Most of the actors that contact me confess that their portfolio is more like a modeling portfolio and doesn’t show them as they really are…so what is the difference between a professional acting portfolio and a modeling portfolio?
Firstly, in an acting headshot your typecast is the most important thing; what your expression is conveying and what “character” you are depicting. On the other hand, the emphasis in a modeling headshot is portraying the models face, or body in a longshot, in the most beautiful and flattering way. In addition to this, there is more “playing around” with the framing of the shot (backdrops, props) as opposed to a simple, clean frame.
Secondly, as opposed to a modeling portfolio, the artistic element is less important in an acting portfolio. The clean shot, the expression and the lighting are the elements that help the photographer highlight the actor’s facial features as “raw material” and not something fixed (every actor wants his one picture that is sent out to show their maximum potential). In a modeling portfolio, the model is part of whole image being portrayed, not necessarily the main element. Their personal inner character is not what matters.
Third is make-up. In an acting portfolio the aim is for the actor to look as close as possible to reality, to how they would appear when arriving to an audition. I’ve heard many actors that are happy to do a photoshoot without any make-up on at all, others that can’t imagine being photographed without heavy eyeliner as they feel it compliments them…The ideal middle ground is professional, natural make-up to show the actor at their best, and at the same time to give the casting directors a wide array of typecasts without giving them a fixed character. In a modeling portfolio, the aim is to portray them as beautifully as possible, without having the barrier of looking natural at all.
The fourth thing is Photoshop. When editing an actor’s headshot, there is little retouching done to the face, arms or any other body part. Photoshop does not replace working out! It’s important that the photos also show the less-than-perfect sides, after all, that is what makes us who we are, and that is what will bring us the right roles for us. If you look different from how you look when you arrive for an audition, then most likely it would be a waste of time and everybody loses. Casting directors and agents want your pictures to be edited as little as possible as everybody is looking for the authentic, natural, simple and clean look, not the fake and supposedly perfect. In a model’s photo, almost anything goes as long as the model comes out looking her best.
Now, when you go to pick a photographer, look at their previous work and see if they work by this structure and pick the one that will serve you and your needs the best. A good shot can be the best investment and will “reimburse” you more than you can imagine!
Keren Ben Ami