Jason Christopher, LA Commercial & Fashion Photographer Bio

INDEX

Shooting The Model Portfolio

August 26th, 2010

When a fashion model calls me asking to shoot for her model portfolio what does that involve ?  I get this question often and I love to answer my fellow photographer comrades.

ASK QUESTIONS – GAIN INSIGHT – GIVE ANSWERS

The first thing I ask the model is if she is new and has no photos at all or is she a working model and just needs to update her portfolio.  If she tells me that she is  just starting out, doesn’t  have an agency yet and needs to start a portfolio, then I ask her how tall she is, what color hair , measurements etc.   That will lead to her emailing me a couple of snapshots of herself so I can get an idea of what type of modeling she should get into.  If she is 5′ 6″ – 5′ 7″ then I know she is not going in to high fashion.  If she has a beautiful body and great hair and is physically fit then what I would do is:

1. Shoot a beauty shot that emphasizes her beautiful hair and skin.

2. Shoot her in a swimsuit. It can be in studio or on a beach or even the desert.

3. Have her bring a running outfit or a tennis outfit.  Maybe she does yoga.  A fitness shot is important.

4. Shoot  a commercial fashion / Hollister/ Abercrombie type shot.  Commercial fashion is big in Los Angeles and actually it’s big everywhere.  You can’t go wrong with this look.

5. Lingerie is popular and pays good money for a model.   If she doesn’t want to do lingerie then I would change it to something in the look of a catalog “Gap” looking shot.  So that is five different shots.  I shoot in studio and outdoors at a couple different locations that suit the shot.

This is a nice variety of images that show the model in enough situations for the agent to get an idea of where the agency can place her and which castings to send out on.

Now some might not have a home studio and can only shoot outdoors.  That’s ok.  I just shoot both because I have a home studio.  The more variety you can offer the better.  I know what agencies want to see because I have been doing this so long and have seen hundreds and hundreds of model portfolios.

MAKE UP ARTIST

I ALWAYS include a make up/ hair artist and keep the make up simple, not over the top.  Remember that the model is a product to the agency and the agency is selling the product.   When I hold a casting I wanna see what the model looks like and I don’t want to see photos that the photographer has retouched so much that she looks fake.  Do not over do the retouching guys.  Save that for your advertising clients and editorials.

PRINT SIZE

The standard print size for a model portfolio is 9″x12″  Some agencies do use smaller books but the majority use 9″ x 12″ prints.

CLOTHING

As far as clothing is concerned I have the girl bring her own clothes.  I email her examples of the look we will be going for so she can plan.  Always have her bring twice the amount of outfits.  So five looks she should bring ten outfits.  That way I have choices and I can mix and match if need be.

LIGHTING

You DON’T  want to use flat boring lighting, but you also don’t want to light too dramatically either.  Remember as you are going through the day that she is going to try to get an agent and the agent wants to see what she looks like.

beauty headshot of a model with blonde beautiful hair, jason christopher

Now I want to remind you that this photo HAS NOT been retouched yet and the model did have slight acne, but with the combination of a great make up artist and soft beauty lighting, this image will only need slight retouching.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to light your work so it doesn’t have to go through hours of retouching.  It only creates a bigger budget for the client no matter how small or large the client is.

high fashion photo studio lighting by jason christopher

To sum up, when you get the call to shoot a model portfolio you want to:

1. Ask questions – gain insight – give answers

2. Shoot five different looks.

3. Shoot in studio (if you can) and shoot on location

4. Include a make up/ hair artist

5. Use clean flattering lighting.

Talk to your model during the whole shoot.  Direct the model especially if she is new and never shot before.  You need to help her feel confident and sexy.  You are the one person she is counting on to make her shots great and that those shots get her an agent !

Now get out there and shoot shoot shoot !  Ask me anything you would like and share with everyone !  :-)

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29 Responses to “Shooting The Model Portfolio”

  1. Jackie Lund Says:

    Great article Jason. I personally think that every model should have a simple, clean head shot in their portfolio. If someone is shooting with me and they don’t have one already, that is the first look I will do with them.

    Quick question though… why is a fitness shot important? Is it mostly for the commercial models?

    Have a great day,
    Jackie

    [Reply]

    Jason Christopher Reply:

    Hi Jackie.
    Thank you for the compliment. A fitness shot (presuming the model is fit of course) is important because fitness is so popular and there are many ads that sell fitness products as well as the activities that are associated with fitness. Think about all the diet pills, vitamins, clothing, sport drinks etc.
    In your major markets like Los Angeles and Miami fitness is huge and there are many opportunities for models who also act to do print and commercials in the fitness field.

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  2. Dan Shaw (Dream Row) Says:

    Great information Jason. Wish I had the talent to photograph beautiful women.

    [Reply]

    Jason Christopher Reply:

    Thank you Dan ! I appreciate it :-)

    [Reply]

  3. markowen Says:

    Thanks again for another great blog Jason. This is very useful. I agree lighting is everything.

    How many frames do you shoot per look and how many do print out of those frames?

    [Reply]

    Jason Christopher Reply:

    Hi Mark,
    Thank you. This is a very good question and I am so glad you asked it. For some odd reason photographers of today who have never shot film think that because they CAN shoot thousands of images that they should. As a matter of fact you just inspired me for a great post !
    It really depends on the type of shoot, whether it’s an editorial or an advertising shoot regarding how many frames I shoot per look. On a model portfolio shoot I only shoot between 36-41 frames per look. You would be shocked at what size cards I use for a portfolio shoot. I use 1GB and 2GB cards. The reason for this is with my 5D Mark 2 the 1GB gives me roughly 36 frames and the 2GB gives me roughly 72 frames. I’m going to expand on this in a huge way on my next post which will come out a bit later.
    Now as far as printing is concerned, the model only needs one print per look BUT sometimes she will order more and that’s ok.
    Thank you for your question Mark

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  4. Wil Says:

    Thanks for another fantastic topic Jason. I’ve often run into the stunning 5’7” or shorter prospective model that gave up all hopes of modeling because she wasn’t 5’8” or more. There is such a stigma that if you’re not 5’8” or taller you’re out of the game completely; perhaps for a certain type of modeling like high fashion. You worded it perfectly and to imply that it’s about being realistic about your goals as a model and choosing the appropriate genre.

    I got into photography as a result of my being a graphic designer. For a time, I may not have been the guy who took the picture but I’m the guy who may have designed the cd or magazine cover, the tear sheet, or the poster. As a result, I see the dozens of genres and subgenres of modeling everyday.

    If you’re realistic about your goals and prospects as a model I believe there are always likely to be opportunities. As a budding photographer, my eye is becoming notably keener shoot by shoot. The images are getting better compositionally and I find myself employing your advice here more and more. I have begun helping them to discover their potential market as a model based on several different factors you’ve touched on, height being among them.

    Wil

    [Reply]

    Jason Christopher Reply:

    Hi Will.

    Well that is just awesome ! I am so happy you are employing my advice more and it’s working out good for you ! The more you shoot the more you will discover, which leads to a growth process that will never stop. :-)

    Thank you Wil

    [Reply]

  5. Joey Says:

    Great post again Jason (I am visiting after a month, laptop bust :) ). Thanks for sharing the tips.

    I know lighting is very important. I understand the basic setups you can use indoors (all thanks to you again :) ). However, I was wondering what setup should you prefer for the outdoor snaps?

    I mean, can you do it with just a speedlite & reflector? (like you did for your swimwear shoot?) Does such a look work when you do a portfolio?

    [Reply]

    Jason Christopher Reply:

    Hi Joey,
    Thank you and you’re very welcome. To answer your question I will say YES ! Matter of fact when I shoot a model portfolio and we do outdoor shots I always use my speed light and or a reflector. There is no need to drag a ton of lighting outdoors UNLESS you are shooting an editorial or a campaign with multiple models and maybe a car etc. But for just a basic model portfolio remember that simpler is better ;-)

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  6. VanillaSeven Says:

    Thanks Jason for the great tips!
    I will shooting two models portfolio this coming weekend back to back.
    Your advice about the clothing and communication with the model are very useful.
    Do you do a site visit like a day before outdoor photoshoot?

    [Reply]

    Jason Christopher Reply:

    Hey buddy ! Long time no see ! Congrats on your upcoming shoots. Yes I ALWAYS scout a location or locations about a week before the shoot. I wanna see where the sun is at certain times of the day, visually plan my shots etc. This is if I have never been to a location of course. It’s great to hear from you. Don’t be a stranger :-)

    [Reply]

  7. Dave Clee Says:

    This is a great write up Mr Christopher…!!

    Havent been on here in awhile and good to see you are going strong..

    Cheers

    Dave

    [Reply]

    Jason Christopher Reply:

    Dave ! Great to hear from you. Thank you for the compliment.

    [Reply]

  8. akbar Says:

    Amazing tips. but in my country(Iran) modeling and publishing photos are somehow illegal, so this kind of job is fully personal. My main question is how to ask a model to show her sense during shooting. when i watch your photos, i can get many senses sense of to be a woman, to be sexy, etc. but our models are not able to show it. besides, shooting with swim suit or such these things!!! wow, we will be killed!
    anyway, is there any way to learn to the models?

    [Reply]

    Jason Christopher Reply:

    Hi Akbar,
    Wow sounds like you have many obstacles you need to conquer before you can even push the shutter button !

    What you are asking is how to get your model to open up and show her personality and give you different emotions. This my friend even in America is the most important job of the photographer and can be the toughest.
    I truly believe that you must first understand women and relate to them as a friend with kindness and sincerity.
    When your model is getting her make up put on go and talk to her. Smile ALOT and speak very calm especially with your Iranian women who are afraid of many things to begin with. Ask her if she likes school, classes she takes, or talk about her friends and what she likes to do. This will help her feel comfortable with you BEFORE she steps on to your set.
    While shooting remember to always compliment her on how beautiful she looks, her eyes, skin , hair etc. Say everything with enthusiasm. The model will feed off your energy. Just have fun and she will start to have fun and loosen up. It will be a slow process in your case because of your circumstances, however, be patient and NEVER EVER lose your temper. That is a sure fire way to never get a model to trust you.

    My best to you Akbar and thank you for your question.

    [Reply]

  9. Headshots_LA Says:

    Amazing tips. Great post Jason. Thanks for sharing the tips.A good portfolio by an experienced photographer gives you valuable experiences apart from getting a good break in the fashion industry.

    [Reply]

    Jason Christopher Reply:

    Thank you very much ! An experienced photographer also knows how to direct a model and actor just as if I was directing a movie. A good photographer must be able to pull from a model or actor and make them shine from within.

    [Reply]

  10. Dale Anderson Says:

    Jason,

    I enjoyed the article. I’m a photojournalist with more years experience than I’d care to admit. I have had limited experience with Fashion and Model photography. I recently took a shot of a nephew at a family gathering and when I started working with the image I was impressed with his demeanor, for lack of a better description and mentioned to him that I thought with the proper approach he may have a shot at some modeling jobs. Of course, there is the possibility that a photojournalist doesn’t know what he is talking about, but in case I saw something legitimate, what advice would you have for this young man?

    I would be happy to let you look at the photo.

    I appreciate your attention.

    [Reply]

    Jason Christopher Reply:

    Hi Dale. Thank you for the compliment. How old is your nephew? At any age my advice to someone who I think has potential to model would be to tell them your opinion and then ask them what they want. A few years ago my 6 year old nephew got into modeling and was great ! He shot a full page Ralph Lauren ad, some Disney ads but then he decided that he just would not have anymore of this modeling thing. He cried and cried and my sister finally pulled him out. It sucks because the kid could make millions. He’s got a look to die for, but HE just did not want it.

    [Reply]

  11. Piotr Says:

    Hi

    Thanks for great article, I am also looking for full list of some kind of classic shooting convention, I mean:

    - Portrait
    - 3/4
    … (what could be else?)

    Thanks for any help
    Piotr

    [Reply]

    Jason Christopher Reply:

    Hi Piotr. I don’t really understand your question. Maybe ask in a different way?

    [Reply]

  12. Piotr Says:

    Sorry for being not clear, I am preparing for portfolio shooting and I am looking for some kind of catalogue of poses e.g. Portraits, full body poses, etc. I understand that shooting is more about improvisation, but it is also goot to know the notes ;)

    [Reply]

    Jason Christopher Reply:

    Ahhhh ok I understand now. I searched Amazon for model posing and got many results. Hope this helps.

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=model+posing&x=0&y=0

    [Reply]

    Piotr Reply:

    Thanks a lot.. this is what I was looking for :)
    Once again thanks for great article

    [Reply]

    Jason Christopher Reply:

    You’re very welcome ! Cheers !

    [Reply]

  13. book fotografico Says:

    I’m extremely impressed your blog is very much good. Truly amazing it’s a wonderful. You should have already been doing this long before but look through some of the major fashion mags like Vogue, Teen, etc. to look at poses and to get new ideas. For a commercial model – the clothing is a costume. The clothing is meant to make the character convincing. Your portfolio is designed to sell you –definitely not jewelry, and definitely not the makeup or photographers creativity. Your work is very good and I appreciate your work.

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  14. Don Peitzman Says:

    Jason,

    I live in Denver and want to start shooting model books. I have questions.
    When you shoot a model’s book, do you provide the stylist and MUA and include it in the contract or do you expect the model to provide this. Also, even though you have an in-house studio, do you charge studio time?
    Another question. When you write a contract how many looks do you include?
    Do you also make 9 x 12 prints for a model?

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Jason Christopher Reply:

    Hi Don,
    Yes I do provide the stylist, make up artist, hair stylist etc. You have to remember that these girls or guys don’t have access to artists like you do. If you want to book the job then you better have a team. That is another thing you MUST think about. You need a team that you can count on when you start shooting real good money jobs. The client isn’t going to provide the artists. That is your job. Start building your teams guys !
    No I do not charge studio time. My contract is for five different looks , in studio and location. I will charge and make prints if the model requests them.
    Thanx Don !

    [Reply]

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