Knowing how to create a modelling portfolio that’s professional and compelling is the key to turning your love of modelling into a successful career.

A Touch of Gold - Grazia Pakistan - by John Sansom Beauty Photographer in London

A modelling portfolio is a digital or physical collection of your best photos. It acts as a resume or CV, showcasing your potential as a model and win you paid work.

When a model gets signed, their agency develops their portfolio through test shoots and creates a physical portfolio for the model to take to castings. Models use their portfolio to showcase their skills and the range of different modelling jobs they’re suited to.

As a professional fashion photographer, I have over 10 years experience helping models build their portfolios. Here are some of my tips for creating your own model portfolio, whether you’re signed with an agency or an aspiring model with no experience and looking to improve your chances of getting signed.

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5 Tips on How to Create a Modelling Portfolio

Decide Your Modelling Niche

There are many different types of modelling jobs. For the most part, successful models specialise in a few modelling niches. A good starting point for creating a modelling portfolio when you have no experience is deciding which modelling niches you want to work in.

What or who inspired you to start modelling? It could’ve been seeing supermodels on the runway or someone who finally looked like you in an e-commerce campaign. Maybe it was a fashion magazine you’ve been a fan of for years. All of these are different types of modelling niches.

Use the type of modelling jobs you want to book as inspiration for your modelling portfolio. This way your portfolio will help you book modelling jobs that feel authentic to you.

Top tip: Check out my post What Are The Different Types of Modelling Jobs to learn more.

How to Create a Model Portfolio

Use Social Media for Research

Once you’ve decided what type of modelling you want to do, do your research. Use social media to find models working in those niches, then look for images from when they first started modelling. This will give you an idea of what images you should be aiming for in your own portfolio.

If you have model agencies in mind who you want to sign with, look on their Instagram and websites. Under ‘New Faces’ or ‘Development’ you’ll find other beginner models and get an insight into how their agency is building their portfolios through the agency website or social media. (Use the website to find professional model agencies in your city)

Social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram are great places to find inspiration for photoshoots and poses. Developing your presence on these sites will also help you stand out to potential casting professionals, agencies, and brands. Look at how professional models present themselves on social media and take notes.

Get to Know Test Shoots

I’m often asked – How do I make a free modelling portfolio?

A test shoot is a collaboration between a model and photographer for portfolio building. Sometimes other creatives like makeup artists, fashion stylists, creative directors, or hairstylists will get involved for more elaborate tests. The goal of a test shoot is for everyone contributing to get new photos for their portfolios, having explored a new idea.

Asking people to collaborate on an test shoot or applying to a model open call can a great way to build your modelling portfolio for free and get more practice in front of camera. Just keep in mind that the creatives doing “unpaid” tests are likely at the start of their own journey too and less experienced.

Make sure you’re familiar with the work of the people you collaborate with and that the concept for the test shoot fits in with the type of modelling you want to do. Test shoots are just as valuable for new photographers or other emerging fashion creatives as they are for new models.

(Reality Check: The quality of the final photos will reflect the experience of the team. Don’t expect magazine quality photos from a random test shoot organised through social media. )

Top tip: looking for test shoot collaborations and don’t know where to start? Instagram accounts @kidcircus and @assistingwork regularly post open calls on their stories for a range of creative jobs, including modelling.

Invest in a Professional Model Portfolio Shoot

If you are struggling to find people to collaborate with or the images from the photoshoots you’ve done aren’t high enough quality, consider investing in a professional model portfolio shoot. Working with an experienced fashion photographer on your model portfolio will ensure you get a range of high-quality images that fit the style of modelling you want to do.

If you’ve already got some high quality images, investing in a model portfolio shoot can help you fill in the missing gaps in your portfolio. Especially if there’s a type of modelling job you want to do but haven’t had the chance to shoot.

As a professional fashion photographer I’m booked by London’s top modelling agencies to photograph their models portfolios (“paid” testing). I also work with independent models and private clients to build their portfolios. Find out more about my model portfolio shoot packages and how together we can elevate your portfolio.

A Touch of Gold - Grazia Pakistan - by John Sansom Beauty Photographer in London

Use Only Your Very Best Images

Wondering how many images should be in a model portfolio?

A professional modelling portfolio should have between 10 and 20 photos.

What about what should be included in a modelling portfolio?

Select your strongest photos from a variety of photoshoots. Ideally you should have one or two best shots per photoshoot. You don’t need to include your model polaroids in your modelling portfolio but it’s useful to have digital and physical copies of them to present alongside your portfolio. Make sure your portfolio’s available in digital format i.e. on Instagram so that people (including you) can easily access it.