It’s common knowledge that a photographer can shape a makeup artist’s career. But what we don’t talk about as often is how often makeup artists shape a photographer’s career. I personally have been lucky to have TWO makeup artists guide and aid my success in the industry.

Toronto-based artist Colette Cormier helped me out during my rookie years. I was 19 and working as a cashier at Henry’s camera store; she was purchasing something, and we got to talking. The next thing I knew, we were shooting a creative together, and there began our awesome friendship.

Makeup by Colette Cormier

I was very fortunate to learn a tremendous amount from Colette during a time where information wasn’t easily available–before you could ask Google anything.

She taught me about SEO’s: how to build my ranking on Google, how to build a website, how to market myself, and how to write introductory emails to various advertising agencies. Because of her, I garnered many jobs because I was ranked first on Google under the key phrase: “Toronto Photographers.”  Collete and I additionally shot a tremendous amount of beauty creatives, which began to shape my beauty lighting style.

The second half of my rookie years happened after I moved to LA: I thought I knew a lot, and I didn’t. I met makeup artist Andre Sarmiento at a Starbucks on Wilshire (you should check out our interview with him if you haven’t already). Andre was late, a little scattered, hyper, happy, friendly, and highly energetic. 

Makeup by Andre Sarmiento

I didn’t think he was ready to work with me yet. The joke was, he thought the same about me. We ended up shooting a beauty creative together. This is where I learned what it meant to be a photographer in LA: what the industry was about, and how to break the rules. And let me tell you: it was a long, long, LONG grueling journey for both of us. I was stubborn, and Andre felt like he was banging his head against a wall.

Lesson number 1: LA is a commercial environment. All the avant-garde beauty creatives I was craving to shoot had no place in my portfolio, if I planned on “making it” and actually earning money. Needless to say, this was hard for me. I thought that anything plain was boring, and, to use my popular phrase at the time, that “a monkey could shoot it.”  I’m literally laughing out loud as I type this because plain and simple, beautiful skin is what I ended up becoming known for. 

That said, I came from a very technical background. I didn’t approach my work like an artist was supposed to: freely and experimentally. It took YEARS to break out of the box. This meant that I had to learn the meaning of “editorial.” I could shoot commercial beauty easily, but I couldn’t for the life of me understand how to adopt an editorial style. Andre literally directed our creatives, held my hand and guided me through the image selection process. I kept leaning toward images that were pretty but didn’t tell an interesting story. He corrected that, every time until it was ingrained in me.

When I first began photography, I was in love with and influenced by David LaChappelle’s work. It was surreal, provocative, aggressive, with a lot of imagination and a lot of retouching. The makeup artists he worked with were incredible; his work bold.

Photography by David LaChappelle

As you can imagine, I adapted his retouching style; fake, poreless, lineless, textureless plastic skin. It doesn’t work for beautyAndre taught me how to scale it back and gave me tips on maintaining the skin texture during the retouching process, as he was a retoucher as well.

The grand finale of the lessons I learned with makeup artists Colette and Andre was to let go and showcase my work. We shot a lot of material, I would post my work, quickly hate it (my perfectionist personality never allowing me to be content with anything I produced) and therefore remove it from my website. This is a big no-no: if you don’t reach out to clients and show your portfolio, you won’t work!

I think everyone has someone specific that makes a grand difference in how they shape their career. Who was a game-changer in your career?