What are Modeling Agencies Looking for in a Portfolio?



Countless aspiring models of all backgrounds are often so caught up in their dream of modeling that they don’t realize they’re not meeting industry standards. It reminds me of an episode of American Idol, where multiple contestants were choosing to compete with original songs and some of them were eliminated as a result because of poor song choice. Katy Perry actually made a comment about how when you are determined to be a musician and you’re writing your own songs, you think the songs are golden because you created them. In reality, though, a lot of times those original songs do not compare to tear-jerkers like Sia or Adele songs. The same scenario often applies to modeling, but with models of course rather than with musicians. 

That presents the question, what are modeling agencies looking for in a freelance portfolio?

Well, you’ve got to think – your freelance portfolio is the most straightforward and powerful way you can showcase your modeling potential. If agencies don’t see potential in your portfolio, you won’t make it very far. Most agencies view your portfolio before meeting you face to face, so there’s no first-time impression or opportunity to win them over with an energetic personality or an inviting demeanor; your portfolio IS the first impression. 

Showcasing photos that are realistic to your appearance is important. If you are 6’ tall, you shouldn’t try taking photos that make you look 5’9”. If you are 5’4”, you shouldn’t try taking photos that make you look 5’9”. Agencies and clients will see this as silliness and it will not be taken seriously (unless of course, you are portraying a silly character). Plus, if your photos showcase an appearance that cannot be reflected in person, clients and agencies will not appreciate that very much. 

Your portfolio is not meant to showcase the talent of photographers, makeup artists, or how sexually appealing you can be. Modeling photos are used for entertainment, and agencies want to see that you can portray a character other than yourself; they want you to be able to play the part of someone or something that is both entertaining and captivating. If you are Mary, a 25 year old office receptionist, agencies don’t want to see that Mary knows how to put on her favorite sweater and pose in front of a tree – because the portfolio is not about Mary at all. The portfolio is about Mary’s potential to be anything in the world, whether it’s a 1920’s flapper, a pin-up girl, an everyday suburban mom, or a munchkin from the Wizard of Oz. Your portfolio should contain 6-20 photos showcasing your ability to transform yourself into something compelling.

Since many agencies advertise models as belonging to an age group rather than an exact age, it’s important to show your ability to be adaptable. Showcase photos that display your youth, but include photos that make you look older than you are, too. If you are 24, you want to be able to pass for any age between 18 and 30 given the right clothes and makeup. Also, show in your photos that you are capable of making more than one face. It’s great if you’re happy all the time, but clients don’t want to see you smiling in every single photo. One of the most beautiful things about photographs is their ability to inflict emotion, and photos that draw emotion can be more striking than a photo where you’re overflowing with happiness. The most important thing to remember is that it’s not about what you want. As a professional model, you will dress and wear makeup according to what the agency or the client wants. That’s not to say you can’t model in a specific category – of course you can. You can specifically be a goth/grunge model, a lingerie model, a pinup model, etc., as long as you understand the importance of playing a character within that field – starting with your portfolio.

A Beginners Guide on How to Become a Model

Take the poll below to see if you think you have what it takes to becoming a model!


Models are known to be skinny, tall and beautiful. Modeling requires more items rather than only being beautiful. These other key items may include an in-depth knowledge of the talent, craft, and personality. Are you thinking about pursuing a career in modeling? Below is a guide on what you need to know in order to become a supermodel.


The first and foremost item that every aspiring model requires to know is what their key features are and ways to flaunt them. An individual should inspect her face, which should be free from make-up, and with her hair pulled back. Nowadays, things are done a bit different unlike in the past where the industry demanded strict Eurocentric and symmetry. What is the key item making your face more interesting? Do you have sleepy eyes? Full lips? A gap between your incisors? Any of the above-mentioned factors can be advantageous when it comes to being recalled by casting agents.

Make faces in front of the mirror. Bend your body into different and interesting positions, laugh on cue, and practice over the topmost emotion while still looking comfortable and natural. Try as much as possible to become comfortable in heels and other shoes used by models which you do not normally wear. You may be asked to jump, run, and skip while wearing heels. Learn his to move with heels fluidly.

Build your modeling portfolio

Once you are aware of your poses and your angels, it is the high time you hire a photographer. In order for an individual to get his or her face out there, he or she requires a few party pics and selfies snapped on his or her smartphone or iPhone. It is important to build a modeling portfolio. Portfolios standards have evolved, and therefore you need a polished and professional portfolio. There are two distinct types portfolios you will need to curate:

  • The first is your online portfolio: This is where a model shows the breadth of her versatility and experience.
  • The second is a traditional portfolio: this is a hardcopy type of portfolio. It usually features your eight to twelve best images. Building an I tensive portfolio shows casting agents what you are about to bring in the table and to what extent you are going to work for them. Building a portfolio should be evolving in a model as more and more experience is gained.

Make love to the camera.

Begin your modeling portfolio with headshots. Headshots can just be from the waist up or heads and shoulders. Your headshots should be accompanied by minimal jewelry, simple make-up, and minimally styled hair. For those who might have facial hair, they should consider grooming then nicely. Serious or smiling, you should make sure that your headshots put the best face forward because it will appear as the first image in your portfolio.


The next step you require is a full body shot. Here you will require to keep the photo playful or fierce, especially for those who are intending to explore commercial modeling. To clearly show your versatility you will need to include some editorial work in both your traditional and online portfolio. Look for an amazing theme, create a look, and look for experts in case you lack something striking enough. Commercial modeling is debatably difficult to get across in your portfolio. Commercial modeling is the state of acting in print which can be extremely hard to sell. But for those who do it right, the photographs are automatically compelling and sell both your abilities as a model and the product.

In addition, you will need including a certain section of any tearsheet you have. A tearsheet can be termed as a torn page of a certain publication where you have been featured.

Get signed

For those who are intending to begin modeling as their career in a certain industry, they will need the help of an agent. Agents are helpful to a model when refining your book, setting up go-sees, and directing your career. Agencies are playing a big role in finding talents through the social media platform. It is also practical to skip a middleman or an intermediate and approach an agency directly. Do intensive research to identify some of the skilled agencies near you. Look for an agency who is aligned with your desired industry.

Deciding what kind of model you are intending to become

This is one of an important step for someone who is intending to become a supermodel. There are various types of models each with different model requirements, such as style, height, and clothing size. Below are some types of modeling:

Fitness model

This type of modeling favors someone who likes to hit the gym. A fitness model displays a healthy, focused, and toned physique on maintaining muscles. Fitness model in the recent has become a driving force for many industries. Commercial magazines and several industries earn profits from opportunities for gym buffs.

Glamour model

Camera! Lights! Smolder! Glamour type of modeling is surprisingly diverse. Glamour modeling does not involve any limitations to body shape or size or any industry standards. Glamour models focus on the sultrier and sexier side of modeling: Boudoir, bikini, and lingerie fall under this umbrella.

Alt model

This is for individuals who have a collection of piercings and tattoos. Alternative models do not fit in with modeling industry norm when focusing on style and beauty. This is because of their piercings, tattoos, wardrobes, radical hair, corsets, and PVC.

Plus model

This is a type of modeling which has grown rapidly in recent years. Plus model is gaining a high competitive advantage because their markets are expanding now and then.

Runway model

This type of modeling strictly focuses on the desired requirements such as weight, height, and measurements. These type of models travel as much as possible in search of best fashion houses and designers.

Commercial or editorial

Editorial models are well known on how they interact with a camera to make interesting shapes with their bodies to give a certain impressive view of their garments.