How to Build a Modelling Portfolio

Article Image
Photo Source: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

If you want to be a model, one of the most important first steps is creating a portfolio. Everyone in the trade has one, even those at the top of the ladder like Kendall Jenner and Kate Moss. A portfolio is basically a model’s CV; it’s the showcase you’ll need to kick-start your career.

As you progress in the industry, so will your portfolio. Early on, it signals to agents and clients that you’re well-organised and serious about working as a professional model.


What is a modelling portfolio?

Modeling portfolio


Think of it as your professional calling card to give to brands, photographers, agents, and anyone else who might be interested in hiring you. Your portfolio should showcase who you are as a model, including your best photos, personal stats, and contact details. 

You’ll want to pass it along to any helpful, influential people in the industry you meet, so make sure you have physical as well as digital copies on hand. Your portfolio is your best chance to make a winning first impression, so it’s worth spending time on making it the best you can.  

Consider what type of model you want to be.

Model portfolio

Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

There are a wide array of fields a model can focus on in their career, from high fashion to commercials. Your photos should show you in poses that fit the area you want to go into. If you’re just starting out, on the other hand, keep your options open by including a little bit of everything. Here are a few of the basic modelling categories:

  • Fashion/editorial: Editorial shoots for fashion magazines and brands are artfully produced with a high-end aesthetic. Think creative and edgy—print models tend to have cheekbones to die for.     
  • Catwalk: If you fancy strutting your stuff down a runway for a top designer, your portfolio should include full-length photos and shots that make the clothes you’re wearing look great. 
  • Commercial: This type of modelling involves promoting products such as ready-to-wear clothes, cars, and cleaning products. The lighting for these shoots tends to be simpler, brighter, and less obviously edgy than those for high-end fashion brands. If you’re interested in modelling beauty products (e.g., makeup), make sure you include headshots that accentuate your facial features.
  • Fitness: This style is all about posing for athletic brands and fitness companies in media like TV, print, and promotional campaigns. Photos are intended to highlight a model’s athleticism—often full-length shots of long, lean, muscular bodies.    

Here are a few examples of portfolios from successful models:

  • Fashion: Gigi Hadid uses high-end magazine covers as well as black-and-white editorial pictures to showcase herself.  
  • Commercial: Erik Vent’s easily navigable portfolio has landed him gigs for commercial brands like Target and Lego.
  • Fitness: In her portfolio, Laura Oliveira Granja highlights her physique and athleticism.

How to choose the right photographer for you

Model photographer reviewing photos

LightField Studios/Shutterstock

It’s important that the photos you include in your portfolio are the best they can be. That means using a professional photographer who has experience working within the field of modelling you want to break into. If you’re lucky enough to already have an agent, get them involved; they’ll know the best photographers to contact and will be able to give you advice on the style of shoot you’re aiming for. 

Before you hire anyone, take a look at their work and aesthetic. Do you like their pictures? Do they showcase models well? It’s vital to chat with the photographer before you schedule a shoot; chemistry matters! Also, make sure you negotiate the price beforehand, and find out exactly what you’ll be getting for your money. Here are a few good questions to ask a potential photographer: 

  • How long will the shoot take, and will it be done indoors or outdoors?
  • How many poses will you be able to feature? 
  • Will you receive physical or digital versions of your shots? If the former, how many prints will the photographer give you? 
  • Are post-shoot touch-ups included in the price? 
  • Do you own the rights to the photos outright? 

A successful, well-run shoot requires planning. If you’re hiring a photographer by the hour or the day, factor in the time it takes to reset for each pose or shot. Do you want to change your outfit, makeup, or location at any point? 

We’d advise bringing someone you trust along on your first shoot; they can help you feel relaxed and happy, and most importantly, make sure that the environment is safe.

Hiring a photographer can be expensive. If you’re working with a tight budget, consider a “time to print” (TFP) arrangement. This allows the photographer to use the photos they take in their own portfolio. If you’re lucky, you might not even have to pay for the shoot at all; essentially, you’ll be giving them your time rather than your money.

See also: How Much Do Models Get Paid in the UK?

Portfolio photos

Model portfolio

Gabriel Georgescu/Shutterstock

Your portfolio should include 10–25 high-quality shots; this is about quality, not quantity. Photos should be high-resolution—at least 300 DPI if you’re posting them on the web and 600 DPI if you’re printing them. Request photo files that are at least 1 MB. Print either 8'x10" or 9'x12" photos with a flat, matte, or semi-gloss finish.

Give yourself the best chance of booking a job by including shots in a variety of poses. In general, your portfolio should include: 

  • A headshot or portrait shot
  • A full-length shot
  • A black-and-white shot
  • A creative shot
  • A candid picture taken on location
  • Your very best shot 

When it comes to styling, less is more. Bookers want to be able to see you clearly, so make sure you include shots in which you’re wearing simple clothing and minimal makeup—as well as something more arty.    

You should create versions of your portfolio that are digital (i.e., on your website and social media channels), formatted for email, and physical, with everything printed in A4 size. It’s also a good idea to create a mini portfolio, aka a comp card. This should feature your best photo on the front and a selection of others on the back, as well as your stats and contact details.

Other information to include

Model portfolio

Ground Picture/Shutterstock

Your portfolio should list your basic info, including your name, age, height, weight, eye colour, chest and hip measurements, and shoe size; your location; and contact details for both you and your agent (if you have one).   

Some models also add a professional summary, though it’s by no means necessary. This is a blurb no longer than a paragraph in length that summarises the work you’ve done so far and who you are as both a model and a person.

Keep in mind that your portfolio isn’t set in stone; you should switch out photos based on the job you’re going out for. If it’s a commercial gig, stack your shots towards that. If you want to strut your stuff on the catwalk, pack your portfolio with edgy editorial content. 

Finally, it’s a good idea to tag the brands, agents, and photographers you work with on any shots you post on social media.