What Is A Model Portfolio?

As an aspiring model, you need an amazing modelling portfolio to kickstart your career. It’s your chance to make a great first impression on agencies and clients.

You need to put in the effort to get all aspects of your modelling portfolio right. It’s not only about shooting your Portfolio; there’s a lot more planning that goes into creating a great portfolio.

When you start as a model, it is unnecessary to have professional photos and a modelling resume. Simple snapshots are all you need to find out if a modelling agency is interested in representing you. 

However, if an agency is interested in you but is not quite ready to sign on the dotted line, the agency may ask you to build your book a little more or develop your look. This can be very confusing for a new model if they have no idea what the agency is looking for or what it all means. 

Agencies like modelling photos show the model’s versatility and their ability to express themselves. They also like to see how well the model can tell a story or portray a feeling or emotion in their photos. 

How To Build A Modelling Portfolio


Model Portfolio

Your modelling portfolio is essentially your resume. 

It should have everything you need to make a good impression and showcase what you can do, so it should include your most flattering photos and previous features if there are any. 

You can create a short version that you can submit to modelling agencies, aside from the complete set or book you’ll bring with you to all your interviews.

Determine Your Modelling Type

Fortunately for aspiring models, there are many different types of modelling that one can get into. 

The first step in building your Portfolio is to determine which specific type of modelling you prefer and are best suited for. 

Many of them have their preferred model specifications. For example, a live model working at trade shows will have to look positive and approachable, aside from being physically attractive.

Your photos should reflect the type of modelling you’re hoping to get into, whether it’s commercial modelling, fashion modelling, live modelling, catwalk/runway modelling, or even stock photo modelling. 

Specifying it early on will help you focus on marketing yourself for the part and make it easier for recruiters and agencies to place you in a particular category.

While pursuing your passion for becoming a successful model, you also need to be realistic and aware of the stereotypes that are a part of the modelling industry.

In most cases, your body type would define the kind of assignments you get, as most clients have a preconceived notion of what they feel fits their brief. 

For example, it’s harder for shorter or petite models to break into fashion modelling. 

While these stereotypes are constantly being broken, and you certainly can break them on your way, it helps to be realistic and honest about your strong points. 

This would increase your chances of achieving success and reduce setbacks and rejections.

Making an informed decision about the type of modelling you want to pursue would bring clarity and focus on how you want to shape your modelling portfolio. 

For example, as a freelance model, you would need a lot of variations in your portfolio photoshoot. Still, as a high fashion model, you would need to focus on high fashion images.

Hire A Good Photographer

An important part of the creation of your modelling portfolio is the photographer you hire for your first modelling photos.

If you’re very serious about making your Portfolio look as authentic as possible, you can look for a professional who already works in the modelling industry. 

But if you don’t have the connections or are on a budget, you can always go for a good shooter who’s still in the process of building their own photography portfolio.

The key to choosing a good photographer is to check their work beforehand. It would be great if the photographer is somewhat experienced in photographing the type of model you are hoping to be to benefit from their artistic direction and expertise.

If you have signed up with a modelling agency, in most cases, they will offer you to get your shoot organized for you with a pre-approved photographer and charge you for it.

 The chances are that the photographer that they would use would probably not be the best professional fashion photographer that you would want to trust with your model portfolio book. 

Fact is, you should ideally not even be contacting modelling agencies before you have a properly done well-rounded portfolio in place.

How about choosing one of your friends to shoot your Portfolio? Again, the answer is NO. Avoid going with the first or the most convenient option that presents itself. 

Also, if you choose your friend just because you are comfortable getting shot by a friend, think twice about becoming a model. 

As a professional model, you would need the confidence to take on assignments and work with new people every day. It’s time to start honing those skills.

Do your research, study portfolios of models, ask for referrals and take your time finding the right photographer for your model portfolio shoot. 

Have a look at their photography portfolio website to see their style of work. Choose a photographer whose area of expertise and style matches your vision and style. 

For example, if you want to become a freelance model, then a commercial advertising photographer may be your best bet, as that’s the kind of work you would be doing the most. 

It doesn’t matter whether you get your photoshoot done by multiple photographers; it can save you money and time by choosing the one right photographer to deliver on what your vision is.

And finally, do look into the finer details before hiring the photographer. 

For example, what’s included in the package you are being offered, how many photos you get, rates and any extras? Will you get photo prints and/or all digital images.

Hire A Professional Hair And Makeup Artist

While you may be able to get away with an aspiring photographer with amazing talent, we highly suggest that you hire a professional hair and makeup artist—particularly one who’s experienced in doing faces for pictorials.

Studio flashes tend to react differently with certain makeup types, so the camera will likely capture imperfections, like uneven and blotchy foundation, or exaggerate your glittery highlight. 

Simultaneously, what may look like heavy makeup in person will look a little understated on camera. 

To be sure, do a couple of test shots with your hair done and makeup on before you start shooting.

Practice Posing

Before you do the photo shoot, you’ll want to be prepared for it.

 Photoshoots tend to take a long time, even with professional models, so you won’t want to waste time figuring out how you should pose during studio hours.

Make good use of the internet to research the type of photos that models in a particular category typically have in their Portfolio. 

Make sure you have a full-body mirror with you and practice doing a wide variety of poses with your head, hands, arms, legs, and feet. You may also want to try out different facial expressions.

Fashion is a little more forgiving, as you can usually do a wide range of poses with your entire body. 

Take note of your favourite poses and get comfortable with new ones, so your confidence can be translated into your images later.

Posing as a model in front of a camera is an art unto itself. The objective may seem simple, but in reality, it’s more complicated than you may realize. 

In model photography, you must translate a three-dimensional object, your body, into a flat image’s two-dimensional space. Photography poses have to be learned, something that gets better with practice and study.

Put together an inspiration board with tear-sheets of the best model poses that you love. You can also practice in the mirror. 

Here is an article on the Best Model Poses with awesome tips for a great portfolio for modelling. 

Our article might give you some inspiration if you are a male model looking for professional posing tips and ideas

Choose your outfits selectively. Clothing is part of the process of a narrative for any marketing campaign. Your poses should always make the garments look their best.

Choose Your Outfits

One last important thing you’ll need to do before your shoot is to pick out the clothes you’re going to be wearing. 

This, again, should depend on the type of modelling that you’re hoping to do. But as a general rule, you’ll want to include basic clothing pieces like jeans and a plain white shirt.

Top modelling agencies will likely look beyond all the flashy, colourful clothes, so you might as well focus on showing off your frame and how you look when you’re starting. 

Stay away from prints, patterns, and oversized clothing.

Remember to bring many extras since you want to have many pictures—but not in the same two or three outfits!

Deciding On The Type Of Photos You Need

It’s important to know exactly the kind of images you want out of your model portfolio shoot. 

Lay down the specifics of photos that you need for a well-balanced portfolio for the types of modelling you are best suited for. 

Make sure that you get great portraits, close-ups, and full-body shots as well. 

Plan your wardrobe changes to show your versatility (swimsuits for great body-shots and an evening dress for those advertising clients).

Convey your brief clearly to the photographer and discuss things in detail so that both of you are on the same page on what needs to be achieved from the photoshoot. 

In your discussions with your photographers, decide on the poses, the wardrobe items, the locations, the looks, themes and concepts for the photoshoot. 

A clear understanding goes a long way in achieving the results that you want from the photoshoot and ensures against any mistakes or nasty surprises.

Choosing The Perfect Images For Your Model Portfolio

After your photoshoot, it’s time to get down to the process of choosing the right images to build your modelling portfolio. 

Balance your choices and focus on getting both versatility and quality. Don’t end up choosing multiple images in the same pose or wardrobe. 

Make sure you select headshots with and without you smiling, full-length shots and 3/4 length shots. 

Your Portfolio should have between 10-20 images – make sure you pick absolutely the best of the best images that cover all your facets. 

To discuss your selection with your photographers and take her advice, but remember that finally, it’s your selection. 

All your portfolio shots should be high-quality, stunning and stand-out images that make a great first impression.

Create Your Online Modelling Portfolio Website

Model Portfolio

Print portfolios are great for face to face meetings, but you cannot be present everywhere. 

The chances are that most agencies and clients will end up seeing your Portfolio online. This is where your portfolio website comes in. 

Ensure that you choose the right platform for your portfolio website that lets you achieve the unique style that best represents your personality. 

Your modelling portfolio website needs to be not just stunning but functional as well.

Make sure that your model portfolio website covers all these important points:

  • Works well on mobile devices
  • It has a minimal, clean and modern design that focuses on showcasing your Portfolio in the best way possible.
  • It loads fast and is clutter-free
  • It showcases your images in beautiful grids for a quick overview and enables viewers to enlarge images to have a closer look.
  • Includes a stats page as agencies and clients would need that information.
  • Includes an “About Me” page and tells about yourself, who you are as a person, your achievements and your story.
  • If you have videos and commercials, do include them on your website.
  • Have clear contact information, make it easy for people to reach you.
  • Connect with your social media account and start a blog as well – tell behind-the-scene stores, show off your character and who you are as a person.

Update Your Model Portfolio Regularly.

While getting into the fashion industry may seem like an impossible challenge, it has never been easier to get discovered in today’s socially connected world. 

The important thing is to master the craft and build an audience. Then network with professionals and work your way up in the fashion world. 

You must update your professional portfolio website with the latest content – newer photoshoots and campaigns. 

Keeping everything updated on your website regularly helps to model agencies forward your latest images to the clients, so they can make a final decision.

Common Questions And Advice On How To Can Modelling Portfolio

Do I Need To Work With More Than One Photographer?

In a perfect scenario – YES! In reality – NO! modelling agencies tend to encourage new models to work with multiple photographers to build their portfolios. 

The book contains a variety of looks and so that the model gains the experience of working with different photographers’ personalities and working styles.

Of course, this can become extremely expensive for someone who is just starting. 

As long as you choose a photographer who understands the need for variety and looks, you can build a very effective portfolio working with just one person.

Be sure that your portfolio contains a selection of pictures that show you at your best, show your range of emotions and your ability to portray different characters.

Should I Use A Modelling Agency’s Photographer?

NO WAY! NEVER! If a modelling agency asks you to shoot your Portfolio with their photographer, they are probably just interested in your money

If you do some research, you will probably find out that their “photographer” is not a full-time professional and is probably paid an hourly fee to take your photos. 

In other words, the pictures suck, and the modelling agency will make a ton of money from your photoshoot. 

This is a very legal but morally inappropriate modelling scam that some agencies take part in.

The only time you should consider an agency’s photographer is if you have asked the modelling agency for recommendations and they give you the names and contact information of a few good photographers in your area. 

As long as they have not told you to use a specific one and are not asking you to pay them to set up the photoshoot, it is probably an honest list of recommended photographers.

Bottom line: do your research. Do NOT contact a modelling agency before you have your Portfolio; otherwise, you simply risk making a bad first impression and showing yourself as a potential sucker to the agencies that are willing to take advantage of you.

What Kind Of Clothing Should I Wear?

Simple and basic. The photographs are trying to sell your ability to model – NOT the clothing you are wearing. 

The clothing is a costume that helps to make the various characters convincing.

You should stick with solid colours. Prints, patterns, and florals are horrible ideas as they will take attention away from you. 

Make sure the clothing fits properly and is flattering to your body.

Don’t take this word for this – pay attention to what you see models wearing in advertisements. 

The majority of the clothing is solid colours. Even if you are tall enough to be a fashion model, keep it simple when you do your fashion shots; remember that the shots are selling you and your ability, not the designer clothing.

What Kinds Of Pictures Do I Need In My Modelling Portfolio?

Your Portfolio needs a variety of shots, including headshots and full-length photos, as well as three-quarter length and full-length images. 

You should have a good balance of shots done in the studio and shots done on location in natural lighting.

A strong headshot is crucial. You also need a good full-length body shot in your book. This can be a tasteful swimsuit or lingerie shot done in a non-provocative way. 

If you prefer to not model swimwear or lingerie, your body shot could be a well-fitted pair of jeans and a tank top. 

The term “Body shot” doesn’t mean SKIN – it means a shot to show your figure – in other words, how you are built. 

Remember to include shots that show you are the characters that you will be hired to model as. 

(Business, Medical, College Coed, etc.), don’t forget different expressions in every photo and LOTS of variations with your hair.


Having a great modelling portfolio is a force multiplier and increases your chances of getting the breaks you need. 

However, there is much more than you need to do as a model to ensure a long, successful model.

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