How to Build A Modeling Portfolio

by Sarah McDowd on March 31, 2012

Building a modeling portfolio is the first step on your path to being a model, and it immensely helps in acquiring agency representation as well. There are many ways to build your portfolio, but however you choose to go about it, you must bear in mind that your modeling portfolio is an extremely vital accessory- it can make or break modeling opportunities. Your portfolio is your first impression, and your best chance to book modeling work.

So how do you build a modeling portfolio? Well here are some modeling portfolio tips sure to help. Before you begin taking photos for your book, you will first need to determine which type(s) of modeling your look is best for. Be honest and realistic with yourself; understanding this will save you tons of wasted time and effort in the future. If you aren’t sure what the different types of modeling are- or which your look is best for, click here to read our Types of Modeling section.

The next step is to find a professional photographer. It makes no difference if you use multiple photographers or just one, what matters is the quality of their work. (*note: In general, this section applies to unsigned models. Models signed to a modeling agency prior to having a portfolio are usually provided with agency-approved photographers to build one.) When you are searching for a photographer, it would be wise to investigate many things before making a decision- for example, how many years have they been shooting, their resume and credits, their policies, how many photos they plan to give you, what their rates are, and if they will print the photos for you (if so, are they going to charge you?), or if they plan to give you the photo files and let you handle the printing on your own.

If you want to be thorough, it is also encouraged that you get references from their former clients as well. Ask them to send you the names/emails of a few models that they have worked with in the past. From there, you can send a short email to the models- tell them your name, that you are requesting a quick referral on “such-and-such photographer”, and whether or not she had a positive experience. Most models are more than happy to help out with an honest reply- with the unspoken understanding, of course, that her reply stays exclusively between the two of you.

Your next step is to decide on of the types of photos you need; you are targeting a well-rounded portfolio that demonstrates the types of modeling you are best-suited for. Express your intentions to your photographer, ask for his input as well as suggestions, and agree upon a few things together, such as: What wardrobe items should you pack in order to achieve the particular looks/concepts you have both agreed upon? What colors or patterns that you should avoid, if any? Are there certain basic poses best-suited for the shots you are trying to get? What are the hair and makeup looks that will work best on you for these photos? You want to make every effort to ensure a mutual understanding of your vision before the photoshoot.

This next step, while not required per se, is highly recommended. It would be a wise choice to hire a professional hair and makeup artist- mainly because your portfolio is so important, and it is far easier to do it right the first time. Ask your photographer for recommendations (he has likely worked with TONS of makeup artists), or you can search on your own if you wish. It will make a huge (and positive) impact on your photos to enlist a professional’s help. If you don’t wish to hire a professional, you can always ask friends that are cosmetologists/makeup artists/hairstylists.

Next, prepare for the photoshoot! Pack all wardrobe options previously discussed, and include a few extra options just for safety. Make sure you know the address, the arrival time, where to park, and the photographer’s cell phone number. Bring a snack and water, and pack your own makeup as a precaution (in case the makeup artist’s face powder just shattered, or even worse- if she cancels). The only other thing you will need to bring is a great attitude! It’s photoshoot time.

After your photoshoot, the next step is the process of selecting images. Rule of thumb:  make sure you are focusing on picking variety. You don’t want multiple shots in your portfolio of you standing against the exact same chain-link fence wearing the exact same yellow dress. Also, make sure to include a smiling headshot, a non-smiling headshot, a ¾ length shot, and a full body shot. From there you have a bit more freedom on what else you’d like to include, as long as the photos still fit within your chosen ‘genre’ of modeling.

When choosing your shots, you will want to enlist the advice and counsel of your photographer once again, as he is better trained at judging quality shots than you are (no offense!). This does not mean you have no say or opinion- you absolutely do. In fact, your opinion is the final say for ALL photos that you include in your portfolio. Just keep in mind that your photographer’s input is valuable and certainly something to consider. Also, keep in mind you really want to be picking the absolute BEST of the best here. Do not choose a photo where your face looks terrible, but your usually-pale body looks tan. A tan will never take precedence over a face. You want photos that are high-quality, attention-grabbing, and that stop people in their tracks. Remember, this is your BIG chance to make a great first impression!

Finally, keep in mind that your photos should be 8×10” prints in pristine condition (no bends or folds). These photos should be placed inside a high-quality portfolio book. Every detail counts- don’t start cutting corners now, because this the last step in building your modeling portfolio!

So pat yourself on the back, you are now ready to dive headfirst into the modeling world!

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris June 20, 2012 at 11:29 am

Excellent advice to those getting their Modeling portfolio started, our website http://www.photomodel.com/ is a place where anyone can upload Modeling portfolio to help get found. its a worldwide site that also has a network of professional photographers who can also help to build a portfolio to help get you started on your way to ‘becoming a next top model!’

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Sebueng Ts'ita July 22, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Wow, this is great. I’m glad I found all this important information. Thank you

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admin February 24, 2013 at 8:54 am

Happy to hear it and happy to help!
Make sure to subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter, and please feel free to share our website with your friends/peers that would find our Modeling Advice/Blog useful as well!
xoxo
-The ModelMentors Team

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bathabile April 15, 2013 at 9:53 am

Thank you so much for the shared information.It really means a lot.

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admin May 3, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Thank you for stopping by and your kind words! We are here to help! :)
xoxo
-The ModelMentors.com Team

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J.D. April 20, 2013 at 6:42 am

Awesome article! For all styling advice….check us out at brandbystyle.com

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admin May 3, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Thank you JD! Checked out your site – LOVING the concept and presentation, 2 thumbs up!! :)
xoxo
-The ModelMentors.com Team

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