How to Market Yourself as a Model: Portfolios, Books and Comp Cards.

My recent Casting Call gave me a fascinating, and eye opening, glimpse into the current world of models in Vancouver, especially those who are free lance or not represented by a mainstream agency.

For a one day photo shoot worth approximately $2000, more than sixty models responded. Their experience ranged from less than a year to more than five years. It’s safe to say that not one of them is a full time model earning most of her income from modelling. That’s in no way a negative statement, just an observation of the facts. But there are certainly many of them for whom modelling plays a significant role in their life and livelihood. A number of them are represented by an “agency”. These agencies have wildly differing degrees of sophistication in how they market their models to the world. Frankly, most Vancouver agencies don’t have very stellar online presences.

In my casting call I asked, “Please message me with a link to your portfolio”. That seems like a pretty straightforward and clear request.

Sixty plus models is actually a pretty good statistical sample size to get at least a rough idea of trends in Vancouver’s modelling scene.

Fewer than 10% of the models who responded had what I would consider to be a professional portfolio. To me a professional modelling portfolio is a collection of 20 photographs that accurately portray who you are as a model, starting with head shots and including your best looks, from fashion to glamour to editorial, and give a sense of your personality and the unique attributes that make you YOU as a model. Fewer than 5% had a comp card.

More than half the models sent me Facebook pages and Instagram accounts as their modelling portfolio. Here’s why Facebook and Instagram are terrible places to market your portfolio as a model. To begin with, your modelling portfolio should be limited to twenty photos and twenty photos only. It’s a mistake to dilute your portfolio with other content. Especially content from your personal life.

Facebook and Instagram are great at photo sharing, but actually TERRIBLE at accurately portraying what a photograph really looks like. They compress photographs to make them as small as possible. That process destroys a lot of subtle data and information that distinguishes a truly great and memorable photograph from one that is average and mundane. They’re especially bad at colour gradation and accurate colour rendition.

Facebook and Instagram may also censor your portfolio if you have photographs of lingerie, swim suits, Boudoir images and sheer fashion. Those are HUGE genres of photography. Fine art nudes can get your account permanently deleted.

Finally, Instagram started as a square format photo site. They have limited ability to show full landscape and vertical portrait formats. Chances are you will have to crop your images.

Market yourself on social media platforms, but market your modelling portfolio somewhere else.

So what about the rest of the models, the other 50%? Many of them didn’t have any platform or way to display or even organize their photos. Many of them only had photos on their smart phones. Most of them confessed to me that they knew they should really organize their photos, but weren’t quite sure how to do it. A lot of models have confessed to me in the past few days they they’re not really sure what a modelling portfolio is, what it should look like, and most of them had never even heard of a comp card or knew what it was.

And lots of these models had wonderful and beautiful photographs scattered at random in their collection of imagery flotsam and jetsam! They had work that made me want to collaborate with them.

Please don’t make hard for other creatives to work with you or hire you. Please make it easy for me to hire you. Please make it easy for me to share your work with prospective clients. And for you to do the same!

If you want to be taken seriously as a working model, if you want to be hired as a model and paid as a model, you must have a portfolio.

So here are some great explanations of what modelling portfolios, modelling books and comp cards actually are, and more importantly, how to create them for yourself.

The following information is all recent as of the past twelve months.

*Important Note: This post about the need for a great portfolio to highlight and exhibit a model’s best work is just as applicable to other creatives; makeup artists, stylists and especially photographers.

Model’s Portfolio Book:

From an article by photographer Robert Harrington.

Don’t panic about the idea of creating an actual physical book (but you should have one), as all this information directly translates into an online portfolio.

Portfolio Building Tips
* In New York and Los Angeles, 9×12 and 11×14 books are popular and often required.
* At the very least, purchase a book that holds 8.5×11 pages – if you are hoping to do print work, your tearsheets are likely to be 8.5×11, so you want them to fit.
* Your modeling portfolio should only consist of “Great” and “WOW” photos. Throw out the “Bad” and set aside the “Good” for your personal keeping.
* Your book markets your ability to portray different characters, age ranges, and personalities.
* Put your strongest headshot photo at the front to grab the agent, casting director, or client’s attention.
* Place your “WOW” photos on the right pages of your portfolio and “Great” photos on the left.
* If you have images where you’re facing to one side, make sure you are facing inwards toward the spine.
* Keep horizontal photos together, or print one image 12 x 18 and cut it into two parts so it fits right side up spread across both sides of the book.
* Don’t have many photos yet? Place them all on the right sides of your book and keep the left side blank so it seems like there are more to look through.
* Don’t be afraid to include a few great black and white photos in your portfolio.
* Less is better! You will not impress with quantity – make a lasting impression with quality.
* As a new model, 6 – 12 photos is enough to present yourself to a new agency.
* Add a photo on the very last page of your book with your comp cards to give the agent/client something to look at while they grab your card.

This is a great checklist to have. Every model should have these photographs in their portfolio.

Images to Include in Your Book
1. Headshot.
2. Beauty headshot.
3. Smiling shot.
4. Natural light shot.
5. Editorial shots.
6. Swimsuit shot at the beach or a pool or a commercial shot in the studio
7. Full length fashion shot in front of seamless paper.
8. A mixture of color and black and white
9. Tear sheets from print publications (not webzines). If no one has heard of it, don’t use it. But if you are in a webzine, like Dark Beauty, order a few print copies for yourself and your book.
10. Very light makeup shot or no makeup shot wearing jeans and a tank top.
11. Sexy but tasteful lingerie (think La Perla as an example of a classic BW, Agent Provocateur for color).
12. Polaroids (full-length and frontal and side with hair up head shots).

Here are some great Links and more information about the kind of photographs you need in your portfolio, how to build your portfolio and how to display your portfolio.

Portfolios Tips:

Here’s an excellent description of each of the types of photographs you should have in your portfolio. And why each of them is important.

Some good examples of online modelling portfolios. Also, examples of portfolios for model/actors. Have a place to highlight your best modelling work AND your reel.

18 Great Online Modelling Portfolios for Inspiration.

Comp Cards (Model Composite Card):
A fascinating look at the history and evolution of the comp card, the business card that every model should have.

Again, you can create an online Comp Card. You can also create a PDF Comp Card that you can email.

Examples of Comp Cards

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