Your Look Development Is the Cornerstone to Your Model Branding
No model should ever leave her look development to chance when building a cohesive model book. Every image in your book represents you. The images individually and collectively tell the story of your brand and it’s value. Developing a look book is about finding your authentic voice. Sometimes that true voice is hidden from the world until a camera is front of you.
The number of images in your look development are not as important as your intention behind the book. What do you want to be hired to do? Are you building a brand tribe, a cadre of patrons, or a sphere of commercial influence for sponsorship. What’s your goal? Always, consider these questions before your image is made and immediately after.
Trade-Offs and Trade-Ups for Look Development
New models often have no target for what they’re looking for in their portfolio. Most often, her goal is simply to take a lot of pictures and figure it out along the way. Don’t do that.
If you’re working unscrupulous photographers, this can lead to a lot of undesirable pictures that won’t position you for the work or audience you want. Instead, work with professional photographers to build the looks that matter to you. Look for photographers who have a visual style and language that you like. Now, that word “professional” needs to be calibrated. In a nutshell, a professional photographer has no interest in taking advantage of your naivete or inexperience in modeling. A professional photographer will help you develop both your looks and your professional brand.
Developing Your Look
Your model book or portfolio is never done. You should periodically update images with new work. Don’t add without taking away. Over time, replace older images that either no longer represent you or represent the type of work you want to be hired. For example, don’t market yourself as fashion model that doesn’t shoot nudes or implied nudes while keeping nude work in your portfolio. It sends the conflicting messages to agencies, photographers, and creative directors. Make sure your brand folio reflects your brand story. Always, hire a professional photographer to help you develop on-brand looks for your book.
I’ve shot a ton of model folios. When I review model books, I look for diversity and quality. This means your book should be more than collection of pictures. Show some care in the image selection. Understand what makes an image great and why others fail. You don’t want a misfit collection of images.
Top Look Development Questions
Are all the images the same?
- Literally, are they the same images shot on the same background, with same lighting, at the same focal length, in the same wardrobe? You’d be surprise how many model books are nothing more than a rapid succession of sameness. If your photographer never changes lenses, location, scenes, or styling, something is wrong. You only need one great image from that set—not five nor 50. This includes images from workshops. You don’t need 500 images from 50 different people of essentially all the same looks. You’re wasting your time.
Were the portraits made by the same photographer?
- As much as I love working with the same models, I encourage them work with other photographers. In fact, I encourage models to work with as many photographers as they have the time to do so. Getting multiple perspectives adds value to your portfolio and elevates your industry expertise. Some photographers have the resources and ability to create unique looks. It takes time. In my studio, I budget time to develop 2-15 unique looks based on the duration of the shoot. Fifteen unique looks is a full model book. Fifteen identical looks is bullshit.
Do you feature any images shot on-location?
- Location matters. Does the scene, styling, and model help to tell a story, sell a product, or create a connection?
Are they in a professional studio setting?
- Studio shoots can be highly creative and expand you into genres of photography that you never imagined possible. You can create a host of looks on a simple white, grey, or black background. Once you’re in the studio, do they have space and resources to create scenes that help challenge you and push your looks to the next level.
Do the images all have the same makeup and hair styling?
- Change your lipstick. Do your do! Only men can get away with having the same makeup look in every portrait. For female models, you can limit your growth by limiting looks. There should always be a least three makeup looks that you can create on your own. Save the more challenging and complex looks for a professional makeup artist and stylist.
Is the wardrobe selection helping to sell a narrative?
- You can have curves or be thin. You can be nude or garbed. Whatever you do, switch up your styling to build uniqueness in every frame. Sometimes a hat can change the mood of a shoot. A prop or a pair of glasses creates a unique look. Regardless how you approach styling, think big picture. Four fashion images can be held together by a single color. A boudoir shoot can tie unique looks together with a piece of jewelry or footwear. Build your wardrobe into your story line so that you get more from each image.
Are the images shot as portraits, editorial, documentary, lifestyle, fashion, or glamour?
- The approach to the genre can give your model book a brand identity. Conversely, it can hide your assets behind the photographer’s vision. Be mindful of the photographer’s point-of-view so that you optimize creative process and the outcomes accordingly.
Do the images express the same emotional state or are the emotions varied to fit the mood, the lighting, and the scene?
- You can use one-light in so many ways. Don’t let a lack of gear be a showstopper. Develop a series of looks with one light that are unique and incredible. Just don’t keep the same makeup, hair, styling, emotions, or posing the same. As the lighting setup changes, that is your cue to switch up your look.
Leave Nothing to Chance
You can’t leave your look development to chance. Have a point-of-view. The develop a plan of action makes it real. Build your Model Book to showcase your range and talent. Be daring. Work with a variety of professionals to build a portfolio that represents the looks you truly love!
Update your Book
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