What makes good portfolio photos?

Models often ask this question. Good portfolio images should show what you’re all about. They should show all your best features, your versatility, your breadth of styles and above all something of your personality. Whilst not hiding anything, de-emphasising negatives through lighting or angle is fine, but they shouldn’t be digitally altered to make legs thinner or remove your tummy. Airbrushing should be kept to a minimum too.

It’s worth paying a good studio-based professional photographer for the occasional portfolio shoot. But look at their work first… if it’s the same photos time after time just with different faces, don’t bother. Those photographers with so little originality, creativity and imagination that they repeat the same shots endlessly, should be avoided like the plague. They’ll rip you off and leave you with sets of photos which are useless for portfolio purposes and which professionals will just laugh at.

Unfortunately this industry is dominated by such charlatans. Some will call you up because you’ve appeared somewhere on the net, and grab your interest by saying that some modelling agency, with a name borrowed from some fashion label or other, is interested in you, and inviting you to a free shoot. Of course nothing is ever really free. All the indications will be that you have to pay for the shots, and it won’t be cheap. But if you don’t pay, you won’t be considered for their agency. Actually in reality there is no agency, it’s just a photo studio. The shots, whilst ok photographically, will be just like the ones taken of the last 1,000 girls who happened through their doors, and the at least £500 you pay won’t get you anywhere in the modelling world.

The photographer’s past work is all-important, because it’s a strong indication of what you’ll get. Nothing is ever free. If you’re paying money, make sure what you’re paying for is worth having. If you’re not paying money, ask yourself why this is! Eyes wide open, girls and boys, or you’ll only have yourselves to blame.

Jon Silver is a Sussex photographer based in Brighton.

This entry was posted in Photography Blog.


  1. anon June 17, 2009 at 6:09 pm #

    i give it 2 or 3 months before the history of this page is visible on the “way back machine” internet archive (http://web.archive.org). should end up visible here i guess: http://bit.ly/cdbZ3

    in the mean time google’s cached version shows the original comments: http://bit.ly/Dzjr6

    at least in the states we have the 1st amendment.

  2. Jon Silver June 17, 2009 at 2:19 pm #

    Having mentioned no names whatsoever in my article above, a chap called Mike Hannah, a director of the company which trades variously as Pure Space Studios, Blue Rooms Studios and Diesel Models has contacted me today by telephone, email and posted letter to ask me to remove two third-party comments which mentioned Diesel Models by name. The comments in question expressed feelings of disappointment and dismay at the service received by two former customers of Diesel Models, and those individuals’ opinions that the company was to be avoided. Mr Hannah’s removal request was accompanied by assertions that the comments made by the third parties concerned were defamatory, and that I was responsible for that defamation as the comments appeared on my web site. Threats of further action, including words such as “slander” and “legal action”, were made by Mr Hannah in the event that I did not remove the comments. Mr Hannah claims to have been advised by litigation lawyers at Gillhams Solicitors.

    I have therefore removed the two comments from public view.

    Thought for the day: An itch, once scratched, can become a raging boil; it’s sometimes better to just leave it alone.

    Advice for would-be models: try a few Google searches first.

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