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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47 Responses to “Building Your Modeling Portfolio”

  1. October 14, 2019 at 7:24 pm, Lolita Emeksuzian said:

    Before I was a model for Next Star Production. I love forever 21 and my big dream is become a model


  2. October 20, 2015 at 2:02 pm, Arlin Mardiana said:

    But still difficult for me here in Hongkong, as the mostly photographers looking for skinny pale model than dark curvy models


  3. January 09, 2013 at 1:46 am, Joseph Chen said:

    Excellent post. Very helpful and informative. I like it. Thanks for sharing.


  4. September 10, 2012 at 1:37 am, Mcdughf said:

    Two things that are really necessary for me are a full body shot and a clear head shot so I can see how the model looks normally, and a lot of profiles seem to be lacking in this area.


  5. September 08, 2012 at 12:42 pm, Scottelly said:

    When I look at a model’s profile here on MM, what she writes is almost as important as her main image, which should be a head shot, unless she has an ugly face, at which point it should be a 3/4 shot that shows her spectacular body really well (but with only implied nudity, since a nude as a main image is not allowed, unfortunately). If she writes the whole thing in all capitals or with bad spelling or grammar, I will think she is ignorant and maybe even stupid, and I will probably avoid her. If she writes certain things, like “I reserve the right to . . .” I will think she is amateurish, which can actually be good, but normally is not. If she only has one or two decent shots in her port, I will suspect that I won’t be able to produce great images with her, because I normally assume that the best photo in a model’s port is probably better than anything I am likely to shoot with her in one photo shoot with her. It’s just a numbers game, know what I mean? I mean what are the chances that in one shoot I can outperform EVERY other photographer she has worked with?


  6. September 06, 2012 at 8:55 am, L_Monreau said:

    This is great advice. It’s makes me see the big picture very clearly. I’m definitely going to take a second look at my portfolio to see what changes can be made so that it’s more eye catching and I’ll be taken seriously as a professional.
    Thanks for the help!


  7. September 05, 2012 at 9:58 pm, Tony Lendrum said:

    very interesting article, thanks for sharing


  8. September 05, 2012 at 11:35 am, SabotImages said:

    Really good advice but I noticed an omission that should be noted. Your reputation is almost as important to an impressive portfolio. If you have a reputation of no shows, no calls or lateness this affects your future as a model just as it would in another profession.


  9. May 22, 2012 at 9:49 am, 9000 said:

    Very Helpful. Thank You


  10. February 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm, Craig said:

    Great article, and plenty of good feedback. I am a photographer looking to update an old (not so good) model portfolio. I’m interested in advice given for models so that I can advise and help build a better portfolio for them. I have looked at the images of models that posted and can see that both have outstanding natural ability. Many models or even most models on this site don’t have so natural an ability and cannot use their body in such a versatile way. The images shown here are and on the models’ (writers of the article) profile page are very creative, and clearly the photographers are very experienced. I would like to comment on the image of model Damianne with the holey pants. The pants are fashionable and are not a distraction from the model and her ability because, as I mentioned before both model and photographer are very good at what they do. I don’t know if anyone will disagree with me on this point but I feel that a model portfolio for the beginner or less capable model must wear clothing that does not distract or are simple in design. One of the biggest problems I see on most model portfolios is both an inexperience photographer and model try to produce, let me say again try to produce creative images. My problem with this is the shot becomes more about the photographer and the photographers’ creativity and not about the model, the models’ personality, and models’ ability act and look like an attractive real person. On these images I cannot see the model properly and just cannot judge if the model is capable of even that most basic of poses. If I were looking to hire I would not choose any of these models because I cannot see these models for who they are.

    I hope my comments do not come across as insulting to the writers of the article as no insults are intended. My comments are aimed towards inexperienced models and photographers. I have had a good look through both models’ portfolios and think you both look fantastic. Thank you for you article.


  11. February 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm, Twixxx Twixxx said:

    So added to my reading list as well as booked marked, this was way worth reading



  12. February 09, 2012 at 3:46 am, STARKITTEN said:



  13. February 09, 2012 at 1:21 am, Marc Gagne Photographie said:

    great ‘article’ and beautiful photos.. hope that all we learn here!!


  14. February 08, 2012 at 9:47 pm, Harvey Gordon said:

    Good solid advise for a model. As a photographer, before I select a model from a site like MM, I would want to see some basics which can easily be incorporated in the model’s portfolio image selection. Full length front and profile, an image that gives me a good idea of body shape, a clear headshot so I can see eyes, lips and face shape, a smile and a non smile. If they have ink or tats i want to see them. I am more interested in what I can create with the model than what others have, although cool images will certainly catch my attention.


  15. February 08, 2012 at 8:24 pm, Pixmaker53 said:

    Absolutely terrific! thank you for posting!


  16. February 07, 2012 at 3:37 pm, Ken Yee said:

    Nicely done…like the emphasis on a good portfolio as well. I generally skip over portfolios that include way too images from the same shoot. A portfolio means best work, not “as much as you can put up” 🙂


  17. February 07, 2012 at 2:31 pm, Sleeklora said:

    Great and timely info!!!!


  18. January 03, 2012 at 12:58 am, Tommysnudes said:

    Wow, thanks for passing this on to others. You reaffirm my commitment to paying it forward, great job!


  19. December 26, 2011 at 1:17 pm, JDStarz Photography said:

    Perfect, On Point, Thank U…


  20. December 26, 2011 at 2:32 am, Khoikhoigirl said:

    This is exactly what i needed


  21. December 22, 2011 at 6:23 pm, Christopher S.D Buck said:

    Fantastic write and information. I hope more people read and promote this on their sites and/or pages; as I have on Facebook. I will also link to my other profiles.

    Thanks Ladies for a wonderful article…


  22. December 22, 2011 at 4:30 am, Kenneth Aston Jr said:

    This is great advice and wonderful read.


  23. December 20, 2011 at 6:42 am, richburroughs said:

    I actually had thought about writing an article about this topic and I would have made a lot of the same points. So well done, but quit stealing my ideas before I think of them. I’m old and slow and am playing Skyrim.

    I disagree with Steven’s comment. As a photographer it makes a huge difference to me whether the model has bad images in their book or not. Our different views may have partly to do with the type of work we do. I’m doing mainly fine art work, and I find I get my best results with experienced models who are on the same page as me artistically. Someone having a strong book tells me:

    1) They are good enough to be able to work with other talented people.

    2) They have a good eye and taste level.

    When I talk with models about building their portfolios, I always mention the importance of image selection. The model is not in control of many aspects of the shoot, especially if there’s a team. But the one thing they have total control of (if there’s not an agency involved) is what images they include in their portfolio.

    The models that I know of who are really killing it are all very good at modeling, but they also have good eyes and are good at representing themselves through their images. That’s not only here in the MM portfolio but also their web site, Tumblr, etc.

    One thing that I think is extremely important is being able to let go of sentimentality when choosing/purging images. This isn’t Facebook. The amount of fun you had at a shoot or how good of a friend the photographer is don’t matter. Look at your portfolio as a marketing tool and approach it from that point of view. Be tough.

    Early this year I was in a critique thread that Sam Matta did and it got me thinking a lot about my port. I cut the number of images way down and focused more on the actual design of it, like which images worked together visually in rows. I also started shooting images specifically to use as MM avatars. Up until that point the images in my portfolio had just been the better images from my art projects, but I start looking at my portfolio as its own separate project. That shift made a huge difference for me, I get much better responses from models now.


  24. December 19, 2011 at 11:47 pm, Taylor Haggard said:

    Thanks for putting together this article. It’s well written, easy to read, and contains so great tips for new models like myself.


  25. December 19, 2011 at 3:23 pm, Bob said:

    Good article! My fav’s are the posts afterwards. You know the ones, people who don’t follow their own advice. I needed a good laugh this morning, Thanks!


  26. December 19, 2011 at 7:39 am, Amanda Bredenkamp said:

    This is so true. When a photographer is interested in working with me but he can hardly comunicate in decent English, I question wheter we will be able to comunicate what we want out of the shoot. So I would also emphasize the following: if you cannot write with desent grammar, then you probably can’t speak with desent grammar. A full sentence with correct spelling and desent grammar can make a newby look really professional in this field. Make sure you make use of spell check and for goodness’ sakes don’t use Ghetto language. Your port is a representation of you…


    • December 19, 2011 at 11:10 am, Damianne said:

      I can’t tell if you’re being ironic or not, but I love the support regardless.


    • December 21, 2011 at 7:43 pm, Nikki said:

      Decent spelling and grammar are key to reflecting professionalism in any field.


  27. December 18, 2011 at 9:24 pm, samanthal24 said:

    I truly appreciated this article. Most of the info is common sense but a major pet peeve of mine is reading one’s profile; whether it’s from a photographer or model and seeing incorrect spelling, grammar and sentences that dont make sense. That shows a lack of intelligence, immaturity, etc and if that person can’t write, who knows how well they can perform their job. That is one of the main points I look at when receiving msgs from photographers that would like to work with me.

    I also feel that models do not need as many images in their port as photographers do but some photographers as well as models post too many images and that turns me off as well. Who has the time to look through every photo??? The best images should be posted by models and photographers should post images that show creativity, different angles, different lighting, etc but nobody should have hundreds of images posted. I suggest taking down the oldest ones if new ones will be uploaded.

    I did enjoy this article. I am new to modeling and I did gain some insight from this article. Thank you!!!


  28. December 17, 2011 at 6:01 am, Studio D said:

    I really like this article. Being professional is my pet peeve. It makes a difference. I been makeup/stylist for years…..then evolve to photographer……I have called the agency and complain about model being unprofessional…..not coming to set clean…..or not bring the appropiate gear when asked. Not to mention attitude.

    Thank you for sharing this article with MM. I actually started forming training for models in my market…..Even the agency rep ones……have not grooming of dos and don’ts…..I have been coaching since I started…..from getting them to pose… how to act on set or in studio. Model Boot Camp is what I call it.

    Former Modeling Instructor, Celebrity Stylist and Photographer
    Studio D


  29. December 16, 2011 at 8:10 pm, Renaysills18 said:

    so informative. it’s great to hear someone just lay it all out on the table at once for us amateurs.


  30. December 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm, Gabo said:

    Thanks, very useful article!


  31. December 16, 2011 at 8:04 am, Wpolder said:

    Very useful article! Thanks for posting!


  32. December 16, 2011 at 2:20 am, Keithdewey3 said:

    Well written article! Good information and ideas for everyone on MM, not just models.


  33. December 16, 2011 at 1:21 am, Richard Dubois said:

    Great article. This is a must-read for any aspiring freelance model.


  34. December 15, 2011 at 6:27 pm, Alex said:

    But I like to see the immature/unprofessional rants & bad/crappy photos models think are good to put up! They’re like… red warning flags. If they cover up how ridiculous of a model they are I can’t gauge what it’ll be like to work with them 😉

    Side note, it’s very true that when I get to a model’s page.. even a very agency-caliber girl or someone who’s look I REALLY wanna work with, but I see some kind of either egotistical or negative/defensive/attacking ‘disclaimer’ on their profile about who they’ll work with or what they’ll ‘do’, it’s a major major downer… you just sound like a bitch, and absolutely no fun to work with… so with regret

    Keep it short, simple, clean, same your judgements and inadequacies for private time.


    • December 15, 2011 at 7:29 pm, Damianne said:

      Many photographers do the same thing and it’s such a turnoff for me for shooting with them.
      I just don’t think there’s enough information letting them (all agency professionals and aspiring professionals) know that’s not a good idea.


  35. December 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm, Jeff Fiore said:

    OMG!!Two of my favorite models co-writing a great and useful article!! Very well written and informative.


  36. December 15, 2011 at 4:46 pm, Steven Hlavac said:

    Good information. As a photographer, it doesn’t really make any difference to me if a model has bad shots in their book or not, as long as I see the pics that tell me what I need to know for a casting. Also, remember the old adage of portfolios: if you don’t SHOW it, people will (unfairly) assume you’re trying to HIDE it. IOW, if you do not smile in any of your shots, many will assume there are problems with your teeth. If you don’t show your legs (or any other body part), many will assume those are problem areas. Finally, be absolutely truthful with your height, weight, measurements, and clothing sizes. Photographers and stylists often have to know these things precisely to decide on casting and styling a shoot…


    • December 15, 2011 at 5:20 pm, Dan Wavle said:

      I did a catalog shoot for a petite cowgirl clothing line, 0-4, open call and 1/3 of those that showed up were size 6 and up. Please, Models, do your research and follow directions. If the clothing line doesn’t make your size don’t bother showing up to the open call and when the open call has times and dates for different sizes show up at the right time and date because that size is the only one on set. If they send you away on the 0 day, the 2 day, and the 4 day don’t bother showing up on the 6 day we will remember you just show up on the 6 day if you are a 6


    • December 17, 2011 at 10:57 pm, Adaiviussatterfield said:

      Hi I’m adaivius 18 very interested in being a model please of any advise contact me here or at adaivius Satterfield on Facebook please get at me at once I really never done a photo shoot but if you see my own wok I’d find you please and shocked at how professional it is


      • December 18, 2011 at 2:16 am, Chini said:

        Make sure you read before seeking shoots – posts like these just present an amateur, not an amateur who is clear about what they’re doing.


      • December 19, 2011 at 7:31 am, Amanda Bredenkamp said:

        I would certainly rely on spell check if I were you. Nothing looks more amateur than spelling mistakes and lack of punctuation marks. Also, do you yourself a favour and actually read this article. It is like you missed the tips given altogether.

        All I see here is a lack of professionalism.


    • February 08, 2012 at 8:29 pm, charles peterson said:

      i agree big time….check out B.Avant and could you tell me what you think…


  37. December 15, 2011 at 4:28 pm, Chris said:

    And good job. I don’t even model, and I felt I learned something.


  38. December 15, 2011 at 4:27 pm, Chris said:

    I like how the pic on the main page is of Id with cat whiskers and ears 🙂


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