01 December, 2014

Retro Pinup Makeup and Photoshoot Tutorial

One of my favorite series to write for this blog is the Lips of the Decades series, in which I would feature tutorials for lip makeup trends from decades past, and today I want to talk about retro makeup. Specifically, how to set up a vintage photoshoot! 

I am going to cover the following:
  • Makeup
  • Hair
  • Nails
  • Fashion
  • Props
  • How to pose
  • Photo editing advice

For your retro-inspired picture to look historically accurate (or at least convincing), you will need full-coverage makeup because that was the trend at the time. From the mid-1960s and earlier, the foundation trend was full coverage with a matte finish.

Below are the products that were used:

1) Make Up Forever HD foundation: while the finish is just average in person, it is extremely beautiful in pictures! This foundation gives the skin that airbrushed finish. Apply with a disposable sponge.

2) L'Oreal True Match Super Blendable Powder: again, this is a product that gets mixed reviews online. However, it photographs very well because it provides a smooth and even coverage without sinking into pores. Apply with a soft powder brush.

3) Becca Beach Tint in "Poppy": this tinted gel provides a sheer wash of color on your cheeks without competing with your red lipstick. Apply and blend quickly with your index finger.

4) Make Up Forever Aqua Brow: this is a pigmented brow gel that you brush on to your eyebrows for a beautiful finish! Apply with an angled eyeliner brush, and then blend out with a clean, old mascara wand.

5) MAC "Cork" eyeshadow: Eye makeup was very basic from the 1950s and earlier. In fact, since the red lips are the focus, you don't want your eye makeup to compete with that. Apply and blend with your favorite eyeshadow brush; just make sure that it's dense enough to pick up the product.

6) Benefit "They're Real!" mascara: or just use any of your favorites. I admit, I also wore false eyelashes here, since my natural ones are quite short. False eyelashes are highly recommended in a retro photoshoot, just because you're already keeping your eye makeup so subtle, so you need something to balance that out.

7) Chapstick: you don't need anything fancy. Just use whatever lip balm you have on hand.

8) MAC "Russian Red" lipstick: this is a rich, deep red hue. If there is another shade of red that you prefer, by all means, use it! Line your lips with a lip brush first, and then fill in with the lipstick.

9) MAC "Blacktrack" Fluidline eyeliner: apply with an angled eyeliner brush to your upper and lower eyelids.

HAIR: you don't need to be a skilled hair stylist to have beautiful, retro-inspired styled hair. Here is my quick and easy approach.

  1. Apply a volumizing mousse to the roots of your damp hair.
  2. Apply a heat-protecting spray, serum, or oil treatment to the bottom half of your hair.
  3. Blow-dry.
  4. Curl your hair in small sections with your favorite heated curling tool.
  5. Wait for your curls to cool. Gently brush through with your fingers. Finish with hairspray.
  6. Pin some hair back with bobby pins, if you want yours to be styled like mine. If you're unlike me, and actually good with styling your hair, do a search for retro hair style tutorials! :o)
NAILS: while you don't need to get a professional manicure, your nails should still be neat and clean. Don't distract from the theme of your photoshoot with polish colors like blue, green, etc. Instead, opt for a classic shade. When in doubt, just match it to your lipstick. I wore a basic matte red nail polish on my nails, and added gold glitters on top for fun (you don't have to be 100% historically accurate!).

FASHION: you don't have to wear a dress, but don't go through all of the trouble of creating convincing retro-inspired makeup, only to pose with a T-shirt. :-P You can even wear a simple blouse. 

However, if you're curious, the dress that I'm wearing in my picture is the "Cinderella" dress by Tatyana. Tatyana Boutique, previously known as Bettie Page Boutique, sells retro-inspired clothing for modern women. I highly recommend going with this brand, rather than buying a vintage dress, just because vintage dresses were made for vintage undergarment, so the shapes may not necessarily work for what we wear as underwear today. For instance, women in the 1950s wore long-line bras with pointy cups because that was the trendy look at the time. Thus, a dress from the 1950s might look awkward when worn over our modern undergarments.

PROPS: I prefer a solid colored wall as the background. If you don't have that, just hang up a plain bed sheet (in any solid color you like, but the lighter, the better). 

You may also set up a little table with cute props such as candy jars, filled with old-fashioned hard candies. However, that's unnecessary. For example, you may simply sit in a chair like I do in my picture, while holding something iconic, such as a Coca Cola bottle or glass. A large, multi-colored lollipop is also cute.

POSE: pin-up girls are known for their bright, friendly smiles. So, practice in the mirror! You will also want your smile to be even. 

Other poses include pouting, looking surprised, excited, curious, etc.

When in doubt, pose while reciting the vowels: A; E; I; O; U.

A: friendly smile.
E: excited smile.
I: perfect smile.
O: surprised.
U: puckering up, ready for a kiss.

For ideas on how to pose your body, do a Google Images search for "Vargas pinup." 

PHOTO Advice:
  • While a DSLR camera is highly recommended, it is not required. However, it is important that you know how to set up the timer, and use a tripod. I find that the pictures look more crisp and clear when taken from a tripod, than when held by human hands (which can be shaky, no matter how slight the movement).
  • If you're unfamiliar with the camera, just set it on Automatic.
  • If you don't have a professional photography lamp, just sit outside in natural lighting. However, avoid having the sun in your face; you won't want your face to look uncomfortable or squinty (which can cause you to look awkward). Avoid using the camera flash whenever possible. This is another reason why you need a tripod, because the pictures will come out much clearer, as they tend to be blurry when the flash feature is turned off.
  • Pinup pictures tend to be warm toned, so in your favorite photo editing program (such as Photoshop or PicMonkey.com), use a warming filter.
  • For the smooth effect, use the "Reduce Noise" feature in Photoshop. If you use another program, use its blurring feature, but do it only ever so slightly, and go up in small increments until your picture is as smooth as you like.
**I do not get paid for mentioning any of the products here. The link to Tatyana is an affiliate link.


  1. Hello dear!
    I love your style, you look so stunning! x
    This is my first visit here but definitely not the last :)

    Would you like to follow each other? :)


  2. Gorgeous I love how Russian Red looks on you, very Retro!

    Serene xoxo


  3. I love this post! You look amazing Tammy! The red lippie looks gorgeous on you.

    Keisha xo

  4. Gorgeous!!
    College Cheese | A College Lifestyle Blog by: Wendy Watson

  5. Look at you all gorgeous and stuff!!! Love it


  6. Great tutorial. You really nailed this look! :)

    (IG: @TheStardustBohemian)

  7. You look amazing! I love the look.


  8. Oh my goodness, you looked stunning. Your makeup was flawless in your picture. Very Retro Chic.


  9. You rock this look, so gorgeous!! I don't think I can pull off this retro look as well as you can haha. Thanks for the tutorial :)
    Yours Truly, NY

  10. You looked FLAWLESS ! WOw ! The pics are stunning and your make-up look was totally pin-up inspired. Classic.


  11. You look gorgeous!


  12. The whole look is gorgeous! Love it :)

    Georgia | www.georgiajade.com

  13. Love this tutorial! It's so cute!


Thank you so much for sharing your opinion. I take the time to read all comments, and respond to questions. Feel free to leave a blog link with your comments, but please don't simply spam with just links and nothing else. Thanks!

© Copyright. Chic and Alluring