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Building a Physical Modeling Portfolio

Basic Tips for Assembling a Physical Photo Portfolio for Beginning Models

Once you have had a photo shoot or several photo shoots with a professional photographer, you may decide that in addition to having a digital portfolio you would also like to have a print portfolio, or even more than one version of a print portfolio. Within the modeling industry this type of format is often referred to as a “look book”. While these days most agencies go with digital presentation of models for their clients, in galleries online, you will find it very handy to have a physical book with printed photos to take along with you on “look see” visits to agencies or when attending an in person casting call. This guide is also perfect for pageant competitors who are competing in a portfolio optional for your state, national, or international pageant.


It is important to pick one size format to work with for your print portfolio, and this is something you may also want to discuss with photographers you work with as you plan to put together your first look book. One of the most standard sizes for a model’s portfolio is 8×10, and I would suggest starting with that as your first build. This means that every single photo in the book needs to be printed as an 8×10, and you should NOT be mixing up sizes when building your portfolio. Do not have an 8×10 in your book, across from a 5×7, doing that will frequently result in simply having your book closed and handed back to you or if you are submitting it for a pageant then it would make a big difference in your score. It is important also to make sure that if you are including both vertical and horizontal images, do not mix them on the same spread. When someone opens your portfolio to view it, when they have the book open and have two images facing them side by side, they either need to both be horizontal or both be vertical. I also suggest pairing black and whites, so that a two page spread would either both be black and white or both be color.


As the saying goes, just because a thing can be done doesn’t mean it should be done. Your portfolio is only as strong as your weakest photo. You want to be brutal when you begin to cull out photos to reject as possible for your print portfolio. This is your first impression book, and it needs to be as perfect as possible. You want to only include photos from skilled and experienced photographers, snapshots from friends or cell phones are not appropriate for your look book. Consider this book a major portion of your modeling resume. If you are on good terms with a quality photographer whom you have worked with for photos, you should consider asking that person for advice on choosing your photos. Many photographers will be happy to help you out, though some may only offer that service with a modest fee for their time. I for one would probably do it in exchange for a sandwich from the local Panera or a cup of coffee at Starbucks.


Lastly I will address suggestions on the content for your portfolio. It doesn’t matter if the photos you are including are from multiple photographers or from just one photographer, the important thing is to have as much variety as you can. For a modeling look book I suggest keeping your look book to 15 photos or less, and the first thing you should do is to pick out a headshot, a full length photo, a half body photo and maybe a three quarter length photo. Pick those four photos out as your standard photos, and spread them throughout the book. Once you have those base shots established, then go in and pick some of your more creative photos, or photos which show your personality and creativity while keeping in mind you are choosing only the best of the best. The same suggestion applies to those who are competing in a portfolio pageant competition, but you can get away with a few more photos in yours so I would suggest 24 or less.

These are just a few things to keep in mind while putting together your first look book, but it gives you a solid foundation to build on whether you are a model or a pageant competitor. One last “bonus” content item for you, is my suggestion on what to use to put your photos in for your first portfolio build attempt. These simple books can be found at many stores and online, but I have included a link HERE for it at Michael’s craft store. Good luck!

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