Examples of four model polaroid images or digitals
Example of model polaroids taken in natural light at my studio (Model: Amy)

So you’ve decided to start modelling. You’ve researched modelling agencies, the best and the ones local to you. You’ve looked into the myriad of ways you can get started. One term keeps popping up without much explanation – polaroids. So what are model polaroids? Are they the same as digitals? And at what stage of your modelling career do you need them?

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What Are Model Polaroids?

If you’ve looked on model agency websites or socials, or ever come across the Instagram accounts Models Polaroids and They Will Rock You, you’ve probably seen natural shots of models in plain clothing and little makeup. Sometimes called ‘digitals’, these images are intended to show clients the raw materials of what they can work with if they book a model.

Model polaroids are usually taken in natural light with a neutral background. They sit alongside a wider modelling portfolio, with more stylised images from fashion shoots, and convey what a model normally looks like from different angles. This way agencies and casting professionals alike have an accurate representation. Normally model polaroids include a:

  • Full-length front-on shot
  • Mid-length shot
  • Close-up head-shot
  • Close-up side profile shot
Model Polaroid Three Quarter Length Shot
Mid-length Shot – Model Polaroid

Why Do You Need Polaroids?

Polaroids are essential for every stage of a model’s career. When you’re a new model applying to agencies, you’ll be asked to submit them online. If you meet agencies in-person for the first time, you’ll have polaroids taken of you. And whether you sign with an agency or decide to work freelance; unedited, natural polaroids are an industry standard for successfully booking modelling jobs.

Models need their polaroids updated every few months and whenever they change their look. This includes weight changes, hair changes and any new piercings or visible tattoos. This way clients have the right idea of what to expect when they book a model for a job, even if they look different from their portfolio.

Model Polaroid close-up head-shot
Close-up head-shot – Model Polaroid

What to Wear for Model Polaroids

The aim of model polaroids is to clearly show a model’s features and body shape. It’s best to wear little to no makeup, your hair as you’d normally have it, natural nails, plain shoes or heels, and fitted clothes – nothing too oversized.

Your face is the main feature of polaroids so your outfit shouldn’t distract from it. Plain clothing in neutral colours like black, white, denim blue or grey is most commonly worn. 

It’s a good idea to look at model polaroids on agency websites for outfit inspiration. And while black skinny jeans and a top has long been the uniform of the modelling industry. Nowadays a lot of agencies place value on their models’ own personal styles. So trust that you know what suits you best.

Model Polaroid Full Length Example Photo
Full Length Shot – Model Polaroid

How to Take Model Polaroids

When you’re first applying to modelling agencies, you don’t need professional polaroids. Some agencies prefer the photos you submit to be taken with an iPhone camera! You should always read the submission guidelines on an agency’s website to see what polaroids they want from applicants.

Professional models will sometimes have photographers take their polaroids for them. Most of the time though, an agency will have a digital camera at hand and take polaroid updates when their models visit. It’s become more common, since the pandemic, for even signed models to take their own polaroids. 

When taking your own polaroids, it’s important to pick a space with a clear and uncluttered background that’s not distracting. The best background for polaroids is actually a plain wall. Before starting, make sure the room has plenty of natural light, that your camera lens is clean, and set up the camera so it’s self-standing (or ask a friend).

Model polaroids shouldn’t be overly stiff or posed. Although it can be nerve-wracking, try to relax, have fun and wear a natural expression. Some good tips are:

  • Keep a separation between your limbs when posing for polaroids to create the most flattering shape
  • Make sure there’s a good distance between you and the camera; not so close that it distorts you or so far away that the images are blurry
  • Take a range of shots, some with your arms and legs straight and some where they’re more angled to better frame the body
  • Show more personality and smile in a few – both agencies and clients sometimes like to see this

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