I love beauty photography.
It’s not fashion. It’s beauty. There is a difference in the genres. Some may or may not get it, but, alas, there is a difference.
I wanted to learn beauty. This year, I am narrowing my focus on mainly beauty and have a 12 month plan to tackle this goal. However, I knew in some capacity that my skills were lacking. For example, I could never figure out how to capture the right angle of my subjects so that I could create some impactful and amazing images for my own portfolio. I would study other photographers’ work and attempt to implement the pose or a similar concept but I always felt like I failed in my endeavor. I would relentlessly flip through their Instagram feeds, Facebook pages and their websites and share them with fellow artists to collaborate with. I even took a workshop which was great but I wanted more because I was just missing something in my work that would set me apart from others. My work was “pretty” but not “amazing.” (I’m my own worst critic, I know.)
So, when it became available, I got the Go Pro Studio Beauty Photography tutorial by Julia Kuzmenko McKim. I’ve been patiently waiting for Julia to release it as I saw her advertising it here and there and it looked like the very tutorial I was looking for. At first I had some issues downloading all the videos and she was more than gracious to help me resolve the issue and get the downloads to work properly. Her email responses were quick and my issue resolved immediately. This is how I knew that she was completely approachable and down to earth.
Then I took a chance and asked her if she had time to do a one-on-one workshop with me as I saw another student’s work on her IG feed and I loved it. I even messaged him to ask about his experience and he had great things to say about the workshop.
The big thing was… I needed to do it within the next two weeks because I was starting my new “day” job.
Lots of constraints, yes I know. But, if you’re going to do something, why put it off if you have the chance? Julia was incredibly gracious and made time for me on March 13th (my birthday!). It was as simple as that. I wanted to do it, so I asked, she said yes, and then I was on a plane.
My day started with meeting Julia and her team at The Dover Studios near Koreatown, in Los Angeles. Amazing studio space and Rick Ross was very friendly. Julia brought her equipment in and Lupe Moreno was already at work laying out her makeup table and flipping through some ideas. I approached Lupe and asked her what her thoughts were on my board and what she might want to do, gaining her input for the day’s events. She was excited! She was explaining that our model, Oralia, was a pale beauty and that she wanted to make her bronzy and sun-kissed. The end result was amazing and you can see it in the picture. The transformation was incredible! Lupe’s talent is beyond compare and it’s no wonder that she is one of Julia’s favorite makeup artists to collaborate with. We were all very excited and when you’re inspired by a makeup artist, it makes it that much more enjoyable to create beautiful She alone should have a workshop to teach others her talents. I know that I would attend.
For the shoot, our model was the beautiful Oralia, from Osbrink Models and she is a model/actress on the Netflix show, NARCOS (which is way cool!). Oralia was incredibly down-to-earth and I thoroughly enjoyed conversing with her about what a model expects or needs to make a photoshoot amazing. She was patient with me while I was trying to get the right angle and crop and really gave me a 110% effort.
My conversations with Julia were candid and honest in between shooting different looks with our model, Oralia. Our talks ranged from the beauty industry overall to the specifics of retouching skin, what to look for in talent (both model and makeup artists), how to create your vision, working towards a particular goal and aesthetic, and providing input and direction to makeup artists as well as to the model. She walked me through her lighting set ups and I learned in real time by being in the moment watching her in action. While I definitely think the Go Pro tutorial is fantastic if you can’t be there in person, nothing compares to watching a pro actually go to work. We finished off the day retouching and learning new workflow processes, having candid conversations about where I wanted to go in my journey, and just being inspired. My biggest takeaway from the retouching portion of the day was – don’t retouch images if it’s not a worthy image. Choose the images that you want to spend time on because everything about the image is great – the expression, the lighting, the makeup, the hair blowing the right way… all of those things make or break an image. Sometimes I would retouch a lot of images despite not being inspired by them. Sometimes you just have to say ‘no’ to retouching mediocre images and put your energy into something that really inspires you.
Workshops are not inexpensive endeavors. Knowledge is not cheap. I made a promise to myself that I would only attend two workshops this year. The artists I chose had to be people I could learn from and grow from. I didn’t want to just go to a workshop and get 8 minutes to shoot something 16 other people were going to shoot. It wasn’t valuable to me. The cost of this workshop is expensive, but I will tell you it’s the SAME COST as going to a workshop with 16 other people. Julia’s workshop was ONE-ON-ONE; there were no other students in the class but you. I was there with her makeup artist, the model, and Julia and we spent the entire day creating various looks that I’m using to learn how to do higher-end retouching to obtain a certain visual aesthetic. I am one step closer to creating beautiful imagery that ‘wows’ my audience as well as makes me proud. So choose your workshop wisely and put your money where you’re going to learn something and come home from it feeling inspired.
Julia Kuzmenko McKim is a world-renowned beauty photographer, retoucher, and educator in the field of beauty photography and retouching. Her IG feed is a beautiful collage of women adorned with luscious makeup artistry by her favorite stylists. Her retouching is impeccable and flawless; her creativity is visionary. She pushes boundaries while maintaining an aesthetic that makes other beauty photographers and makeup artists ‘ooooh’ and ‘ahhhh.’