Polaroids, also referred to as snaps or digitals, are a model’s key to the fashion world. Without good polaroids, it is near impossible for a model to travel or book certain jobs. The term “polaroid” stems from when agencies used to take them on a polaroid camera; nowadays polaroids can be taken on a digital camera or even a phone with a good camera. Quite simply, polaroids are pictures of a model with no makeup, hair, lighting or Photoshop, so that potential clients can see what you look like naturally.
Before an agency will accept a model they will ask for polaroids. In some cases a model may not have the strongest portfolio, but if the agency sees potential in the model from their polaroids, they will sign them and help build their portfolio and career. Not only is it important to have strong polaroids to be signed with an agency, or multiple agencies across the world, but also to be submitted and booked for jobs. Much like your portfolio, you will need to update your polaroids so that clients can see what you look like currently – it’s amazing how much a person’s appearance can change in even a few months. Many agencies, like Pietra Dura Creative Management, include polaroids of their models on the website to make it easy for clients to see what the models look like naturally.
Taking your Polaroids
Before taking your polaroids there are a few important pointers. First, do not style your hair at all, leave it completely natural. Similarly, most markets are very strict about the model not wearing any makeup, however, there are a few markets where you can get away with wearing some light mascara and concealer… but I really do mean light. The point is to be your natural self. More often than not models should wear their swimwear (a solid coloured bikini for women) so that clients can see the model’s body, but sometimes certain clients may ask for clothed polaroids. In my experience, this means a grey or black tank top and jeans, but this really does vary from one market or client to the next. Women should also wear heels in both bikini and clothed polaroids. If you’re unsure of whether bikini or clothed polaroids are required, don’t be afraid to ask, but make sure that you have both at hand.
When taking the polaroids, avoid flash photography and be very careful of the angle at which the photos are taken, as this can distort the proportions of your body. It’s best to take polaroids in the day light, morning light is always good, but avoid harsh direct light. Take the images in front of a grey or off-white wall. Once you’ve taken your snaps, don’t edit them. I know it’s difficult to see yourself as yourself with all the societal pressures on women, especially models (men and women), but the point of these photos is to show what you look like naturally. Anyone in the industry will look at the pictures knowing what a difference makeup, lighting and slight editing can make, so there really is no need to feel insecure.
Now for actually taking the polaroids… Personally, I usually try to take my polaroids first thing in the morning, both for the lighting and because this is when my body looks its best, before I’ve eaten anything. However, this isn’t always possible, and often you won’t be given much notice before having to take fresh polaroids. When taking your snaps there are a few angles that you will need to take, to make this easier to follow, our model Phoebe has kindly allowed us to use her polaroids as examples:
Full body front
Full body profile (both sides)
Mid shot front
Mid shot profile (both sides)
¾ profiles (both sides)
Make sure that you have pictures smiling as well as moodier facial expressions in each of these angles, and you may need to take a full back shot in addition to the above. For women, keep your hair down for each angle and another set with your hair tied in a high pony or bun, to show off your facial features in each angle. Keep your posing simple and once again, natural. Play with your hair, be relaxed; this is not the time or the place for high fashion posing. The less posey it feels, the better. As I’m sure you have gathered by now, the trick to great polaroids is to keep everything natural!