Every time I set up a portfolio test shoot (or some TFP), the models/actors ask me what they should bring.
Here's a little insight that might help you to prepare the next time you're heading out to test or TFP for
material to add to your portfolio!
A good starter portfolio contains casual, sporty, trendy, and dressy (fashion) type images. Swimwear is
generally not advisable for the portfolio you will be shopping around on general terms, but if swimwear is
an option to your modeling interests, then it benefits to have some swimwear images at least available
when needed. Many models will carry these type shots in an envelope in the back of their portfolio case,
just in case. Lingerie is not advisable for a portfolio (unless you have tear sheets from catalog work
you've done in Victoria's Secret, or the like!), and nude or figure images are absolutely a sure way to
ensure that no agency in town will sign you for serious modeling work. Remember also that while photographers
often want to shoot artsy images (and what photographer doesn't?), these are great to have for your own use,
but a serious modeling portfolio is more straightforward work that displays the models abilities, not the
creative genius of the photographer. By all means do all the artsy work you can, it is vital to your talent
and abilities, but keep a separation between that and what you actually use in your portfolio.
Models wardrobe is important, and in a TFP or testing situation, almost always the model is responsible for
providing his or her own wardrobe. Some models arrive for a shoot with their entire closet in the trunk of
their car, in suitcases, bags, or buckets. That can become the extreme, but always plan to bring more than
you really anticipate needing. The photographer will work with you at the time of the shoot to pick and
choose what outfit's best fit the overall objective, setting and activities. A good basic starter list of
wardrobe items to bring includes:
2. Leather Pants
5. Shorts (designer as well as cut-offs)
6. T-Shirts (white, black, colored, with and without graphics
7. Shirts and blouses - solid colors and pattern
9. Pajama's (not lingerie, but a man's oversized shirt or flannels, for instance, can be great to use)
10. High heel shoes and Pumps
11. Tennis shoes and assorted socks (ankle, thigh, knee)
12. Hose and Stockings
13. Dresses (short, long, casual & elegant and dressy)
14. Jackets, Coats and Sweaters (depending upon the weather, of course)
15. Swimwear (bikini's seem more common, but a good one-piece is ultimate)
Of course you will always bring the basics of black, white and beige undergarments. You never want to get
caught with only black undergarments and the shoot is in White blouses or the like.
Unusual items for wardrobe are also sometimes nice. Do you have access to someone's military uniform? What
about something you've worn for Halloween? Perhaps you are a cheerleader or play some sport that has a unique
uniform? Bring these along.
Makeup should be a lot less of a concern than most models would think. I prefer a model to arrive for a
shoot with her normal makeup already applied. This should be more than on a casual day, however, not as much
as if going out to a nightclub, etc. Foundation, lips, and eyes are the primary areas to concentrate on.
Nails are also a concern, though this depends again upon what type of content is being shot for. In 'glamour'
type situations, a full set of professional nails certainly can't hurt. For more casual and general portfolio
work, nails should be presentable and nail color should not be extremely bright or overdone. Matching nail
color to lipstick can be quite beneficial. Toe nails, if wearing sandals, etc., is a consideration also and
should match accordingly.
Hair is vitally as important as makeup. You should attempt to be ready to adjust to several styles during a
portfolio type shoot, from long and straight, to curly or more Bring clips, barrettes, Bobbie-pins, bows,
and any other instruments used to help adjust your hairs' look from down to up, pig- or pony-tails, and
anything and everything above, beyond, and in-between.
Minimize jewelry. For a very elegant, dressy shot, necklaces and bracelets may be okay, but for general shots
you should not distract or draw attention away from yourself with jewelry. Even a wristwatch of multiple rings
for most shots is discouraged. A consideration when going on location is that when you have to remove such
items, you run the risk of them being lost. Leave these items at home, or at least bring a purse of jewelry case
to keep them safe in during a shoot.
Props (including such things as sunglasses, hats, sporting equipment, etc.) are great tools to use as long as
you remember that it is the model in a portfolio that should be the center of attention, not his or her activity
and/or any props or settings being used. I often see photographers seeking information on fantastic new
locations they can use to shoot at that will help enhance their images, but general portfolio work is more about
the model than anything around them, so even the most mundane settings can be ideal for portfolio work. I use a
lot of walls and solid backgrounds wherever possible in order not to draw attention away from the model. At the
same time, a balance of locations and sometimes even somewhat distracting settings can enhance an image, even
for a portfolio. Use your own best judgment as always to come out in the end with the material you need for your
Some good suggestions for props to be used in a shoot may include, but certainly is not limited to the following:
1. Sunglasses and regular glasses (even if you normally wear none).
2. Hats (baseball style, designer, funny or unusual).
4. Sports equipment (bats, balls, rackets, etc.).
5. Brief case for business look.
6. Books and/or backpack for the look of a student.
7. Anything your imagination and resources have available.
Props can be so totally subjective to too many elements to actually provide a good, solid and accurate listing.
Use your imagination - the above is a starter for examples.
Arrive at the shoot ready to go right to work with the minimum of makeup retouch, and have ideas in mind already
for good outfit combinations. Again, the photographer will generally work with you on the outfits, and a good
thing to do at the beginning of the shoot is to show the photographer what items you have brought along so that
during the shoot, the photographer can keep wardrobe changes in mind based upon the backgrounds and locations you
are working at.
While all emphasis should be on selecting the best TFP photographer(s) that you can, if you're a model who intends
to build a portfolio to be used to solicit yourself to agents, or towards modeling jobs remember that when you
leave any situation where you have shown your portfolio the impression you wish to leave behind you is “wow, what
a great model”, not “ wow, what a great photographer that model had”.
© 2012 Modelscoutsusa | Images:
Gordon Forsyth Professional
Photography Established 1979 | Email: