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Modeling Headshot Tips

The first thing clients see when searching for models for their projects is their headshots. It's also the most prominent image on comp cards and often the only image submitted for casting calls. Since a headshot is usually the first and only impression a model gets to make with a potential client, having a great headshot is crucial for a model's success.

While what a headshot needs to look like may seem pretty straightforward, there are some particulars that models should be aware of when getting their headshots done and selecting the final images, especially if they don't have the help of an agent.

Commercial vs. Fashion headshot. Photos by Cameron Story

The first thing you need to consider regarding your headshot is what type of market you're modeling in and where you fit within that market. If you're based in a primarily commercial market, and most of your bookings will be with commercial or lifestyle clients, you need a headshot that fits that vibe. If you're in a more fashion market and will be doing more runway or editorial jobs, the headshot you will need will be quite different. If your headshot doesn't match the market you're working in, it will significantly affect the number of bookings you receive.

When it comes to headshot hair and makeup, you want to keep it pretty minimal. While pageant headshots require full glam, for modeling headshots, you want to have just enough to enhance your features and cover any blemishes but not be too obvious. Your headshot isn't a makeup campaign, so you want to ensure it's not so heavy that it distracts from your actual face. Although very exaggerated lash extensions are a big trend, they don't typically photograph very well. They can cause unflattering shadowing around the eye area, which you definitely want to avoid when it comes to your headshots. You also want to ensure that the final images aren't too retouched; you want to look pretty close to how you look in real life so clients know exactly what they're getting when they book you.

Even though you won't be seeing much of your wardrobe in your headshot, it is also something you need to put thought into. Again, considering your market and what type of modeling you'll be doing will impact what you should wear. For more of a commercial look, consider wearing a color that pairs well with your skin tone or eye color. For more of a fashion look, wearing a solid black or white top is usually a good go-to. Wearing a strapless top and having bare shoulders also isn't uncommon. Regardless of what style you're going for, you want to avoid wearing tops with a high neckline because it will be too much coverage. You also want to avoid wearing bright/neon colors, a top with a distracting pattern, or a top with visible logos.

When you're posing for your headshot, you want to remember that YOUR FACE needs to be the center of attention in the image, so you want to make sure to have minimal distraction. Using your hands can enhance a photo, but they can detract from your face if they aren't appropriately posed. When trying to get your main headshot, it's usually best to keep your hands out of the image. You also want to be conscious of your face angles when posing. Angling your face a particular way can distort your features, so you want to be sure to avoid that.

You also want to make sure you vary your expressions so you get a variety of options. If you need a commercial headshot, you want to smile and have a more inviting vibe, as that is what the clients will need from you on-set. If you can show them you can achieve that look, they will be more likely to book you. You want to be expressive but not cheesy or over-the-top. For a more fashion-based headshot, you will usually want to avoid a full smile but still need to show some expression so you don't appear like a deer in headlights. Emoting through the eyes helps connect to the viewer and can help your image stand out in a pile of other models' headshots.

Models that are agency represented in multiple cities often have different headshots depending on the market in each area. Some areas have a more commercial-based clientele, while others will have a more editorial-based clientele, so models will have to tweak their headshots and portfolios to cater to the different preferences of the clients in that particular area.

It is also essential to make sure your headshots are up to date. If you change your physical appearance, you must get a new headshot to reflect your current look. Even if your appearance stays the same, you should update your headshots a minimum of every three years (preferably more frequently than that, though!) to ensure you're staying current with the look clients in your area want.


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