What is a comp card (and why do I need one?)

A comp card, also known as a z-card (pronounced zed card).  Whether you are in dance, acting, singing or getting into modeling they have been an industry standard for some time.  This is a 6″x 9″ card with a head shot on the front and 3-5 images on the back that showcases your talent and is used with agencies, auditions and self promotion.  Their purpose is solely to show as much variety as possible and help the casting director envision you in the role that you are applying.  As expected these cost money and need to be done professionally. If you wait until you are in Chicago, New York, or LA you will spend upwards of $500 – $1500 (and up) just for the session/sitting fee.  Unlike musicians that only need their portraits updated about every 5 years, performing artists need to update more often.  This is because we all age and your portfolio needs to be kept up to date and updated every 1-2 years especially if you put on/take off weight, cut or dye your hair. Any change in appearance will require an updated zed card.

A comp card is an important resource in addition to a head-shot. It allows you to introduce yourself to industry professionals in a much more diverse way than with a head-shot alone. If you’re looking for a commercial agent, submitting with a comp card will give you a much better chance of meeting them, because you’re showing them a variety of looks. They’ll see you as significantly more likely to book a job, be it print or on camera. If you already have a commercial agent, a comp card will allow them to submit you for print work as well as on camera and voice overs. This opens up an entire new avenue to generate income.

Comp cards are NOT just for models as every actor should have one.  Generally an models comp card is much like a spread in Vogue Magazine while an actor is lifestyle that can include any form of action style images to help the person seeing your comp card to envision you in the role being cast.   Ideally the images should look like tear sheets from a magazine ad.  While fashion work is reserved for models there is a lot of print work available for actors to help sell their products.  Click here to see day rates for print work, specifically for actors and “real” people.