Why Every Model Needs Polaroids
- Agencies and casting directors often require Polaroids – not having them can cost you the job
- Learn how to take Polaroids and when to update them
- Read our insider tips from an experienced agency model and photographer
Polaroids, also known as “digitals,” are a model’s best friend. Whether you’re a new model who has never done an official photo shoot or a model with years of experience, good Polaroids are a gateway to better shoots and more work. And, since it is standard industry practice for agencies and casting directors to request Polaroids, it’s a good idea to include these in your Model Mayhem portfolio where you can easily access them.
Agency digitals used to be taken with a Polaroid camera, hence the name. These days, “Polaroids” don’t need to come from a Polaroid camera. A digital camera is fine!
What are Polaroids? Polaroids show what you look like when you walk through the door. It’s important for photographers and casting directors to know what you look like before the makeup, hair, lighting and Photoshop. “Clients trust Polaroids,” said photographer John Fisher, he added, “They assume you are going to show up for a casting or job with the same hair, weight and general appearance as in your Polaroid.”
These photos can be used to submit for jobs and casting calls (in addition to a polished portfolio) or to apply to agencies.
How to Take Polaroids
How do you take a perfect set of Polaroids? First, these should not be professional photos. If you have a friend with a decent quality digital camera, that will be ideal.
Do not wear makeup or style your hair. You want these photos to showcase your unaltered look.
The best time to take the photos is during the day. Try to find a white or off-white wall to shoot in front of, preferably in the shade or on an overcast day. Direct sunlight can be too harsh for a quality Polaroid.
While different agencies and jobs call for different things, it is hard to go wrong with Polaroids in swimwear, but if you’re not sure feel free to clarify with the agency or casting director. This will show not only what your hair and face look like, but your body. It will show if you have tattoos, scars or tan lines and how easily concealable they are, which is important for casting directors to know when choosing talent. Wearing heels is the one “cheat” you get, which will lean and lengthen your frame.
While the combinations can be left partly up to you as a model, generally it’s good to include a full-body front photo with a relaxed pose, a close up face photo, a three-quarter profile and a full profile shot.
Keep it Simple
Having great poses in your arsenal is important for a model, but this is not the place for them. You want your poses to be natural and relaxed. If you’re having trouble looking relaxed, remember to breathe. You don’t have to get the perfect photo in one shot. Take a few minutes to try different things and then review the photos to see what works and what doesn’t.
“Lately, I’ve noticed that models are even posing and expressing some personality in the pictures. But remember, these pictures are primarily to show the essentials of what you look like. Therefore, they have to be updated every few months (or more frequently if you get a significant haircut, etc.),” said John Fisher. Feel free to play with a few expressions, but don’t get too extreme. A soft, natural smile is good to showcase in one of the photos, as is a focused expression. Save your screaming and growling faces for you next photo shoot!
Agency represented model, Kelli Kickham recommends that “While it may be tempting to shoot from a “MySpace” angle (above you), be cautious. Shooting from above will shrink your body and make you appear shorter—something most models won’t want. Also be cautious of having the pictures taken from too low. You legs may look very long, but the distortion is probably obvious to a trained eye. If you’re tempted to see if you can get away with just a little makeup (or Photoshop), don’t. Unless the casting director or agency asks for it specifically, they are probably expecting no-makeup photos, and you would be surprised how much a trained eye can catch.”
And, John Fisher adds, “Models already represented by an agency will have to update their Polaroids if their general appearance changes, and it is not uncommon for clients to ask models to take a Polaroid during a casting. This is one reason why I always suggest that a model carry a simple swimsuit with them at all times.”