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Your Portfolio

For a model, building a portfolio is a never-ending process.

The portfolio is where you carry your best marketing tools -- your photos. Portfolios generally hold photos that are 9 inches wide and 12 inches high. Additionally, a model will put tear sheets in the book.

Arranging Your Portfolio

If your portfolio isn't full of photos and tearsheets, don't add things that don't belong. Contact sheets, pictures of boyfriends and other personal things don't belong in your portfolio. Only that which may directly increase your chances of working belongs in your book.

Consult with your agent BEFORE you make changes to your book.

If you don't have the services of an agent, here are a few guidelines to follow:

Only have your best pictures in there, and don't stuff it with stuff that is out-of-date. If the styles aren't current, get the photos out of the book.

Unless you have an exceptional photo, that far exceeds anything else in your book, start your book with your best headshot.

If you only have a few photos, put them on the right side of every page, so that there are more pages to flip. Don't leave sections blank though.

Try to vary the contents so that you don't have one large section of black & white, followed by a few color shots then back to lot of black & white. Instead, make it more interesting for the viewer.

If you are filling both sides of the book, try to have the pictures facing in to the middle of the book. If the body is facing left, have it on the right side of the book. If the eyes are looking right, try to have that picture on the left side of the book.

Keep your book clean. Messy books reek of unprofessionalism.

Also, keep in mind the books generally don't stand up to extremes in temperature. Don't keep your portfolio in your car.

Generally, it is better to let your agency keep your portfolio. If they need to show it to a client, it's somewhat of a headache contacting the models in time.

If you really want a copy of your own to show friends and family, get a second copy made, by either ordering additional prints (which can be expensive), or by getting some really good laser copies made. Models often get an extra copy of their book made, so they always have one available for both the agency and themselves.

Testing

A necessary part of any modelling career is "testing," or doing photoshoots with photographers that understand what is required to help your portfolio.

Testing can be expensive, and often quite frustrating and intimidating.

Finding a good photographer can be tricky. Anyone can claim to be a "fashion" photographer (just as anyone can claim to be a model).

A good fashion photographer understands how to make a model the primary focus of the picture. There is no science to good fashion photography, which is why it is best to select a good agent first, and trust their guidance.

If, however, you are set on selecting the photographer yourself, here are a few guidelines:

Ask to see the work they've done with models. If it looks like glamour photos you see in shopping centres… leave! Their work should resemble something like what you might see in current fashion magazines, either in ads or editorials.

Prices vary, depending on what part of the country you live in, and what is included in the package. More expensive does not always mean better.

Find out:
  • How much the photographer charges per roll of film?
  • How many exposures are on a roll of film?
  • How much are prints (black & white and color)?
  • What size are the prints (9"x12" are the standard industry size, although 8"x12" is about as good. 8"x10" aren't as good)?
  • Is styling included in the price of the shoot?
  • If so, what is included in the styling?
Quite often the stylist will only be responsible for hair and makeup. If you are in charge of the wardrobe, bring a lot of everything… footwear, undergarments, skirts, shorts, tops, dresses, jeans, suits and accessories. Most of it you won't use, but it's good to have the selection available.

Bring your model's tote bag. When you arrive to the set, unpack your wardrobe and accessories, and lay it all out so you can see it all. The photographer and the stylist will likely go through the wardrobe with you, and come up with combinations that inspire and excite them. Trust their judgement, but don’t abandon your own. Remember who's paying for this, after all.

Styling

It can make-or-break a photoshoot. The styling is often just as important as the set, the photographer, or even the model.

As a model going to paid test, it's important to make sure you have a competent stylist. The person doing your makeup had better understand the difference between what's required for photos and what's required for other occasions (street, runway, etc). How can you tell? Ask to see examples of their work.

The person in charge of your hair had better know what's in style now, and what's coming into style in the coming seasons. Same goes for the person in charge of wardrobe.

The stylist can be just one person, and may be only responsible for hair and make-up. Other times there might be a styling team that tends to individual details. If you're paying for the styling, make sure you know what you're getting.