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The Fundamentals of Modelling Portfolios - part 1 of 1 2

by Tracey Harper Published 01/10/2010

"I want to become a model. Can you help me with a portfolio?" Clients ask this question often. Some have little or no experience. Others are looking to expand on their already existing portfolio.

We are going to focus on building a foundation for a successful portfolio. It doesn't matter what type of specialty that the model would like to excel in, as there is a basic foundation to all modelling portfolios. Every model portfolio requires a headshot, a three-quarter-length shot, a full-length shot, and a creative shot relating to their specialty.

Normally, initial portfolios consist of a minimum of 10 photographs. The average is between 10-20 photographs, having both colour and black and white represented.

If the model already has a portfolio, it is important to review it with them. Ask questions and offer suggestions. Find out what they are looking to add. It is important to not duplicate what is already there. Rather, using your own creativity, add a different style and look into the mix.

Plan Ahead

Variety is nice when you are creating a portfolio from scratch. I prefer to use both indoor studio and outdoor locations for my sessions.

Part of the preparation is asking the models to bring a variety of outfits from casual to dressy. We discuss the hair and make-up beforehand and make appointments or arrange the stylist to be available on location. Creative themes and ideas are discussed before the session so that any required props are available. Shoes should also be discussed, as appropriate footwear for each outfit is essential. Nothing 'kills' a full-length photograph quicker than the wrong shoes for the outfit or theme.


The headshot is the model's calling card and it is the first photograph the modelling agencies look at.

This photograph should be quite tight with little or no distraction from the background. Plain works best for this - keep it simple.

The headshot should feature the model and show their true essence and personality. Being able to capture their essence requires you, as the photographer, to have the model both relaxed and confident. No cheesy 'game-show host' smiles that appear contrived or forced.

Three Quarter/Full Shot

Most agencies require a swimsuit or underwear shot, preferably fulllength or three-quarter-length of the prospective models. Gone are the days when tight-clinging clothing would suffice.

The focus should be on showing off the best assets of the model and should show off the model's figure. The agencies are looking at the proportions of the models and how they relate to the environment - so work it. Variety is the key. Different outfits, different angles and different poses are crucial. Sitting, standing, lying down and kneeling are ways to give the model more diversity for their portfolio. This is also a good time to change from casual to dressy and build on the make-up as the session continues.

Contact Tracey Harper

1st Published 01/10/2010
last update 12/11/2019 13:27:12

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