Step-by-Step Instructions to Building a Modeling Portfolio

The most important first step for any aspiring model hoping to break into the modeling industry is building a modeling portfolio. The concept sounds simple enough- but you may wonder how to go about this process correctly, and the steps required of you. We have included step-by-step instructions detailing how to build your own modeling portfolio below.

First things first: please bear in mind that your modeling portfolio is your BEST chance to help you book modeling work. It is also your first-impression to potential clients and modeling agencies- so it is extremely important to build a strong portfolio. As such, you want to determine something before you even get started on your portfolio, because avoiding this step may end up costing you tons of time, money, effort and potential work: determine which areas of modeling your look is best-suited for. Be realistic: if you are 300 pounds, you are best-suited for commercial and plus-sized modeling; as such, do not waste your time taking photos in swimwear and hoping to become a mainstream bikini model. If you aren’t sure what the different types of modeling are- or which your look is best for, do some research on Google, or check out a few reputable “Modeling Advice” websites.

Once you have determined your targeted modeling-areas, you will need to set about finding a photographer- or multiple. However many photographers you wish to use to build your portfolio is entirely up to you. What matters here is quality; quantity is just circumstance. (* please note: For the most part, this applies to unsigned and freelance models; models that are signed to a modeling agency before they have built their portfolio are typically provided with a list of approved photographers to use by their agency.)

While searching for a photographer, there are a few things you need to mark off on your “mental checklist”. Your first matter of business is to do your research on each candidate: Their credits, their resume, how long have they have been in the photography business- these are important. In addition, you will need to write the photographer and ask about their policies as far as a photoshoot- What are their rates? How many photos do they plan to give you once your shoot is complete? Will they make prints for you or will they give you the digital files?

Another facet of research you should conduct is checking on the photographers’ references. What are his former clients saying about their experience with him? Ask your potential photographer for a list of names and emails of a few past clients (models in particular). These people can answer a few questions in private detailing their overall experience and whether it was positive, negative or neutral. Just keep in mind that if you receive a negative referral, it is nobody else’s business, not even the photographer. Do NOT snitch, spread slander, or encourage gossip. There should be understanding that these replies stay exclusively between the two of you. If you are given multiple positive referrals, this is a great sign and should be taken into consideration while making your decision.

Now that you have decided on your photographer(s), you need to determine the photos you’re your portfolio will need. Remember, you are targeting a portfolio that is well-rounded, shows variety, and fits into the modeling areas you are best-suited for. Confer with your photographer: ask for his opinion, discuss the types of modeling you are going to pursue and what the most appropriate types of photos are for each genre. As a photographer, he will have plenty of experience in the modeling industry, so it is in your best interest to ask for his opinion and guidance, and to take his suggestions to heart. Once that is complete, you both need to agree on a few details concerning the shoot, such as: wardrobe (what should you bring that will help achieve particular concepts and looks? Should you avoid certain wardrobe items, patterns, or colors? Which poses should you practice? What is the ideal hair/makeup concept for each set?) It is very important to ask and mutually agree upon these things before your photoshoot. This can help avoid any misunderstandings after the fact.

While not required, a recommended next step is finding a professional hair and makeup artist. It is far easier to assemble the proper team and get your portfolio right the first time than taking shortcuts and having to try again as a result. If you don’t know where to start on finding one, once again you will want to use recommendations- your photographer should have a few as he as likely worked with many in the past. Of course you can always search on your own, but it is a longer process and you don’t have the added insurance of a personal referral. Either way, taking this step will make a huge impact on your portfolio and its end-result. If you simply can’t afford a professional, don’t despair just yet- can you ask a friend that has a background in makeup or hair? If all else fails, there are some wonderful hair and makeup tutorials on Youtube. You simply have to take the time to practice what you are watching.

Now on to the next step: photoshoot preparation! You want to do these things ahead of time to avoid any unnecessary stress. The day before your shoot, collect all of your wardrobe options that were previously agreed upon, and pack them up- but also include a few additional options, just for safety’s sake. It is imperative to have all of the proper information regarding the shoot, written down or typed up on a piece of paper, and to bring it with you the day of the shoot. This paper needs to include your arrival time, where to park, the address, and the cell phone numbers of those involved. You also want to bring reinforcements: a bottle of water, a snack, and backup items as a precaution. For instance, bring your own makeup (maybe the makeup artist never shows up, or she does show up but her face powder shattered), and bring your own curling iron (Maybe hers decides to stop working that day, or she forgets to bring hers). Yes, this is a lot of preparation, but it will pay off. Phwew! It’s finally photoshoot time!!

After your photoshoot is complete, you will start the image-selecting process. The key here is to focus on VARIETY. In addition, you at least want to make sure to pick out a few staple photos to include in your portfolio: a headshot (both smiling and non), a full body shot, and a ¾ length shot.) After that, have a blast with it! Choose whichever other images you’d like to include, so long as they are still relevant within your chosen modeling areas. Once again, it is important to ask your photographer for his advice and opinion- as a professional, he can certainly advise on which shots are best in your particular case. Most importantly, remember that you should be choosing the absolute BEST of the best. Remember, this is your first impression and you want to NAIL it!

The last and final step is getting your beautiful photos printed and put inside a portfolio! You will need to print the photos at the dimensions of 8″x10″. Don’t stop now at making a good first impression- go the extra mile when it comes to everything about your portfolio. This means to get a high-quality photo book, and to only place photos in pristine conditions inside your book. If one of your prints has water damage, wrinkles, or bends in it- leave it out and print a new one! These may seem like small details, but they do matter. And besides- wouldn’t it be silly to start cutting corners now… because this the last step in building your modeling portfolio! So give yourself a high-five for all of your hard work, because it is about to pay off- now go book yourself some modeling work with your awesome new modeling portfolio!!