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How to build a portfolio, and realistic information on comp cards and head shots
© Copyright 2001, 2002, 2004 Independent Modeling
This article has been updated and improved from the original version. This article was written before this site existed, and led to the creation on Tampa Bay Independent Model in 2001, which became the Independent Modeling site you are on now! Since this is the first article, it is a bit short.
By the Staff of Independent Modeling
Just like the college graduate gathering the right tools to get their dream job, the model and actor have to have the right tools to compete for the jobs in today's entertainment and advertising industries. Unlike the college graduate who finally does land that job, though, the entertainment professional does not have the job security that their white collar counterpart earns. After the booked job is finished, it's off to that next go see or audition. Most of the time, they leave empty handed.
"I know that it doesn't reflect upon me as a model." Alexandria, a 19 year old print model from Clearwater recently told us, "I know that I'm a good model. Clients normally have a concrete idea on exactly what look they are looking for when they put together their ad campaigns. It's just that very few of the models that do go to the go and see's are what they had in mind. You wouldn't believe how many times I've overheard people tell models that they looked nothing like their comps."
A good comp card gives the model a competitive, as well as a professional, edge. We sat down recently and asked an Aurora PhotoArts photographer about the basics of a good composite card. "A good composite card reflects the various looks of a model. It's usually 8 ½ by 6 inches, with a headshot on the front, and up to six images on the back. Most don't have more than four on the back." The photographer revealed, "The more the model works, the more they usually have to update their comp cards, too. They can keep their comp cards, and their portfolio, updated with prints from the jobs that they do, but more often than not, a photographer with a dedicated shoot is needed to keep it fresh. Editorial pictures and tear sheet excerpts, after all, have no business on a comp card. They belong in portfolios."
An actor, on the other hand, isn't as dependant on their head shots as a model is on the comp card.
"Why do actors staple resume's on the back of their head shots?" A casting director from Dream Nine Studios lamented, "We've had head shots submitted from all over the country, and not only do they all seem to come from the same company, but the stapled and half glued pieces of paper make filing them a pain. Do actors want to get the part? Well, the ability to act aside, if you want to get the audition in the first place, here's a tip: A cover letter with a resume, and a clean head shot. Don't attach anything to the head shot; if anything, go to a company that does composite cards and have them print your basic information on the back. If you order the minimum amounts that meet your audition load, and don't buy in bulk because it's less expensive, you'll find that you will have head shots that are more effective. Oh, don't forget an e-mail address with the contact information, either. It's sometimes very difficult to send appointment confirmations by conventional mail, and most professionals seldom have the time to place a phone call."
The mention of e-mail reminds one of the Internet, and its place in today's industry. We asked one Internet savvy model her views on that.
"Hey, the Internet is a great tool." Andrea, a fashion and runway model from Miami explained, "But its place is more to enhance, rather than replace, the normal tools. Hell, I do a lot of runway. Do you think that these companies are going to work me based on a web site alone? There is this one so called Internet based agency that I talked to last year, and they had the nerve to tell me that comp cards were going completely online, and I only needed an online composite card and profile with their company to get work. I laughed at them and left before they had the chance to pitch me their $400.00 charge to post my profile. Unfortunately, a lot of models that I know haven't been so lucky, and they've been ripped off. My advice is, if you're out clubbing some where, and some person claiming to be a scout for new faces hands you a cookie cutter card with the line "You have a really great look!", do your homework before committing to a meeting. They may have not gotten a dime from me, but they wasted my time, and I feel like I was ripped off in that respect."
"I met a young model and her mother for a lunch meeting back in December of 2000, and I was blown away by her portfolio." C. A. Passinault, a senior photographer for Aurora PhotoArts and Executive Producer for the companies of Passinault.Com reflects, "She had this black, leather bound book, with large prints protected by laminate sheets set in a three ring binder. It was well composed, the pictures represented most of her look range, and the photography was excellent for the most part. I see a lot of portfolios that look more like family picture scrapbooks, and the professionalism of this particular portfolio made a good impression on me. So much, in fact, that the portfolio for Aurora PhotoArts was benchmarked on hers. My advice to the model that want the basics of a good portfolio book? Skip the photo stores, with their magnetic page and APS formatted albums, and go to an office supply store. There are executive leather bound three ring binder organizers that you can get for as little as $50.00, and you can put the pictures inside letter size plastic sheet protector inserts. Fill them up with as many 8 X 10 prints as you need to, but a good selection of prints limited to around 20 will eliminate overkill. "
The model's portfolio book is the place for pictures that demonstrate her range, and is also a good place to place samples of recent jobs and tear sheets.
"Organization is never a mistake" a fashion editor for a magazine told us, " Tell a story. Put a head shot at the front, a resume in the insert after that, then divide the sections into distinct looks, such as casual, swim wear, and fashion. Show some range. You could be the most beautiful person in the world, but if that's the only look that you have, you'll never make it as a model. At the end, a few testimonials and letters of recommendation don't hurt, either. I know it's not the norm, but if you stand out as a professional, we'll notice you, and even if you don't get that particular job, we may remember you for something in the future. A few extra comp cards in the inside pockets, as well as a PDA for all those appointments won't hurt, either."
We asked, and we've found that models have a lot to say about photographers, too. To keep their portfolio's and comp cards updated, relationships with reputable, competent photographers are a career advantage that should be taken seriously.
"When you first start out, Time for print arrangements with good photographers will help you build your portfolio. Your first comp cards may come from those TFP shoots." Andrea said, "Also, you don't have to pose nude for TFP's, either. If the photographer insists, and claims it would be artistic, walk away. Don't be afraid of insulting them, because pictures are forever, and they can hurt your career if they are used to exploit you. On the Internet, once you E-mail a picture, or put it on a web site, you no longer have control over it; you have to assume that everyone has it on their hard drive somewhere. Anyway, there are better, more ethical photographers out there. Find them, and when you do, keep in touch. Send them cards for their birthdays and the holidays. Like any professional relationship, they are an investment."
"TFP's are fine, but paid shoots are better." Brandy, a Tampa based model, noted, "If you can get paid work that can fill out your portfolio, that's the best, although it's not going to work out that way. As far as variety of looks goes, it's best to do shoots with a variety of photographers who you can trust. Before shooting with a photographer, ask to see their work. Professional photographers always have portfolios, and if you like what you see, set up a shoot with them. Oh, be careful when you meet them the first time, too. Bring along a family member, boyfriend, or spouse. There are a lot of weird people out there, especially on the Internet, claiming to be photographers, and do it to take advantage of young girls. Believe it or not, a lot of good photographers aren't ethical, too. It pays to be cautious, just don't go overboard and be paranoid. Have fun, and do your homework. There are a lot of talented, good people out there that outweigh the bad photographers, agencies, and models."
Photography by Aurora PhotoArts. Athena Class Web Site by Aurora PhotoArts. Events by Frontier Event Planning.
The agency way is no longer the only way of having a professional career as a model. There is no arguing against common-sense and proven business practices. Modern professional models think for themselves, network, and book work both as independent models and by using agencies as one of many sources of jobs. This is the future of the modeling industry.
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