Building Your Modeling Portfolio

This article is written by a member of our expert community. It expresses that member’s views only. We welcome other perspectives. Here’s how to contribute to Model Mayhem’s EDU.

As a model, your profile and your portfolio are your resume. Every shoot you have, whether it be TFP or paid, is a job in which the interview process happens before someone even contacts you, so they need to both be well maintained. Here are some tips in the creation and upkeep of both to help you stay marketable and appealing to the huge community that is Model Mayhem.

Your profile – Keep it concise with relevant specifics

When writing your profile, the most important factor to keep in mind is remaining concise. A client views your profile to learn your style, whether you TFP or only accept paid projects, and where you are located; they are primarily interested in any information that pertains directly to your availability, willingness to participate, and suitability to their project or portfolio. While how you came to be a model, what inspires you, and the sort of adversities you may have overcome is of high import to you yourself, it ends up being filler that a client must skim through or skip entirely. If you feel it absolutely necessary to detail these things, keep it at the end so that the important information is still easily accessible.

One of the less attended and more important pieces of information in a model portfolio is one of the more difficult parts to admit. You need to be completely honest about your physical appearance, and clearly state any tattoos, scars or any alterations you may have had done. List them as honestly as possible (adding pictures can help), and try to avoid any sugar-coating. At the end of the day, remaining honest about the full condition of your body ensures that those who approach you for concepts do so with a complete understanding of your appearance, and that the resulting images will benefit all parties involved.

Photo: Monty Noyes; Model: Damianne

Professionalism is also an important factor. This is illustrated through a good understanding of grammar and spelling, as well as cohesive thoughts. You should ensure that any conflicts you may have had in the past remain unmentioned. While it is understandable to be frustrated with sexual advances, flakes or photographers who may have never returned your images, this is your first and sometimes only impression on a potential client. As much as you hate drama, so do others, and it is more than likely that people may avoid you simply by your putting disputes front and center in your profile.

Your portfolio – General modeling

Keeping tight quality control of your portfolio is a must. While updating your portfolio with every new image you receive may seem appealing, you can overload your client with too many images or risk repetition by posting multiples from the same set. What you like the most may not be the best image to advertise yourself as a model, so think of your portfolio as a sales pitch and make sure you’re promoting yourself with the very best. It can be exciting to receive 10 new images from the same shoot, so if you’re too excited to choose just one, sit on them for a few days until you can look at them more objectively, from a business standpoint.

Understand your strengths, as well as your weaknesses, and show a potential client that you can find your best angles. For example, if you’re flexible, get photos that accentuate your flexibility. If you have a great face, make sure to get some amazing beauty shots. You are using these images to convince someone to use you for their project over anyone else in their area; keep in mind what you are selling and make sure it is accentuated in your portfolio.

Photo: Cherrystone; Model: IDiivil; Makeup Artist: Artifex

You also need to make sure your portfolio shows all the aspects of your look that a client may be interested in: your face, your full body, and any particular parts of you that are specifically excellent. If you have magnificent, graceful hands, for example, keep an image in which they are the main focus in your portfolio. Different “looks” are also a good addition to your portfolio, by sharing with your clients your command over facial expressions.

In short, focus on images that show you off as a versatile, self-aware model.

Photo: Acceleration Images; Model: Damianne

Your portfolio – Freelance modeling

As a freelance model, diversity is incredibly important. Try to have a photo or two that appeals to anyone you are available to work with; include as many different genres and styles as you would be available to shoot. While many clients will be primarily interested in your overall look, some will skim and check to see if you have done something similar to what they’re looking for. It is in your best interest to market to both types.

Photo: inkblotch; Model: IDiivil

Your Portfolio – Aspiring agency represented fashion model

If you’re more interested in becoming an agency-represented model and booking work that way, Model Mayhem can still help develop a beginning portfolio. Be sure to figure out your goals honestly, and check with the agencies in your area beforehand to see what they like from a submission for representation, as building a portfolio is not always necessary to earn agency representation. For example, a fashion model usually needs no portfolio, but a commercial model can sometimes require a more developed book.

If you do end up testing on Model Mayhem as an aspiring fashion model, you will typically want to focus more on getting “blank slate” beauty shots and fashion images, and retouching work that is not obvious. A freelance model is interested in attention-grabbing photography, while an aspiring agency fashion model is interested in accentuating their features as the main focus without crazy makeup or styling. Keep an eye out for the many people that use this site for fashion editorials and creatives as a way to network, and use Model Mayhem to continue testing for an updated book, but your focus will likely be tearsheets and agency representation.

Remember that these are guidelines, and the agency you’re looking to become signed with may have different requests. Keep the lines of communication open, and don’t be afraid to check their website for more information on submissions, or even just ask directly for advice from an agency representative or a local model that has already signed with them.

This article is co-written by Damianne and IDiivil.

Damianne is a freelance model from Austin currently based in  Edmonton. She travels for modeling but while at home loves to mess around on  forums and set up creative shoots. She promises to start blogging or to  eventually get her website up and running.



IDiivil is a freelance art nude model who travels between her home bases of Ohio and Los Angeles. When she is not glued to some sort of screen playing a video game, she lurks the site of ModelMayhem and maintains her own modeling website at

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