Slow Season Survival: [Infographic] Building Your Portfolio

Confused about how to select images for your portfolio or how to arrange them once selected? Check out MMA’s infographic and guide to building your resume along with some tips that may help you along the way. 

A great way to capitalize on the free time you have during the slow season is to update and build upon your portfolio!  It’s a time-consuming process that takes a discerning eye, a little bit of self-awareness, and a good grasp of what your target client is looking for.  Here is a handy visual with some answers to the most common questions we get about portfolios and how to put one together:


How Many Images Should I Have?

The short answer is, “however many stellar images you have that fit the client’s need.”  If you can’t impress the viewer with five phenomenal images, you won’t be able to impress them with 25 mediocre images.  We suggest a minimum of three and a maximum of 20; however, if you’re submitting to an agency, call them up and ask what they prefer to see in prospective artists’ portfolios.  Don’t be scared — just do it!

What Kind Of Images Do I Include?

The answer to this depends on the clientele you’re focusing on.

Print & Commercial
Professional shots only; lightly edited beauty
Professional models
Never before & afters and never candids
Tight shots that show your work
Images must be of your work
Bridal & Private Clients
Professional shots can be edited
Candids acceptable in a before & after section
Watermarks are tolerated
Never “Facetuned
Tight shots that show your work
Images must be of your work

Like a resume, you should tailor your portfolio to your client’s needs.  Only submit what they want to see.  If you’re submitting your portfolio for consideration on a skincare campaign, then you’d include all of your knock-out clean beauty images that showcase your skin work.  In this instance, you could also include some subtle beauty images showcasing your restrained use of color.  It’s a risk to include images of your avant-garde or dramatic beauty work, in this instance, as this may spook your client.  If you just can’t contain yourself and MUST include an image or two outside of the clients’ scope, or if they’ve expressed an interest in seeing your range, place those images at the end.  

In What Order Should My Images Appear?

There are a couple different schools of thought here.  On one hand, you can include your images in order of strength (1st strongest, 2nd strongest, 3rd ….) to highlight your best work right up front.  Another methodology is to stagger your images after the first, absolute strongest image like this:  1st strongest, 3rd strongest, 2nd strongest, 4th ….).  The idea here is that it keeps the viewer engaged throughout the entire portfolio and not just up front.   

How Do I Choose Which Images to Include?

First, gather all of your images that are in alignment with your client’s needs:  avant-garde project = avant-garde images, beauty project = beauty images.  Then, for each one in the stack, you need to ask yourself:  if I were looking at this image, would I hire myself?  Does this image represent my current level of talent or am I emotionally attached to it?  This is an extremely helpful tip I picked up from Michael DeVellis back when I was a lowercase C.  (If you’re too young to get it.)

Secondly, evaluate each one for excellence not only in your work, but the entire image.  We, as makeup artists, might notice the makeup first in a photo, but that’s not typically what most people see.  Years ago, I learned from Roshar that when most individuals look at a photo, they notice the photography first.  Is it shot well, lit well, composed well?  Then, they notice the model, then wardrobe, then hair, and makeup is last.  So, if any of those other elements are not also fantastic, then the entire image is less than fantastic and you shouldn’t include it.

Do I Need to Have A Printed Book?

Currently, most artists can get away with only using a digital portfolio.  There are many pros:  economical, portable, easily updatable, easily shared, and I’ll say it again ECONOMICAL, especially when you consider the cost of shipping your book to and from agencies or clients.  If you’re not on the coasts, you likely will never have a need for a printed book.  However, there are some real pros to having a print portfolio.  Firstly, they provide the viewer an experience — looking at  beautiful and LARGE images where the colors, saturation, and contrast are exactly as the creative team intended it because you’re looking at the actual image instead of a small, glary iPad screen with smudgy fingerprints all over it.  A printed book also feels super professional and projects an air of seriousness about your craft.  On the other hand, they can be very expensive to put together, depending on the materials you choose, and they are also costly to ship if you’re sending it out often.  Printed portfolios can take time to create, so my opinion is that it’s better to have a decently constructed (but not exorbitant) printed book and not need one than to need one and not have one.  

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