Portfolios & Signing with Agencies

This post if the first of a two-post series regarding your modeling portfolio and signing with agencies. I get asked about this topic all the time, and feel it’s a very important to discuss because modeling portfolios can be very expensive to create, costing anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand once all is said & done. For someone who is just getting into the industry, navigating what’s necessary and what’s not can be very hard to figure out.

New models often assume that they need a professional modeling portfolio (aka “book”) filled with stylized photos before they approach modeling agencies seeking representation. Some ‘agencies’ will even try to push models to purchase a portfolio building shoot from their own in-house photographer before they can even be considered for representation.

The truth is, when you’re looking for agency representation, the answer is NO- you do not need a full professional portfolio to present to them before signing a contract. You can have a book full of amazing edited photos, but what an agency really wants to see when they’re looking for a new model is the natural version of you.

Basic snapshots, usually referred to as “polaroids” or “digitals” is all that is required from new models. Agency scouts already know what a great photographer & beauty team can accomplish, so they want to see the raw version of what they’re working with. If you already have a portfolio that is fine, but don’t be surprised if they don’t even take a look at it.

Photos by Tiffany Marie Photography

If you’re submitting online, they will ask you to submit unedited, unprofessional photos with little to no makeup and basic clothing. If you are attending an open call, they will request that you wear the basic “model uniform” and take their own digitals of you.

Below are some tips to help you get the best photos to submit to agencies online:

  • Photos should be clear and in focus

  • If there are instructions outlining the type of photos they want, follow them exactly

  • If no instructions are given, include at least one headshot, a full length shot, and a profile headshot

  • Keep makeup to a minimum

  • Keep hair simple but well groomed

  • Keep clothing simple; a form-fitting tank & dark colored skinny jeans are always a great option

  • Include a swimsuit photo if you are comfortable wearing a swimsuit

  • Do not submit nude photos

  • Do not wear flashy jewelry or accessories. If you have pierced ears, simple studs are fine

  • Make sure you are the only one in the photo

  • Use a simple background like a blank wall, and make sure the lighting is good

So, if you’re just starting out in the modeling industry and are looking to sign to an agency, don’t go out and send hundreds of dollars on a professional portfolio before you’re signed. If you want to do some photoshoots for practice or to see if you really enjoy doing it, then by all means, shoot as much as you’d like! But don’t do it thinking that it’s going to give you a better shot at getting signed.

I hope this post helped clear up the confusing topic of whether or not a portfolio was required before signing with a modeling agency. Be sure to check in next week to see what a model can expect to be responsible for paying for (hint hint- a portfolio) once they sign an agency contract!


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