Why you should not treat your modeling portfolio like a scrapbook

Already have a modeling portfolio? Throw out the trash. Be selective of what you find worthy of putting on display. One good photo is more effective than 10 crappy ones. Your portfolio (printed or web version) is not a scrapbook. It is not a place to put photos simply because you want to record the fact that you had a shoot with some photographer somewhere.

Not every photo taken from a shoot is noteworthy. In fact, depending on who you work with, sometimes none of the photos from a shoot are noteworthy. And if they’re not noteworthy, keep them out of your portfolio.

If you have more than 10 photos in your portfolio, then ask yourself why and be sure that every photo is justified and has a specific reason for inclusion in your portfolio.

Your portfolio should be reserved for the best of the best. Each photo should present itself in a way that says “quality” and “professional”. If you have a photo in your portfolio for sentimental reasons, save it for your family & friends, but do not put it in your portfolio.

Although it may pain you to hide some of those lesser quality photos, just remember that quality over quantity will get you further in the long run.

Note: This “less is more” rule generally applies to photographers as well. Why then do I sometimes highlight multiple images of the same model in my gallery? Because showing multiple images of the same model during the same shoot helps demonstrate an overall consistency and quality in my work. Any person wielding a camera can take a “lucky” good shot now and again. Being able to do so consistently is what matters.

Why you should keep your modeling ego in check.

Good looking people are a dime a dozen. Good looking models who act professional and are fun and easy to work with are not.

Having a good attitude, being professional, reliable, on time, serious about what you do, and being a pleasure to work with are factors that will help. Really want to help your career? Then be the type of person that leaves the people you work with with a positive impression that makes them want to say nice things to others about you.

Why isn’t that professional photographer agreeing to work with you for free, or “ACK!”, offering to pay you? Because after a lot of hard work, years of experience, and significant investment, he now makes a living from people who pay him for his services. He has paid his dues.

He knows his work and services are valuable and he has to ask himself why he would work with something who doesn’t put any value on his services, when he can work with others who do.

There are thousands of beautiful people, just like you, who wish to get into modeling or who are doing so on an amateur level. Those who are serious about it and work hard at it are more likely to be successful than those who don’t. You have to pay your dues like everyone else.

Additional Points:

I am not suggesting models should not be paid. I am suggesting that one should think about their expertise, experience level, and from whom they are expecting to get paid (and why).

There is a difference between getting paid by photographers who pay you out of there own pockets and getting paid by clients who hire you to perform a professional service.

Professional models get tear-sheets and tend to work for professional and reputable clients. These clients are usually very selective about the models, and the types of models they hire. They generally do not with models at random and they do not simply pick the first “pretty people” that come along.

Models who get paid out-of-pocket by photographers and then call themselves “professional models” is like someone who mows lawns during the summer calling themselves a “professional lawn mower”.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The modeling industry is full of people who will tell you just about anything that they think you want to hear in order to get what they want.

The industry is also full of people who are, in fact, honest, trustworthy, worth working with, people who mean what they say, and are also willing to help you attain your goals. The hard part is differentiating between the two. Again, your most valuable asset is your brain.

Is a photographer promising you tear-sheets and published photos?

Photographers cannot typically guarantee you tear-sheets unless they are working on their own personal project. Usually they are working for someone else, such as a publisher, who makes the final call.

Whether you make it into print or not can almost only be determined after your shoot and depends on the quality of types of photos taken. There are, however, exceptions to everything, so use your common sense.

Why having some modeling experience is not the same as being a professional model

Having “some modeling experience” is not the same as being a professional model.

Yes, maybe you’ve invested in some clothes (perhaps you’ve invested a lot), you are comfortable in front of a camera, and you have your poses down.

A professional photographer, and by “*professional photographer” in this case, I mean someone whose soul source of income is from photography, still has a lot to offer you.

*There will always be debate about what a “professional [anything]” is.

A. A professional photographer has generated enough demand in his service and abilities to make a living from it. This is saying a lot considering that photography is very expensive, including thousands of dollars worth of equipment, costly studio rental space (if he works in a studio), liability insurance (to cover you if you have an accident), and that nearly 30 percent of his income goes directly to taxes (no, that is not fun).

B. A professional photographer often has years of experience. Experience doesn’t necessarily signify that he’s a good photographer, but if you are considering working with him, then hopefully he is. This experience can be valuable. A professional photographer has (hopefully!) worked with a lot more models than you’ve worked with photographers.

Why a model shouldn’t take their online photo feedback seriously.

Having people say nice things about your work is always a nice thing, but if you are serious about modeling, it is important to consider the source of your feedback.

I’ve seen this again and again, much to the detriment of the models… You have a portfolio or some photos posted on ModelMayhem and others have left feedback…

“Great photo!”
“Best shot evaaaar!”
“You look soooo good in this!”

While it may be true that model is attractive, the outfit is revealing, the location is stunning — none of this really matters if the photo is flawed.

While “John Smith” thinks your photo is “the best shot ever!” and someone else thinks you are “Sooo sexy!”, the photo itself may be complete crap for modeling purposes.

Why? It’s usually something along the line of:

Poor lighting, an awkward expression, odd pose, or distracting background.

And yet, some of the worst photos featuring any (or all!) of the above get rave reviews on public sites.

This doesn’t mean you should invalidate all feedback you receive, it just means you should always take it with a grain of salt.

Unfortunately, the people who most likely have an eye for good photographs don’t leave feedback because it may offend the model. Especially if it follows any of the types of comments listed above…

“This is an awesome shot!”, says one person.

And then your review…

“The expression on your face is completely out of sync with the style of the photo and the lighting is very poor.”

Doesn’t exactly work, does it?