Extra, Extra! Glossary of Terms

Commercial headshot: Acting or model headshot. The target, or audience, for commercial headshots are generally casting agents for the advertising industry. Your headshot should instantly telegraph you as an appropriate type and personality to promote a product or service to a specific demographic.  Typically the style of portraiture is warm, bright, and engaging.

Composite or comp card: An actual card used by models and actors to display a range of looks or types for commercial and editorial print, usually with a headshot on one side and multiple images on the back. A model’s card is usually editorial (envision a spread in a fashion magazine), whereas an actor’s may be more lifestyle-oriented (having a drink in a hotel bar, hailing a cab in the city). 

Environmental portrait: A portrait executed in the subject’s usual environment, such as the office for an executive, a stage for a performer, or a kitchen for a chef. Typically illuminates the subject’s work and surroundings. Often used as publicity photos on websites and in annual reports and other marketing materials.

High resolution image: An image file that can be used to produce high quality prints 8×10 or larger at 300+ dots per inch (so at least 2400×3000 pixels).

Legit headshot: synonymous with “theatrical headshot.”

Publicity photo: general term for photographs distributed as part of press kits or used directly by celebrities, corporations, candidates for political office and others with the express purpose of promoting themselves or their products and services.  

Theatrical headshot: Acting headshot geared toward being cast in TV shows, films and plays. The target, or audience, for theatrical headshots are generally casting agents and/or directors. Your headshot should convey emotional depth and an identifiable personality type. Typically the style of portraiture is confident and grounded, often without a smile. 

Web resolution image: An image file that is sized for display on web browsers/mobile phones/tablets, or for sending by email.  Web resolution files are typically less than 1000 pixels on the long side.

Zed card: synonymous with “composite or comp card.”

Want to learn more? Read my whole Guide to Great Headshots:

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