If They See It, They'll Believe It: Modeling Portfolio Tips

*This post will be especially beneficial for freelance models.

The modeling portfolio is what helps clients determine whether a model has what it takes to sell their product/brand/idea/concept. Even the most basic project casting could result in a client reviewing dozens of portfolios. One of the best ways to stand out is to make sure your images are relevant.

By "relevant," I mean the photos in your portfolio should showcase the types of modeling work that matches what clients are casting for. 

Do you want to be a swimwear catalog model? Then your portfolio should have several pictures of you not just in swimwear but posing in the style that a catalog model would, both in studio and on location.

Is bridal modeling your dream? Then your portfolio better have you in a wedding dress at some point. See where I'm going with this?

The very first line of this blog post mentions freelance models and I stated that for a reason. Models with agency representation already have support and guidance as far as having test shoots set up to obtain the looks and styles of photos needed to effectively be marketed out to clients of various types. This isn't the case with freelance models. You act at your own agent and as a result, you've got to be in the driver's seat when it comes to the direction you want to drive your portfolio in.

You might be thinking to yourself, "But I've got a great look and I meet the physical requirements for the types of modeling I want to do. As long as I've got good photos in my portfolio, clients should know that I can do any type of modeling, right?" 


If they don't see it in your portfolio, they're going to automatically assume you don't do that type of modeling. This also works vice-versa, which is the point of this post. It might seem silly to not be considered for a particular type of modeling job simply because it's not in your portfolio but clients make business decisions all the time and don't have the luxury of assuming/hoping a model can deliver even if the looks they want aren't displayed in a portfolio--especially when the competition has examples of the images/looks needed.

Would you hire a doctor for a specialty that's not listed on their resume? I would hope not. Just because the person is a doctor doesn't mean they can handle just anything. The same goes for the position clients are in when it comes to reviewing modeling portfolios and selecting the models they want to hire.

So what does that mean for you, the freelance model? 


Haven't even put together a modeling portfolio yet? That's good because this is the perfect stage in your budding career to plan things out. In order to build a portfolio you have to do test shoots with photographers. Just like with my doctor example above, choose photographers that specialize in the types of modeling you want to be hired for. 

The idea of working with people who have proven experience displayed in their portfolios also applies when searching for photographers to shoot with. The process of getting the images you want will be much more effective if you're looking at photographer portfolios that contain the types of pictures you want in your own portfolio. Ah, I just love it when teaching moments come full circle!

The question you need to first ask yourself is: what kind of modeling do I want to do and what types of images do I want? Online image searches, Pinterest and social media profiles are all ideal resources for finding reference images. Create a folder with those inspo photos because they'll not only help you organize the looks for your portfolio, they're ideal to send to photographers to give them a more accurate understanding of what you're aiming for.


Have you been submitting for various modeling gigs but not having much luck when it comes to certain categories of modeling you've been dying to do? Then it's time to evaluate your portfolio and see if anything is missing. 

Remember: if they don't see it, they'll assume you don't do it. Think about the modeling looks that aren't in your portfolio. The solution is the same as mentioned above: set up test shoots with photographers that have proven experience shooting those types of looks. 

Can you work with a photographer who doesn't have that kind of work in their portfolio but--like yourself--has always wanted to get into that type of photography? Sure! There is a good chance you'll both come away with solid results. 

I usually advise working with someone who already knows what they're doing simply out of convenience. It's quicker to knock out a quality shoot with someone who does that type of work all the time and cuts down on the trial and error of shooting with someone that's learning the ropes. In general it's always good to work with a variety of photographers anyway, so you can have the best of both worlds.

Do you have images already that reflect the types of modeling you want to do but still aren't getting any hits? Then it might be time to do fresh test shoots with different photographers. Quality is everything. It's really easy to tell a photo that's amateur quality compared to one that isn't (i.e. lighting, setting, posing, etc.). Amateur quality pictures of the looks you want will not get you hired by clients that need to see professional quality. 


The majority of photographers will know exactly what you're in need of but never assume anything. Be organized, be thorough, have inspo photos to share and make a plan. Leaving things up to the photographer simply because they're the "pro" can easily lead to miscommunication and images you may not be able to use (or want to use). 

Do your due diligence and practice posing! It's important that you not only pull off the look(s) you're going for but that you know and understand the posing, facial expression and attitude that comes with each one. Posing for a beauty shot is not the same as posing for a bridal shot or editorial. Know the differences and you'll be way ahead of the competition.

Achieving beauty shots, editorial shots, high fashion shots, parts modeling shots, catalog shots, lifestyle shots, etc., etc., etc. isn't impossible and depending on your brand and the way you want to market yourself, you can easily show clients through your portfolio why you're the ideal pick. It just takes time, organization and follow through.


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