5 Reasons Why You Absolutely Need Professional Modeling Headshots

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By The Light Committee

Adult women and men looking to start a modeling career will need to have a portfolio of photos to present to potential clients. They will also need shots to submit to modeling agencies. Advice on what to submit does vary from agency to agency. Sometimes this can include advice to just get basic shots done – even with just a smartphone, and especially for modeling digitals. Is this good advice?

modeling digitals of a woman in a half body shot in a studio in Los Angeles
A Headshot is One Must-Have Shot in Your Digitals
  1. One can look at some of the top modeling agency websites and see that most modeling headshots listed there are professionally shot. There are at least five reasons you will want to also get professional modeling shots done. Here are the reasons:
  2. You want to be a professional model, to be shot by professional photographers – so the photos in your portfolio should be professionally made so you are seen in that light.
  3. Too many other models cut corners using a smartphone and that gives you the chance to stand out with stronger images.
  4. Being taken seriously as a professional means you always put your best foot forward.
  5. It helps creative directors more easily visualize how you might appear to them in a shoot they are planning.
  6. Because working with a professional photographer will make you look much better.

Beyond this, what shots might you want to focus on? There really is no limit to the number of photos you can have in your arsenal. Some agencies have just a few per model and some have near 20. Some models also have their own website and more than a hundred photos posted.

It is a good idea to not overwhelm while also making sure you have enough shots to help people decide how they might work with you. While you might not want to post every professional photo of yourself you have made, having extras will provide an opportunity to cycle through some over time to see which ones are more popular. However, there are some essential shots you should seriously consider having at a minimum.

Create a Full Professional Modeling Portfolio

A basic Modeling Digitals will usually start with at least one headshot, a full-length body shot, a half-body or three-quarter body shot, and a swimsuit shot. These shots are basically your core modeling digitals. More on this later. The headshot is a close-up and you might consider having two different types – more on this to come.

The full-length body shot is usually taken against a solid or uncluttered background. Clothes should be form-fitting so the shape of your body can be easily discerned. It can be a good idea to have a front and back full body shot. A half-body or three-quarter body is a complementary shot to the full body one. It can be with the same look, just a different pose or perhaps different hair styling. As for the swimsuit shot, it can be a three-quarter body shot. The goal is to showcase your body but to not do so in an overly sexy way.

A woman in a model portfolio photo shoot in lingerie in Los Angeles
A Lifestyle Shot Like This One is One Consideration to Have in a Modeling Portfolio

Start with a Great Natural Shot

An all-natural close-up of your face is important. You should consider doing this shot with very little or no makeup. It is ideal to do this shot in a studio setting with studio lighting. A professional photographer can then use this gear to help make this shot look good too. As for retouching, it is perfectly okay to do light retouching on this shot. This might include removing any blemishes that are not your essence – a stray hair, red eye, minor acne that eventually will go away anyway, and so on.

Add a Beauty Shot

Next, consider adding a beauty headshot. Working with a professional photographer will be important for this shot. It will likely be best to do so in a commercial studio. This is also a close-up of your face, but make-up can be used as desired. Retouching is also okay. Basically, the natural shot is what you would look like when you arrive to a photo shoot and this beauty shot is what the finished product might be after a commercial shoot and post-production is complete.

The Other Shots You Should Have

It is also a very good idea to have lifestyle or editorial shots. This can be in a studio, but it is also good to have some at locations. For example, if you want to be considered for fitness campaigns, having lifestyle shots in workout gear is good. But you might also want these shots to be outdoors as if you are working out. If you want to be considered for swimsuit shoots, beach shots in your swimwear are important. Looking to do fashion shoots, then shots with your best outfits will be important.

The types of lifestyle or editorial shots you can create are practically limitless. If you work with an agency, ask them what 3-4 different looks you should focus on and start there. If you do not have an agency yet, figure out the 3-4 different types of shoots you would like to be considered for.

A woman in a modeling digitals model comp card made in a studio in Los Angeles

Modeling Digitals & Comp Cards

Comp cards were widely used as the sort-of business card for models. The same concept is pretty much today termed modeling digitals. Comp cards are not done. They are still used. They are printed and basically have your top 4-5 photos on it. There is no standard in terms of what shots, how many or what size these should be. Popular sizes can range from 4×4’ to 6×9” or 8.5×5.5” and more.

Whether for modeling digitals or a comp card, in most cases, you will want a headshot, your full body shot, a lifestyle shot and perhaps your swimsuit shot. But, again, this is not set in stone. You might opt for two headshots in place of a swimsuit shot. You might squeeze five photos instead of four. Get creative but make it look good.

Many models nowadays rely on just Instagram to refer people to their photos. Some models have their own website. While these online tools are more important nowadays, a printed comp card is sometimes requested and can be another method to help you stand out from the crowd.

A comp card will also have basic information about yourself. This commonly includes your name, contact information, and sizes for your height, bust, waist, and hips. You can also include other information like your usual hair color and length, spoken languages, and so on. But again, it is more common today to have modeling digitals.

Finding a Professional Photographer

If you are ready to get started with a modeling portfolio, or to upgrade an existing one, you will want to find a good and affordable professional photographer. Doing so can be daunting if effort is not made to research them. You can end up paying more than you probably should have for affordable modeling digitals.

Start with a local online search and perhaps only consider photographers with a lot of review and that are at least four stars or more. Make sure they have a lot of reviews across more than just one online platform too. Once you have created a short list based on reviews, get on their website.

Check out their portfolio and make sure you do so using a large screen and not your smartphone. When you evaluate their photography, doing so on a smartphone can deceive on quality. Inquire about their rates to make further comparisons. And consider getting on the phone to chat with them – just to hear how friendly and helpful they might be.

Getting into modeling requires strong work ethic and not settling for low quality when it comes to marketing yourself. This is because in major metro areas like Los Angeles and New York, competition is fierce and only those with the look and fiercest portfolios can stand apart from the crowd.