Now that you are an independent business, you need to identify and connect with your clientele. Various tools are available to assist you and your Portfolio is the most valuable! You should consider your portfolio as you would a storefront. This is what your customers see and will hopefully attract business you way. The most important factor is to know your audience, whether you are a Model, Makeup Artist or Photographer the principles are the same. Your client base will differ greatly based on a number of factors and preferences.
Before we examine the finer details we need to understand several basics. First of all, this is your business, it travels in the direction you lead it. The genera within the modeling industry is vast and its often encouraged to branch off in several directions at once. This is called Diversity. This is also what will attract clients with similar interests. It is this blend of styles and looks that will make your portfolio strong and unique.
There are a few common sense rules I follow when maintaining or construction of my own portfolio. These golden rules were passed on to me by a Modeling Agency director:
1.) Less is More!
2.) You are only as good as your weakest image!
3.) Never give a Makeup Artist a B&W image!
With those rules in mind, don’t sit on the sidelines waiting to be discovered, go to where you will be noticed.. ModelMayhem.com and sign up for a free account!!
You need to learn how to realistically evaluate yourself. This is critical and one of the most important things to consider in the modeling industry. Seek out the advice others in your field and do this before posting your new treasure’s in public. I have several friends I ask to brutalize my new work that I am about to post. When I notice someone consistently replies with complements I drop them from those I critique with. Nobody is perfect, somewhere in that image a flaw will exist. Only ask your family when you are feeling down. They are always going to praise your work. You do not need praise, you need the objective opinions from professionals within the industry. Next you need to learn to dissociate yourself emotionally. After 40 years in this business sometimes the truth still hurts. This is why I prefer to give and take a critique privately, via email. It’s also important to remember when you’re on the giving end, to be as constructive and helpful as possible. This is not an opportunity for you to seek revenge. LOL
The ModelMayhem Critique forum is a good place for newcomers to go, but be sure you take a serious look at the work of who is doing the critique. Weigh it with a grain of salt and balance their opinion with your own of their work. I once went into a critique with a very frustrated photographer. Nobody would pay him and he was finding it very difficult to find models to TFCD. He had a Picture of the Day award, so his thought may have been “My work is fabulous”. The cold hard truth was, he had one decent image and 99 pieces of crap. Whatever great qualities were in his POTD image, were lost in the void of garbage. You are only as good as your weakest image!
Sometimes you come away from a shoot with two images that are so cute nobody can decide which one to use. In these cases I will add them both for a few days and see which image receives the most activity. Then delete the other, its generally considered amateurish to use more then one shot, per look, per shoot.
There are several tricks my photog friends and I use to test and rate an image within our specific target group. One of the best is to set the image in question as your AVI (avatar) and make an announcement on the ModelMayhem front page. Something like “New Avi, your thoughts/feedback appreciated.” Trust me, you will get feedback… When you notice an image has relatively no views or comments, it’s a pretty good sign it needs to be removed. My Photographer friends and I also go by a 10% rule of thumb. When an image exceeds 10% comments per views, it is a pretty good sign you have a hit.
Bite the Bullet:
Sometime in order to show diversity in style and genera you will need to put up an image that is less then perfect. I always regret this beforehand and I know I will do it again. When you are forced to compromise keep your eyes open for a replacement concept. Pick your team well and shoot it as fast as possible.
We all have our favorites and specialty areas of interest. It is also important to show that you are adaptable and interested in more then one genera or you may be limiting your opportunities.
Low quality camera phone, webcam images belong on MySpace, not a professional modeling site! If you are a model hoping to be signed with a top agency, you may have ruined your chances. Modeling Agencies often take a different view. A director once told me, “If you are not willing to invest in yourself, then why should I invest one second of my time in you!”. He expects all of his staff to present themselves professionally 100% of the time. If not, they will cut you from the roster and there are 135 people trying to take your position..
Your Front Page:
You need to be careful with what you say and the wording you use on your “About” section. Nobody cares about your true love or that your mother thinks “you’re pretty”. We can decide if you are pretty on our own. This is another area where it’s fine to be a newbie, as long as you come off sincere and honestly and willing to work hard. I recently read a photographers profile who listed years and years of experience with very high-end clients. He stated he was twenty eight years old. TWA was one of his clients. Well, TWA went out of business in 1985. That would have made him 3 years old, if he worked for them on their very last day… I Don’t Think So….. Just a quick glance in his portfolio and I’m already of the opinion, this is a total scam and he is a fraud… People please you’re insulting our inelegance and fooling no one! Prospective customers will run from you as fast as possible.
A Rocky Road.
There are several traps we all far pray to at one point or the other. Emotional Attachment, when you let your emotions make your decision whether or not to leave a bad image in your book, you are hurting yourself. For example, let us say you are a model just starting out with a portfolio full of crap and you see a local photographer’s port you love. You are far more likely to receive his rates in response to your sweetest letter begging for a TFCD shoot. With only four or five high quality images, s/he may be willing to take a chance on you when you show professionalism and a willingness to succeed.
The Whole TFP/CD Thing.
When I first started, bartering time for time was unheard of, we all got paid. Today I think it’s taken for granted a little too much. The economy sucks and with the popularity of reality TV, more and more people are determined to make a big brake into the business.. TFP or TFCD (Trade your time for my time + Prints or a CD) is something we all do to some degree.
Here is how it should work. If my portfolio is better then yours. Then you should pay me. If your portfolio is better then mine, I should pay you. If we both feel our portfolios are about equal and we like each others look/style we may agree on a TF* arrangement. If you ever hope to TF* with someone above your level, you should be able to see why maintaining a high quality portfolio is critical.
TF*, images are generally sent via e-mail these days.
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About the Author
I'm a Northern California Professional Photographer, based just outside San Francisco. I specialize in commercial product advertizing and architectural. I have been working with Bay Area modeling agencies for more then 10 years, shooting portfolio development for models and high-end makeup artists. I am highly creative and always unique. I shoot cutting edge projects, both in the studio and on location.
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Model - Actress: Aleccia