Do I Need a Portfolio?
When we have open call, a lot of girls apologize for not having a portfolio. And believe it or not, that’s COMPLETELY fine! In fact, it’s almost preferred. If you’re a fresh face who’s new to modeling, there’s no reason for you to have a portfolio already. No one is expecting you to have found or paid for all of the resources necessary to have done multiple photoshoots on your own; that’s what an agency is for! So please, don’t waste your money trying to do it yourself! All you need to bring to see agencies are good digitals. If you get signed, the development department of the agency will work with you to build your professional modeling portfolio. At Nous, we do everything we can to make sure that it is at no cost to the model. Every agency is different, so make sure you ask first!
What if I already have a portfolio?
If you have been signed with an agency, or have worked as a model before, your portfolio should be a collection of your previous work. It’s important to include images from any prior jobs, so that agencies and potential clients know that you already have working experience under your belt. As far as presentation goes- and we can only speak for ourselves here- it doesn’t really matter to us what your portfolio looks like! Some girls just hand over photos as-is, upload them to their phones or iPads, put them in a manilla or two-pocket folder, laminate them in a three ring binder or trapper; there are all kinds of portfolios and until you’re with an agency, it’s completely up to you how you choose to present it. To each her own!
Building Your Portfolio with an Agency
When you get signed with an agency, one of the first things they’ll do is check your grooming. Do you need your hair color adjusted? Ends trimmed? Do you need to work on your skin care or measurements? Once you’re advised, and ready to move forward, you’ll have your first professional digitals taken at the agency. The agency will then use these digitals to pitch you to photographers who might want to do a practice photoshoot with you to accumulate photos for your portfolio; this is called a “test”.
Some tests cost money, and some can be free. At Nous, if the model doesn’t want to pay for testing, we can happily set our girls up on free tests, but if you’re open to paying for your first test- that’s usually the best way to get you started quickly.
A paid test is when your agency sets you up with a photographer that you hire to photograph you for your portfolio. In LA, they can range from $100-$300 dollars (it’s higher in New York) and they may or may not include a team. A “team”, in addition to the photographer, includes a stylist, makeup artist, hair stylist or an “HMUA”, which is someone who does both hair and makeup. If your paid test doesn’t include a team, that’s totally fine and normal! Similar to your digitals, your portfolio is meant to show your natural beauty and your potential. So keep it simple! You don’t necessarily need your hair and makeup done for your portfolio images.
The benefit of paying for a test is that you have more control over the results and outcome. You’re paying for the photos, so you can ask for exactly what you want. You will also be guaranteed more looks and more resulting photos from a paid test than a free test. So if you’re in a rush to get a portfolio together so that you can start going out on castings ASAP, we think this is the way to go.
If you’re not in a rush, go out on free tests as often as you can! A free test is more of a mutual collaboration for a whole team to get experience and photos for their books. This is where things get tricky, because everyone is looking for different things to suit their different books. The makeup artist will want the makeup to be the focal point of the photos, and same goes for the photographer/photography, hair stylist/hair styling and stylist/styling. Free photoshoots are a blast because of the experimentation, variety and potentially getting to work with a large group of creative people, but it’s more likely that you’ll only get a few good photos for your book from each shoot, rather than a plethora from a paid test. An additional benefit of a free test with a team is that the experience will actually mimic the experience of working your first job more closely than a paid test with a solo photographer. As with anything else, practice makes perfect, and the experience of working with a team is absolutely essential to becoming a great working model.
Digital vs. Hard Copy
If you have an iPad or tablet, your agency can always send you the digital file of your book for you to upload and use instantly. Lots of girls do this, especially in the very start of their careers. Once you start working, we recommend investing in a tangible book that your agency provides. Ours were custom-made from scratch, using various unrelated vendors, so no one else can ever have a book that looks like a Nous Model Management book! There’s something very powerful about arriving to castings with a beautiful, tangible book that represents your agency, instead of an iPad. But the iPad does the trick too, so ultimately it’s up to you!