How To Plan a Model Portfolio Shoot


In comparison with typical portraiture, model portfolio shoots represent a more narrow genre of photography, with more specific requirements and rules. This doesn’t mean that fashion and modeling shoots are less creative than any other genre; however, they have to meet certain criteria set by various modeling agencies. Modeling photographs also have to make high-quality prints that can show up in prestigious catalogs and portfolios, which is a great challenge for anyone new to the world of fashion.

We’ll cover the most important requirements of model portfolio shoots in the following list and offer some insights when it comes to fashion photography in general.

Ask the Agency About Their Needs

Before you even start preparing your photo shoot, you have to make a contract with either a model or a modeling agency. Junior models rarely sign such contracts on their own – a modeling agency is their medium. The situation is different with more seasoned models who know what kind of photo shoot they need in order to expand their portfolio.

In any case, the choice of set and setting in modeling photography should be up to models and their agencies. A photographer should be able to make the best out of the client’s initial idea and possibly enrich this idea it by adding a personal touch to it.

Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash

Develop Ideas And Concepts

Once you know what will be the main theme of your model portfolio shoot (a fashion agency can help you with this), one of the first things you should do is to develop various ideas and concepts. These concepts can revolve around a makeup idea, a hair idea or a set idea. They can also revolve around wardrobe or even location. Sometimes the type of lighting you’ll use will have an important impact on storytelling and atmosphere.

If you’re lacking creative concepts, some influences you can certainly use to conjure up ideas are music, film or literature.

Photo by Joren Aranas on Unsplash

Choose Indoors And Outdoors Locations

No matter if you’re shooting at home, in a commercial studio or on location, you will have to decide on location well before the photo shoot, so that your model has all the necessary information and is entirely ready.

The best option is to combine indoors and outdoors locations, because the majority of modeling agencies require portfolios to feature a variety of scenes and lighting conditions. Also, it’s really valuable to include images shot in natural light because such images can reveal more natural look of the model.

Photo by Caroline Veronez on Unsplash

Capture Variations In Expression

Variation in model’s facial expressions and body language is truly important. You never want all the images to feature just one expression – you should ask your model to play happy, sad, confident, melancholic, sleepy or any other mood. Variations of similar poses with small differences in facial expressions should be tried as well, such as mouth open, half open or closed, eyes shut or looking down. If your model isn’t shy, you can put some music on and ask her to dance. Dancing often produces a sense of fun and helps relax the model.

It‘s really useful to shoot many images because even some small differences between two similar images can create an entirely different atmosphere. For instance, if you’re doing a three hour shoot, it’s advisable to take at least 300 images. In the end, you can choose 30 or 50 to show to the agency.

Photo by Bernard Osei on Unsplash

Find Poses That Go Along With The Wardrobe

When it comes to poses, every fashion photographer should have a wide variety of references to choose from. Some photographers even like to sketch poses if they are good at drawing. This is not necessary – it’s enough to have a good list of potential poses prepared. These poses shouldn’t be same for every model – they have to go along with wardrobe, set idea, mood, lighting style and so on.

Photo by Saskie Fairfull on Unsplash

Buy Props For Your Sets

This is something optional, but since many model portfolio shoots feature various props, it’s good to think about them and find adequate solutions. Many props are quite inexpensive, such as various chairs, tables, pillows and so on. But it case you want to find a very specific kind of prop, such as a beautiful vintage chair, you’ll have to start visiting antique shops a few days prior to your photo shoot because it can take some time to find a prop that truly fits.

Photo by Pangram Pangram on Unsplash

Even though modeling photography might sound like something overly commercial, this is not entirely true. A great collaboration between photographers and models can result in stunning images which are as creative as any other type of portraits. Another benefit of fashion shoots is the fact that they can easily get a lot of exposure, which can kickstart a career in photography.

About Author

Jasenka is a photographer with a background in web design. You can find out more about her on her website, see some of her newest images at 500px or get to know her better here.

Great article! When i’m coming up with an idea I love to make Pinterest mood-boards, it’s super helpful. When it comes to modeling agencies, I’ve personally used agencies like IMG and Ford, which are always good. But then I was looking for somewhere where I didn’t have to communicate with them going back and forth so much. So recently I tried this app called AGENT and I was able to book the model I wanted directly through the app, so it was very convenient and also saved me money.

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