What is a Comp Card?
A comp card is a marketing tool for actors and models. It’s your first chance at making a great impression. They represent the best of a model’s portfolio and are used as a business card. A comp card can be personal or for a parts model, as in body parts. This article covers only the personal comp card. A comp card should contain a head shot on the front and 2-4 pictures or looks on the back. I like the 4 look comp card, particularly for actors, as it allows for a broader range of looks.
What looks should I have?
I suggest business, formal, casual, and body as the shots to use on your comp card.
Contemporary – This shot should be a life shot. The attire should be something contemporary and stylish. It may range from urban to school girl. This shot is where your true personality shows. This can be a nice outfit that one would wear in an everyday situation. Don’t overdo the makeup as this is your “plane” look. For ladies wearing makeup this should be a “minimal” look maybe foundation and a lip gloss.
Business/Casual – The business or casual should be up scaled from the contemporary and should also be a life shot. If possible select a different hair style, and choose makeup that is a little more than minimal. Accent the eyes and lips lightly. This should show a different side of your personality from the contemporary.
Formal/Dress – The formal shot can be a studio shot, and should be done in the best possible lighting. This is the closest thing to a glamour shot you’re going to get.
- Women – This is a great place for the little black dress. If you were going to do something new with your hair this is the place to do it. Avoid complex and shiny dresses which can take on a life of their own. You want to make sure the clothes accent your natural lines.
- Men – a nice suit or even a GQ type tux will work for this. The key is to make sure the clothes fit the personality. It is all about controlling your image.
- Boys / Girls– The same rules apply to the youngest that apply to the adults. Avoid clothing that looks dated or old fashioned. Girls should avoid clothes that make them look like little old women unless that is one of the looks you’re a particularly looking for.
Body – The body shot is to show the model’s body proportions and character. You are not trying to be sexy, as it is for potential employers to get an idea of ones proportions and any scars, marks or tattoos. This can be an optional shot, but I do not recommend leaving it out. This shot has the most leeway and depends on the type of jobs you are seeking. Most importantly, it depends on how comfortable the model is with their body. The look should range from cute/handsome, to strong/powerful, to flirty, again depending entirely on your objective.
- Women– Women should wear a simple one color, one or 2-piece swimsuit. They should avoid swimsuits, which are provocative as they take attention away from the model and place it on the swimsuit. Clothing should be simple colors like tan, white, black, or dark blue. Unless your card is for personal promotion, avoid pictures that are provocative if that is not your intended line of work.
- Men– Men should consider an athletic/masculine look if you have the body for it. Consider posing shirtless with solid color shorts or a fitted muscle shirt and the right pose will do.
- Tweens & Teen – The ages from about 10 – 15 are a difficult age to give advice. This is particularly true for young women. Many women’s fashion models come from this age group. Depending on attire, makeup and the pose these young women can take on a range of looks from little girl to provocative. For your comp card cute and flirty are best. Parents talk to your child about this shot. Make sure that you and your child are comfortable with the look you are going to present. A simple unit of measure would be nothing more revealing than what you would wear to the pool. In many cases, the swimwear can be replaced with shorts or skinny jeans and a close-fitting top. As a photographer, I don’t like over sexualizing teens. That aspect is controlled by poses as well as attire so talk about comfort levels. In all cases, apply the same color rules as used above.
- Girls & Boys – Younger kids should simply wear sports attire, which will simply give an idea of body dimensions. Shorts and a t-shirt is perfect. If you are athletic, this is a good place to show your skills.
For any would be models, I should be one of the most important people your career. I am going to help capture the image, you present to the world. I will be like your hair stylist or barber. We will talk about what makes you look good or bad, flirty or frumpy, and sexy or sickly. People who are uncomfortable talking about their face or body should choose another industry. I am going to help build yourself esteem but I will be honest. I will make you look good as you, and not someone else.
To the Model
Forget about looking like a supermodel. The true scope of modeling is as varied as there are job descriptions in the work place. Don’t worry about looking like someone else. Strive to look like the best you that you can. Know your assets and liabilities. Figure out how to make you look best. Most of all accept critiques. They are not personal attacks, they are observations. You never know what a casting director is looking for. But I can tell you they are not looking for the person that looks just like the last 30 people they just looked at!
The Living Comp Card
As a photographer, I believe your comp card should be a living reflection of your portfolio. It should change as you change. If at 12 you are short and fat, then that should be the look you present. If a year later you grow 6 inches and become tall and lean your comp card should reflect that change. As you change your card should change. If you find that people are interested in you doing parts modeling, then change your comp card to reflect the line of work you are pursuing. Talk to your photographer before the shoot and after. Understand that there will be more than one shoot needed to keep your comp card up to date.
Own Your Images
As an actor or model, you are selling your look. You need the ability to control and market your images. Make sure your photographer gives you a copy of all your images, and a copyright release allowing you to take your images anywhere you wish. This should be true even if your photographer is managing your portfolio. Should something happen you should be in control of your looks.