What makes a good portfolio?
Casting for shoots and working with models it is the primary tool for recognition – think of it as your calling card. A good portfolio will communicate personality, style, and your look. A bad portfolio will look like some family snapshots from your friends or family.
So let’s look at it from the studio’s perspective. They need a model for an assignment and probably have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t for their project. For example, they may need a Marilyn Monroe look alike or flapper dancers, or Ballerina, or Victoria Secret model for lingerie. Whatever it is they have to find the right girl for the job. May or may not cast for live interview but more likely will receive lots of replies with links to model home page where they can review the pictures. Some still have printed portfolios but given the web and the way things are going it is more likely the fast run through of the home page saves a lot of time. They can follow up with model if she looks to be a candidate.
So what captures the casting directors attention? Look, style, personality, and an emotional connection of what the pictures convey. There are plenty of books, articles, and advice on the technical aspects of posing, makeup, hair, etc that I am not going to rehash here. But what is important is to figure out how to get an edge on your competition and get your look in ahead of the next models. Here are some ideas for you to consider:
Be creative and change the look and character of the shots in your portfolio. Takes assignments that add to your reportore and not just what is comfortable. It is not helpful to have 300 pictures in your portfolio – no one is going to look at all of them. If I can not scan them in a minute or two it is not helpful. Pick from a variety of styles and put your strongest in the first and last photo to leave a lasting impression. Showcase your look to include face or Headshot, 3/4 and full length. If the face intrigues me I am more likely to want to see more.
Target your Market
If you plan to be the Woman’s Sport and Fitness cover model then best you have good shots from a sports theme. Catalog work is some of the bread and butter and you need to include catalog like shots. If you accept lingerie (and every catalog has it) then you need swim suit and lingerie shots as well. You may focus on parts modleing- hands, feet, legs, etc. Shoe Ads will feature foot or leg shots, Your eyes, lips, and hair are a primary feature so vary the hair up, down, loose, tight, and have a good face close up. If you are targeting advertising and commercial work like perfume, jewelry, watches, purses, etc --look at the big fashion magazines and see what they use. Imagine yourself as the model in one of these ads and include them in your work. The key point here is that you need to have representative pictures of the type of work you want.
My best advice is look at the pictures in all of the places you might typically read (Glamour, Elle, Vogue, etc) and try to find one that has no nudity. It just is a fact that it sells and thus you will find it part of the business. If you exclude it in your work types you will be greatly limiting the castings that come your way. If you plan to accept nude modeling in some form then you need to include that in your portfolio as well. Most will find that they start in a more narrow market and eventually as they compete for the castings they will tend to accept a greater diversity of work. Your image is your trademark so you must always build your portfolio carefully.
Building the Portfolio
Paying a studio to do “test shots” will run $200-300 or more. You must have high quality professional shots, the snapshots from your boyfriend will just not hack it for very long. Starting models may need to look at TFP to build both experience (posing, shooting, and experience on set) and to get different styles. As you add shots make sure that in the Model Release with the photographer that you secure rights to use them for self promotion.