When starting out as a model, clothing designer, make up artist, stylist, or hairdresser, it is often frustrating to be turned down a job because you do not have a portfolio. Even if you have some shots to show, they may be poor quality, taken by friends or with a camera phone. It is likely that you will only be able to show simple looks, rather than getting creative as you would in a full photoshoot. So how do you get a great looking portfolio when you are just starting out, have no money, and little to no experience?
The best way to start off is with TFP work. This means doing a shoot for free, in exchange for getting the images to use in your portfolio. There are some things to watch out for here, however. If a photographer is not good at what they do, then the images will not make your portfolio better. Check out their portfolio first, and make sure that you agree on how many images you will receive. Don’t get caught out by receiving three blurry images in exchange for hours of work. Don’t be put off by their level of experience if you think they are “too good” - professional photographers will shoot TFP if it will enhance their portfolio too.
The flipside of this is that photographers may feel the same way, and will be wary about even doing TFP work with someone that does not have a starter portfolio with at least a few different looks. If this is the case, then you will need to start working on a portfolio by paying a photographer - but you will want to pay the right amount to get it done properly the first time, rather than wasting money.
Again, your first action should be to check portfolios. If the photographer has images that you would like to have taken of you, that makes it a good starting point. Next, take a look at their pricing and how much you are willing to spend. I would recommend a two hour session at minimum for first timers. You might want to consider a package such as my modelling tuition programme, which also features training for models alongside the shoot. If you want a full day to learn and develop, book the pro package. Remember to think about issues like make up, hair, and wardrobe. If you are a make up artist or stylist, the same thing goes. Cover all of the bases and discuss them with your photographer so that you can be absolutely sure.
If you are not clear on what is involved in your portfolio shoot, always ask the questions beforehand. How many images will you get? What size will they be? Will they feature watermarks, or not? How long will it take to get them back from the photographer? Will you receive digital files, or prints? Will you be able to use the images wherever you like? Can you take multiple outfits and change your hair style or look?
The more careful you are when you book your portfolio session, the more likely it is that everything will come out great on the first try. That will save you money in the long run, and also give you a chance right away to start booking work based on your portfolio. Even if your budget is tight, making an investment in a portfolio should be something that you can pull off with the right preparation.