What should go in a Portfolio?

Posted on February 1, 2013


What does one put in their book or portfolio? One of the most challenging things for models to do is select what to include. The best way to summarize this is if it improves your image, include it. Otherwise, don’t. You always want your best to show through. This also means presenting your best when you do. This means getting a traditional or better 9×12 art portfolio from a local art supply store or one through mail order (if you are with an agency, you will buy _their_ album). I recommend that you stick with one that you can change the number of pages. Stay away from cheaper, all plastic portfolios and never, ever, use a photo album. Stay away from trendy portfolios such as clear ones or ones covered in fur. If you use an 8×10 or 11×14 album, you will look like an amateur who doesn’t know what you are doing. You may be asking why you need a 9×12? In the older days, tear sheets from magazines used to be that size and it allowed a one page tear sheet to fit comfortably. It will also fit just about any size tear sheet you may want to include. Today, though, magazines are smaller for most magazines here in the US. But, the size has managed to stick around as being the “normal” size for a model’s book. You now have a good portfolio, now what do you put in it? If you are just starting out, you should only have four or five images at most. This may mean blank pages, but having four really great images is better than showing a lot of images that are so-so from the same shoot and revealing every flaw you have. Choose only the best images to show.

Which images should you include? Think about the type of work you are trying to get. Your images should be something that gets you more work of that type. This means that if you aren’t 5 foot 8 inches tall, don’t put a lot of high fashion images. You would be better off putting theater and movie captures, and even you selling a specific product. If you are going for high fashion, try to focus on the high fashion and beauty images that you do have. You also want the best images that you can show. If you are supposed to be holding or modeling product, then most of your images should show you holding and selling product. Look carefully at the images and choose the most professional looking images you have. If you have a background with wrinkles showing, don’t include it. If the photographer edited the image by blurring your skin or making your skin into plastic, don’t include it. If the pose doesn’t look good, don’t include it. If you enlarge the image, and it shows where there are editing marks or bad editing, don’t use it. If you have blemishes showing, don’t use it. If straps and undergarments are showing, and they shouldn’t be, don’t use it. If the images make you look “hot”, don’t include them. You book isn’t there to get romantic dates. Try to stick with just “portrait” or vertical images. Try to avoid “landscape” or horizontal images. Try to avoid putting two images of the same look in at the same time. Some models prefer to have all images at 9×12 in their book. Even if the image is 8×10 or 8×12, they expect the image have a black border around the image to make it a 9×12 image. The reason: they don’t want images loose and moving back and forth in their book and they don’t need to mount their prints before putting them in their book.

Never include low-res images that are printed. Don’t use images shot with a point and click camera or cell phone. This includes snap shots. You only want to show your best and highest resolution images.

If you change your hair, then your images should be updated. If you lose weight, you should be updating your images. If you gain weight, you should be updating your images. If six months have passed, you should be updating your images. You should have the idea that you constantly need to be changing out the images with new images. As a model, this is part of your job.

The first thing that should be up front and in everyone’s face is a great head shot. What makes a great head shot? Little or no makeup. Little to no editing. Printed from a high resolution image. If your head shot has lots of makeup or has been edited significantly, the head shot will be a negative. Remember, at the 9×12 size, any editing will stick out like a sore thumb. Everyone looking at your book wants to see you – not your photographer’s skill in Photoshop.

Next, are your tear sheets and other images. Choose your top 15 images to show. Most people won’t go through all fifteen images. I highly recommend that you include a swim suit image that shows your skin and its condition on your full body, even though I have heard from modeling agencies that they don’t want the typical glamour bathing suit images that are currently being shot by most photographers. As an alternate, you can include one with tights and athletic bra or a yoga outfit to show off your form. Although this won’t show off your skin condition, it will show off your form, and it will show that you are also physical. Choose images that include different facial expressions. If the images have your head pointing in a direction, have the face pointing into the center of the portfolio. You should also have at least one fashion image like it is out of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog or American Eagle catalog. Beyond this, it is your book to show who you are. As indicated earlier, include images that reflect the work you want to do and represent the best you have to offer.

Many model portfolios from freelance models have highly conceptual images with lots of makeup and hair styling done in the image. I discourage models from putting these types of images in their book unless it is for a client campaign and is on a tear sheet. People looking at your book will be casting you and they want to see you, the real you. They don’t want to see someone’s editing technique or a makeup artist’s ability. The more edited the images or more makeup you have on, the more people looking at your images will doubt what you have to offer as a model and question the integrity of the images that are in your book.

This should give you an idea of the type of book or portfolio you should have, the images that should be included, and how to get started. Often, a good book will take several months to create and it is always changing to reflect who you are now. A book should never be stagnant. The images in it should reflect what you want to do, and be the best you have to offer. Keep the images very real in their nature.

Posted in: Modeling