How to Be a Successful Makeup Artist 0n-Location

Makeup Artist. Los Angeles. Models. Celebrities. Seems like a pretty idyllic life right? Getting paid to chase around pretty people with a powder brush all day definitely has its perks. I get to spend my days painting faces that would make Michelangelo second guess the David.  Some days I’m doing makeup overlooking the ocean in Malibu and some days don’t quite make the cut in the “glamorous life” category.  No matter the setting, “I work hard for the money, so hard for it honey”.  Diana Ross had it right.  

So, cut to last month.  I’m super stoked, its my first shoot of 2016 and we’re shooting in this uh-mazing location. Murphy’s Ranch in the Pacific Palisades.   I got the location website the night before and I was drooling. Graffiti everywhere! These shots would be worth it! Yesss!   

Rachael Fibus being shot by Photographer Scooby Miranda

First stop? Starbucks. It really is an integral part of my kit. The warm feeling of the white paper cup in my hand just somehow energizes me for the day ahead.  Soy misto with an add shot and a splenda if you were wondering. I’m feeling my drive, thankful that I get to do what I’m about to do. I feel cute in my oversized black top and leggings. Very makeup artist-y.  Game on. 

Soon we all arrive. Makeup Artist? Check. Photographer? Check. Model? Check. Model’s boyfriend-slash-my would-be man strength-slash-photoshoot assistant-slash-security guard? Check. 

We make our way down to the entrance of the camp.  We have a little hike to get to the actual location we’re shooting at. No big deal, right? Wrong. I brought my full beauty kit, in an extra large Zuca bag.   I never make this mistake; I definitely didn’t read the fine print on that website they so kindly sent over the night before.  Remember the “would-be man strength”? Yea, he had to carry my kit on his back for like 50% of this 45 minute hike we were about to embark on.  Simultaneous thoughts of “Thank God” and “I’m so sorry” were firing off in my brain at the same time.  Needless to say, I won’t be needing that trip to the gym after the shoot because we just clocked about 180 minutes of cardio. 

Rachael kept telling me, “Kayti, I promise its gonna be worth it”. I have to say she was right. And hey, getting paid to get my heart rate up and do what I love.  Win-win! See how positive I am now? After the fact? Yea, little bit of different story while it was happening.  There was a black mail video of me huffing and puffing up like 687 stairs, but it has of course since been deleted. 

So ALL of this to say…I’m sharing my tips for being a successful on-location makeup artist.  

Ask Questions

First and foremost ask QUESTIONS about your shoot.  There’s some pretty vital information you need to know for you to be operating all on cylinders.  

“Where will hair and makeup be stationed?”

Originally, we were supposed to do makeup and hair at another location but last minute we decided to do makeup at the shooting location.  This will definitely help you pack the right sized kit and know exactly what not to bring. 

 “If we’re outside, will there be power?” 

If you are going to be styling hair outside and foresee needing a curling iron, you are definitely going to need power.  Also, if the shoot is in the evening you will need lighting. If power can’t be provided, you can make other arrangements for a location to prep the models.

“What is the food arrangement?”  

Seriously, always bring food no matter what they tell you.  Maybe they won’t have food that meets your dietary restrictions, or maybe lunch isn’t showing up until 7 hours in (its not ideal but it does happen).  I know for me, I have to keep my energy up when I’m shooting.  The days are usually long, and I need fuel to ensure I stay in good spirits. 

“How far is the shooting location from base camp?”  

Will you need to pack a set bag or mini-kit to take to the actual shooting location? If its too far to run back for something, you definitely want to have an appropriate bag to take.  Not a 50 pound kit.  Photoshoots rarely come with model boyfriends willing to carry your equipment up a mountain. 

Take Care of You

Whether you are on location for a wedding or you are out in the desert shooting a fashion editorial, its important to take care of yourself.  This means not only bringing snacks, like I mentioned before, but also making sure you have what you need to stay positive, professional, and comfortable. 

Sunglasses & Sunscreen

One of the worst things when you are on location is not having protection from the sun, especially if there isn’t a place for you to go for some shade.  Bring sunscreen! Don’t come home from a 10 hour day with a bad burn. I have light blue eyes, and if I have to be in crazy bright sun for too long I’ll get a bad headache and let me tell you that’s not good for anyone.  


You never know when you’re gonna need this.  I always like to keep some Advil on me just in case I get that heat headache.  Again, I have to stay on top of my game and can’t be dealing with headaches, or any other aches for that matter. 

Cell Charger/Batteries

Oh how many a set I’ve been on and my phone has died hours before we are wrapped.  Especially if you are out in the middle of nowhere, you want to make sure you have enough juice in your phone to have your GPS guide you home. Also, you want to be able to capture your behind the scenes photos. Because Instagram, hello! Phone cases that charge your battery are great.  I also keep a phone charger in my kit at all times. 

Dress Appropriately

The makeup artist struggle of looking professional, fashionable, all while taking comfort into account.  When you are on location you want to be dressed appropriately.  If you know you are going to be hiking up a mountain, wear clothes you can move in and shoes you can last all day in.  That being said, I still dress in all black and my hair and makeup are clean and polished.  Find your balance with your image.


Be Positive

This goes for pretty much any situation you find yourself in as a makeup artist, or honestly just as a human.     Believe me when I tell you, having a positive outlook and not complaining when you are working on location can make you or break you.  If you are someone who can show up, do some kick-ass makeup, are fun to be around and always keep it positive–trust me the next time there’s a need for makeup artist, you’re getting a call.  And besides, what situation was ever made better by complaining about the obvious.  Things will go wrong, but you can be the person who finds a way to help even if its just by contributing a great attitude.   

Me watching the magic happen

What are your must-do’s for working on-location? 

Leave a comment! 

Kayti Pillor is a Makeup Artist based in Los Angeles specializing in breathtaking beauty.


My makeup station in the mountains

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