The truth of the matter is if you're an up and coming model or actor with aspiring hopes and dreams, you will need a comp card or zed card. It doesn't matter who you are, you can be a top model who needs to update his/her portfolio or someone who just wants to break into the industry. Whatever your ambitions, do not go to a audition without one, as it's more likely you will get turned away or simply will not be successful. You cannot drive a car without wheels so make sure you have these basic marketing tools at your disposal.
Many models and actors, especially those just starting in their careers think photographers know exactly what you want. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's far more in your interest to do some research on the Internet and brings samples of your favorite headshots etc. Then the photographer and team can visualize what you have in mind, giving your photographer something to work with and how to achieve it.
Models and photographers use comp/zed cards. The normal size for this is approximately 5"x8.5". Actors use headshots, usually 8"x10"‘s.
A great comp card should include five completely different looks, four on the back and one on the front with basic stats on card stock or rigid paper. It's a standard marketing tool around for many years and is essential to today's market. Relatively inexpensive, it's a great versatile sales tool.
Comp cards and actors headshots need to pop out at the casting director and can open doors. There are many ways now how you can make a comp or a headshot. Today's computer software makes it relatively easy to produce one. Online, there are now many other options. Just google headshots and there will be a plethora of choices. If you go through an agency, then they will almost always prefer to use their own photographers with their own branded designs. However, this shouldn't stop you from having your own stock of cards if you not exclusively signed with one agency.
Headshots should look like you do now. Keep it simple with minimum jewelry and no logos on clothes with bright but non-jazzy colors. Choose wardrobe attire that will not look out of fashion any time soon (until you update again). Avoid black and white colors, although black works great on men. If you're not comfortable doing your own hair or makeup, then hire a professional hair and make up artist.
There are many opinions over what makes a great headshot. A great headshot is something that stands out from the crowd. Importantly is the chemistry between a photographer and model while while most in the industry agree that primarily it is the eyes. They should be clear, alive and expressive.
Above all, have fun and relax. This will come through your final selections and really grab the casting director's attention. You don't have to spend allot of money on great headshots as there are many photographers who will do this for you. Perhaps find a photographer who is just starting out and will give you a good deal.
Start with friends and referrals. Prices vary with each photographer or agency, so shop around. Generally if you're starting anew, or want a complete overhaul, expect to pay from $400 to $1000 for a comp card and headshot shoot. The marketing materials usually start from $1.00 -$2.50each. Some include the CD of images, yours to keep. Most will not include the final comp card design, only the original photographs, or just the final four or five images that you have chosen.
Feeling comfortable with the photographer is very important. If you feel pressured or uptight, it will show. You'll get the vibe at the interview stage, so if you do not feel comfortable, move on to the next. Personality is key to any business, and there are so many choices out there. At the end of the day, there is no clear and cut choice of words that defines a great headshot. You can ask the opinion of your friends, family and co-workers. Some will say fantastic and some will disagree with the final choices.
Just be sure the final proofs are what you envisioned and good luck.
Philip Thomas is a wedding photojournalist and headshot photographer for the San Antonio, Texas area. Originally from London, UK, he is an expereinced full-time photographer for the San Antonio and Austin, Texas area. His passion is capturing weddings in a unobtrusive photojournalistic style, offering exciting and unique packages.
Corporate events, family photography and headshots for models, actors and actresses can be commissioned.