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Exploding the Portfolio Myth

Home InFocus   Exploding the Portfolio Myth   

DanyaSadieLynn -GMC“The Reality of All Those Pictures”

Written by Rick Trottier – RJT Images

 

I see images by the thousands on Facebook and Instagram of “models” taken by “photographers”, all of which are so very proud to sport their efforts for the world to see. I don’t even want to see how many others there must be on sites like Pinterest and Tumblr. And while some of the work I see is impressive when it comes to quality, it badly misses the point when it comes to a reason for existence. It is one thing for hobbyist photographers and “aspiring” models to show their work as an example of the development of their craft. And both hobbyists and professionals on either side of the camera need to promote themselves, “advertise” as it were to draw attention to their talents to improve their chances for success. But far too often I see photographers and models put up imagery that they claim is “essential for their portfolio”, and it is just not so. I once heard a photographer claim that he “needed these pics for his portfolio” when the images were highly suspicious when it came to having value for anything. Underlying the words of both groups of people are unsavory or unwise reasons why they assert a “need” to expand their “portfolios” and/or a deep misunderstanding of what a portfolio is. For the reality of a portfolio has changed in the modern digital age and yet in other ways it really isn’t all that different from the way things used to be. Understanding the true nature of what a portfolio is and what is even more important in the realm of professional modeling and photography is the difference between making a real name for yourself and remaining forever the person who dabbles and dallies.

IMG_15 - Heather Marie

Portfolio (noun) – A set of pictures (as drawings or photographs) usually bound in book form or loose in a folder.

 

Even though that Merriam-Webster definition of “portfolio” seems so very old fashioned and quaint, the reality is that it is precisely the right description, although it doesn’t detail the reason for the existence of such a collection of artifacts. An artist’s portfolio (any creator of visual artistry) is an assemblage of works that demonstrates the range and levels of mastery of their chosen medium. In today’s world of photography, printing out images is something that is still done from time to time depending on the nature of the demands of clientele, but often times high resolution digital images will suffice. But the object is still the same. A professional portfolio should give examples of what the spectrum of your talent and proficiency are so that prospective associates and colleagues can determine your value when it comes to hiring you for some kind of job. That collection of images should not be overly large, but it should accurately and precisely depict what skills and abilities any artist would want the world to be familiar with and define their perception as a professional artist. Unfortunately, most photographers and models do not grasp the entirety of the definition and focus only on the word “collection”, collecting and collecting and collecting pictures until they drown in a torrent of images.

 

Photographers

For photographers, a portfolio is simplicity itself for a wide variety of reasons. The beauty of masterful imagery lasts forever and stands a test of time like all forms of art whether it is musical composition, painting, writing or sculpture. Great art is great art and superb accomplishment creates a sense of timelessness that echoes down the corridors of experience forever. Pablo Picasso’s career spanned decades and he moved effortlessly from style to style, showing command and brilliance at all stages of his life. And just as photographers like Ansel Adams and Herb Ritts were able to display timeless, unforgettable expertise, a photographer’s portfolio is fairly easy to define. The size of any portfolio is absolutely irrelevant; it is level of diverse mastery of genres and skills that matters. Once a photographer has displayed that adeptness and has imagery to prove his level of accomplishment, it defines his canon of work forever. In today’s world of social media, it IS important to regularly promote your efforts in the varied chambers of cyberspace for people to see and understand that you are working. But an actual portfolio is not something that needs to grow constantly nor is it valuable to stuff with image after image.

IMG_18 - Kayla Marie

IMG_4 - CarahSo why then do photographers engage in dialogues with likely “modeling candidates” asking them to shoot, offering “tests” and chatting them up aimlessly, employing euphemisms like “I need her for my portfolio” or “I can diversify your portfolio”? And those same euphemisms seem even more dubious when you realize that all they are offering are pictures. There is no publication or promotional aspect to the imagery; it is just fodder for social media. There have been shadows haunting the world of photography since its earliest days, men holding cameras in their hands for reasons that are nefarious at very best. With the advent of the internet and the ease with which communication can be initiated, “Guys with Cameras” proliferate as never before, and sadly many of them show talent and skill, but their reasons for being in the Industry are not ethical ones. “I need her for my portfolio” translated into clear, unfiltered terms simply means, “she is hot, and I want to be near that”. “I can diversify your portfolio” means roughly the same thing; it is just couched in an even fouler manner of obscuring the real reason for engaging in discussions about a shoot. The job of a professional photographer is to provide people with the imagery they need. Real professionals create diversity with each and every shoot they are a part of, satisfying the needs of clients because that is the right and proper thing to do. As such, true professionals need not pester someone, badger or hound any girl to shoot. They provide patrons with what they request and it is enough. Even hobbyists, once they have established a level of excellence really need not hector any model as too many photographers do, messaging and messaging, wheedling and cajoling. It is an embarrassment to the Industry and infantile in the extreme.

 

Models

IMG_6 - M

IMG_19 - ChrissyDanya Sadie Lynn For models, a portfolio takes on a slightly different nature, but there are clear similarities between the two sides of the camera. Unlike photography, which is timeless in nature, a model’s shelf life in the Industry is fairly short. And as the years pass, styles of hair, makeup and fashions change, even a model’s genre interests change as she becomes more or less conservative. So it is essential to update a portfolio from time to time for the professional model. And as with the photographer, a degree of promotion for the professional or even the “aspiring” model has levels of benefit so that imagery to keep her face out there and maintain a degree of “momentum” is useful. But as with a photographer, a true portfolio is really a VERY select mix of content that shows a diversity of genre, range of talent and skills all accomplished through working with a small mix of photographers. Once this has been achieved, a model only needs to tweak her portfolio from time to time, freshening it so she is best able to adapt to changes in the world, the Industry and herself.

IMG_21 - M

IMG_7 - Kayla MarieBut many “models” shoot at every opportunity, putting up scads of images from as many “photographers” as they can interest in a shoot, none of the images having a purpose for existing beyond that of having been created. On the surface, it seems like a lot of social media activity could have potential benefit and shooting with a LOAD of photographers might be a good thing. But there are traps aplenty in such behaviors that wise models know how to avoid. There is an OLD saying in this business, “you’re only as good as your worst picture”. Certainly that is a very accurate truism, as is the related perceptual addendum, “you’re only as good as the people you associate with”. In this Industry, image and perception is EVERYTHING and a portfolio needs to look and be professional, not appear to be the relative of a collection of selfies ad infinitum that clogs the Instagrams of so many young women. Shooting just to shoot wakens other dangers that serious models have to ponder. Oversaturation can bring a promising modeling career to a screeching halt when people get sick of seeing a deluge of pictures and tune a model out. I have seen it time and again. Managing the flow of imagery so that people are excited to see something new is an art form and Great Models know precisely how to do it. The dilution of the value of a model is another serious problem that girls face by “shooting around” and oversaturating the market. Once a million images are out there, few photographers are willing to pay a girl to shoot, pay to attend a workshop of a girl who is everywhere or pay for her services in any way shape or form if she is shooting TF with each and every guy, no matter how talented, just to get images. It is flattering to be asked to shoot, but whether it is a photographer or a model, if you are a professional, giving your time away shouldn’t really be an option unless it is for a VERY worthy cause. Managing your value as a model is essential to reaching the upper echelons of success. The best models in the country know precisely to promote themselves, shoot wisely and expand their presence without overdoing it.

IMG_12 - D

IMG_11 - StephSo while a portfolio has value in the scheme of a professional photographer or models’ life, what really counts, as it does in ALL professional and vocational situations is having a fantastic RESUME! A photographic or modeling resume that grabs people’s attention, demands respect and attains consistent opportunity leading to success is the goal that a serious Industry professional seeks. Images for images sake is part of the province of the “hobbyist photographer” or the Social Media Model. Shooting imagery can and should most commonly be about creating something that helps advance one of three categories essential to achievement in the Industry; publication, commercial work and promotional work. The wise professional seeks a balance that works best with their skills and talents. Some photographers have a style and a skill set that is best married to publication, while some models are better at promotional work. That doesn’t mean that all one’s eggs should go into one basket if talents and skills tend to skew one way, rather it is best to capitalize on any strength and address any weakness by learning compensation strategies thereby ameliorating the weakness as time passes. Superb models and photographers know themselves, own their talents, celebrate their skill sets, accept their weaknesses and work towards true professional development leading to accomplishment and personal satisfaction. The quest for attention that the hobbyists and Facebook models pursue is an empty, soulless and unsatisfying journey because it is just one closely related facet of the world of addiction and there will never be enough attention from enough sources. The desire for more grows geometrically, swamping all other reasons for being a photographer or a model and ultimately leads to squandered potential and talent. Like any candle flame, it burns brightly for a short time and then gutters in a pool of wax, its brightness extinguished and dead.

 

Everyone gets into photography and modeling for their own reasons, many of which are positive and achievable. But what separates any professional from a dabbler is knowledge; knowledge of themselves, the world they are in and what that world contains. Jumping into anything blithely is never a good idea, but even worse is the person who attempts to navigate any complex waterway without a plan and accompanying wisdom. Modeling and Photography seem so very glamorous and exciting, and they can be. But it is also a cutthroat, competitive, savage business fraught with disappointment for those who understand little. Like any profession, photography and modeling can be a wonderful, life-affirming experience fusing art and commercial worlds into a whole that is exhilarating and fulfilling. But knowing the ins and the outs is essential and having a reason for the existence of pictures is one of the best places to start.

IMG_13 - Brittany Lynn

  • IMG_26 - Heather Marie

    IMG_26 – Heather Marie

  • IMG_27 - Chrissy

    IMG_27 – Chrissy

  • IMG_2 - Chrissy

    IMG_2 – Chrissy

  • IMG_3 - Lily Marie

    IMG_3 – Lily Marie

  • IMG_4 - Carah

    IMG_4 – Carah

  • IMG_5 - Brittany Lynn

    IMG_5 – Brittany Lynn

  • IMG_6 - M

    IMG_6 – M

  • IMG_7 - Kayla Marie

    IMG_7 – Kayla Marie

  • IMG_8 - Danya Sadie Lynn

    IMG_8 – Danya Sadie Lynn

  • IMG_9 - Rachel

    IMG_9 – Rachel

  • IMG_10 - Chrissy

    IMG_10 – Chrissy

  • IMG_11 - Steph

    IMG_11 – Steph

  • IMG_12 - D

    IMG_12 – D

  • IMG_13 - Brittany Lynn

    IMG_13 – Brittany Lynn

  • IMG_14 - Danya Sadie Lynn

    IMG_14 – Danya Sadie Lynn

  • IMG_15 - Heather Marie

    IMG_15 – Heather Marie

  • IMG_16 - Rachel

    IMG_16 – Rachel

  • IMG_17- Carah

    IMG_17- Carah

  • IMG_18 - Kayla Marie

    IMG_18 – Kayla Marie

  • IMG_19 - Chrissy

    IMG_19 – Chrissy

  • IMG_20 - Danya Sadie Lynn

    IMG_20 – Danya Sadie Lynn

  • IMG_21 - M

    IMG_21 – M

  • IMG_22 - Lily Marie

    IMG_22 – Lily Marie

  • IMG_23 - Brittany Lynn

    IMG_23 – Brittany Lynn

  • IMG_24 - Steph

    IMG_24 – Steph

  • IMG_25 - D

    IMG_25 – D


 

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Managing Editor, GlamModelz Magazine I’m a Central New England photographer based out of Worcester, MA, just one hour west of Boston. I specialize in fashion and glamor commercial imagery as well portraiture of all types. My style is a blend of commercially viable work melded with artistic innovation, whether on location or in studio. I prize collaboration quite highly and am proud of the fact that most of my work displays the ideas and designs of my models as much as it does my skills, efforts and planning. Rick has published 78, articles with GlamModelz Magazine.

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