Modeling Portfolio Essential Shots

Entering the modeling industry takes determination, talent, the right height and build, and killer photos. If you want to get signed, meaning you want a professional modeling agency to sign you to a contract and provide you with representation, you need to show them how great you look in front of the camera. You do this by creating a modeling portfolio.


You don’t need a huge port to start out. You will need five essential photographs and one or two professional Polaroids. You should have a professional photographer take all of the photos, including the Polaroids.


The Polaroids


Let’s cover the Polaroids first because that probably surprised you. The modeling industry still uses Polaroid cameras for two reasons – the photos develop in less than two minutes, and you can’t fake your bone structure or build. Since Polaroid cameras use instant film, the photos show reality. While a photographer edits and airbrushes the portfolio shots, the Polaroids remain raw and unadulterated.


Any flaws on the model will show in the Polaroid photos. This includes bad skin, poochy stomach, uneven skin tone, frizzy hair, or terrible bone structure, or as they say in the business, “bad bones.”


You’ll need two Polaroids – one that’s a head and shoulders photo, called a headshot, the other a full-length body shot that shows you from head to toe.


Essential Portfolio Shots


You should have a minimum of five printed photos in your portfolio. You can mix black and white photos with color photos, but the smallest print size should be 11” x 14”, which makes the photo a little larger than the typical glossy magazine.


Here’s your shot list to have your professional photographer shoot:


  • Headshot: a head and shoulders photo of you looking directly at the camera, so your bone structure shows. This can be in color or black and white.

  • Full-length: a photo showing you from head to toe wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. You face the camera directly in this photo. The agencies choose this simple attire because you cannot camouflage body flaws while wearing it. You may choose simple sneakers, such as Keds-style canvas shoes, or take the photo barefoot.

  • Swimsuit: a photo in which you wear a standard one-piece swimsuit in the maillot style that shows you from the front.

  • Editorial: a photo in either a commercial or high-fashion style showing your ability to pose. Whether you choose a commercial style or a high-fashion style depends on the kind of work you want to do as a model. Realistically, you need a minimum height of 5’7” to do fashion work, but most models are taller than that.

  • Smiling Headshot: a head and shoulders photo of you looking directly at the camera and smiling. This can be in color or black and white.


Choose a photographer who already works with agencies so you know that you will get the photos you need. Most reputable agencies will provide you with the names of photographers with whom they work regularly.


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