Portrait Portfolios May 31 2008, 0 Comments

Building a portrait portfolio can be exciting. The goal should be to create a diverse group of images that show off your artistic style. When I began taking portraits, I was photographing women who were in need of a portfolio for modeling work. I found them to be a challenge, in that, they wanted every flaw removed from the images. In those days, air brushing was the tool used. Medium and large format negatives were often touched up. But I found that work cumbersome and not at all inspiring.

While reading the newspaper early one morning, it hit me: place an ad for “models wanted.” I wanted to work with photogenic models but not necessarily professional models. The response to my ad was overwhelming. To be certain that I could see everyone, and I did, I scheduled the first interview for only ten minutes. That would give me a chance to get some personal information and to get an idea as to whether or not the individual would be photogenic. I would then begin with some 80-100 responses. From the initial interviews, I would break it down to about 15-20 models. From there, I would conduct a 10-20 minute shoot. (You will be able to tell who is comfortable with the camera and who is not even in such a short period of time.) Sometimes, even after all of the preliminary work, I would not have anyone that really stood out, leaving me to start the process all over again! But on a good day, when all was said and done, I usually had one or two models that I really wanted to work with. These are the models that would become a part of my portrait portfolio.

Building a portfolio in this way allows you to experiment with lighting and backgrounds. It gives you an opportunity to shoot on location and in your studio. Most of all, you can take your time with your work and with getting to know your model. It is an excellent way to build your portfolio while developing your own style.

A few other tips:

Notify, either with an email or by mail all of those models that you will NOT be meeting with again. It is not just courteous, it is good business.

Be certain to get all of your model’s information and ask for proof of identity.

Be certain to get a model release which not only allows you to take the photographs but gives you the right to publish and sell the images. These forms can be found online. I have also come across model release forms in some photography books.

Your model will require some form of payment after the initial interview and the first shoot. I paid by the hour for each additional shoot.

Plan your shoots ahead of time and get your lighting in place. You don’t want to waste time with your model, especially if she is being paid by the hour.

Allow your models freedom to move. I have found that if I step back, so to speak, the models will naturally pose themselves. Don’t be afraid to let the shoot unfold.

Finally, I always provided my models with copies of the images that I took. This is not just a fine PR thing to do. It is a way of getting images out, and more work flowing in!