5 Shots Every Model Absolutely Needs in Their Portfolio

Building a portfolio can be tough. Not only does it need to be varied, but also current. Recently I spoke to a model who had applied to one of my casting calls. Unfortunately, there was only evidence of one photoshoot in his portfolio - the same lighting, the same hairstyle, the same poses, and only one change in wardrobe. Despite having more than 20 shots, this portfolio just did not give enough for me to be able to cast him.

I let him know that I wasn’t going to be able to use him for the project, and asked whether he would be interested in doing a portfolio building session. His answer?

“I already have a portfolio.”

This really got me thinking. So many models will do one shoot and think they have a portfolio that is ready to go, despite a lack of variety. They don’t have the right shots to give a good impression. Is it possible to build a starting portfolio in one photoshoot? Yes, absolutely - but you will need a lot of work and variety in that one shoot to make it work. After that, you need to keep building and working on it. Here’s my advice to beginner models, and those who are not getting cast enough despite thinking they have a portfolio worked out.

1. A plain headshot with no make up or retouching

A lot of models are a little scared of adding this one. They feel that showing themselves without all the Photoshopping and make up will put casting directors off. If you sign with an agency, however, in most cases you will be required to provide a shot like this. It’s essential because it shows what your face really looks like. It used to be standard that a polaroid would be taken of any new model, against a white wall and with no lighting effects or frills. Following this practice will allow those who view your portfolio to imagine what they can do with you. They will gain confidence that you are the right model for the job.

2. A full length shot (and preferably one half length too)

Leaving out a full length shot can also be a big mistake. Clothing designers or photographers with a wardrobe in mind need to see your whole body. Even if you want to protest that you don’t do fashion modelling, or that your size is listed in your profile, it is still essential. A visual idea of what you look like is very important. The way you stand or walk, how you hold yourself, and the way clothes hang on your body can be inferred from a full length shot. It almost feels as though there is nothing more to say here - it should be fairly obvious that people will want to see full length shots before they hire you. The half length shot gives a slightly different perspective and may be more similar to what you will actually be doing if you are cast.

3. At least two full changes

Having the same outfit, the same hair, and the same make up in each shot just tells the viewer that you are an amateur. If you only have one look in your portfolio, you must have only done one shoot. So if you’ve only done one shoot, you might not be worth casting. Beyond anything else, it makes you look more professional. It also gives the casting professional an idea of how you might be able to adapt to different looks and styles. If you do only do one shoot to start off, bring a full change of clothes and ask if you will have time to change hair and make up too. A change of location - for example, a studio shoot followed by an outdoor shoot - is also a good idea.

4. Smiles, pouts, and frowns

Just as with clothing, having only one facial expression really will not cut it. I’m sure you have studied all of the angles, and I’m sure you have decided which one is your best. I would absolutely encourage you to make sure that you bring that expression or pose out when it is needed. Every single shot is not appropriate, however. Photographers don’t like a model who can only pull one pose or hold their face one way. You should have carefree smiles, laughter, frowns, pouts, thoughtful glances, sultry looks, and anything in between in your portfolio. This shows your range and could make you more suited for certain jobs. It also shows that you are not just a one trick pony who will refuse to cooperate on set.

5. Your intended speciality (and swimwear)

If you want to be a glamour model, your port needs glamour shots. Fashion models should display editorial or advertorials of themselves in big or indie labels. Runway models should have a port which shows them stood on the catwalk. It’s all about showing what you are capable of. Don’t make the mistake of including something in your portfolio if it is not the direction that you want to go in. Photographers, more often than not, will want to recreate in some way a shot which they have already seen in your portfolio. It’s the easiest way to know that you will suit the project. If you are comfortable with lingerie and swimwear levels, then you should certainly include some shots of yourself in this style. This allows stylists and casting directors to look at your body and understand how well you will fit their clothes.

Remember, a portfolio is not static - it should live and breathe. You should be able to adapt and update it on a regular basis. Never stop building it, and always add the shots which you are most proud of. There is no real accepted limit on the length or the style of a portfolio. What matters is the images that you are presenting, and what they say to someone looking to cast you.

If you need to book a portfolio building session, get in touch now.

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