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How To Build A Modeling Portfolio

April 09 2024 12:01AM UTC-5Create

Are you looking to build a modeling portfolio to submit to modeling agencies? Are you already signed and need to update your current portfolio? This article will go over a shot list of example photographs to add to your portfolio.

First off, building a modeling portfolio can be a great way to show casting directors and modeling agencies how you can pose and the experience you have had in the past It is also important to understand what type of modeling you will be doing.

Types Of Modeling Portfolios

Types of modeling may include Fitness Modeling, Fashion Modeling, Commercial Modeling, Parts Model , , Petite Modeling, Plus-Size Modeling, Freelance Modeling or Promotional modeling

Understanding your target can be helpful for getting a portfolio together. If you don’t recognize a few terms feel free to read a bit more about them and come back to this page! There are also basics about what you do for a portfolio such as headshots, portraits and digitals.

Getting started with a modeling portfolio involves reaching out to photographers, modeling/talent agents or booking agents. Some photographers may be able to help you out for others may require payment.

What are Headshots?

A Headshot generally are the photographs that only show from the top of your head to your shoulder. The main purpose is to see details in your face and your general complexion. These images may be more serious for Fashion modeling and more relaxed and felicitated for commercial, fitness and freelance modeling.

Who Takes Modeling HeadShots Photos?

Headshot photographers specialize in getting these done to help with portfolios. Often you may have more than a photographer work on the photos depending on the project.

Complex projects may bring on Hair and Makeup Artist, Retouchers and a Stylist. Other smaller projects like digital may include simple makeup, no retouching and the photographer.

If you are casting or signed it may be worth asking if there are opportunities to get your headshots done with the agency. Otherwise you can go to an external photographer and get them professional done. See also Trade for Print (TFP).

What are Portraits?

Now that we have headshots down, what exactly are portraits? Portraits are the broad term for photographs of one’s self. Portraits can be divided into different categories. Some common terms you may hear are mid-shot, upper-body shot, full body shot, ½ shot, ⅓ shot, waist up shot.

These portrait categories are the portions of the body that will be shown in the final images. If you are getting an upp er body shot you will not see your feet or any accessories. If you are getting a full body shot that means that your whole body will be in the photograph.

The fractions included are often heard when you are putting together a comp card. They are the same as mid-shot and ⅓ shot in proportion. ½ means half of your body will be shown.

What is the difference between a Headshot vs a Portrait?

A headshot only shares the facial features of a portrait. A portrait could be a headshot but the previous section shared that there are other categories of a portrait.

What are Digitals?

Digitals are the photographs that are generally set to Modeling Agencies with general blank looks to share what you look like to a modeling agency. An example of this is a clean minimal makeup look. They are commonly done on white walls.

A set of digitals may have 4 full body images that display each side of your body. For example front, back, left and right. These shots should be minimally edited if at all and with a natural look.

What Are Modeling Digitals?

These digital photographs serve as a snapshot of the model's appearance and versatility, often sent to modeling agencies during the casting and booking process. Typically shot against a plain background, digitals showcase the model's face, profile, and full-body shots from various angles.
Learn More About Modeling Digitals Here

Modeling Measurements

The typical measurements for modeling are in height, bust, waist, and hips.

Measure Here


  1. Example 1:
    • Bust: 34 inches (86 cm)
    • Waist: 26 inches (66 cm)
    • Hips: 36 inches (91 cm)
  2. Example 2:
    • Bust: 38 inches (96.5 cm)
    • Waist: 30 inches (76 cm)
    • Hips: 40 inches (101.5 cm)
  3. Example 3:
    • Bust: 42 inches (106.5 cm)
    • Waist: 34 inches (86 cm)
    • Hips: 44 inches (112 cm)

Learn more about measuring here.

Additional resource: Marqin.fr

What is a Comp Card?

A composition card is for modeling. Often you will place your best 5-10 images on this sheet to bring to casting calls. This card also includes things like your age, height, body height, measurements and other significant features. Significant features meaning if there is something that would help or enlighten the casting director to cast yourself.

Modeling Portfolio Examples

Some model portfolio examples can be found by Wix or Square Space . As a professional photographer I have been asked how to build a portfolio, what websites to use and I highly recommend wix.com or squarespace. Format created a website listed out models and their portfolios check it out here: Modeling Portfolio Examples

Modeling Portfolio Example Website

Often the best website have some dynamic element to them. This can include videos and movements are the best. Another tip for creating a modeling portfolio is making it accessible for both a laptop/computer and a smartphone. Today over 97% of people have a smartphone (Pew Research). Mobile usage dominated computer use for personal and business tasks around 67% of users in 2022 (SmartInsights)

Portfolio Photos Ideas

What else should you get for building a modeling portfolio? In this first part of this article I described different types of modeling you can possibly do. Try and base the rest of your portfolio on one or two of those. This will give you flexibility for doing jobs when you are just starting out.

Fitness Modeling and Swimwear Modeling portfolio photo ideas may include showing tone in swimwear. Becoming a fitness model will require dedication to your body and showing off in swimwear. Some examples may be trying to get in action shots or moving photos.

Fashion modeling portfolio ideas may include editorial posing and styling with fashion. Think of simple catwalk photos that share a certain garment of interest.

Commercial modeling portfolio ideas may include photos of using a product or service. A common shot to have in a portfolio is sharing your smile while using a product. You can also share other expressions like frustration, anger, sadness or happiness. These will help you get similar roles.

What to Bring to a Photoshoot

Once you have conceptualized an idea of the photos you want it might be time to set up a photoshoot. Usually it is best to keep one concept in mind during the shoot.

Here is a short list of what to bring to a photoshoot.

#1 - Extra Clothes/ Wardrobe
#2 - Water and Snacks
#3 - Heels
#4 - Portfolio Book/ Comp Cards
#5 - Brushes
You can read more here for more details.

Pose Ideas

Fall Poses
Fitness Poses

Building Your Modeling Portfolio

Depending on the agency that you sign with you may have more responsibility for setting up a photoshoot. Making your portfolio should be for you and your goals. Building a portfolio will take time but will be well worth it in the end.

Read How to Get Ready for a Shoot

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