I'm not a photographer but a makeup artist with a photography question. I'm doing my first catwalk show and the organisers have asked for a metallic/glitter look on the eyes but said they've had problems in the past with this photographing badly, in particular it being dull, especially on darker skin tones. I'm wondering if anyone can explain why this may be (in simple terms - I'm not a photographer!). I'm just wondering how much of this is down the photographer and/or if there's anything I can do to help in terms of the makeup.

Any help would be great! Thanks

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    \$\begingroup\$ is there a chance to test makeup before the show? I imagine that makeup starts few hours before the show, you can invite a photographer to test-drive it then. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 19:50

2 Answers 2


Highly reflective objects are rare in nature. Metallic glitter makeup is striking because it produces an effect outside the norm. In nature, most surfaces, including human skin, are irregular, thus they reflect light in a non-directional way. The human eye is smooth plus moist; thus tiny brilliant refection, coming from the eyes is commonplace. These “catchlights” makes the eyes come alive. The use of metallic glitter as an eye enhancement maximizes this illusion.

Photographically metallic glitter adds to the challenge of making elegant images. The brilliant, pin-point reflections they create overtax both digital imaging and film. Often, instead of imaging as a catchlights, what happens is, they image as enlarged white specks, too large and void of detail. Sometimes they image black, void of detail.

This is nothing new, Max Factor and George Westmore,, to name only two famous movie makeup artist, faced and solved similar problems obtained fame fabricating stage makeup. They created successful markup companies as a spinoff. The solution is a special metallic glitter for this application. Consider using a dulling sprayI have heard that a dulling spray was concocted using talcum powder mixed with water and sprayed on using a perfume atomizer. You might think of pretreating the glitter with matte clear spray paint or maybe hairspray.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems like you might be answering a different question than the one the OP asked. The problem in the question is that the makeup looks too dull, not too bright. If your suggestion about a dulling spray can help make the makeup appear to glitter more, additional explanation may be needed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleb
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 18:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ Caleb - I think the too dark or too dull is reflections from the glitter going black and void of detail. I have been wrong more that a thousand times in my life time. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 19:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would imagine that softer lights (as in: larger area lights) would help, too, as they reduce specular highlights overall. That, however, is something that the photographer has to decide - not the make-up artist. \$\endgroup\$
    – flolilo
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 20:20

The glitter is photographing dull because it isn't efficiently reflecting the light falling on it back to the camera.

The photographer needs to position himself at or near the incident angle, that is the angle opposite from which the light reflects off of the glitter. For example if the lights will be directly in front and slightly above, a camera position directly in front and slightly below will maximize whatever sparkle may result.

If the lights are only directly above the catwalk, a photographer in front will not receive most of the light reflected off of the makeup.


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