Building a Top-Notch Modeling Portfolio: Team Selection

Previously, I discussed the first few important steps to building a stunning, top-notch modeling fashion portfolio in part one of this 3-part blog post. Now, I will continue on to telling you about building a stellar team for your portfolio test shoots and give tips on how to go about getting everything moving forward.

Team Selection:
The key to a stop-in-your-tracks portfolio is being extremely selective. As you gain more experience, build your portfolio, and create a professional, skilled reputation, you will have more say with this. I strongly believe that you are only as good as your worst photo, so build it up!

In my opinion, your team should include at least a photographer you believe will deliver amazing photos for your portfolio, a makeup artist (MUA), and wardrobe stylist.

You want to make sure you love the people on board for a shoot to make it as successful as possible. Do they match the quality that you wish to attain? You may just have to build up from ground zero, but you’ll slowly gain the attention of more experienced individuals. It helps if everyone is going to mutually benefit from the shoot, especially if it is a free shoot (no one is monetarily benefiting). If everyone is excited for the shoot, everyone should be at their best for stunning photos.

Photographer: Agencies will give their new models a list of approved photographers. They charge for their services, but you will get great shots and they know what they’re doing. Agency photographers will help direct you in poses and expression if you are new and they will get you a nice range and variety of looks.

My first fashion/test shoot was with a paid agency photographer. Thinking back, I wish I would have had a better sense of what was going on when I had that first shoot because my money would have been better spent if I had had more experience first. In my opinion, it is better to have a couple practice shoots for free with other photographers and then, once you are comfortable in front of the camera, schedule your paid shoot with an agency photographer and your images will look better than they would have if you had started out without experience. Understand that if you are newly signed, your agency might want you to start shooting right away with an agency photographer to have your portfolio up sooner in their database.

As a model first starting out with your portfolio (or just updating/re-building your portfolio), you have to take the initiative by contacting the photographer you would like to work with. Decide if you are going to do a free or paid shoot first. It never hurts to ask to do a free shoot. If you are turned down, you can either pay them or move on to the next person. If you are paying the photographer, make sure you like their energy and you know for sure they will deliver amazing photos for your portfolio. Maximize the use of your money.

Usually, the initial contact is via email. From there, you plan and work out details. Make sure you are both understand the compensation (money, or merely trade for photos, known as TFP), the concept, where and when you will be shooting, and who else will be involved. If this is not an agency photographer and someone you are not familiar with, it is a safe idea to require another person (example: MUA) to be on set for the shoot. Agency photographers sometimes provide hair and makeup and their fees are included in what you are paying. If it is a free shoot, you both need to decide who the MUA and/or Wardrobe Stylist will be. A good place to network and find skilled industry individuals is on Model Mayhem.

MUA: Skilled makeup artists are essential for an amazing shoot. Makeup makes a huge difference. I used to sometimes settle for doing makeup on some of my own shoots, but I have realized that doesn’t work if you really want a great photo. Most good MUAs require pay, as their services are in huge demand and they pay a lot of money for beautifying hundreds of faces. If you find someone who knows what they’re doing, it never hurts to describe the shoot/concept to see if they are interested in shooting TFP, to build their portfolio.

Sometimes the photographer will know someone, and sometimes you will have to find someone. It helps the MUA to have photos of the makeup look you are going for in your shoot.

Wardrobe Stylist: Wardrobe styling isn’t required, but it is a huge plus because clothes really pull the look/concept/shoot together. If you are competent with high fashion and can swing it without one, that’s fine too. It helps to build wardrobe from photos of inspiration to make it easier.  Wardrobe stylists building their portfolios for free are often hard to come by, much like MUAs. Shopping before a shoot somewhere nice is a good idea, too. A lot of people (*cough*) shop and return. Remember, the whole point of the fashion industry is to sell wearable, desirable items!

Be prepared to provide your own wardrobe. Even if you are working with an agency photographer, you will most likely be asked to bring your own outfits.

Hair Stylist: I did not include this in the 3 most important team members for a shoot because hair is often overlooked and usually rather easy to do on your own. Long hair is usually down for test shoots. Make sure it’s clean and shiny. Maybe bring something to tease your hair, bring hairspray and some other product to have options. If you have shorter hair, that should make the look even easier. Oftentimes, the MUA will either do or help do your hair. I don’t mean to invalidate hair stylists, but in my experience, I haven’t really needed any so this is just my opinion.

On the other hand, feel free to contact hair stylists. Especially if the concept requires a very distinct hair style. There are some amazing hair stylists out there who can do some crazy cool hair, like Antoinette Beenders, the global creative director of Aveda, who also cut my newest 20s/60s fringe for a hair show in Janurary 2012!

… Stay tuned for more information in part 3 on ordering, presentation, selection for your portfolio!

Be Fierce!!

Briauna Mariah (: