Portfolio Dos And Don’ts

Polishing your portfolio is one of those important ongoing tasks that should never be neglected. We all have to start somewhere but that doesn’t mean you should settle for sloppy images or poor styling. It is after all your selling point. What people see on your portfolio should be you at your best.

There are certain things that flash alarm bells with me and instantly turn me off. Call it experience. It’s a worthy adversory when you’re ploughing through dozens of pages looking for your next team or viewing the portfolios of people who say they want to work with you.

That portfolio is your sales pitch. It had better be good. As a fashion designer, there are certain things I want to see on a portfolio and other things I certainly don’t. Here are some typical do’s and don’ts that I look out for when looking for teams.


We all know that everyone has to start somewhere but I’d hold off setting up a portfolio until I’d got a few half decent shoots under my belt. I’ve seen some awful beginners portfolios which do nothing to attract the next team. It’s easy to find people who will work for trade. And if you have potential people will spot it. Which brings me on to my next point…

Online etiquette…

Something I’ve noticed is the number of newbie’s asking for portfolio crits on modelling forums and getting shirty when they don’t like what they hear. I read them for amusement when I’m on a break. Anyone who can’t take constructive creative criticism without getting arsey definitely gets a thumbs down from me. A mature attitude to ones work is very important.


Genre is important. If you want to shoot fashion and I see no fashion in your portfolio or you look about as far away from being a fashion model as an elephant from being a goldfish I’m not going to pick you just because you appear on my search results. Vampires, zombies and tattooed rockabilly looks will also make me switch off. Likewise to names. Some names instantly make me suspicious. I find that models who use overly creative names are rarely fashion models. If you’re using an alter-ego you probably belong in some other genre. Most good models generally use their own names.

Your Body Stats…

I don’t stick to the runway thin requirements of many fashion designers. I will happily design for larger ladies by commission and where required for plus size shoots. I don’t believe tall and thin necessarily make a good model. I’ve seen many tall and thin who were rubbish and also many bigger models who were totally awesome. That being said I generally won’t choose models under 5ft 6in purely because clothes do look better on tall people on photographs. If you’re not that tall but everything else about you says fashion, get some sky scraper heels, especially if you’re modeling trousers or long dresses. It just looks better. I’ve worked with 5ft 11in tall models and still put them in 6 inch heels.

Invariably I do end up designing most of my clothing used in shoots for sizes UK6 – 10 because many fashion models shooting at editorial level are generally those sizes. Often I do not get to pick the models, they are chosen by photographers from professional agencies and I get the stats and mould the clothes to fit. So if I’m making with a view to shooting but having no model to work off I usually make to a 28 inch waist. I can pin on a slimmer girl and stand a better chance of selling on something with a larger waistline. I have to keep both worlds happy and most of the buying public is not a 23 inch waist.

Post Edit….

I don’t like an over the top post edit (unless it’s a particular requirement of a shoot) but any photographer worth their salt should know how to do a basic edit to make an image publishable on their social media platform. The reason is simple. No model is perfect. Very very few models turn up to shoots with flawless skin, perfectly shaped eyebrows or having remembered to previously remove elasticated socks, bras or bring the right coloured knickers).


I am always suspicous of photographers who use the same model in all their work. It suggests insecure girlfriend or just can’t be bothered to organise anything more complicated. I’d want to see at least 4 shoot styles on a portfolio and not loads of images from one shoot. I rarely put up more than one image from each shoot on my industry portfolios (Facebook excluded). Sites like Model Mayhem and Purple Port have limited free image galleries and I don’t want to waste it on the same shoot. I look for range (portrait, 3/4 length and full length, number of people worked with (and hopefully some names I recognise), MUA’s and hairstylists as well as a range of models and a variety of locations and studios.

Coherent Blurb….

I know spelling and writing aren’t everyone’s strong point but a coherent and well thought out text does catch my eye. If you don’t pay attention to those details how do I know you won’t get a day or time wrong or employ sloppy admin when setting up a shoot? It’s not all about the final images. It’s about how you present yourself as a person, your attitude, your professionalism.


I rarely use references as a gauge. You can’t leave negative ones on modeling websites so you’re only going to see the good writeups and proportionally many of the people I work with don’t use modeling sites anyway. If you’re worried about someone you could potentially be working with message directly anyone they have already collaborated with or do some stalking on Google and see what comes up.

Will Work For…

If you’re a newbie don’t even think about only working for pay. You won’t get it. Just because some bloke with a camera said he’ll pay you 50 quid to get your t**s out it does not mean you are worth paying. Paid work demands a certain kind of effort that you often don’t see in newbies or hobbyists. Likewise never stop testing. Your most interesting and challenging jobs will not be paid. If you’re only here for the cash – it’s time to find another career option.

Don’t Be Nasty…

Hostile profiles bug me. I won’t approach anyone who has a profile that makes them seem like they own the industry. If you did then you wouldn’t be using free hosting sites.

If you’re at all unsure about what you should be including check other portfolios and get advice on forum sites like Purpleport. People are happy to help and the advice will be impartial.


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