How To Make A Modeling Portfolio: Everything You Need To Know

Table of Contents

Build A Professional Modeling Portfolio

Wondering how to make a modeling portfolio?

In order to make a professional modeling portfolio for men or women, you need to follow key steps. These “tips” range from what to wear, what your grooming should be, how much (or little) make up you should apply, and what are the exact looks you need in your portfolio.

One of the biggest challenges new models face is learning how to pose. So you will also need to master this in order to gain confidence in front of the camera.

For instance, when a professional model is on set there can easily be over 15 crew members there as well. The last thing you want is to freeze in front of the camera when you realize there are 30 pairs of eyeballs on you. Worst case scenario is not getting hired by the client again.

Our Experience On How To Build A Modeling Portfolio

As a premier modeling photography studio, I have worked with top modeling agencies capturing modeling photos for their models. Secondly, my team and I have over 14 years working on fashion campaigns, magazine editorials and advertising images for clients. So yes, we know how to create a modeling portfolio that is required by models.

Common questions we receive from beginner models are:

  • What does it take to become a model?
  • Which pictures should I take for a modeling portfolio?
  • Can we see modeling headshot examples?

After you finish reading this article you will know everything about creating a modeling portfolio for adult men, women and teenagers.


How To Pose Like A Model

At the start of a modeling career you’ll have no idea what to do with your hands, feet, or where to look. You’ll probably make a fool out of yourself and feel insecure – it happens.

It’s part of the learning process.

The best way to learn how to pose like a model is to stand in front of a mirror and (you guessed it) practice. Tilt your head one way, put your hands in your pocket and lean your body weight to one side. Now reverse it. As you do this with different variations you’ll start to see what looks good, and what doesn’t.

Find A Model Portfolio Photographer

How do you start a modeling portfolio?

Find a model photographer in your area and get in front of their camera; this is crucial. Depending on where you live there may not be any model photographers. In this case, find another type of photographer (like a senior portrait or engagement photographer) who may be able to help you.

It’s important to know that not all photographers are created equal. For example, a wedding photographer can technically take a photo of you. However they may not have the creative eye to take modeling photos of you.

There is a difference. Make sure to look for a photographer that has modeling portfolio book examples on their website.

So the point here is to just get you in front of a camera. This will give you experience on what being in front of a camera feels like and what it’s like being directed by a photographer. Don’t forget this is where you will try out those poses you have been working on.

You may be surprised that what you thought looked bad in front of the mirror turns out looking pretty good on camera.

How To Get A Free Modeling Portfolio

How do you find a free modeling portfolio photographer?

Start by searching online and see if you can “spot” a new photographer. One can tell a photographer is new because they will not have many photos on their website. Or all the photos in their portfolio are of the same 3 people. Likewise you can Google modeling portfolio photographers near me and see who pops up.

In this case, reach out to them and say something along these lines.

“Hello, my name is XX. Do you have any photo concepts you have been wanting to try with someone? Or maybe you have new lighting equipment you need a test model for? I am an aspiring model and would love to work with you. Perhaps we can both benefit and gain new images for our portfolios by working together”.

If you approach a photographer like this you’ll score brownie points as you’ll come off more professional.

It’s not recommended that you email a modeling portfolio photographer and blatantly say you want free photos. This should never be a one sided request. Both parties should be interested and benefit from this transaction.

TIP: Make sure your emails are well written and have good grammar. You are not texting your bff here.


What Is A Modeling Portfolio: Explained By A Model Portfolio Photographer

What Is A Portfolio For Modeling?

Modeling portfolios are used by aspiring models to potentially get signed by a modeling agency. They are also used to market the model to clients by the models agent. A top modeling portfolio will consist of images that show the range and personality of the model.

When searching how to create a good modeling portfolio it is important to remember that a modeling portfolio is not only about having the “prettiest” modeling pictures.

Modeling agencies and clients want to see variety in a modeling portfolio. A model portfolio photographer will provide you with the best diversity of modeling photos that meet the industry standards.

Building A Strong Modeling Portfolio

A female modeling portfolio should show that you can model swimwear on-location on the beach and also a wedding dress in a photo studio. Likewise a male model portfolio should show that you can make both a suit look dapper and a pair of swim trunks.

Professional modeling portfolios need to show that you …

  • 1) have experience in different settings and
  • 2) are comfortable in different garments and can make them look sellable.

Always keep in mind that a models job is to sell the lifestyle and clothes.

Furthermore your modeling portfolio should show a wide range of expressions and emotions. You do not want to have the same blank stare in every photo. To further illustrate, when you see bridal campaign the models are usually happy and cheery (remember you are selling that lifestyle). On the other hand, for men’s briefs the emotion tend to be a bit more sexy and mysterious.

So in a way, you’ll also have to become an actor and adapt to every photoshoot.

What Is In A Modeling Portfolio?

Whether you need a male or female model portfolio, you need to capture 3 types of “looks”. These looks are the foundation of a good modeling portfolio.

  • A Lifestyle Look
  • Your Editorial Fashion Look
  • The Body Look

The word “look” is also sometimes known as: “outfits”, “outfit changes”, or “wardrobe options”. They will mean the same thing when we are talking about a modeling portfolio. 


Lifestyle Photos For Modeling Portfolio

*Example of what women’s make up should resemble in their lifestyle/beauty look. These types of close ups are also sometimes referred to as “photo headshots for modeling”.

What Are Lifestyle Photos For Modeling

Lifestyle images are a key component to your modeling portfolio. They are not meant to be “fashion” or “avant-garde”. You want them to be relaxed, easy, and approachable. It’s about selling a lifestyle.

Out of the 3 looks you need in a modeling portfolio, lifestyle photos are some of the best pictures for a modeling portfolio because they are the ones that will get you the most work. 

Why is that? Commercial and lifestyle clients tend to shoot frequently due to the volume of clothing they produce with each season, etc. Since these clients shoot regularly, that means they are repeatedly booking models for their photoshoots (which in turn means consistent income for the model).  

When shopping for clothes online, the models you see modeling the clothes are doing “commercial modeling” (also known as “catalog models” or “e-commerce models (e-com for short)).

Notable commercial clients can range from Target, J.Crew, or Nordstrom. However there are also commercial clients that you may not be familiar with due to the fact that they specialize to a certain niche market. For example these can include scrub brands, cheerleading uniform brands, or military exchange clients.

Modeling Headshot Photographers Near Me

People think they only need modeling headshot photographers, but in reality, you need more than a headshot for modeling.

So what exactly are headshots for modeling? Typically this entails capturing a clean portrait of your face. Both men and women need this as it is the main photo that ends up on the front of your comp card. The reason you need a modeling headshot is so that clients can see what your facial features and skin looks like up close.

Your modeling headshot is typically shot during the lifestyle part of your modeling portfolio because the skin and hair are usually the cleanest here.

Casual Outfits For Women’s Modeling

Keep it simple and clean. Think about summer days going to the beach, the park for a picnic or casually hanging out with friends. You want to look fresh and comfortable.

Denim shorts paired with a vintage t-shirt and converse. Other pieces that work great for lifestyle photos are jumpsuits, sweater dresses or a pair of denim pant with wedges and a tank top.

Use colors that compliment your skin and eye color and stay away from distracting logos or patterns.

Casual Hair And Make-Up for Women

Follow the same relaxed guidelines stated above. So no dark eye shadow. No long sexy lashes. No bold lipstick. No stiff helmet hair – loose beach hair always works.

Ideally the only make up you have on is a bit of concealer under the eyes and some chapstick or lipstick that matches your natural lip color. You still want to see your natural skin, freckles etc through whatever make up you are wearing.

TIP: Don’t over do it with the hair and especially make up. Agents will not be able to use those images if so and may require you to re-shoot this look all together. 

Casual Outfits For Men’s Modeling

Slim fitted chinos with a simple striped polo and clean white converse work great. You can also opt for medium length linen shorts that are rolled up, paired with a simple t-shirt and sneakers. Keep it cool.

Stay away from clothes that feature any type of characters, recognizable faces or figures. Solid colors that enhance your eyes and skin work best.

Casual Grooming for Men

Always moisturize your face – you do not want dry skin. Secondly make sure to carry chapstick with you to take care of any cracked lips.

If you’re working with a make up artist, they may decide to apply some concealer to cover dark circles. 

You want to be well groomed, so this includes taking care of any untamed nose, ear and eyebrow hairs. Your facial hair should be tidy and trimmed or opt to go clean shaven. These tips are a must for professional pictures for modeling.


How to Capture The Best Fashion Photos For A Modeling Portfolio

What Is Editorial Fashion When Modeling?

A fashion photo is used to showcase the new “it” brand, the latest fashion trend or product through an editorial image featuring a model. They tend to be used on billboards and in magazine spreads.

When you think about modeling portfolio ideas, you are probably thinking about the fashion and editorial side of it.

In fashion photos you want to show range when posing and give the image a certain mood. Sometimes fashion-forward clothing won’t be the most comfortable or practical to wear. But you’ll still have to make it look wearable and sellable.

Otherwise who would want to buy it?

Having strong fashion photos in your modeling portfolio can increase your chances of potentially catching the eye of a client looking for the next model to use in their fashion campaign. Or of a fashion photographer looking for models to star in their next magazine fashion editorial.

What Is A Fashion Campaign?

The purpose of a fashion campaign is to sell a brand or product. The images are presented in a manner that appeals to that specific audience. They usually have higher budgets, tend to be shot by famed photographers in exotic sets/locations and are published in major media outlets. They are also the most difficult to get. Fashion campaigns are the high-profile jobs that models dream of.

Fashion campaigns are usually only shot once a year, making them less frequent than e-com jobs. So when fashion campaigns do come around the client and creative team have to be much more picky on the one model they choose to “star” in the fashion campaign.

Numerous factors come into play here. For example the model needs to have a strong “book” (modeling portfolio) and they need to have the right overall look that fits the campaign.

As before, there are smaller brands who need models for their campaigns, too. These brands can be local or regional. So as you develop your modeling career, you may get booked by these clients if you fit their bill. They may not be the latest international mega brands, but it will provide you with good images for your modeling portfolio and even better experience.


Fashion Outfit Ideas For Women

Your fashion photos should have an edge to them. So look for clothing that has interesting cuts, shapes, patterns or prints. Make sure you do not go overboard with the prints. They may come off as too strong. A good option would be to layer a solid colored jacket or coat – if appropriate – to break it up.

Experiment with mix and matching different pieces; even if it’s something you normally wouldn’t put together. You may be surprised when something you thought paired bad together, actually looks great!

Examples of fashion wardrobe ideas can be seen here and here.

Fashion Hair And Make-Up For Women

Hair can be distressed or stylized depending on the look. Keep in mind that it doesn’t take much to create cool hair for a fashion photo. For example, sometimes all it takes is a little tousled hair and throwing it over on one side.

For make up you can add subtle smokey eye or a bolder lip may get the job done.

Don’t combine all 3 of these elements together. I recommend you pick one or two. Also don’t go too cliché with what you think a fashion photo should look like. Meaning don’t go sticking bird feathers or a birds nest in your hair.

Fashion Outfit Ideas For Men

You’ll never go wrong with a cool leather jacket, dark jeans and a pair of military boots. Think of yourself as the “bad boy” type.

Maybe you opt for a simple black t-shirt. In that case, roll up the sleeves. This gives you an instant cool factor. Alternatively throw a trench coat over the t-shirt and it will add drama.

A turtle neck looks great with a blazer, fitted jeans and lace-up boots. Or maybe go with one main overall color and break it up with one contrasting color – that one contrasting color can be your top or pant.

Fashion Grooming for Men

Do you have facial hair? This is a great time to show it off as long as you keep it nice and tidy. If you don’t grow a full beard, go clean shaven. Patchy facial hair usually doesn’t translate good in photos.

Are you working with a HMU (hair and make-up) artist? They may choose to add texturing product to your hair. This will cause your hair to break up into smaller pieces, making you look a bit more disheveled.

There have been times when the make up artist may add a bit of eye shadow to the male models. This will give you a punk-rock type feel which could help the overall fashion look come together.

Hiring A Professional Fashion Stylist

One of the best ways to capture fashion photos is to work with a talented wardrobe stylist. A wardrobe stylist that has a sharp eye for fashion can take almost anything and make it fashion-forward. 

If you live somewhere where you can’t hire or find a professional wardrobe stylist, the second best thing for you to do is to go through pages of current fashion magazines and get a overall feel on what is currently “in”. Then go thrift shopping and see if you can pull together something along the same lines.

Remember it is not necessarily about wearing a big brand, but about how the entire look falls together.


Body Photos For A Modeling Portfolio: Explained By Model Photographer

Model Body Photos For Your Portfolio

Body images for your modeling portfolio are just that. Photos that show off your body. The purpose of body photos are so that clients have an idea of what your body type is.

This helps them when deciding who to book when considering models for swimwear, brief or lingerie photoshoots. Or for runway clients showcasing swimwear apparel. 

Wardrobe For Women’s Body

Typically if you’re under 18, you will be wearing appropriate swimwear for your body photos. Alternatively you may opt for what is known as a “sporty” look that shows the figure. If you are over 18, you’ll either be in lingerie or swimwear.

When picking out your swimwear, choose a solid colored two piece swimsuit, high waisted swimsuit or a one piece swimsuit. We recommend it be black or a color that compliments your skin.

Stay away from distracting patterns or logos. It’s not about looking cute, per se, but about showing off your body. The client or agent doesn’t care who the designer is or the pattern on the swim suit. They care about your body.

If under 18 and not 100% comfortable with swimwear, you may be able to do a sporty look. This can range from activewear, like leggings and a tank top, to fitted running shorts, tank, and athletic shoes.

When you go this route make sure not to cover your body too much. You want the agent or client to still have a sense of your figure.

Hair and Make Up For Women

Imagine yourself going out for a run or a hike. You wouldn’t over-do it with make up. Follow these same guidelines and opt for fresh, clean make up. Let your skin show through.

Hair should be in a ponytail if you do a sporty look or let down and loose if you are doing swimwear/lingerie. However play around and see what looks best with what you have one. and down. 

Bring lotion and apply to your recently shaved arms and legs. This will give your body a nice sheen to it when being photographed. If you are working with a professional hair and make up artist, they should know to do this.

Nails should be freshly manicured and clean. Nude nails are ideal or a simple ballerina pink color.

Wardrobe For Men’s Body

For men over 18 years old, your body images will involve you wearing nicely fitted briefs, hip briefs trunks or boxer briefs. Remember, you want them to be fitted and hold everything in place. Don’t wear loose boxers. They don’t photograph well for body shots.

White or black briefs work best since they are simple. With white briefs you have to make sure that they are not stained. It’s best practice to buy a fresh, new pair of briefs.

For young adults under 18 you can wear fitted jeans with no shirt on. The jeans should be fitted with no rips or tears on them. You can also do a “sport inspired” outfit. For example, a fitted pair of running shorts, with running shoes and no shirt on.

Grooming for Men

Moisturize your face and apply chapstick to your lips. It’s recommended that you clean shave your face for your body photos.

Have lotion handy so you can apply on your neck, chest, arms, thighs and legs. This will give your skin a healthy shine when being photographed.

Depending on how much body hair you have, a trim may be needed. with that being said, you don’t have to completely shave your arm or leg hair. If your chest hair is out of control, trim it down. If you have a lot of hair in between your thighs, trim that down as well. As always tame any wild hairs on your ears, nose or eyebrows.

Pay attention to your finger nails and do not chew them. Likewise your toe nails should be clean and make sure you take care of any fungus infections as this can make your toe nails look green.


How To Pose Like A Model: Watch A Professional Model Work

Coco Rocha is a supermodel who has starred in fashion campaigns for Longchamp,  Banana Republic, L’Oréal and Diesel. 

This behind-the-scene video shows you why she is a top-model. Notice how she not only changes her posing but also her expressions depending on what she is wearing.

While this will depend on the type of photoshoot you will be working on, it is important to remember that you want to have your own bag of tricks when it comes to posing like a model.


How To Get Into Modeling FAQs

What Is A Beauty Headshot For A Modeling Portfolio?

As mentioned earlier, the “beauty shot” is done during the lifestyle section of your modeling photoshoot since your hair and make up is clean and simple. When you are shooting your beauty photos they will be a close up of your face. These “beauty shots” are typically used as the cover image of your model comp card.

Men need these type of shots too (albeit they may reference them as a portrait shot instead of a beauty shot).

I’d like to point out that some people call beauty shots, beauty headshots.

To me, the word headshot imply’s that you’re an actor who needs headshots – therefore I try to correct people when they use the word “headshot” when what they really want are modeling beauty shots.

What Photos Should Be On A Model Comp Card?

A comp card is a printed card that modeling agencies have displayed in their office for clients or photographers to pick up. Or that models carry around the leave behind with clients, photographers, etc.

Comp cards have two sides, the front side is usually the beauty shot and the back side has your measurements, full name, agency name and four photos. Those four photos consist of a mix ranging from a lifestyle image, a fashion image, and a body image.

What Size Should A Modeling Portfolio Be?

Standard typical modeling portfolio sizes range from 8×10, 8.5×11. This can vary depending on the agency you are signed with.

The Teenage Model Requirements

When looking to become a model in LA the following requirements are typically expected.

  • Women ages 13-24 should be around 5’8-6’0 
  • Men ages 15-30 should be around 5’11-6’3

How Many Pictures Are In A Modeling Portfolio?

Strong modeling portfolios should have 15-20 strong photos that show a wide range of poses, expressions and you modeling in different settings (like outside, in studio, etc.) You want to show range when showing your modeling portfolio to clients or modeling agencies.

When wondering what to put in a modeling portfolio, it’s important not to stuff random photos just to make it look more full. This tends to cause more harm than good. The perfect modeling portfolio does not mean having 50+ modeling photos.

What Types Of Models Are Modeling Agencies Looking For?

  • Fashion/Editorial Model
  • Runway Model
  • Swimsuit/Lingerie Model
  • Parts Model
  • Commercial Model
  • Fitness Model
  • Print Model

How To Become A Teenage Model?

Whether you’re 15, 16, 17, or 18 you can become a model by building your modeling portfolio like we explained in the article. Likewise you may submit quick snap shots of yourself to the local modeling agencies.

The snap shots the modeling agencies will request will be

  • full length shot
  • a close up beauty shot
  • and a 3/4 shot

Wear fitted jeans and a simple t-shirt or tank for these snap shots. Women should have their hair straight down for some (so the agents can see your hair length) and pulled back in a pony tail for others (so that the modeling agency can see your face structure).

Make sure you are evenly lit when you take these modeling “polaroids”. Ideally stand in front of a window (or close to one) where the light evenly lights your entire body as you do not want these snap shots to be dark. You do not need a fancy camera for these, they can be shot on your iPhone.


How Can I Start Modeling Right Now?

Now that you know what the best portfolio pictures for models are, you will have the confidence to start putting it together by contacting the right model photographer, buying a modeling portfolio for your photos and going out to meet with modeling agencies.

When you work with a professional model photographer they will guide you with model poses throughout the photoshoot. Likewise they should have a team of hair/make up artist and wardrobe stylist they can pull together to create the best images of you for your modeling portfolio.

You are now ready to move on to part two: How To Become A Model.


Modeling Photography Studio Near Me

Whether fashion print modeling or commercial modeling, you need to work with a modeling photography studio that has the eye, experience and right attitude. This means they should provide all the information we listed above, otherwise how will you know your money is being well spent. And that you’re actually capturing the modeling portfolio you need?

If you’re a male or female wanting to capture the perfect modeling portfolio, contact Sergio Garcia Photography using the contact form below.



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Sergio Garcia Photography