For a successful career, models need a professional portfolio to show the fabulous work they are capable of and how versatile they are.
This guide looks at the type of images to include in your professional model portfolio.
Photographers will look at images in your portfolio to decide whether you are the best model for their projects. Your portfolio is key to getting noticed and booked on photoshoots (usually paid work for professional models).
What is a model portfolio?
A model portfolio (sometimes known as a 'book') is a collection of approximately 10 to 20 images showing your best modelling work, including your range and ability as a model.
Your portfolio also includes other information about you, such as your name, physical characteristics and the shoot styles you work in.
If you are a new model, or you'd like to know what else to include in your model portfolio (including step-by-step advice for creating a model portfolio), we recommend reading How to Become a Successful Freelance Model - Top Tips & Advice.
A smaller version of your portfolio is a comp card (sometimes referred to as a composite, sed card or zed card) is like a business card for models. It displays the best photos (between 3 and 5 images, including a headshot) and other essential information from your model portfolio.
What are model polaroids?
Anyone viewing your portfolio wants to see what you look like, so it's crucial to include standard images that show precisely this. These standard images are known as model polaroids (or digitals).
They should include at least 10 clear, bright and unedited images showing your current look most naturally (make-up-free or wearing minimal make-up).
These images should be a mixture of headshots and full-length body shots from different angles (such as front, back and side) or at least one photo from the front.
For full-length body shots, you should wear tight-fitting clothes to show your physique. It's best to wear plain, solid or neutral-coloured clothing. Ideal clothing for these photos is swimwear or underwear (e.g. a bikini for women and boxers for men), but it's acceptable to be fully clothed if you prefer.
Remember, your portfolio is all about you, so you should be the only model in your model polaroids. These photos should not include other people in the same shot.
Examples of model polaroids
Let's look at examples of the different types of model polaroids you should include in your model portfolio.
Example #1: Headshot - one photo from the front
Example #2: Headshot - three photos from different angles (front, back and side)
Full-length body shots
Example #3: Full-length body shot - three swimwear/underwear photos from different angles (front, back and side)
Example #4: Full-length body shot - three fully clothed photos from different angles (front, back and side)
Tips for photographing your model polaroids
It's important to take time to create good-quality model polaroids for your portfolio, demonstrating that you are serious and conscientious about your work.
How to photograph your model polaroids
These images are not meant to be technical. It doesn't matter whether they are taken by a professional photographer or someone else using a camera phone. This means you could:
- Take the photos yourself (using a camera on a tripod, a timer, etc.)
- Ask a family member or friend to take the photos for you
- Hire a photographer (you can either pay them or use our guide to arrange a trade shoot)
However you photograph model polaroids, it's best to take them in front of a plain background (ideally white) in natural light with a digital camera or decent camera phone (take care to avoid shadows across your face or body).
Images that are unsuitable for model polaroids
You should not use any of the following images in your model polaroids (or in your portfolio generally):
- Heavily filtered images
- Images with heavy make-up
- Selfie-style photos
- Dark or blurry photos
Not only do these images give a bad impression, but if you include poor quality/standard model polaroids (or images in your portfolio images generally), the chances are that you won't be taken seriously and will lose out on bookings.
Other images to include in your model portfolio
In addition to model polaroids, you could also include images that show your versatility and anything special or unique about you that you can incorporate into your shoots.
These photos should show different looks and poses that you are capable of (maximum of one image per set).
They could include your hobbies or skills (e.g. equestrian, dancing, fire-breathing, etc.) or unique clothing you have access to (e.g. latex, cosplay, unusual clothing, etc.).
The level of editing done to these additional types of images is not that important.
Photographers will look at these images as a benchmark of what you can do and what they can expect to achieve when working with you.
Investing in model polaroids will maximise your bookings
It is worth investing time and energy (and sometimes money, too) in taking relevant, good-quality model polaroids. These photos will increase your ability to get booked for photoshoots, so you will certainly reap the rewards of this investment.
Add your model polaroids (and any other images relevant to your modelling work) to your online portfolio, such as PurplePort.com. You can print out these photos if you have a physical portfolio.
Keep electronic copies of your images and make sure they are easily accessible (e.g. on a USB stick/drive or online storage such as Dropbox/Google Drive). You never know when you'll need to provide these photos for modelling work (e.g. sending them to photographers, agents, etc.).
Our guide, How to Become a Successful Freelance Model - Top Tips & Advice, has everything else you need to know to start your model portfolio.
If you'd like some tips for how to arrange photoshoots with photographers and other creatives, check out How to Arrange A Successful and Stress-Free Trade (TFP) Shoot.
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