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Pittsburgh Modeling, Models and Talent

Modeling headshots for Pittsburgh Models

Let me see your headshot.

If you don’t have a headshot to show, you’re not really a model.  Or at least most professionals in the industry won’t take you seriously.  All professional models should have an up-to-date “headshot’, no matter how small a town they’re from.



Pittsburgh Modeling, Models, and Talent is a web site dedicated to the education of models in mid to small towns like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Columbus, or Cincinnati. To many people interestied in modeling, the industry is a mystery. This site will help answer the questions that many potential and novice models may have.

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What is a headshot?

So what the heck is a Models headshot?  The answer to that question isn’t all that exact.

The basic headshot is a head and shoulders portrait (sometimes looser) of you that represents you as you look now, that potential clients use to determine if you are appropriate for their particular project.  The headshot needs to be flattering and informative.  You need to look good in the photo, but it must still be realistic. Clients HATE it when a model shows up for a shoot and they look nothing like their headshot. 

Headshot sample #3
Pittsburgh Headshots by Michael Ray
The headshot can be either black & white or color.  It is usually either 8x10 or 8.5x 11 in size with the models name written somewhere on the print.  Since headshots are usually handed out to potential clients, they are printed in substantial quantities.  Besides being handed out to clients, this image will be used to represent you in most of your marketing efforts. (portfolio or web page)

Headshots can be either taken in the studio or on location.  Some model’s headshots are shot from low vantage points looking up and some are shot from high angles looking down.  Some are shot using plain backgrounds and some are shot on complex backgrounds.  Some are shot with the backgrounds in focus and some are shot with only the model’s eyes in focus.  The model’s headshot is a unique, artistic representation of the model as they what to be known.

Research for your headshot

The world wide web is a wonderful thing.   You can visit the worlds best modeling agency web sites.  Take a look at their model’s headshots and see what you like and don’t like.  You’ll find shots that you think are really nice and some you hate.  Note the poses, the expressions, the looks, and the outfits.  Wade through all these elements and figure out what you like and dislike about each headshot.  Is it the pose?  Is it the expression, or even the hairstyle?  Then apply that information to your photo shoot.

Modeling Agency headshot preferences

If you’re already represented by a modeling or talent agency, you probably should check with them before getting your headshot.  Some Agencies have their favorite photographers that have mastered the “look” that that particular agency wants out of their headshots.  A headshot is a very subjective thing.  What one Agency likes in a headshot, another agency might consider “out of date” or of poor quality. You just never really know without doing a little research first. 

Non-represented model's headshots

If you’re not represented by a Modeling Agency, I’ll give you a few pointers on what to look for in a good headshot.  When I say “good” head shot, I mean what I think, is a good headshot.  Like I said, it’s subjective.

Finding a headshot photographer

The first thing you probably want to do is choose a good headshot photographer.  I suggest you do is call the local Modeling Agencies and try to get some referrals as to whom they think are good photographers for doing headshots in your area.  Try to get several different suggestions so that you have a verity of photographers to choose from. If you just get just one person’s suggestion, you run into the distinct possibility that you will get a “friend” that he or she is trying to ppromote. 

After contacting the Modeling Agencies, try calling a few Advertising Agencies and ask whom they would recommend as good local “people” photographers.  I would suggest that you stay away from non-commercial shooters.  You don’t want your shots looking like your high school portrait, do you…?  Yikes!

After you get a few names of quality photographers, visit their web pages and see which one you like the best.  You might even want to download of few of the pictures from their web page that you really like.  These photos might come in handy when it comes time to talk over what you had in mind for YOUR headshot.  After that, you can e-mail each photographer or give them a buzz and talk over prices, procedures, and schedules. 

A good headshot photographer probably has an established way or working.  You might be stuck working within his way of doing things, but if they’re really good, that may not be a bad thing.  A good photographer most likely has quite a few backgrounds or preferred locations that they like to work with.  They’ll know the right time of day for each of their locations, so that the lighting is just perfect.  If you also have a location or two in mind, chances are that the photographer might be open to finding a new place to shoot. The only draw back to this might be the photographer won’t know the best time of day to shoot at this location.   It still might be worth a crack, though.

Your Look

After you’ve chosen a photographer, you will want to talk over the “look” you most want to emphasize.  Most newbie models think that all modeling jobs are for “high fashion” models and assume that their headshot should have that kind of look.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Even though your portfolio should contain a diverse variety of looks, your headshot should represent the type of modeling that you are most likely to be hired for. 

Make-up can definitely change your look, but you probably will be more suited to one type of modeling more than another.  For example, you may look like the typical “mother” type, or even the “girl-next-door type”.  Whatever it is, don’t fight it. Embrace it.  You can always tweak your look later, if you should so desire.  There are plenty of jobs for all these types of models.  In smaller towns, there may even be more work for “non-fashion” models than the fashion type.

Sidebar - Remember, the advice here is for models that do not yet have an agency representing them.  When and if you do sign up with an agency, they will work with you in determining your best look.

Clothing for your headshot

So when it comes time to choose clothing and a hairstyle for your headshot, keep in mind the look you want to be most known for.  Generally speaking, plain colors are better than prints, darks are better than lights, and form fitting is usually better than loose.  You don’t want to distract the viewers with loud patters and you don’t want to appear to be heavier than you are, especially since the camera tends to add a few pounds to everyone that stands before it.  If you’re a Caucasian, or have light skin, your face will tend to contrast better against darker clothing.  The opposite may be true if your skin is dark.

When you discuss your shoot with the photographer, make sure that you know how many changes of clothing you are allowed and about how much time this will all take.  That way you can plan out your various “looks”.  Always take more outfits with you than you expect to use, just in case one or two of them don’t workout the way you thought they would.  When you arrive at the shoot, ask the photographer for their input on the final outfit selection.  If they’re experienced, they will probably have opinions that will pay off in better photos.  Of course, the final decisions are yours because when it’s all said and done,  it’s your nickel.  If you’re really set on an outfit, even though the photographer doesn’t pick it, go with our gut and keep it in the line-up.  That way, you won’t experience the “what it” regret later on.  And if you end up hating it, just don’t choose it as your final selection.  You only really need to walk away from this shoot with one really good picture.

Hairstyle for your headshot

Hairstyle is something that the client will certainly use to select you as a model.  Your headshot can’t have you with two feet of flowing curls and then you show up at the job with a crew cut.  If you do that, you’ll have some very unhappy people looking at you.   For your headshot, you will want to select a hairstyle that supports your look.  Moms don’t spend hours working on their hair, and if you want to have the mom look, don’t make it look like you spent hours working on your hair.  If your look is exotic or you aren’t comfortable doing your own hair, ask the photographer if they could recommend someone, or visit the salon before the shoot.  Remember, that when doing headshots, variety is a good thing.  Sometimes your least favorite outfit or hairstyle may end up in the end, being your favorite.  You just never know.

Make-up for your headshot

Often times, a photographer will work with a make-up artist, whose price may or may not be covered in the photographer’s quoted price.  The expense can be substantial, ranging from $50-$250 or more.  If you’re not comfortable doing your own make-up, or you have a very sophisticated look, you may want to discuss this option with the photographer.

Headshot Updates

Headshots are not something you do once and then forget.  They must be kept up to date, as you age and get better looking.  :+)  If your hairstyle changes, you need another headshot. I’d say that every two years is a good increment of time between headshots.

The Pose

If you’re going to be a model, you have to become comfortable posing in front of the camera.  You should have already spent hours and hours in front of your bedroom mirror.  By now, you should be familiar with what you need to do to look good.  Just keep in mind that the camera will not be looking at your entire body.  You won’t have to worry about how your feet look.  They won’t be in the shot.  So just concentrate on the parts of you that will be in the picture. 

This is where some of your previous research can pay off.  If you’ve done your homework as a model, you’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of pictures of models.  You should know by now what looks and doesn’t look good in a picture. If you don’t, it’s time to start observing.  Create a little file of pictures that you like.  Even keep pictures that you don’t like to remind you why you don’t like them. 

If during the shoot, you get in a jam and really can’t come up with some good poses, chances are that the photographer can help you out.  But posing is really your job.  The photographer can help you by tweaking the pose for the particular crop within the camera, but to be a model, you really need to be comfortable when the lens is pointed in your direction.  If you’re not, then maybe you’re in the wrong line of work…

Expressions of your headshot

Like your hairstyle, make-up, and outfit, you expression should relate to your look.  Usually speaking, moms are friendly, fashion types should look sultry, kids should be happy, and studs, should look studley.  (whatever that means…)   If you have been practicing in the mirror, or have had other pictures taken, you already know what expressions look best on you.  Let me suggest something though.  This is a good time to experiment in front of the camera.  Now with digital photography, the photographer doesn’t mind shooting extra shots to cover different expressions, In the old days, each click of the shutter cost the photographer money in film and processing, which meant that the fewer shots the photographer took, the more money they made.  Today, shooting additional pictures just means that it will take a little more time editing trough the images.  No big deal.

After the shoot

Actually, you need to negotiate this up front with the photographer.  See if you can swing getting a disk with the files from the entire shoot, if you can.  That way, you can use the images for other promotional devices, such as your portfolio or your web page. 

The photographer can most likely suggest a printer that specializes in printing models headshots.  If not the photographer, the local modeling agency might be willing to share that information with you.


Headshot Samples


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