How to Build a Modeling Portfolio

How to Build a Modeling Portfolio

It’s all about first impressions–especially in the modeling world. Your photos, comp card or modeling portfolio will always be seen before you get a chance to dazzle them with your personality in person, so it’s really important to grab the attention of agencies or clients with strong images. Set your standards very high. Use a very critical eye–whether it’s your own, or even better, someone who has experience helping models get signed to prominent agencies or chosen for lucrative gigs–when selecting any images to put in your modeling portfolio. Make sure that the pictures that you select when you build a modeling portfolio have the ability to WOW agencies and potential clients. Remember, you are only as good as your worst image. Photographers, agencies, and clients will remember your worst image.

Modeling portfolio tips:

  • In New York and Los Angeles, 9×12 and 11×14 books are popular and often required.
  • At the very least, purchase a book that holds 8.5×11 pages – if you are hoping to do print work, your tearsheets are likely to be 8.5×11, so you want them to fit.
  • Your modeling portfolio should only consist of “Great” and “WOW” photos. Throw out the “Bad” and set aside the “Good” for your personal keeping.
  • Your book markets your ability to portray different characters, age ranges, and personalities.
  • Put your strongest photo at the front to grab the photographer, agent, or client’s attention.
  • Place your “WOW” photos on the right pages of your portfolio and “Great” photos on the left.
  • If you have images where you’re facing to one side, make sure you are facing inwards.
  • Keep horizontal photos together, or print one image in two parts so it fits right side up spread across both sides of the book.
  • Don’t have many photos yet? Place them all on the right sides of your book and keep the left side blank so it seems like there are more to look through.
  • Don’t be afraid to include a few great black and white photos in your portfolio.
  • Less is better! You will not impress with quantity – make a lasting impression with quality.
  • As a new model, 6 – 12 photos is enough to present yourself to a new agency. 20 is the max – but only if they are “WOW” photos.
  • Add a photo on the very last page of your book with your comp cards to give the agent/client something to look at while they grab your card.

Shots to include in your portfolio:

  1. Beauty shot.
  2. Smiling shot.
  3. Natural light shot.
  4. Editorial shots.
  5. Swimsuit shot at the beach or a pool.
  6. Full length fashion shot in front of seamless paper.
  7. Tear sheets from print publications (not webzines). If no one has heard of it, don’t use it.
  8. Very light makeup shot or no makeup shot wearing jeans and a tank top.
  9. Sexy but tasteful lingerie shots (think La Perla, not Frederick’s of Hollywood).
  10. Polaroids (full-length and frontal / side with hair up headshots)

Beauty shot - Charlotte Bruge shot by Leny Guetta

Smiling shot - Tahlia Giumelli shot by Zachary Handley

Natural light shot - Jessica Lewis shot by Henry Moshizi

Suimsuit shot - Olivia drouot

Editorial shot - Elena Ivanova shot by Asa Tallgard

Full length fashion shot - Vida Ucukalo

Tear sheet - Vibeke Hansen

Light or no makeup shot - Angelika Skulimowska shot by Mark H. View

Lingerie shot - Milena Cardoso shot by Nahoko Spiess

Polaroids - Stéphanie Gourlant shot by Olivier Lafrontière

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to get your free Model Poses Guide by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

Update 12/28/13

I’ve been getting a lot of emails from people asking where they can purchase a portfolio. When you sign with a modeling agency, they supply you with a portfolio with their logo on it. If you’re still looking for representation, or are working as a freelance model, then it’s definitely a good idea to buy your own. Here are a couple options: for an 8.5 by 11″ book, try the Florence Professional Portfolio, or for a 9 by 12″ book (which I recommend more), try the Itoya Professional Presentation Book.

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