Helping Photographers Understand the HOWS & WHYS behind Great Photography

MODELING PORTFOLIO 101 – What you need to know


A modeling portfolio is a models most important marketing tool.

The modeling portfolio is what will get you signed by a modeling agency(s) and hired by clients.

Modeling is a first impression business.  Your photographs are always seen by the modeling agencies and clients BEFORE you are, so if they don’t sell your ability to be an amazing model – they new selling you short.

A modeling portfolio is the collection of photographs that were taken to show the models range and ability.  These photographs are submitted to modeling agencies and clients in the hope of getting signed or getting work.

Be realistic when begin the process of building a portfolio.  If you are 5’4”, you should not have photographs that make you look like a fashion model.  All that would do is make you look foolish.  Taking a realistic approach to your portfolio will help you avoid rejection and failure as you attempt to enter the industry.

Let me tell you what a modeling portfolio is NOT . . . A great portfolio is NOT a bunch of pictures that show how pretty or handsome the model is or how sexy he or she is.  A great portfolio does not showcase the talents of the photographers, makeup artists or hairstylists.

A great modeling portfolio is a collection of 6 to 20 photographs** that show your ability as a model.  What does that mean?  It means that when you appear in an ad, or on a billboard, or in a TV commercial, you won’t be appearing as yourself.  They won’t be showing YOUR name.  You will be acting – portraying a character.  The portfolio needs to show what you are capable of.  **(6 – 12 photos for a new model and no more than 20 for an experienced model) In short, the modeling portfolio is not about YOU it is about what /who you can be.

The most important elements of an amazing modeling portfolio:

  • Your photographs need to show a range of AGES. How young can you look and how old can you look – convincingly.  A models age is rarely advertised by his/her agency.  Instead, some agencies will display an age range (“She can model from 18 – 28”).  Clients would still rather see photographs that prove the model is believable at those ages.
  • Your images need to show a range of facial expressions and emotions. Don’t be a one trick pony and have the same facial expression in all of your photos.  If you are afraid to smile because you don’t like your teeth – get your teeth fixed BEFORE you try to model, otherwise the likelihood that you will succeed is greatly diminished.  If you pay attention to ads in magazines, if there is a model in the shot (not a celebrity) they are probably not looking straight at the camera with a smile or a serious expression.  They are generally trying to convey some kind of emotion ranging from excited to sad or goofy to intensely serious.
  • Your portfolio needs to show examples of you looking like the kinds of characters that you are likely to be hired to portray. This is going to be determined by the types of advertising that are generated in the market where you live.  As an example, for any guy or girl over the age of 20 in the Philadelphia advertising market, it is essential to have a photograph of them dressed as a nurse, doctor or some kind medical professional.  The reason for this is that Philadelphia is the largest medical advertising market in the United States.

So remember, it’s not about YOU!  Honestly, nobody cares what you like, or how you like to dress, or how you like to wear your hair and makeup.  If you are hired, you will be told how to dress and how to wear your hair and makeup and your job as a professional model is to sell it!

So the less you make your modeling portfolio about yourself, and the more you make it about your ability to help a client sell their product or service, the better your chances are of being signed by an agency and booking work as a model.

Modeling Portfolio

Be sure to read the article:  15 Tips for a Great Modeling Portfolio

The bottom line, you MUST set your standards high.  You get one shot a making a great first impression with modeling agencies and clients, don’t blow it!  Be VERY selective when choosing the photos for your modeling portfolio.  Make sure that the images will WOW potential agencies and clients – not with creativity – but ability.  In other words, no snapshots or selfie’s, don’t include multiple pictures of the same outfit in the same location and make sure your photographs are YOU – they cannot be over retouched.

You are only as good as the worst image in your portfolio.  I promise you that photographers, agents and clients will remember your worst image more than your best one.  Just because you had a lot of fun doing a shot and you think it is really creative, that doesn’t mean that it belongs in your portfolio.

Find out how to find the right modeling photographer to shoot your portfolio


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