How to Start your Modelling Portfolio

A portfolio is quite possibly the single most important tool that any model can possess. It showcases your looks, your style, and your ability to work in front of a camera. But if you’re new to the modelling industry, starting your portfolio can be a bit of a daunting task. Who should take the photos? What do you wear? What poses should you choose? 

Luckily for you, the answers to these questions are quite simple, but before we get to them, we have one much more important question to answer first. 

What type of model do you want to be?

There’s way more to modelling than you think with so many niches that it’s sometimes hard to keep track of them. For now, let’s talk in general terms. 

Many people assume that models do a little bit of everything and for some that may be true. The majority of working models, though, focus on one area of modelling when they start out. 

For example, you might want to focus on fashion modelling or runway modelling. Or perhaps you’d prefer to do live modelling at trade shows and exhibitions. Then there’s modelling for stock photography which could see you posing as anything from a dishevelled parent to a doctor and everything in between. 

Whatever type of modelling you’d like to focus on, you’ll want to make sure that your portfolio reflects the type of shots and poses that you usually find in that niche. 

This is something that you really need to decide for yourself so take a little time to do your homework before choosing your preferred niche for your modelling career.

Who should take the photos?

Okay, so this is a simple one to answer — a professional photographer. 

This is a professional portfolio that is something akin to a visual resume so it simply has to be on point. No matter how good your neighbour, sister, or cousin is with their camera, unless they are a professional photographer they should not be taking your portfolio shots. 

Ideally, your agency will be able to recommend a good photographer that specialises in taking portfolio shots. If you’re not yet signed with an agency and want to sort your portfolio out first, then look for a photographer that has experience taking photos in your preferred modelling niche. There’s no point in asking a photographer who specialises in family portraits to take your photos for a fashion-focused portfolio. 

What about hair and makeup?

Remember what we just said about how you should only let a professional take your photos? Well, the same goes for hair and makeup too, but perhaps to a lesser extent. 

Doing your hair or makeup for a photoshoot can be very different to getting ready for a night out. For one thing, you need to be aware of the fact that you’ll be under artificial lighting and that means that every imperfection in your makeup will show up on camera. 

While you can get away with doing your hair and makeup yourself, we highly recommend hiring someone to take care of it for you. This will give you one less thing to worry about on the day of your shoot. 

Your photographer should be able to recommend someone who has experience in hair and makeup for photo shoots. 

What should you wear for a portfolio photo shoot?

This will depend on what type of modelling you intend to do, but generally speaking, you’ll want to follow these simple guidelines. 

  • Choose unbranded clothing
  • Only choose outfits that fit well
  • Avoid patterns and stripes
  • Have at least one outfit that is plain and simple (t-shirt and jeans)
  • Bring more than one outfit
  • Don’t wear anything too revealing

A casting director or photographer who is looking at your portfolio will look past the clothes. They simply want to see an accurate reflection of your body shape and your face. So don’t stress yourself out too much by overthinking your clothes, and if you’re struggling with a decision, remember that you can’t go wrong with a simple outfit. 

What about poses? 

Don’t assume that the photographer will be able to tell you what poses you should use in your portfolio. They will certainly give you some advice, but you’ll want to go in there with a few basic poses ready that suit your modelling type. 

Now it’s time to do some homework, and by some homework we actually mean a lot of homework. 

First you’ll need to do some research into what kind of poses models use in your chosen modelling niche. Then you’re going to stand in front of a mirror and practice until you can drop into a variety of poses at a moment’s notice. It might feel silly to do it at first, but if you can’t pose in front of a mirror, then you won’t stand a chance in front of a camera. 

So get practicing! 

Portfolio Tips 

Now that we’ve answered the most important questions you may have as a new model, here are a few bonus tips for creating the perfect portfolio. 

Treat your portfolio shoot like a paying job

You should take your portfolio shoot very seriously — after all, it’s the one thing that could really kickstart your career. So treat it like a paying job. 

Arrive early, be open and communicative with the people around you, and above all else, be polite and respectful. Just because you are paying for the shoot doesn’t mean you can start ordering people around. 

Create a shot list

It’s a good idea to have a list of shots that you want to take during the shoot. This will help the photographer set up the shoot and helps you make sure that everything is covered. 

Take your time to choose your shots

Don’t rush into making a decision on what shots to keep for your portfolio. Ideally, you’ll want 12-16 shots, but the photographer could have taken four times that many. You’ll want a full body shot in every one of your outfits along with shots in all of your various poses. 

The photographer will likely email you some watermarked copies of your images so you can choose your best shots at home. If you’re going to ask for someone’s opinion, best to ask your agent or someone else who has experience in the industry. Your mum or nan will just think all of your shots are amazing so maybe don’t ask them!

Get your portfolio printed as a book

Yep, printed as a book. While a portfolio book may not be as important as it once was, we still think that it’s a good idea to have one that you can bring along to open model castings. You can print and create this yourself at home or ask the photographer if they can include one for a fee. 

Create your online portfolio

The last thing you’ll want to do is to create your online portfolio. Now, we may sound a little biased here, but we recommend that you don’t start looking for work until you have signed up with an agency. The agency will have better opportunities as a casting director or photographer usually goes straight to an agency when they are in need of a model. 

And once you have signed up with an agency, they will tell you which talent portals you need to sign up with and let you know what information you need to include on your profile. 

And that is all there is to it. Simple, right? 

Okay, so maybe it’s not that simple, but starting your modelling portfolio is certainly something that you can manage on your own. Besides, prepping for your shoot is good practice for the real thing. 

If you’re new to the world of modelling and looking for an agency or you’re an experienced model searching for new representation, then we’d love to hear from you. If you have any questions feel free to get in touch today or you can go ahead and apply to join the agency by hitting the ‘Apply Now’ button in the menu at the top of your screen.