Claiming Your Spot In Front of the Camera: Portfolio Building and Professional Communication for the Aspiring Model


Do you daydream about brightly-lit runways, dazzling camera flashes and magazine covers? It's natural to be tempted by the allure of modeling. However, it can also be very competitive and difficult work. If you are looking to start a modeling career or dip your toes into the field, here are some tips to get the best head start by building a portfolio.

Why Should You Build A Portfolio?

Simply put, a portfolio gets you work. It's what shows potential clients what kind of work you can do, have done, or may be suited for. You can have an online portfolio in a website or a physical portfolio book with prints. Some people require seeing a physical portfolio but I honestly think that will be less common in the future. A website has much more versatility and accessibility. You might get by with just a social media account like Instagram at first, but if you want to get serious I would look into eventually building your own website.

Dana - Instagram @dana.maries

How Do You Build A Portfolio?

The easiest way to build a portfolio is to get a shoot done with a photographer. At the very least you need headshots and body-length photos in a variety of outfits and locations. The more variety, the better, as it shows you have versatility as a model. You can pay for a photographer or you can find one who will do a Time-For-Prints (TFP) shoot. A TFP shoot is you trading your time with the photographer for copies of the photos they take. Usually this also includes allowing each-other to use the photos in their respective portfolios and social media. To have your best chance of working with someone, you want to exhibit good professional communication!

The Importance of Professional Communication

Your first email to a photographer(or client, or agency) is also their first impression of you. Make sure it's a good first impression! One of the biggest deciding factors on whether I will work with a new model or not depends on how they ask me. Think of an initial inquiry like a cover letter for a job application. Be clear, be courteous, and be succinct. Clear and professional communication and attitudes can take you very far as a model. This extends to interactions after initial contact as well. I've worked with models multiple times before because they showed up on time, communicate professionally, and worked with a good attitude.

Mady - Instagram @mady_hetzler

Mady - Instagram @mady_hetzler

Expect It Both Ways

The modeling industry can be a bit perilous for the newcomer. There are a lot of people trying to take advantage of each other. Since you are coming in with a good attitude and professional communication you should be expecting that in return. Lack of professionalism in communication should be a red flag. It doesn't always mean someone is bad to work with, but it can be a major indicator that you won't be getting what you bargained for. If you work with someone for the first time, see if you can get references from models they have worked with previously, and bring a buddy along with you for your shoot.

Where Can You Find People To Collaborate With?

While there are large online community sites like ModelMayhem that can connect you with photographers, Instagram and Facebook can be great places to look as well. See if there is a modeling group page for your city or area and check Instagram’s hashtags for #yourlocationPhotographer to see who is nearby. If you find other models in your area, use that professional communication from earlier to ask them who they have worked with!

Modeling can be an extremely fun hobby or rewarding career, and you can quickly be along your way with some caution and a professional attitude.

Need help building your portfolio?

ETDPhotography offers lifestyle and portfolio shoots to get your modeling career started, as well as website building and graphic design services! Check out some of the work with other models in the gallery!