What is a Comp Card for Modeling, and Do You Need One?

What is a composite card?

Composite cards. © Angie Knost 2013. All Rights Reserved.

If you are interested in fashion, commercial or character modeling, you will need a composite card to be eligible for job opportunities. The name for the card may vary from one regional area to another – “composite card”, “comp card” or “comp”,  “zed card”, “sed card” or “zed” are all names used to refer to what is effectively a model’s printed promotional and marketing tool, showing the range of “looks” she or he can portray.

What is it?  A composite card is the model’s “calling card”. It is a printed card that shows the model portraying a range of various “looks” and styles appropriate for her or his age and appearance.

A Double-Sided Modeling Composite

A Double-Sided Modeling Composite Card. ©Angie Knost. All Rights Reserved.

Why do I need one to model?  Modeling agencies send out composite cards of their talent to their clients who hire models. The composite card is used to secure interviews, “go sees” and jobs for the model. The composite is essential to being seen, getting exposure, and ultimately, obtaining modeling jobs.

If you are a freelance model, obtaining bookings on your own without a representing agency, you will send out composite cards to make clients aware of you, and to be considered for jobs.

For both agency represented and freelance models, it is appropriate to leave a composite with every potential client you meet with, so that they have a printed piece to remember you by. They may meet hundreds of models in a single day, and if you have nothing to leave behind after the meeting, your image may be a forgotten one in the sea of faces the hiring client has interviewed.

What size or format should it be?  A “comp” card can be a variety of sizes, single-sided, double-sided, flat or fold out. The particular modeling agency you are signed with may have a specific size or style of card that they require their models to obtain, but if not, the size and style choice are yours. A size of approximately  5 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches, double-sided, is currently the most commonly used size, with a “head shot” or close-up facial shot on one side, and three to four photos on the opposite side, which portray the model in a variety of styles, from various angles and with varied photo croppings.

What kind of pictures should be on the composite?  All the photos on the composite card should be recent, and show variations of your current hair color and length.  The pictures should show the range of looks you can portray, relevant to the type of modeling work you are seeking.  They should show you from various angles and in different poses.


One-Sided Model Comp Card

A One-Sided Model Comp Card. ©Angie Knost. All Rights Reserved.

I have a portfolio of larger photos.  Do I still need a composite? Because reality TV and popular culture have glamorized the “portfolio”, many people try to start out modeling by first working to create a portfolio. The portfolio is also referred to as the models “book”, and is in fact a plastic-sleeved book or album filled with larger pictures that show a model in a variety of settings, outfits and situations. It may also contain magazine pages or actual ad clippings of work the model has appeared in (these are called “tear-sheets”, because you literally tear them out of the magazine and place them in the portfolio book). But many aspiring models don’t understand that the composite card needs to come before the portfolio. A good composite card is of primary importance, especially when first embarking on a modeling career! A portfolio is primarily shown at go-sees or in situations where the model has already secured an interview, or has been selected for the interview by the client previously viewing their composite card. A composite card is what gets the model interviews or in-person meeting with potential clients.  Sometimes jobs are booked directly as a result of the client making selection based on the composite card. A portfolio is something further to show the client when you are appearing at an interview or go-see. It is not always required for all types of modeling, but is definitely a plus if you are seeking opportunities in the competitive field of fashion print work.

Bottom line, the composite is what gets you “in the door” – it is your first and most important point of contact with clients who hire models. It is the advertising “teaser” that should impress them and make them want to meet you, see more of your print work if you have it, and hopefully book you for the job!

How often do I need to make a new composite card? Whenever your “look” changes significantly.  If you have an obvious change of hair color or cut, or if you have gained or lost more that 10 pounds, it’s time to make a new composite card that shows your current appearance.

Child's Modeling Comp Card

A Child’s Modeling Comp Card. ©Angie Knost. All Rights Reserved.

How many composite cards do I need? This depends on what part of the country you are in, and how many cards your modeling agent requires.  For example, a model in New York or Chicago, which are major modeling markets, will probably need many more composite cards to start out than a model in a smaller market such as St. Louis.  Most local models start with 100-200 cards.

If my talent agency posts my digital photos online or in a database, why would I still need a composite card?  Models should always be in the process of marketing their own talents, even if they have agency representation. Your “look” and professionalism are your best sales pitch.  If you do not have a touchable, tangible printed piece to leave with potential clients, they are more likely to forget you. If your face is in a file or on their desk, it’s a regular reminder.

What kind of photographer do I need to work with to make a composite card?   You need a fashion or commercial photographer.  Not a portrait photographer.  Not a “senior portrait studio” photographer.  Portrait-style photos are not for models !  Your pictures need to look “commercial” – like they came from a magazine or an advertisement.

How can Angie Knost Photography help me get started?  Call or email to schedule your Composite Card photo session with Angie Knost Photography.  We have comprehensive packages that include the model photographed in  3-4 different outfits in various settings, photo retouching, and composite card design and printing. No running around to different photographers and printers to get it all done.  Angie can capture all the photos needed to get you started in the modeling field, in one afternoon! If modeling is something you have always wanted to try, don’t wait. The time is now. Even if you are a beginner and have no idea about posing, Angie will work with you to help you create a professional composite card.