PGM: Developing a Portfolio

This entry is from my series: A Photographer’s Guide To Models.

I’m not claiming to be an expert, but this is my take on what you can look forward to and what is expected of you by photographers.

Your first goal is to develop a good portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of pictures of you showing what you look like, what you can do, and what you want to do.

When a photographer looks at a portfolio he’s trying to figure out a number of things about you. He wants to know what you look like to know if you fit the projects he’s working on or if he could develop one just for you. He is trying to figure out what kind of stuff you are willing to do. And he wants to know how versatile you are. There are other things he wants to know about you but those are generally answered via communication or your profile, and we’ll cover those later.

So what do you want in your portfolio?

You want quality. Nothing turns off a photographer more than webcam pictures in a portfolio. We understand you might not have anything at first, but you sure can’t demand really any money to shoot if you don’t have a portfolio. Normally you’d pay a photographer to help you develop your portfolio. But there is another way, Time for Print or CD TFP/TFCD.

TFP means a photographer will shoot you for free in return for getting to use your images in his portfolio. The two of you are trading your time and effort for images for your portfolios. There is a lot of variation in the terms of a TFP, but remember it is about getting images for both of your portfolios.

You’ll spend time and effort and preparation for a shoot. The photographer spends, time, prep, post and equipment to get images he can use in his portfolio. Some photographers will give you actual prints, some just give you all the raw images and you have to deal with them. You’ll have to sign a model release, giving the photographer the right to use your images for self-promotion and he’ll give you the same.

This is also a great time for you as a new model to practice. Often photographers who do TFP are doing it for practice themselves. Or so they can do the artsy stuff they love, but no one hires them for. Just remember this is a trade. You need to give and receive respect, as well as treat the shoot just like one you are paid for.

Couple more tips on portfolios.

Use more than one photographer. You need variety and rarely can you get that from one photographer.

What’s in your portfolio is what people are going to assume you do. If there are nudes in your portfolio, photographers are going to assume you do nudes.

If you want a specific thing, look for photographers that do that thing. Want goth images? Scan the portfolio sites and find a goth photographer and send him a message asking about TFP.

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