Ditch your cell phone pics
You don’t need professional photos to start modeling, but that doesn’t mean you should use just any picture in your portfolio. Even some photos taken by professional photographers should never see the inside of your portfolio.
So how do you come up with an excellent set of photos for your Model Mayhem profile without spending a dime? What should you avoid?
Note: This is not advice about how to get signed by an agency. Different agencies will prefer to see different styles of photos in applications. For example, commercial model agencies will often prefer to see well developed comp cards, while many editorial fashion agencies will want to see simple snapshots. If you’re unsure, call the agency and ask.
What’s wrong with cell phone pics?
They make you look like you’re not serious about modeling. If you can’t be bothered to spend 15 minutes taking a halfway decent set of photos to show what you look like, why would anyone think you would bother to, say, show up to a shoot on time? Modeling is all about appearances. If you don’t appear serious, people will assume you are not.
Throw away these photos*
- Photos you took with your cell phone
- Photos you took in the bathroom mirror
- Photos you took by holding a camera at arm’s length
- Photos from a night out with your friends
- Photos where you had to crop out another person
- Photos from a wedding, even if the photographer was a professional
Okay, don’t throw them away, but don’t use them for modeling. Put them on Facebook. Your friends like seeing all kinds of pictures of you.
How to get good photos for free
1. Get a friend
If you don’t have one of those, a family member will do. In a pinch, find an acquaintance with 10-15 minutes to spare. If you don’t have any of the above, you may need to spend some time in other areas of your life other than modeling.
2. Get a camera
And not a phone camera or webcam. Very few of those are of high enough quality not to look like phone or webcam photos, and those sorts of photos don’t make you look serious. It doesn’t have to be a professional camera, but taking pictures should be its primary purpose.
3. Get a clean space
Yes, I know you live in a tiny apartment and you throw your clothes everywhere. Spend a few minutes clearing a small area so we don’t have to see your mess. Clutter is ugly. You don’t want your photos to be ugly, do you?
4. Let there be light
If possible, shoot these photos during the day, in a place where there’s a lot of indirect sunlight. When you’re standing in direct sunlight, you’ll probably be too bright in some places and too dark in others. If you must shoot at night, turn on all the lights. If possible, don’t use the flash on the camera. That usually flattens features and is notorious for causing red eye.
5. Wash your face
Don’t wear makeup. Think of your face as a blank canvas. People want to know what they’re working with. Don’t worry, though. Everyone has blemishes. That’s why makeup and Photoshop were invented. Also, keep your hair simple and natural. If you want to play with makeup, do so after you have the basic photos finished.
6. Wear simple clothes
These photos are about you, not your credit card statement. Jeans and a t-shirt or tank top are excellent. Swimwear is also good, especially if you expect to be modeling in that (or less). People need to know your body type, and bulky sweaters, puffy jackets, and hoop skirts prevent that from happening.
7. Take these four shots:
- Head and shoulders, straight on
- Head and shoulders, turned at an angle
- Full length, head to toe
- Something to show your personality. Smiling, brooding, laughing, whatever. Show us who you are. No duckface. People will make fun of you for duckface.
Now you have sufficient photos to submit in a Model Mayhem portfolio. Load them up and start networking with some of the amazing talent on MM. Be sure to thank the friend who took the pictures for you.
For inspiration, here are dozens of Polaroids (so called because in the days before digital models were almost always shot with Polaroid cameras) of real-world agency models. They don’t always follow what I say above, but they’re allowed to because they know how to book models using those photos.
*Yeah, there are rare exceptions. If you know which specific photos can be used in a good model portfolio, you don’t need this article.