I work with models a lot, mostly for my commercial and fashion clients. They all start somewhere, and it is important to give an aspiring one a proper head start. This is where a model portfolio shoot comes in.
A fair amount of young people dream of at least trying themselves in modeling, attracted by strobes, stylish clothing, a runway walk, and of course, seeing themselves as little masterpieces. All of it could be there. The achievements depend on several personal and business factors which I will not cover here but it is important to not derail yourself by one of the most important ones—a startup model portfolio. I participated in many casting calls when I go over model portfolio submissions for a client or project. Nothing speaks of amateurism and unprofessionalism as a poorly compiled portfolio. Put together your selfies, friends clicks, and party snapshots, and you are labeled a “wannabe”, a very difficult mental image for a casting member to overcome.
At the very least, hiring a professional photographer is a must. You can try your luck with offering your modeling service for free in exchange for some photos to start building your portfolio, but it may turn into a catch 22: you still need to get in and if you cannot intrigue with your available amateur photos, someone else will, and they will likely have better photos already. If you do not want to waste time waiting and hunting for casting calls open to wannabes, make the first step yourself.
I will write about detailed tips and suggestions on building your model portfolio another time but this is how this shoot went: during the pre-shoot consultation, we discussed the timeframe and the main looks to develop. Three is usually the minimum and we went by five: natural headshot, casual/romantic, business, athletic, and glam. I arranged for a makeup artist throughout the session, Violetta Kruglyak who is a beauty advisor for Chanel and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week makeup artist, we set the date, and finally met a few weeks ago for the studio shoot. My goal was to create a variety in not only a feel but also environment, using different surroundings, lighting, cameras, lenses, outfits, makeup and hair, so that the set looks less like taken by the same photographer in one set. This might create an impression that a model had more than one professional photo sessions already, solidifying her/his experience. In a way, it is true—different concepts were developed and enacted, just in a condensed form.
Lastly, on the images themselves. There isn’t much of true art or creativity, as seen in some of my other dedicated sessions. The goal of any initial model portfolio is to get the face out, in a generic but professional and polished fashion: headshot, body, outfits. The next step would be building upon it, infusing new and more elaborate styles and themes, approaches, and photographers. With these initial images at hand, the doors are opened wider.