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Preparing for a portfolio shoot

Preparation leads to success.


A three-quarter view headshot is an essential component of a mini-portfolio.
A three-quarter view headshot is an essential component of a mini-portfolio.

A professional model's portfolio is used as a personal sales tool. It contains a variety of photographs that show him or her in a number of different photographic situations and settings. The model’s portfolio gives prospective clients and photographers an idea of how the model looks under different conditions, in various outfits, with different make-up and hair styles, and shows his or her face and form in a variety of poses so there will be no surprises when the model’s services are engaged for a specific project. The client or photographer uses the portfolio to visualize the model’s suitability for the job at hand. In the modeling business, a model’s portfolio is known as his or her “book,” and contains not only photographs, but other items, such as tearsheets - clippings from magazines, newspapers, etc. in which the model’s images appear.

An experienced, successful model’s portfolio may contain only tearsheets if he or she has had significant media exposure, but a new model who hasn’t had a great deal of publication and has no tearsheets may only have photographs in his or her portfolio. If you are the photographer who is called upon to provide the beginning pictures for a girl’s portfolio, whether she intends to go into modeling or merely wishes to have a portfolio for personal reasons, it must be fairly comprehensive.


BASIC PORTFOLIO PICTURES

There are some basic shots that belong in every girl’s portfolio at the outset. These include the following, mainly in color and certainly not all in black and white:

(1) Headshots - a close-up that shows the girl’s face front on, one that shows a three-quarter facial view, and one that shows the face in profile. At least one of the headshots should show the girl smiling;
(2) A couple of full-length pictures of the girl’s figure - showing her legs and her body form; and some three-quarter length body shots (knees up). These pictures are usually taken in swimwear, lingerie or dance wear;
(3) An action picture;
(4) A picture that emphasizes features the girl may have that may be of special interest to a client, or that just may distinguish her from most other people. For example, exceptionally-clear skin for a make-up client, or beautiful hands or feet that will suit an advertisement requiring close-ups of these body parts, or a gorgeous set of teeth and a beautiful smile, or incredibly-lovely hair.

MINI-PORTFOLIOS

Many girls do not wish to go into professional modeling, but would still like to have a photographic portfolio that is fairly well-rounded. We have found that the following three basic outfits meet the needs of the beginning model and the girl who simply wishes to have a comprehensive mini-portfolio for her own purposes:

(1) a formal or fashion gown,
(2) casual or sportswear, and
(3) swimsuit or dance wear.

The basics of a good portfolio can be covered if these three outfits are combined with suitable poses, including a number of headshots, possibly in each different outfit, and some action shots, too.

This image emphasizes the girl's attractive long hair - a feature that may be of importance to a client whose product is related to healthy hair.
This image emphasizes the girl's attractive long hair - a feature that may be of importance to a client whose product is related to healthy hair.

An action shot does not need to show fast action. It should show the subject in motion.
An action shot does not need to show fast action. It should show the subject in motion.

FORMAL OR FASHION WEAR

A current fashion item, such as capri pants and shirt, a long “t-dress,” or formal dress will be suitable. If the model is young, what are girls her age wearing to school proms and formals? If older, what would be considered appropriate for a young adult to wear to a formal occasion, the opera or a cocktail party? A light lycra black dress will always do when there is no decisive answer. The model shouldn't forget accessories that will finish the look, and should bring pantyhose to match her skin color. Sheer or black/dark gray may also be suitable. If unsure, she should bring both light and dark pantyhose.

CASUAL OR SPORTY OUTFIT

The girl should bring well-fitting shorts or pants. They could be jeans, if they look new and fit well. For tops, t-shirts, sweaters and blouses or regular shirts will all work, provided they will photograph well and the girl looks good in them. Sandals, tennis shoes or casual footwear must look clean and new. Don’t forget the belt, if necessary, to finish the outfit, and be sure colors are coordinated.


SWIMSUIT

Swimwear must be suitably-flattering to show the girl’s body. If the girl is fuller-figured, a leotard may be the answer. If not, and the subject has a normal, fit body, show it off with a bikini or similar swimsuit that makes the subject look her best. Sandals, dance slippers or light shoes will complete the outfit.

PREPARATION

A mini-portfolio is still fairly comprehensive, and the girl must look her best in every shooting situation, which means she must prepare well in advance of the shoot.

Here is what must happen in the taking of a good mini-portfolio.

(1) The day before the photo session, the model must collect all garments, make sure they are ironed and hung up in tip-top shape. Items don’t need to be new, but they should look new. They should be inspected for small rips or tears, and repairs should be carried out. She should pack her make-up kit, shoes, accessories, etc. and her ensemble should meet the requirements of each fashion category as outlined under “Mini portfolios” above - a formal or fashion gown, casual or sportswear, and swimsuit or dance wear.

Swimwear is ideal for showing the girl's shape and form. A neutral backdrop is generally best.
Swimwear is ideal for showing the girl's shape and form. A neutral backdrop is generally best.

Casual wear, in this case jeans and a simple top, usually photographs well outdoors.
Casual wear, in this case jeans and a simple top, usually photographs well outdoors.

All clothing must be in perfect shape and fit perfectly. The camera notes everything.
- Garments should fit tightly; no baggy or layered looks;
- Avoid shine;
- Freshly ironed is essential;
- Have garments on hangers, pinned to stay on if necessary;
- All items should “suit” the model - the collar should be flattering, the color should suit her coloring, and the cut of the piece should be flattering for her figure;
- Pay particular attention to the condition of shoes. They must be shined and new-looking. Sneakers must be clean, even underneath.

(2) The formal gown requires a hair style and make-up that are suitable to the apparel. A hair stylist and make-up artist must be lined up, and the girl should make her appointment on time. A formal hairstyle, one that suits her gown, should be decided upon in advance. (Ideally, it will be done so that the hair can be taken down as the shoot proceeds, so different hair looks can be achieved for different outfits.) The girl should wash and condition her hair before her hair appointment (her hair can be dry or wet) and freshly paint her nails with a neutral color (clear is good). She should wash and moisturize her skin as normal, with no make-up. To maintain the hairdresser’s work, all apparel items should button or zip if they go over the head. Expect about an hour for a nice hair-styling job.


(3) Make-up is often handled at the beauty salon, but if not a free-lance make-up artist will often work on location, at a photographer’s studio or dressing room, or even in a kitchen if other facilities are not available. Make-up may also take about an hour, but can often be accomplished in twenty to thirty minutes. Ideally the make-up artist and even the hairdresser will remain for the shoot, but if that is impractical, the model should have a touch-up kit of her own handy to be used when necessary. See our section entitled Make-up kit for a list of basics that the kit should contain.

(4) Preparation of hair and make-up can take up to two hours, and therefore appointments should be set for a couple of hours in advance of the scheduled shooting time.

(5) Expect about two to three hours to complete the shoot, and anywhere from 100 to 360 exposures for comprehensive coverage. Also expect to be tired at the end. It’s demanding for both subject and photographer.

Properly-applied make-up and nicely-styled hair enhance a girl's natural beauty.
Properly-applied make-up and nicely-styled hair enhance a girl's natural beauty.
Further information...

Make-up kit

Getting off to a good start