As a new model, you want to break into the industry. But where to start? A memorable modeling portfolio will open doors early in your career. Building one should be a priority.
Every day, model agencies and clients pour over hundreds of modeling portfolios. A portfolio that stands out and creates a lasting impression will help book jobs and attract attention.
But when you’re just starting out, building a portfolio can seem like a mystery. You likely have a list of questions:
- What types of photos should I include?
- What makes a “good” modeling portfolio?
- How can I create a portfolio that lands jobs?
- What kind of modeling photographer should I choose?
Fortunately, if you know what to include and what your book must accomplish, you can begin to develop a modeling portfolio that showcases your ability and leaves clients saying WOW!
What Makes a Great Modeling Portfolio?
The golden rule of model portfolios: Quality matters. Your portfolio should feature only your very best shots. A weak photo will only drag your book down.
Beyond quality, though, the photos you select must accomplish a few important tasks. They should:
Showcase Your Range
Great model portfolios show off a model’s ability to adapt to different scenes and situations. Clients want to see that you’re versatile and capable of pulling off multiple looks and styles. Focus on conveying a range of:
Expressions & Emotions: Variety makes your portfolio memorable; it’s what helps one photo stand out from the next. You don’t want a boring, one-dimensional book. So be sure during your portfolio shoots you play with a range of emotions like joy, uncertainty, or contentment -- your book will be better for it.
Characters: Great models create believable characters and tell stories. Choose photos that create convincing characters and storylines. What types of characters to include? In Miami, a large commercial market, your portfolio should show a wide range of characters in various scenarios.
Ages: Finally, your portfolio should show a range of ages that you can convincingly portray. This will help clients know if you’re the right fit for a project.
Align With The Type Of Work You Want
What type of modeling work interests you most? Fashion? Fitness? Lifestyle? Runway? Your portfolio should reflect the type of jobs you want to land. A close range of genres – like fashion, swimsuit and glamour – works well, especially as a new model. As you progress in your career and develop a specialty, say high fashion, your portfolio will evolve to include mostly high fashion photos.
Finally, the best portfolios sell you. Your personality should jump off the page. Agencies and clients should get a strong sense of you and your brand from your portfolio. If you can dazzle and tell a story about who you are and where you are in your career, your marketing potential will skyrocket.
Modeling Portfolios: What You Should Include
You know what your portfolio must accomplish. But now comes the hard part: Carefully selecting a mix of photos that will help launch your career. Although no two modeling books are alike, a few guidelines can help you create a modeling book that sells your ability.
How Many Photos Do I Include?
As a new model, you don’t have a giant pool of photos to pull from. That’s ok. Most beginning models feature 6-12 photos in their first portfolios. Less is more! If you only have 3 or 4 stunning shots, use them. Filling out your book with a few “meh” shots is a mistake. As your career progresses, your book will grow. Experienced models may feature 20 of their best shots, but that’s typically the limit.
What Types of Photos?
Your modeling goals influence your photo selections. A model who dreams of fashion or glamour work will use different shots than a model interested in runway or lifestyle work. Depending on the type of portfolio, you might consider these types of shots:
Commercial / Lifestyle Portfolios
Commercial models are booked for advertising jobs, and the photos in their books should reflect this type of style.
- Headshot – Make a strong impression with your headshot. You can smile, look serious, or convey another emotion. You can use color or black-and-white. No matter what you choose: Make sure it’s stunning.
- Character Shots – Models in advertisements are acting. So include shots that show you in specific situations and convey a range of emotions or messages.
- Interaction Shots – In advertising, you’ll likely work with other models on shoots. Interaction shots show how well you work with other models.
Fashion / Editorial Models
Editorial books feature photos that look similar to what you’d find in fashion magazines like Vogue or Elle. A few shots to include:
- A Beauty Shot: A beauty shot is similar to a headshot, but the goal should be to showcase the model’s unique look. Your goal: Let your natural beauty create a strong first impression.
- Editorial Fashion Shots: These shots feature it all: Hair, makeup, wardrobe, lighting. Be sure you use your editorial shots to show off your ability to create movement, convey ideas and express emotion.
- Full-Length Body Shots: This type of photo shows off your body type. It’s more simplistic in tone than an editorial shot. Also, you’ll want to wear form-fitting clothing that’s simple in style.
- Swimwear Shots: If this is something you’re ready to do, a swimwear photo can expand the opportunities available to you. Use swimsuit photography to look sexy and show how well you can sell swim and resortwear.
- A Closing Image: Fashion and commercial portfolios share one rule: Go out with a bang. Your closing shot should wow. This is your chance to close the deal and tell prospective clients and agencies, “You must hire me.”
What Size Should Your Portfolio Be?
Modeling portfolio sizes vary by market. In New York, books are typically 9x12 or 11x14, while other markets like Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami require 8.5x11 books. Choose a book that matches the market.
Tips for Selecting the Best Photographer for Your Portfolio
As you begin to create a modeling portfolio, choosing the right model photographer is one of the most important decisions you will make. Experience matters. An experienced photographer can make all the difference. For example, modeling portfolio photographers specialize in commercial and fashion photography. They know what agencies and clients look for, and can help you create photos that will sell your ability. Beyond experience, consider these factors:
- Quality – Do you like the photographer’s work? Is the work consistent? You might not have the expertise to be a photography critic. But if the photographer’s portfolio consistently features magazine-worthy, you know it’s the real deal.
- Style – Great fashion photographers develop a unique style. Their body of work features similar aesthetics, lighting and color choices, and use models in specific ways in their photos. As you review the photographer’s photos and catch yourself saying, “I want photos like this in my portfolio,” you’ve found a style match.
- Specialty – Does the photographer specialize in a particular genre? A wedding photographer is probably not the best fit for an aspiring commercial model. If you can, choose a photographer who offers expertise in your desired genre.
- Professionalism – Professional fashion and commercial photographers are the real deal. They have business websites, they convey professionalism over the phone, and they’re happy to provide references. Be sure to do your homework. A photographer without a professional website or business phone number probably isn’t serious enough to help you launch your career.
- The Right Fit – Be sure to talk with more than one photographer. Get to know each one. Do you click? Does the photographer put you at ease? Model-photographer collaborations require trust, so be sure you feel comfortable and confident with prospective photographers.
Remember: Your Portfolio Is a Work In Progress
Modeling portfolios constantly evolve. As your goals and modeling ability change and improve, so too will your modeling portfolio.
Although you might want to hire a photographer, fill up your book, and be done with it, it’s never that simple. Early in your career, you need to work with as many photographers as possible, take as many stunning photos as you can, and always be refining and improving your portfolio.
Bottom line, success in modeling takes more than just a great portfolio. It requires the drive and ambition to continually improve and get better.