ask someone and learn. I see MUA’s work outside, inside, just about everywhere and while it might be more convenient for you to work in the bathroom suck it up for the better good.
For photographers, don’t be an ass and be pushy and demanding. Address this beforehand with the bride and make a plan so the bride doesn’t have to deal with any stress on her big day. Help out with moving furniture and just be polite and friendly about everything.
For Brides, the last thing you want to do is offend anyone and I understand you want to avoid conflict but the decision is yours and better to avoid conflict ahead of time than on your wedding day.
If your getting ready pictures are a big deal and you want the most beautiful shots possible for that part of the day, side with the photographer and let them choose the location. If that part of the day isn’t a big deal and you don’t want getting ready pictures let the MUA choose the set up, just let both parties know ahead of time and you will save yourself a wedding day hassle.
Here are some samples of my favorite getting ready shots all taken by the window.