Model portfolios – my pet peeves

There is a very fine line between what makes a good model portfolio that attracts work and what doesn’t. Never is this more obvious than when you are casting which I spend a lot of my time doing for runway shows, fashion, concept and hair and beauty shoots.

It’s remarkable just how bad some of the modelling ports out there are and I’m sure a lot of it stems from girls thinking they can pick up an iphone, take a couple of snaps and presume that the bucks will start rolling in or they will get ‘discovered’.

Even with the search preferences available on sites such as Model Mayhem, it can still be really difficult finding the right people for your project. And even when you do think you’ve found them, their range of portfolio images may not show them off at their best in all the genres they’re prepared to work in or at least the one you want them to work in.

It’s not difficult to get a set of reasonable standard, high quality studio and location photographs when you’re starting out in modelling judging by the huge number of photographers out there willing to work for TF (time for….). And yes it will be TF if you’re starting out and yes that is normal. Do not expect to get paid when you are new unless you are so stunning that photographers fall at your feet (and there will always be the one who doesn’t). The chances are that you are always going to have to slot in a few freebies to keep your portfolio fresh and diverse no matter how much paid work you do. I would rather do a few good quality TF’s and have a varied portfolio than refuse free pictures and still be stuck with those awful iphone images.

I had a selection of bad portfolios to show you but I realised if I picked on individuals someone would get upset so I’ve decided not to link you to them here. Instead here are a few pointers on what I look for when I’m casting…

For a start fill out your statistics. It’s really annoying when you don’t know someone’s measurements or height (crucial stuff!).

Spelling and grammar – yes I know it’s modelling and not English A-level but someone who doesn’t have a coherent write up comes across as unprofessional and unreliable. If you have problems with spelling or grammar that could reflect badly, so ask someone to help you. I tend to steer clear of badly worded ports.

Be clear about your work levels – if you say you won’t do glamour/lingerie/nude, don’t include them in your port. I came across a girl who probably should of been getting glamour work if her looks and figure were anything to go by, but it was back to the amateur photos again. And despite saying she would only go up to implied nude she was almost entirely nude in all of her photos.

Photographs. Okay so here’s the main bit….

To start with make sure you include clean simple images which show your figure off for what it really is even if your measurements are on your profile page. Clingy clothing is great for this – short skirts and fitted tops, bodycon dresses, hipster shorts, bra tops – anything which shows off your assets without being too close to the line unless that’s your genre. There is no point turning up for shoots and looking nothing like your photos.  You need to include full length standing, 3/4 length and close up head and shoulders. Also, include some with makeup and some with a natural look (whether that’s minimal make up or no makeup at all if you’re blessed with the right complexion). Try to avoid too much photoshopping. It’s not nice going to a shoot and not recognising the model because she’s been so drastically altered in post production.

If you have tattoos or body modifications include images which show them and list them on your port so a photographer knows exactly what he or she is getting. If they are going to be photoshopped out afterwards they need to know the work involved.

Make sure your photos are up to date. If you suddenly change your hair colour or gain a tattoo or piercing and it’s not on your images, list it on your portfolio text and try and get some new shots when you can.

Include images that cover all the genres you work in. So if you do lingerie include it. Simples.

Don’t take all your images from one shoot. It looks like you don’t have much work on or you only work with people you know. Try and get a range of studio and location images and different looks and styles and be ruthless. You only need one really great image from a shoot on your port if you’re restricted to how many you can show. Don’t get too precious. Look at the most commercial, obvious images and use them. It is your advertising board. Also avoid cheesy, tacky images. I could show you a wealth of these but I probably shouldn’t.

Keep your images up to date and keep your pages active. Model Mayhem for instance includes a date section so you can see when a portfolio was last checked into. If it’s been dormant for a while I won’t even look so log in every week.

Even if you’re only doing concept / art projects still include simple clean shots. The first thing when casting is not how arty your work is (that’s for the photographer) but what you LOOK LIKE. I have no idea how many potentially ideal models I must have let slip by because the portfolios just weren’t showing them off to their best.

Other things to remember:

If you’re not accepting work at the moment say so;
Make sure you include your travel distances;
What you are prepared to accept by way of compensation;
Start a credit list. Include everyone you’ve worked with from other models to photographers to MUAs and hairstylists. People will look for names in your port to see how professional and how sought after you are. Name dropping does work.

Websites. I have a standard set of websites that I use depending on the shoot style:

Model Mayhem is a great all rounder. Easy to search, well laid out and you get 15 images on your port for free. I use it a lot. You should too.

Facebook. Get a business page. Works wonders. Need I say more.

Purestorm is okay if you’re into glamour, lingerie and nude although it does cover all the genres. But beware as there are a lot of iffy photographers using this site. Always get references from impartial models on the photographers credit list and double and triple check before accepting a work offer. They are not all like that by any means, I have worked with some of my best teams off Purestorm but be careful!

There are lots of other free port sites but these are the dependable ones that everyone knows. See what everyone else is using and check their traffic. Is it worth getting a page on a site with a low hit list?

If you have any tips or tricks to add, or you have other experience please comment on this blog. I’m always looking to add to and improve my knowledge and it will be useful to anyone else using this site for advice.

If you need any guidance, drop me a line. I don’t bite.


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