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How to Start Building a Portfolio for Models

Your 5-Step Guide


By Lydia Sviatoslavsky


Why build a modeling portfolio? 


For the aspiring model, your portfolio is your resume. In order to acquire new clients, you must build a portfolio that reflects your strengths as a model. 


Now that you understand the utility of a modeling portfolio, let’s begin building a portfolio that showcases your talent. 


Step 1: Establish your identity as a model. 


There are four types of models within the modeling industry. While reviewing the following model types, consider your strengths and limitations. 


Ask yourself: What type of model am I?


  1. The Fashion Model


The fashion model must adhere to strict standards within the fashion industry. Most fashion models are at least 5’8" and of slim build. In terms of facial features, conventional beauty standards need not apply. Unique features are favored within high fashion circles. 




  1. The Live Model


The live model leads with personality. Live models are in-person representatives of brands or products, therefore they must be highly sociable. Although appearance is certainly an important factor here, the character of the live model is paramount.




  1. The Commercial Print Model


The commercial print model is likely a familiar entity, as you interact with some form of commercialism everyday. Commercial print models appear in advertisements and commercials across print and digital media channels. 


In this case, model requirements are specified by the particular advertiser in question. Take note of which brands feature models who resemble yourself, as well as those that reflect your personal style. 




  1. The Body Model


The body model possesses noteworthy body parts that lend themselves to advertising campaigns. If you have especially elegant hands, for example, you may want to consider modeling for nail care companies.




Now that you’ve reviewed the four types of models, reflect on your physical assets and character traits. 


Ask yourself: Which modeling type is most likely to be a match? What do you have to offer as a model that is both unique and valuable? 


Step 2: Seek modeling inspiration, then practice your pose. 


→ Salute your icons.


Once you’ve determined which type of model you are, seek examples who inspire you. If you’ve determined you’re a fashion model, for example, you might admire Naomi Campbell or Kate Moss


Compile images of your model type that resonate with you. Study successful advertising campaigns and consider how you might be able to apply them to your own practice as a model. 



Naomi Campbell at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.


→ Strike your pose.


Now that you’ve developed an idea of what you’d like to emulate, practice your poses in the mirror. What angles are most flattering? When do you feel at ease in your body? What feels both natural and elegant? 


Determine at least 2-3 poses that flatter your features. Additionally, determine 2-3 poses that flatter your frame. 




→ Get serious about socializing.


If you’ve determined you’re a live model, you’ll need to sharpen your social skills. Practice by approaching a new person at a party, or engaging in a friendly chat with your local grocer. When in doubt, lead with a smile. 


Although this practice is especially beneficial for the live model, enhancing your social skills will serve you regardless of your model type. Your beauty may turn heads, but your charisma will be more likely to create a lasting impression among your clients. 




Step 3: Build your team. Strategically.


→ Identify a photographer for hire.


Selecting a photographer will require further research. 


Don’t pursue a photographer who is merely accessible or familiar to you. Instead, select several model portfolios you admire, then identify the photographers involved. 


Ask yourself: Which photographers produce images that resemble my vision for an ideal photo shoot? 


Your vision should align with the photographer you pursue. 




→ Identify a professional hair and makeup artist for hire. 


Professional hair and makeup is worth the investment. 


Remember: You are building a professional resume in images. Aim to look your absolute best. 


Bearing this in mind, research professional hair and makeup artists in your area. Consider their aesthetic preferences and areas of expertise. Browse Instagram to identify their style, client type, and level of credibility. 


Ask yourself: Who is most likely to manifest my ideal vision as a model? 




Step 4: Showcase your versatility. 


Once you’re dolled up and ready for your photo shoot, you’ll need to prepare three types of looks for a well-rounded portfolio. 


  1. Your Lifestyle Look 


Your lifestyle look is potentially your most impactful as a model seeking new clients. It will also likely feel the most organic to shoot, as you’re striving for naturalism. 


In essence, you are selling an enviable lifestyle. Think relaxed. Think confident. This look will represent your viability within the commercial world as an approachable, appealing model. 




  1. Your Editorial Fashion Look


Now it’s time to get dramatic. Your editorial fashion look will demand artful styling and a creative approach. 


Channel your favorite fashion campaign. Consider your angles while highlighting your style. Can you convey a mood that complements your clothing? Embrace your whimsical side. Create a memorable image with the aid of your photographer. 




  1. Your Headshots and Body Shots


Unlike your editorial fashion look, your headshot should be simple. Strip yourself down to minimal makeup and offer a natural, relaxed expression. These shots should be an accurate representation of your look beyond the glitz and glamor. 


Additionally, you should provide several photographs that showcase your body type. These full body shots should be similarly minimalistic and display your body from multiple angles. 




Step 5: Market your talent. 


→ Create your portfolio.


Once you’ve produced a variety of images to choose from, select 10-20 photographs that are both high quality and visually striking. Be sure to include photos that feature your smile, your deadpan, and your profile. 


Ask yourself: Are all 3 looks (Lifestyle, Editorial Fashion, Headshots/Body Shots) represented in my portfolio?


→ Purchase a modeling portfolio book. 


Now that you’ve selected your prints, it’s time to share them! 


Select a 8 x 10 inch portfolio book in which to display your prints. You can purchase modeling portfolio books at online retailers like Models Mart and Etsy



Portfolio via Models Mart.


Opt for a product that is both polished and chic. 


Remember: This portfolio book represents your first impression to potential clients. 


→ Create a web presence. 


You can only offer your portfolio book to so many people at once. 


In order to appeal to a broader range of (global) clients, you’ll need to create a website. You can either hire someone for this task, or select a user-friendly website-building platform. Squarespace is an excellent option for those seeking to create professional-looking content with relative ease. 


Your website should feature the following elements: 


  • Your digital portfolio 

  • Your bio (Keep it short and sweet on an “About Me” page) 

  • Your contact information 




Ask yourself: Does my website represent my style and talent? 


→ Ensure your exposure.


Utilize your social media channels. Create profiles on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Tik Tok. Instagram and Tik Tok are especially crucial, as they’re visual-oriented platforms. 


Highlight your look, your lifestyle, and your personality. Take note of what type of content garners enthusiastic reception. 


Ask yourself: How do I want to present myself online as a model? 




Submit your portfolio to model directories and databases, such as Fashion Model Directory, Model Mayhem, and One Model Place


Ask yourself: How can I authentically market myself in a way that sets myself apart in this competitive industry?


Remember: The modeling industry is a changing landscape. 


Once you’ve completed these steps, rest assured that you’re well-equipped to enter the industry. However, keep in mind that the modeling industry is forever in flux. Take note of cultural shifts in the industry, and capitalize where you can. 


Finally, proceed with confidence that you can succeed.

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