Modelling Portfolio Photography

Working as a fashion photographer has taken me around the globe, shooting editorial assignments and working with some of the world’s leading model agencies including Ford Model Management (Paris, New York, LA), Elite, Next, Wilhelmina (New York), IMG, Women, Click, Karins (New York), Models International (Hong Kong), Elite (Singapore) and Storm (London), Vivien’s (Sydney), Chadwick’s (Sydney).

Whether you're considering a career in modelling or you're a professional model needing to update your model portfolio you'll find a range of options as well as helpful industry advice by scrolling down this page. This advice includes tips on how to break into the industry as well as preparation advice on how to get the most out of your model portfolio session with me.

I'm excited to be able to share this inside knowledge with you and guide those with no previous experience through this process step by step. Aside from my two decades of experience as a fashion photographer, I've also been fortunate to have worked on the other side of the camera as a professional model myself with leading agencies like Chic, Vivien's and Elite Models. I look forward to sharing with you what I've learnt along the way as well as hopefully providing you with a set of portfolio pictures that I hope will open up some pretty exciting doors for you in the future. 

Marie Selepec. Karin Model Management, Paris. Photo © Kiren

Marie Selepec. Karin Model Management, Paris. Photo © Kiren

The Model Portfolio

What a lot of people don't realise is that there's a lot more to being a successful model than simply having good looks. It's an art form in itself that requires a sense of body awareness, the ability to 'work the camera' and also cultivate a mental catalogue of what poses work best for your body type. Your model portfolio along with your social media accounts such as instagram serve as a professional showcase representing your skills and potential in front of the camera. In the modelling industry your portfolio is often the first point of contact you'll have with a client, photographer or magazine editor. Often, as with on-line portfolios it's your only chance to impress them before they decide on whether or not to get you in for a casting. 

Interview with Kiren - Tips and advice on model portfolio shoots for beginners. New York 2019

Book Your Shoot

Booking your model portfolio shoot is easy. Simply email me today for my current pricing and available shoot dates. Payment can be made by cash, on-line bank transfer or credit card.


General hand retouching is included with all your hero shots. Your files will be adjusted for exposure, colour and contrast correction, sharpening, work on minor skin blemishes, stray hairs, dark circles under eyes, minor wrinkles and irises. Custom orders may be charged an additional fee.


Make multiple prints at cost price from your high resolution digital Jpeg files (supplied A4 size at 300 dpi). 

Session Length

The length of your session will depend on a numbers of factors including how well you respond to the camera (new people may need more time) and the amount of outfit changes you decide to shoot. As you'll be receiving professional direction, most people usually don't need more than 10 minutes to nail a look or an outfit. During this time there's no limit to the amount of images we shoot.

Shoot Preparation

I often get asked for advice from new models wondering what they can do to prepare for their model portfolio session. Start by narrowing down your wardrobe selection. Prioritise the items that suit your body type and select colours that compliment your complexion. Allow time to buy any accessories you may need. If you're stuck for ideas browse through some current fashion magazines for inspiration on styling as well as posing.

If you're getting a hair cut it's best to do it a week before. This way your hair will have time to settle.

On the days leading up to your shoot you'll want to check your clothes are in optimum condition and allow time for dry cleaning if necessary. You'll want your skin and lips to be well moisturised so if you don't have a regular routine start one as soon as possible. Remember to hydrate as much as possible as this will reduce dark rings under your eyes and make your skin more radiant. Your nails should also be clean and in good condition. Women should remember to remove any old nail polish. 

On the day before your shoot, double check the address of the studio or location on your GPS or on Google Maps. Be sure to get a good nights sleep so as you wake up with a clear head.

Before arriving at the location of your photo shoot or casting remember to take off your sunglasses. This way you'll avoid marks on the bridge of your nose.

The truth is professional models are rarely given much notice before their next photo shoot or casting. It therefore pays for new models to start developing good habits earlier on. The great thing about undertaking a model portfolio session (known in the industry as a paid test), is that it's a safe environment where you can experiment with ideas, gain experience and learn from your mistakes along the way.

Wardrobe Advice

I recommend bringing along a range of different outfits from which you can mix and match a variety of combinations from. If it's your first model portfolio shoot you may want at least 5 different looks. Depending on your look and physique this may include fashion, corporate, casual, swim wear lingerie and activewear. At least 2 of these looks will be full length shots so consider including footwear.

For women, a good set of heels can really help to elongate your figure. Accessories like hats and small handbags can be useful props. Props are also great because they give you something to do with your hands. 

Where possible avoid wearing clothing with large areas of white. White has a tendency to blow out and lose detail in pictures. Also, depending on your physique it can make you look larger. Another thing that's handy to avoid is loose clothing that hides your figure, horizontal strips, logos and loud patterns. You want the person who is viewing your model portfolio pictures to be drawn to you, not your clothing. 

Wear outfits that compliment your figure and clothing that reveals your best features. Just because an item of clothing is currently trendy does n't mean it will look good on every body type.  

Keep jewellery simple. Quite often a great shot can be spoilt by the wrong choice of earrings. If you're unsure or anything leave it out.

For Men, I highly recommend you start with a suit or at least a suit jacket and jeans. This will frame your torso and give you good shoulder definition. Keep your other outfit choices clean and simple. If you work out, make sure you include a 'wife-beater' (singlet). Definitely iron all collared shirts and arrive with them on a hanger. 

Occasionally I get asked by first time models about whether clothing is provided on model portfolio shoots. Although I work regularly with professional fashion stylists on editorial and advertising jobs, the budget for these shoots usually begins at ten thousand dollars. Due to the expense, models doing self funded portfolios usually don't work with a full crew and fashion stylist. As a working model you will need your own clothing that you can wear to castings and even certain jobs. While some photography studios may offer to supply clothing as part of their model portfolio package the outfits are usually not fashionable, not suitable for modelling and are only available in one size.

At the end of the day, a model portfolio shoot is about showing you off, not your clothes. While it needs to be done by a fashion photographer, it is not a fashion shoot (where the focus is on the clothing) or a glamour shoot (where the focus is on transformation). Keep your clothing choices clean and simple, and make sure everything fits you well.

Studio shoot with Miki Davis, Debut Model Management

Studio shoot with Miki Davis, Debut Model Management

Hair & Make Up

If you're looking to approach a model agent for the first time you'll get a better response using pictures that look like you (on a good day). Your look just needs to be fresh and natural. Consider using things like freckles to your advantage. These can very much be a part of your personal appeal. 

For male models a hair & make up artist is not necessary for a model portfolio shoot. Instead I recommend bringing along some hair product and lip balm. Drink lots of water and moisturise your skin well ahead of time. 

For girls who are new to modelling, you simply need enough make up to enhance your look. It need only be eyes and lips. If you're young and you have good skin you don't even need foundation.  The most common mistake I see most first time models make is using too much make up.

Make up for model portfolio shoots is far more subtle when compared to fashion photography, where the make up is used to create a specific look for an editor or a designer. Clients and model agents will want to see you as a blank canvas. Later, when you’re a working model you can build diversity into your portfolio with shots from actual jobs and campaigns.

I recommend staying away from artificial tans, as on camera they can look unnatural (think Tandoori chicken). Should you feel confident though, it's best applied 3 days before your shoot. A more effective solution however is to allow a make up artist to achieve this look through the use of bronzer, contouring and shading.

Let me know in advance if you would like a professional hair & make up artist. I use industry to industry freelance artists. The rates will vary. You are also welcome to make your own arrangements before you come to the shoot.

Turn Around Time

Your digital proof files are usually ready for viewing within 3 business days after your shoot. A 24 hour rush service is also available for an additional fee. 

Gift Vouchers

If you'd like to provide someone special with a gift voucher simply nominate the amount you would like to contribute. I'll then email you a tax invoice from which you can make an on-line payment. An e-voucher is then sent to the recipient of your choice which will allow them to then book in for their session. 

Copyright & Usage

The rates quoted for your model portfolio session allow for your images to be used for the purpose of promoting you as a model, artist or entertainer. You are free to print multiple copies from you high res digital files as well as send them to your agent who is welcome print them onto agency comp cards or upload them to the agency website. If however you wish to use the images for  advertising, merchandising, product endorsements, point of sale and well as TV, theatre and film posters you will need to inform me beforehand so as we can work out an appropriate usage rate and file size.

If you're new to working with professional photographers it may come as a surprise to learn that even though you are paying for a photography session the intellectual rights to the images remain the property of the photographer. It's much the same as if you were to purchase a book or a DVD. You may own a physical copy of the material, however the author or the film production company still owns the rights to that material. This is standard practice in most countries around the world. A photographer may also on occasion use the images as samples of their work in a portfolio context. Your images however can not be sold on to third parties or be used for advertising unrelated products without your written consent. You also have the option of buying the images outright for an additional fee. This is called a 'buy out'. In this situation the photographer has transferred all ownership rights to you

Fashion shoot with Sydney Barber, IMG Model Management

Fashion shoot with Sydney Barber, IMG Model Management

Model Advice

The following advice is for those of you who are looking to get into modelling. I've compiled this information from my own personal research and experience - having worked with many of the world's leading model agencies and fashion magazines. I also draw upon my own personal experience as a professional model, having worked on many international campaigns for brands like BMW, Visa Card, Nokia, Buick and Singapore Airlines. I hope you find the information useful and I encourage anyone with a dream to get out there and take that initial step.

Getting Down To Business

While a career in modelling can provide you with the opportunity to travel to glamorous locations, attend exciting events and get paid an attractive income at the same time, it's not all about standing around and looking gorgeous. There is a certain amount of effort and skill involved in maintaining one's appearance, developing a good portfolio, cultivating the right attitude and finding the right agent who will represent you in the best possible way. Let's look at each of these topics in more detail. 

Your Appearance

It is important to maintain your fitness level and health in terms of a good diet and regular exercise. This will not only make you look better but also feel better as well. If you feel better you make others around you feel good. It has a way of coming back to you. 

Your hair, skin and nails are things you must maintain each week. If an advertising agency is going to pay you thousands of dollars to be the face of their new campaign it is only natural that they will expect the best from you. 

Your Portfolio

Generally model portfolios can be divided into two categories. Commercial, which goes out to advertising agencies, clients and advertising photographers. The images in this portfolio will have mainstream appeal and usually look clean and polished. The second category is editorial, which is usually more cutting edge and alternative in style. This portfolio has more appeal to magazine editors and fashion photographers. If you are unsure which direction you should be marketing yourself towards a reputable model agency or fashion photographer should be able to give you free informative advice.

Aside from yourself, your portfolio is your other most important tool of the trade. If you're starting out, model agents, editors and photographers will not be expecting to see tear sheets (magazine pages) straight away, however they will want to see how well you respond to the camera. 

Be very selective with the shots that you show them. Only select pictures that flatter you and show off your potential. It's better to show a portfolio with 7 great pictures, than 27 average pictures. Keep people wanting more. Take advantage of the fact that you are new to the industry and appear fresh. This can actually give you an advantage over models that have been around longer.

If you are doing a model portfolio shoot (known in the industry as a test) for the very first time one of the most important things you'll want to show is a sense of confidence and the ability to look natural in your pictures. On the day of your shoot, be sure to explain to the photographer that it's your first time in front of the camera. Choose to work with one that will be patient with you.

Be aware of your best features and wear outfits that reveal these features. Alternatively, if there are parts of your body that you don't feel confident about you can also choose to wear clothing that will cover these areas. A good fashion photographer will not only be able to give you advice in this area. They will also direct you into poses with that intention in mind. 

Before arriving at your photography shoot, remember to remove your sunglasses well beforehand so as not to leave marks on the bridge of your nose. If you are shooting beauty or swimwear, avoid wearing tight underwear to your shoot as it will also leave marks on your skin.

Become aware of your best side and best angles. Finally, learn to project energy. This is something you must connect with within yourself. Once you harness it, learn to deliver it down the barrel of the lens. This does n't mean your performance has to be big or you have to be an extrovert. In fact many of the world's top models and actors are introverts. Think of the way in which an actor like Nicole Kidman can deliver a subtle but powerful performance. 

Modelling Photography Sydney

Your Attitude

Having a good attitude and being someone who is easy to work with goes a long way in this industry. The more professional you are the more respect you will gain. Be aware that modelling is a highly competitive world and there will be rejection and let downs along the way. Learn to separate your personal feelings from your work. Welcome constructive criticism as an opportunity for self-improvement. With the right attitude and perspective you can gain a great sense of satisfaction and self-confidence.

If you are serious about a modelling career it may be helpful to start to acquire a few background skills - particularly skills that will help you develop good posture and body awareness such as yoga, acting and dance. A model's life is very spontaneous and each job will present new challenges. The more skills you have up your sleeve the more prepared and confident you will be. 

Getting An Agent

If you are completely new to modelling, you'll want to contact an agency to gain representation. They will want you to initially email them some photos of yourself. The photos you send to the agency don't have to be professional shots at this stage however you will create a better first impression if you can provide them with images that are flattering and well crafted. It's also advantageous if you can show a sense of presence and body awareness in your pictures.  For this reason working with an experienced photographer who can direct you into poses can be a huge benefit.  

When approaching an agent I'd recommend getting the name of the head booker in the men's or women's division and emailing them with a selection of your best pictures. Make sure you have at least one headshot, one full length body shot and another shot that shows energy and personality. A lot of model agencies will also have open calls. This is a particular time they have set aside each week to look at new talent. If you have what they are looking for they may sign you up on the spot. I would recommend seeing a number of agencies before making a commitment. Contracts in Australia vary, generally though once you're signed you are exclusive to that agency for the period of the contract. 

Ilona Novacek, Chadwick Model Management Sydney © Kiren

Ilona Novacek, Chadwick Model Management Sydney © Kiren

Model Agents Overseas

Getting an agent overseas can be your ticket to a very exciting lifestyle. I spent several years in my early 30's travelling from country to country working through a total of 9 agencies around the globe (while still having a camera slung over my shoulder). If you already have a local agent, they may be interested in linking you up with one of their sister agencies overseas. Alternatively you can also approach these agents yourself by sending them your model photos and measurements.

Overseas model agents can also organise work visas and accommodation.

Modelling Categories

There are different types of models that suit different markets. While some models may cross over and do several categories, I have listed the basic ones below. It's important to also note that model agencies will tend to specialise in these categories. If you think you have potential then it comes down to finding the right type of agency for your look.


Fashion & feature stories for magazines.


Runway shows for fashion designers.


Advertising, TV commercials & fashion catalogues.


Fashion & lingerie catalogues, men's magazines.


Events and trade shows.

Be aware that the direction of fashion and advertising changes every six months, so too does demand for different types of looks. What's 'in' will vary from city to city and country to country.

When Should You Start Modelling?

This is a common question. If you consider that clothing designers make clothing for infants, children, adults as well as old folks in retirement (all of which need to be modelled for ads and catalogues), the answer pretty well is as soon as you can walk. 

Typically in Australia most fashion models start to think seriously about their career from the age of 16. They will line up meetings with model agents and go out to casting on school holidays. In places like Milan it is not unusual to have girls working full time, and on the cover of magazines like Vogue from the age of 14.

Model Castings

If you'd like the opportunity to audition for some of the advertising campaigns I shoot feel free to join me on Facebook (just go to my contact page). 


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbour, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.
— Mark Twain
Model Photography

Photography and text copyright © Kiren Photography 2019