Your headshot can be a deal maker or deal breaker in the modeling world. Different cities have different fashion markets, and there are also many kinds of modeling within those markets. Many models don’t realize that the same headshot won’t work in all markets or for all types of modeling.
In this post, I explain some differences between a fashion/editorial modeling headshot and a commercial modeling headshot and when to best use them.
While there are many different genres of modeling, the most common are commercial modeling and fashion (editorial) modeling. To better understand the differences between the two headshots, you first have to understand the differences between the two types of modeling.
As the name suggests, commercial modeling aims to promote and sell a specific product (clothing, skincare, makeup, jewelry, etc.) to the general masses. Your images would be used in things like catalogs, e-commerce websites, billboards, brand marketing materials, etc. Whatever you are selling is the image’s main focus, and there aren’t other brands shown in those images.
In fashion modeling, you are not just selling specific products but a lifestyle around those products. In this style of modeling, there are usually multiple products or brands shown in the same image to create an overall vibe that aids in promoting or selling the products. In heavy editorial concepts, you are telling a story and using the products to help in that storyline, but they aren’t usually the image’s primary focus.
Because those modeling styles are so different, you need to have headshots that appeal to both. Occasionally, the same headshot can be used interchangeably between the two different kinds of modeling, but more often than not, having a headshot that appeals to each specific type will aid you in booking more jobs.
Your age, overall look, and the fashion market in your area will significantly affect which type of headshot you should be using. If your area is more commercial, you don’t want your headshot to be too editorial, or you won’t be as appealing to clients looking to book models for their marketing jobs. The same goes for more fashion/editorial markets. If your headshot is too commercial-looking, they may not think you can effectively bring their concept to life. To show your versatility as a model, it’s always a good idea to have both types of headshots in your portfolio, and your agent will likely use the one that applies the best to submit for booking requests.
So, what does each headshot need to look like?
We’ll start with the commercial headshot. As stated above, commercial modeling is to sell products to the masses, so you need to come across as relatable and be able to appeal to a wide variety of people. This means that your headshot needs to be relatable as well. The lighting should be bright and even, nothing too harsh or dramatic, and the background should be simple and non-distracting. Hair and makeup styling should be minimal, just enough to enhance your natural features. The wardrobe should also be simple and not distract from you as the model. Avoid any logos or heavily patterned pieces. Your expressions should appear friendly, pleasant, and approachable to help you appeal to the general consumer. Your angles are often more direct and straight towards the camera, not looking off camera or angling your face in creative ways.
A fashion headshot is a bit different. Instead of trying to sell a specific product and taking more of a backseat in an image, a fashion/editorial shoot puts more emphasis on the model. Hence, your focus is on creating an overall vibe that can be associated with those products. This allows you to appear a bit more moody. The background is usually darker for this type of headshot, and the lighting is slightly more dramatic. It's not uncommon for this image to be in back and white. Hair and makeup should remain pretty neutral, but the model’s features are often even more enhanced with darker makeup. Instead of smiles, a more serious or intense expression is usually preferred. Your angles can be a little more creative, but you should still be sure to show as much of your face as possible. As with commercial headshots, the wardrobe should be something that won't be distracting.
If you’re ever unsure about what headshot style you should have or should be using, it’s always a great idea to chat with your agent to see which would be best for you. Depending on your market and how the agency is promoting you within that market, they may want you only to have one style of image or suggest that you have both options.