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How to Build Your Portfolio as a Model


Advancing your career as a model takes determination to succeed in addition to natural beauty and a photogenic quality. Another aspect of advancing your career involves being able to expand your brand as a model and build your portfolio. This article will address how to build your portfolio as a model so that you can receive more modeling jobs and advance in your career.

What Model Grouping Do You Belong In?

Before beginning to create your portfolio, it is important to first establish what type of model you are. For example, there are two basic groupings you may find yourself working in. One is as a freelance model and the other is a high fashion model. The portfolio you create depends on which of the two general categories you fall into. If you are a freelance model, you would include a variety of different photos exhibiting your versatility and thus would increase your modeling project opportunities. If you are a high fashion model, it is important to include photos showcasing your poses wearing various fashions. In order to increase your chances of finding more work, it is vital that you focus on your current skillset as a model and reflect those skills in your portfolio. Remember that the portfolio you create is going to send a clear message regarding your skillset as a model. It will be a first impression that will either make or break your career path. Modeling agencies and prospective clients will make decisions based upon their first impressions of your portfolio and the photos showcased within. So, make your portfolio count and enable yourself to stand out from the competition.

Building Blocks for Your Portfolio

There are several factors that go into creating a stellar portfolio that will help to advance your career and provide you with exciting new modeling opportunities. Those factors are discussed below.

1. Quality Counts

The first factor to remember is that quality—rather than quantity—counts and will set you apart from the competition. You may have a large number of photos to include. However, it is vital that you are constructively selective in deciding which ones to include. It is important to include the ones that best showcase your modeling skills and accentuate your best features. Less is more. Don’t include photos that are not absolutely your best. Prospective clients will notice photos that are less than your best and those won’t impress them. Providing photos showcasing your best modeling talents will give them that lasting impression and increase your chances of obtaining future projects.

2. What to Include

One factor to remember is that an effective portfolio is not simply a means to showcase your natural beauty. It is a prime opportunity to demonstrate a model’s capability to portray various character types, different age ranges, and personal flair. A portfolio should have at least 6-12 high quality photos of yourself. This is especially important when seeking representation with a new agency. More established models are expected to have a larger portfolio with approximately 10-25 high quality photos. The following specific photos should be included in your portfolio.

  • Quality Head Shots – Without makeup; the Industry calls these “Polaroids.” Also include one with makeup for a more polished and professional look.
  • Quality Body Shots – With swimwear/tight-fitting clothes; for those who want to apply for the larger, more commercial modeling markets.
  • Professional Shots – Include a variety of photos that showcase your versatility of style, personality, flair and acting or character-based shots.

3. What Not to Include

Remember to be true to yourself and never overstep any boundaries that will make you feel uncomfortable. For example, if you are not seeking to integrate into the larger commercial market, don’t feel pressured to include shots of you in skimpy swimwear or lingerie. That is a more specialized field in the commercial market and is not for everyone who wants to work in the modeling field. Simply stay focused on the field that you seeking to enter and include photos that cater to that modeling mindset.

4. Work with a Professional

When creating your portfolio, it is important that your photos have been taken by a professional photographer. If you cannot hire an expensive professional, seek out a friend who is studying photography in college rather than asking your best friend to snap some shots with a smartphone. Additionally, your photos will make a big impact if you opt to get a professional makeover for the day of the photo shoot. Again, if you cannot afford the high end treatment, at least work with a friend or student at a cosmetology school rather than struggling to do your hair and makeup yourself. For the head shot, it is vital that you don’t go overboard with regard to the jewelry and accessories. You want this photo to focus on your natural features and don’t want anything extraneous to take away from that.

Online Resource

Joe Edelman of The Business of Modeling authored an excellent piece on creating a modeling portfolio. Some of the tips he shared include the following.

  • “Good” and “Bad” photos should never be included in the portfolio.
  • Only include “Wow” and “Great” photos in the portfolio.
  • The size of the photos depends upon the market (city).
  • All the photos do not have to be in color; include some in black and white.
  • You do not need to have multiple photographers taking your photos.

When creating your modeling portfolio, remember to always be professional in your presentation. Many times, the portfolio will be the only opportunity to make an effective first impression on a new client or modeling agency. Do your research with regard to what types of photos are required for your specific field and never overstep your boundaries or violate your personal code of ethics.

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