FAQs: Headshots & Modeling 101

A perspective client called me last month to inquire about my services and she told me that a talent development school that was selling her acting lessons for her daughter, was pushing her to sign up for a $900 photoshoot in order to develop a compcard. Unless this was an all day shoot, this is pretty steep and I would bet money that the photographer wouldn’t be someone who’s work inspires me.

People need photos for a variety of reasons and there seems to be a never ending line-up of overpriced shoots and $25 photographers on craigslist, either way you’re probably getting ripped off. When I started shooting headshots, it was always my goal to treat clients fairly and ethically, while helping them meet their goals.

Last week I spoke to the woman about headshots for her daughter and she had a lot of questions, questions in which the answers to, industry people may assume to be common knowledge, but this call reminded me how things are not as well known to many perspective clients, as one may think. After spending some time with her on the phone, I felt the call eased some of her stress and helped her feel less overwhelmed by her navigation through a world ultimately foreign to her. Photographers and others, who work with actors and models, like to throw around words like : look, compcard, retouched images and headshots, without ever defining them. I’m sure such jargon may be a bit overwhelming for a newbie, so here are some question I hear most when talking to a perspective client who may be a little new to the industry basics:

Chicago Lifestyle Advertising PhotographerWhat types of jobs can you get modeling?
Modeling isn’t just something you do on a runway in Paris on in a photo spread that appears in Italian Vogue. Just like there are many different types of people, there are many different types of models. In Chicago, there is a lot of work modeling for lifestyle ads, which showcase everyday life and sell a product of service. Often times lifestyle models are good looking everyday people who can come in every shape, size and age. An insurance company may need a delicately matured senior citizen and a beer brand may need a sexy 25 year old fit male with facial hair, who looks like he drinks beer. Ive done several shoots where the client requested a good looking soccer mom and kids ranging from newborns to teenagers. A lot of fashion modeling in the Midwest is catalog shooting for stores like Sears, K-Mart and Kohl’s. Some might scoff at doing these types of shoots, but they pay real money. Of course some of the people I have photographed have gone on to make it big modeling everywhere across the globe.

What is a Look?
A look is a set of pictures taken in a single scene wearing a single outfit. Some photographers limit the number of pictures they will take per look, but I always shoot until we get the shot.

Chicago Headshot photographer

What is a Compcard?
A compcard is short for composite card and is a collection of five images printed on 8.5″ x 5.5″ card stock. Four vertical images, all of the models stats and contact info typically appears on the reverse. While the front is usually covered with one image that is traditionally a head and shoulder shot. The purpose of a compcard is to give potential customers of a model’s services an idea of what they look like up close, full body, smiling and non-smiling. The images can come from five different looks or a few as three.

What do you mean ‘Retouched’ images?

Photos that have been color corrected with the contrast and brightness optimally adjusted to showcase the subject. Blemishes, stray hairs and other distracting elements are removed to help the model look their best. Retouching, like make-up, shouldn’t be heavy handed, because no one will hire a model if they look unnatural in their photos. Retouching an image properly can take around 30 minutes and that’s why photographs limit the number of retouched images and charge extra for additional photos.

What exactly are ‘Headshots’?
Headshots can refer to head and shoulder image or the word can refer to a variety of images showcasing a model or actor.

How many photos do I need?
Actors often need one image, but can use different images for different roles. Aspiring models may wish to just add a few images to their portfolio or they may want to have five images for a compcard. A portfolio can be composed of as many images as you like, but keep in mind less is more and only want to show your best. A model will also want to have at least one image that shows his or her full body

Chicago Lifestyle Advertising Photographer

What should I wear?
I think its best for people to bring twice as many looks to the studio as they are scheduled to shoot. The looks should span a variety of styles but its important that everyone have a t-shirt and jeans look in addition to clothing that isn’t covered in logos. Lifestyle models should have clothing that is classic, solid colors are preferred and the fit and style shouldn’t be too sexy.


What should I be doing in the photos?
Potential clients may want to hire a model based on how they look in an edgy pose, but others may want to know how the model looks when they’re smiling. Remember to move and don’t be afraid to continuously change your poses between images. There are no wrong answers and it’s ok to miss the mark. Remember there isn’t much to choose from if there are many images that all look the same! .

How long will the shoot take?
Each look will take around 45 minutes, excluding changing clothes, hair and make-up.

Do you really need a make-up artist or hair stylist?
If it were me being photographed, I’d want a make-up artist on set. A lot of guys think they don’t need make-up and a lot of girls think they can do it themselves, but we all can look our best with the help of a professional. No one is blemish free and proper makeup is the foundation for proper retouching. It really improves the finial product because some challenges that makeup can fix can’t be properly addressed in Photoshop. Hair styling may not be necessary for shorter haired male models, but changing a hair style and make-up between looks is highly recommended for female models.

So I hope this post will shed light on the little areas, assumed to be ‘common knowledge’. Thanks for stopping by and Good Luck!

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