Building A Fashion Portfolio From Scratch

In this quick guide we will go over a few of the steps you should take to build a fashion portfolio from scratch. We’ll talk about how we built ours coming from the wedding photography world, but the same rules apply if you’re coming from a sports, a family, a landscape, or a non-photography background.

Make Some New Work

Before you can start working with agency models or shooting for brands, you’ll need some work to prove that you (kind of) know what you’re doing.  Here’s where the fun starts.

When we first began, all we had was a wedding portfolio and some pictures of each other. Our first step in creating fashion imagery was working with our friends. Grab a friend and dress them up and go out to take pictures. It’s simple, but I think you don’t often let yourself believe a career can begin in this simple way. This is how we started. Our first “friend” was each other.

Start With Your Friends

Have your friend bring anything in their wardrobe that’s “cool”. “Hey, Marta, can you bring a pair of Levis and a leather jacket? Maybe a white tee?” If they don’t have anything cool just ask them to bring only black clothing and make some moody shit. Aim for 2-3 different “looks” to practice working with different wardrobe.

Your first shoot probably won’t be that good, and that’s completely understandable and totally fine. The top-secret key to becoming a good photographer is taking a ton of photos. Shoot as much as you can.

Each shoot, your goal is to make some photos that are a step closer to your desired aesthetic. Do a shoot with a friend model, so that you can do a better shoot with a better model, so that you can do a better shoot with a better model and a makeup artist, so that you can do a better shoot……etc.

Finding a Team

A shoot is only as good as its individual components: your skill, the model, the styling, the makeup and hair, etc. Unfortunately, talented and experienced team members have no incentive to work with you until your portfolio is as good or better than theirs. Fortunately, the solution is easy.

Start shooting with your friends, then as your work improves, move to instagram models (or model mayhem), and then agency represented artists. Everyone (model, make up artist, stylist) is in the same boat: trying to make the best work that they can and collaborate with people at their level.

We show you all the specifics about how to reach out to models, stylists, hair, and makeup artists in our class, Everything You Need To Know To Plan Your Own Shoot

Stop Taking Wedding Photos (aka you need new eyes)

Coming from the wedding world, it took us a while to fall into our fashion groove (we’ve been shooting fashion officially since 2015). Our initial fashion photos looked like wedding or portrait images with a model in the middle. It takes time to train your eye to see a different way. So be patient with yourself and start flooding your life with fashion inspiration.

A few tips:

  • Stop looking at wedding photography. Follow some fashion accounts on Instagram that inspire you.
  • Start noticing what your work is lacking. Compare it to photos from other photographers that you love. Model? Light? Lens choice? What’s different? Training your eye is an essential process.
  • In general, make your model look long, tall, and captivating. No more far-away, center-composed landscapes.
  • Stop shooting everything wide open. We generally stay at f4.5 or higher.
  • Plan your scenes and colors; make photos, don’t take them.

Create a New Site

Now that you decided to shoot more editorial-style work, you will need a portfolio that is separate from your other work. Some of the best advice we ever got about our portfolio was to do just this. For example, we had a wedding portfolio, and we were told to make a separate site solely for our fashion work. The two simply don’t mix. Potential clients are not going to search through your wedding photos to find your fashion work. Make it simple for them by separating it out.

We have used both Squarespace and (currently) Cargo Collective.

Alternatively, until you have enough fashion work to create an entire new site, make a pdf like this above to showcase your new style so you have something to send out to potential models or teammates.

Summary

  • If you’re starting fresh, ask some friends to shoot
  • Ask them to bring clothes straight from their closet
  • Build up a portfolio of friends, then friends of friends, then independent, and then represented models.
  • Use your continually improving portfolio to work with better and better team members.
  • Be mindful of the way you take photos. Change things up. Control the elements of your shoot.
  •  You need to display your commercial/fashion work separate from you old stuff

 

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