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Modeling Portfolio Tips

A model’s portfolio is a huge asset to their career, and it’s essential that you have a good understanding of what you need to have in it. Your portfolio is what helps clients determine whether a model has the ability to achieve the look they’re going for on any given project. One of the best ways to stand out is to make sure your images are relevant to your market and show your range.

Photo by Jenny Wheat

If you’re unsure of what you need in your portfolio, the best thing to do is have a chat with your agent to discuss what the clients are looking for in a model and what images your book may be lacking to make you appealing to clients. If your freelance, the easiest way to find out what clients are wanting is to look up local agencies in your area and see what type of photos they have in their model’s online portfolios. If the images in your images are the complete opposite of what you see on the agency websites, it’s probably best to reevaluate your look and start shooting for images that are similar to what the agencies are showcasing to give yourself a better shot at booking jobs.

Many models assume that as long as they have cool images in their portfolios, clients will just know that they can do all types of modeling, but that’s not necessarily true. It’s sort of like the term “dress for the job you want”. Clients aren’t just going to assume you can do all types of modeling. If they see your portfolio is full of moody editorial images but they’re looking to book a model for a bridal magazine, they’ll most likely pass you up even if your images are stunning because it’s the opposite look they’re wanting to have in their campaign.

Not all models are versatile enough to do all the different types of modeling, so if a client doesn’t see any images in your portfolio that match the feel they want for their booking, they will most likely assume you can’t do it. That is why it’s important to have a strong knowledge of what type of clients are in your area, and to show variety and range when you’re putting your portfolio together.

So, where to even start? Again, talking things over with your agent is best, but if you don’t have one or they’re not very helpful, here are some things to keep in mind when putting together your portfolio:

Determine what you need

Before you just jump right in and book a bunch of photoshoots or throw different images you already have together in a book, take a moment to determine what type of photos you even need in order to make a strong portfolio. If you have an agent, they will do most of the work selecting what images to put in your book. If you’re freelance, just getting started, or needing to do a major overhaul, you will need to do a little research to figure out exactly what kind of images you need for the market that you’re in.

Quality over quantity

Many models make the mistake of putting too many photos in their portfolio. Between 6 to 20 photos is appropriate for a modeling portfolio. You never want to do more than 20 because no client is going to take the time during a casting to look through that many photos. You definitely want to focus on quality over quantity, so don’t include any subpar photos just because you feel like you need to have more images in your book. This also holds true for tearsheets. Only include them if the image is a great one, not just because you want to brag you were in a publication.

Less is more

You don’t want the images in your book be too overly styled. The whole point of your portfolio is to showcase YOU as the model, how you look and how you can pose. You want to make sure you’re not lost in the set or have too much makeup on to distract from clients seeing you in the image.

While over the top conceptual shoots can be a lot of fun, they really have no place in your portfolio because the model usually gets lost in the over-all image. You want to make sure you’re the center of attention and there’s not too much else going on in the image to distract from you.

Show your range

The images you choose to put in your portfolio need to show a range of facial expressions, emotions, and poses. Don’t be a one trick pony and have the same facial expression in every photo. Again, this is where it is important to know your market and what your target client audience is. If you’re in a commercial area, you want to make sure you don’t only have editorial images. It’s good to have a few moody fashion shots as well as some really great smiling and happy shots. You also want to have a variety of different settings- some images done in studio and some out on different locations.


Again, communication with your agent is key as they will have the best idea of what type of images you will need to have. It’s also important that you have very detailed communications with any photographers you work with when updating your portfolio so you get exactly what you need out of your photoshoot.

When you determine what you need, set up a shoot or shoots with photographers that have experience shooting those types of looks. Photographers experienced in model portfolio shoots will have a good understanding of what looks you need and how to properly edit your phots to appeal to agents and clients.

Once the shoot is set up, be organized, thorough, and have mood boards created to share with them so there is no miscommunication on what you are going for during that shoot.

Keep it current

Your portfolio is a constant work in progress. It’s important to keep it updated with newer photos and more recent work experience. As you book more and more jobs, make sure those are included as well.

If your look changes, say you colored and/or cut your hair, you will need to get updated images to reflect that change.


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