When you start out as a model, it's not necessary to have professional photos and a model CV. Simple snapshots are all you need to gauge whether a modeling agency is interested in representing you.
However, if an agency is interested in you but not quite ready to sign on the dotted line, they might ask you to expand your portfolio or work on developing your look a bit further. For a new model, this can be very confusing if they have no idea what the agency is looking for or what it all really means.
Agencies like model photos that showcase the model's versatility and ability to express themselves. They also like to see how well the model can tell a story or convey a feeling or emotion in their photos.
Here's a list of essential elements you should have in your portfolio and tips to make them perfect.
A beauty shot or clear headshot
The first type of photo you should focus on is a beauty shot (for fashion/editorial models) or a clear headshot (for commercial models).
A beauty shot is a color photograph of the model's face, usually from the shoulders up. The goal of a beauty shot is to show the model in their most natural state, allowing the agency or client to see exactly what the model looks like without heavy makeup or styling. Makeup, hairstyles, and jewelry should be minimal. Editorial models typically do not smile in a beauty shot.
A commercial shot can be a bit more relaxed than a typical beauty shot. Commercial photos can be taken in black and white or color.
A beauty shot or commercial headshot should always be the first photo in a model's portfolio.
A full-body shot
The next photo in a model's portfolio should be a full-body shot. This photo allows the client to see the model's proportions and body type. Clothing should be simple and well-fitted. Jeans and a t-shirt work perfectly. The model should avoid wearing long dresses, skirts, or too many layers, as it distracts and hides exactly what agents and clients are looking to see.
If you're over 16 and comfortable doing a swimsuit photo, this should be the next photo in your portfolio.
When taking a swimsuit photo, it's important to always consider the message you're sending. If you're aiming for a look between Lands End and Vogue magazine, you'll likely hit your mark.
Remember that models sell clothes to women, not men, so they need to be sexy but not overly so. Major modeling agencies don't want to see you in a swimsuit or lingerie on the hood of a car or straddling a motorcycle.
Male models can pose in swimsuits or briefs.
Editorial fashion photo (fashion models)
Now that you have a beauty shot, a full-body shot, and a swimsuit shot, you can have a bit of fun. The mid-section of your portfolio can be a bit more creative. This is also where you can add tear sheets if you have any.
Try to show agents and clients your ability to move and express yourself in your photos.
Commercial shot (commercial models)
Similar to editorial models, commercial models including catalog models should show agents and clients their range and ability to express themselves on paper. Commercial modeling is essentially acting in print. Take photos that look like print ads in magazines and where you're laughing, crying, or looking upset. These are all the types of emotions that agents and clients want to see in a new commercial model.
A smiling photo
If you don't have a smiling photo in the middle of your portfolio, be sure to add a good smiling headshot. Agents and clients want to see your smile, and especially your teeth.
It's okay if you don't have perfect teeth. Commercial models don't need to worry about having perfect teeth either. Agents and clients just want to see what they're working with.
A strong closing photo
Always finish with one of your strongest photos. Another beautiful photo or a slightly different portrait from your opening shot can work perfectly here.
Most people only remember the very first and very last photo in your portfolio, so make sure these are the strongest.
A model's portfolio is a work in progress
The goal of a good model's portfolio isn't simply to fill it with a bunch of photos. A model's portfolio should tell a story about who the model is, their style, and the direction their career is taking. It's better to have three or four great photos than ten mediocre ones.
Take photos with as many photographers as possible to take advantage of each photographer's different styles; it will also give you experience working with different personalities. With each photoshoot, you'll become more comfortable in front of the camera, which will show in your photos.