With the pandemic in full force, knowing how to take great modeling digitals (aka polaroids) is more important than ever. Agencies and clients are relying on them much more than in the past since having in-person casting calls and new face meetings is not an option in most places.
Now more than ever I have been getting digital requests from my agents to send to clients as they have been using those to book instead of just looking at my digital portfolio. Runway castings have also gone virtual, so having quality up-to-date digitals ready to send it is so important!
See my tips below on how to take a great set of digitals to submit to agencies, clients, and to use for casting calls!
What Are Modeling Digitals/Polaroids
Essentially, they are basic images taken to showcase your face and body without any editing, styling, make-up, or filters. Digitals are the raw photo version of you which showcase to an agency/client what you look like in your most natural state. This means no fake lashes, no red lipstick, no "beat" face that took an hour to apply and certainly no face-tune or Instagram filters.
I always joke that these are your “mug shots” because they are incredibly basic and raw.
Digitals vs. Professional Photos
When I explain to new models what they need to do when digitals are requested, they usually can’t believe that agents & clients really want to see such basic images vs. professional images, but YES, that is exactly what they want! The reason that agencies require models to submit digitals either on an agency website or via email is to best see the model in their most authentic and natural state. This ensures that they have the look and potential to book jobs without having to be all done up. Agents and clients know the magic makeup, styling, and photo editing can do, so they want to see images without all of that.
When to Use Digitals
Aside from agencies requesting them for new face submissions, once signed, agencies typically require that their models submit to them fresh digitals/polaroids every couple of months, or as requested by a client.
The purpose is to basically check-in with you to see if anything about your look as changed, such as hair color or length, weight loss/gain, any facial feature changes, if younger models have grown, etc.
Tips on Taking Digitals
When taking digitals, do not overthink it! Digitals can most definitely be taken with your phone; most are taken this way so don’t freak out if you don’t have a high-end camera. If you do have them taken using a professional camera or by a photographer, be sure that there is no post production editing to your skin or to the lighting that could alter your appearance.
Take your digitals against a blank background, preferably a white wall. If you don’t have a white wall in a well-lit area, try to find a wall that’s as neutral of a color as possible where there’s nothing behind you that can be distracting such as art or photographs.
Natural lighting would be the best option as natural light tends to look the most flattering for everyone. If you don’t have a black wall in a well-lit area, don’t be afraid to go outside and use the side of a building or even a garage door! Try to stay out of direct sunlight to avoid squinting and harsh facial shadows, and make sure that where you’re standing has even light all around you. You don’t want half your body in the sun and half in the shade as that can distort your features. If you don't have natural light available (for instance your agent requests them ASAP & it's nighttime), try to find a spot in your home with the best lighting and/or use a ringlight if you have one.
Images should be as clear as possible - not blurry or too dark. Also keep your posing pretty simple. The point of digitals is for them to be able to see your body, so you don't want to do any weird angles or poses that may distort your proportions.
Your hair should be natural or very lightly styled (no obvious unnatural style or up-do) and makeup should be minimal to bare-faced, absolutely no glam. Nails should also be natural or painted a natural color, no distracting colors or nail-art.
Be sure that when you take your digitals, you wear an outfit that is flattering to your body. Most agency websites will outline what they'd like you to wear when submitting digitals, but if not, I always suggest dressing in the “model uniform” of a fitted black tank top and black or dark blue skinny jeans and heels.
Avoid wearing patterns or bright colors, and also try to avoid wearing wedge heels as they can make your feet look clunky in images. Some agencies or clients will also request to see digitals in a swimsuit, so don’t be surprised if that is asked of you.
**NEVER** send digitals in lingerie, partially nude, or fully nude. If anyone asks for those type of images, it’s a HUGE red flag.
Most agencies will request for digitals to be taken in certain body angles and will have exactly what they want listed on their website. If no specifics are given, be sure to get the following angles and make sure that your hair is not covering any part of your face.
1. Headshot: one smiling & one non-smiling, and one with your hair pulled back
2. Full profile shot: non-smiling
3. 3/4 headshot with or without eyes looking into the camera (non-smiling)
4. Full body front facing shot- smiling & non-smiling
Many agencies do not want you to smile in your digitals, but agencies with a lot of commercial clients will want to see you smile in at least 1 photo. It’s good to take all of the above images and have smiling options, that way if the submission or your agent asks for them you at least have them handy!