Editor’s Note:  Paul Fisher has spent two decades representing the most famous models in the world:  Stephanie Seymour, Naomi Campbell, Eva Herzigova, Janice Dickinson, Monica Bellucci, Carole Alt, Carre' Otis and hundreds of other famous faces.   He has trained many of today’s top modeling agents and has seen the fashion modeling industry first hand and up-close.  He is now the CEO of The Network, an international consortium of fashion modeling agencies.


This article is written specifically for female fashion models.  Portfolios for commercial, glamour and other kinds of models can be quite different.


Testing / the Creation of a Portfolio

- By Paul Fisher


I will break this down in three stages:


1) First set of Pictures

2) Photos for clients

3) The Final Goal / The Resume.


First set of pictures:


The first set of photos that a potential model needs are “simple” photos.  These photos need to show exactly what the girl looks like:  natural, simple, little makeup.  Nothing overdone.  The goal is to be able to be able to really critique the model, really see how she looks.  The reason for this has to do with “who” will need to view these initial photos:  a local, New York or International Modeling agency to accept the potential Model. The Photos are for Agencies Not Clients (unless of course the kid is “perfect” and you are going directly to the top 100 clients).


These simple photos can be done a few times.  A trained eye can tell if the person is photogenic / cool looking / right for the modeling business.  If the photos are too overdone, too much makeup, the agencies will not be able to really make a decision as to if that person is right for their agency.


Photos for Clients:


The type of photos a model needs for clients depends on what kind of model we are creating…. high fashion, swimsuit, beauty catalog queen, etc. Sometimes, the photos that are put into a portfolio need to cover all of the above, sometimes not.. It all depends on the model and how the agency plans to market the model.


A few questions are often asked:


1) Does a model pay for these photos? Who does pay?

2) What kind of photos are the “right” photos….

3) How many photos should a model have in their portfolio.


The answer regarding payment for photos is, “it depends”…. If a person has money, then yes they should pay.  If person doesn’t, they should get a part time job and earn a few dollars to pay for the photos.  Can an agency who is excited about the model pay?  Or advance the money against future earnings?  The answer to this is Yes.  Many agencies do advance the cost of the testing.  


I always feel it is good for someone to “earn” things vs being given.  It creates more appreciation. 


The worst thing a model can do is see clients with bad photos.  There is way too much competition to show bad photos to potential clients. That is a killer.  Many times a potential models needs to do many testing’s to get the right photos.  


The trick is to get a few great photos vs. a lot of average photos.  A few GREAT photos can open a lot of doors. 


The agency will decide on what are the right kind of pictures.. However, unless this agency has developed a Star, don’t listen to them! Rule #1 Only listen to people who have represented and or created a star or two.  Don’t be a guinea pig! (If an agency has represented a model that has gone on to be a Star, then they should know how to market you.)


The Final Goal / The Resume:


The testing photos are now turned into actual “pages” from magazines.  How does this process occur? Testing photos to pages from magazines?  Take the testing photos out and replace them with pages from magazines.  Now that sounds cool yes?  That is one of the goals.  This is the creation of your “resume” your “portfolio” that will now be used to help you earn “real” money.  As in the business world, usually the person with the best resume gets the job.  That is correct for the modeling industry also.  The Model who has the best “book” aka “portfolio” aka “resume*” wins the job….


How are resumes “judged” by the casting people? What makes one resume better than the other? Answer: It is all about who a model works for.  Once a great designer, a hip national advertiser or major fashion magazine uses you, you are on your way.  Casting people and editors judge a models book on the following criteria:


-          Has the Model worked with any Prestigious Designers? eg.: Ralph, Calvin, Lagerfeld, Cavalli

-          Which major Fashion Magazines has the Model appeared in? eg: Vogue, Bazaar, W

-          Any National Ad Campaigns? eg: Guess, Gucci, Prada

-          Who has the Model been Photographed by? eg: Steven Klein, Patrick Demarchelier, Gilles Bensimon


If a model can show in their portfolio that she worked for Vogue or Bazaar for example, did the Gucci campaign and various famous photographers have taken her photo, she is on her way to a wonderful career as model. Having your photo in Vogue is perhaps like having a fortune five hundred company on your resume and you were the CEO of the company.  


Supply and demand.  Not too many models per year get the opportunity to have their photos appear in the fashion pages of Vogue, just as there are only a handful of guess and Gucci girls.  The Models who appear in these campaigns portfolios are at the top of their profession.  


Portfolios which we will now call a models “book” should tell a story:  a story of who that model is. It should start out sexy and end with laughter.  Turning on the client at the beginning and make them feel good with laughter when the close the book.  The book should be laid out like a magazine.  Photos going the right way, colors with colors and black and white with black and white.  No advertising or catalogs in the book.  ONLY editorials which of course includes covers.  The ONLY advertising that should be in a book are HUGE campaigns.


What is the apex, the best of the best? The best “book” one can put together . . . the goal, the dream . . . perfect “resume”? That is easy, the best two magazines are American Vogue and American Bazaar.  Covers and Pages from these two magazines are the best a model can do.  They are the Bibles of the industry.  Nothing is higher.  Once on these covers or on the inside of these magazines every catalog company and advertiser in the world wants you.  Your agent can then pick and choose what jobs are best for you.  Hundreds of calls coming in every week.  Hundreds of requests for your time.  Every other magazine in the world wants you.  Every famous photographer wants to shoot you.  Designers must have u in there shows at $25,000 per show. Your advertising and catalog rates go through the roof!



*Note: book, resume and portfolio are all the same thing.





This article is an excerpt from Mr. Fisher’s forthcoming book “Forbidden Fruit” about modeling at the apex of the fashion industry.  Used by permission.  Article copyright 2010 Paul Fisher