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          I get asked the question, ďWill you shoot my portfolio?Ē a lot.
        The short answer is: ďNo.Ē
        Mind you, there is a longer answer, which is, ďYes, I will shoot parts of your portfolio.Ē† I am, after all, in business to make money somehow.
        The reason I wonít shoot the whole thing is a pretty practical one: Satisfied customers have a habit of coming back; and itís easier for me to keep the business relationships I already have than to go off chasing after new ones.† So I do my utmost to make sure you buy what you need from me, that we collectively donít leave anything out, and that I donít sell you more than you really need.
        In the case of a portfolio, itís in the best interest of a model to shop around a few places to get photos.† Frankly, Iím likely to see you one way, and somebody else may see something entirely different.† Since the more looks you can present, the more chances you have to win with an agent or client, I recommend using no less than three different photographers to build your first book. †I donít mind being one of the three Ė I just donít want to be your source for one-stop shopping.† Certainly Iíd like to work with you (and cash coming in is always good); but thereís a danger of buying too much of my stuff, as good as it is.
        The other thing that a model has to keep in mind is that most agents donít have a clue what makes good or bad photography.† (I realize that Iím probably not going to get gobs of agent referrals for having said such a thing; but itís an unfortunate truth of the business.)† As a consequence of this, itís not at all unusual for somebody to spend thousands of dollars on high quality photographs only have a prospective agent turn around and say, ďI donít like them Ė You really should have your photos done by so-and-so.Ē† At that point, the prospective model in question is out buying another thousand dollars worth of fresh pictures from somebodyís pet photographer.
        My advice is therefore to start small when building a portfolio.† Get a few basic shots Ė perhaps half a dozen photos of yourself to include a headshot, a few casual shots, a formal shot, and a swimwear/lingerie shot (if thatís your bag).† You really donít need more than a dozen photos to get somebodyís attention Ė provided theyíre a dozen good photos.† Be brutal when evaluating them.† And look hard for technical faults, since as a photographer (and Iím potentially the guy who may one day hire you) when your composite card lands in my mailbox, as many of those cards as I see, Iím looking for any excuse to throw it away.† If I see a photo on the comp card that has a technical fault, my gut reaction is, ďThis person either doesnít know the difference or doesnít care.Ē† In either case, the card in question heads straight for the trash, since not knowing (or worse, not caring) doesnít suggest that youíre the person I want to hire.† Technical faults on a comp card are the equivalent of misspelled words and bad grammar on a resume.
        Also, make portfolio building (and maintenance) a rolling affair.† Donít drop a fortune all in one sitting.† Tossing a grand at a photographer in order to get a mountain of photos may give you an ego boost; but in the long run itíll do very little for your career.† The better move is to get a few fresh photos every few months and rotate the older stuff out of your book as the new stuff comes in.† As a photographer, I want to know what you look like now, not what you looked like six years ago.† Getting a few shots every so often (and asking photographers for copies of their shots of you when you work for them on commercial jobs) will keep the costs down and the timeliness up when it comes to your book.
        And be prepared that if youíre serious about working in the business, you need to update your comp card every twelve months or any time you make a major change (hairstyle, nose job, etc.).
        Once youíve got a comp card and a few good shots in your book, you can either pursue jobs on your own, find an agent, or do both.† I recommend doing both, since as a photographer, I prefer to work outside the agencies (to keep costs down) but will use an agent when I need somebody in a hurry.† (Iíve also been around enough to know which agents I do and do not like; and the ones I do use know better than to send me somebody whoís a flake.)
        At the same time youíre hooking up with a good agent, start getting to know the local photographers.† (This is another reason to buy your photos in more than one spot.† If you do, youíll get seen by more than one photographer.)† If you live in a college town, have a look in one of the departments that deals with fashion merchandising or marketing, since a student fashion show can net you some runway work.† Look around at some of the better local camera stores, since there may be a photo club in need of a model.† And get to know the small business owners in your town.† The lady who runs the bridal shop may need a runway model for the spring show; and the guy with the shop on the corner may need to put an ad for his fall suit sale in the local paper.