In today’s Pinup 101 lesson, we’re going to cover bookings and building a portfolio. This topic will likely be a little dry, but I’m hoping you will find it informative. These are the things no one told me when I was starting out. I had to just stumble though it all as I went. I’d like to save you that hassle.
You’ve studied the masters, practiced your poses, perfected your hair and makeup techniques, now it’s time to take the next step. Before you can ever hope to become a published model, you must first book photo shoots and build a portfolio.
Types of Bookings
There are a few different types of bookings. It’s a good idea to get to know them before striking out on your own.
“Barn Find” from Car Kulture Deluxe issue #37, Photography by Mike Harrington
Paid Bookings: A paid booking is when either a model or photographer is paid money for their services. This is, for obvious reasons, the most desirable booking. Starting out, don’t expect to be offered many of these. In fact, YOU will be the one paying photographers for a while, but we’ll discuss that piece in a bit.
TFP, TFCD: These are acronyms for “trade for prints/photos” and “trade for CD (or flash drive files)”. This sort of booking is when the photographer and model (and at times the hair and makeup artist) trade services for a project. This sort of arrangement is only mutually beneficial when all parties involved are either at the same experience levels or are working on a project that is of special interest. Trade is a kind of compensation. Many people forget this and inappropriately ask for trade work.
Trade for Merchandise: This sort of trade is fairly common when working with brands. Models are hired by a company or photographer with the payment being some sort of merchandise. This saves the company money, as goods are generally less expensive than the model’s time rate. The company is paying their production cost, and the model is receiving compensation at the retail value of the merchandise. Like all trade, this only works if the compensation matches the value of the work. For instance, if a model’s time rate is $100/hr, but the merchandise only has a retail value of $30, that compensation may not be enough. Likewise, a new model who has yet to receive compensated work may take the $30 merchandise because it also comes with exposure and published work for her portfolio.
Booking Photo Shoots
The most important piece in a model’s professional arsenal is her portfolio. Before you can put together an impressive portfolio, you need photos to put in it.
Photography by Jillian Danielson, HMUA Dolly Marlowe, Model Dolly Marlowe
As I said earlier, at first you will need to hire photographers. Photo shoots don’t come cheap. You can expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $400 (and up) for a quality photo shoot. If you don’t have that kind of cash lying around, save up. Don’t be cheap. Be selective. You’ll need to work with talented people, experienced pin-up photographers who can help you hone your craft. Look for photographers who offer coaching and who are frequently published. Look at their portfolios. Do you like their work? If so, hire them. If not, find someone else.
You can save money by booking your photo shoots at the right time. Lots of photographers offer discounts and mini shoots around holidays and weekenders (like Viva Las Vegas). Mini shoots are usually themed and timed. A photographer may offer a Valentine’s Day themed shoot at 50% off their normal fee. These shoots often offer one set or backdrop, no wardrobe changes, and are shorter on time. You will also be expected to arrive camera ready. Be prompt. Your being late cuts into someone else’s time. Working with photography students and clubs is another way to save money. While these shoots rarely yield print worthy photos, they are great practice (and FREE!). Technically TFP, students and new models are equally matched in experience, so the trade is mutually beneficial.
Now please hear me out on this. I mean really listen. Once you’ve gotten a few shoots under your belt you’re going to feel pretty great. You’ll get some positive attention. Maybe you’ve even gotten published. This is the time to remind yourself you’re not as hot as you think you are. You are still a novice. It is considered bad form to approach photographers to ask for TFP shoots. The pin-up community is a small one. The last thing you want is to gain a reputation as someone who expects free stuff. Yes, your work has worth, but unless your work has the same value as the photographer you’re approaching, your request will likely be seen as insulting. Wait until you have a solid portfolio and published work before asking for trade bookings…and even then do so sparingly.
Building a Portfolio
A portfolio is either a print or digital sampling of one’s work, think of it as a pictorial resume. While most portfolios are digital, I recommend having a print copy as well.
A “tear sheet” is a digital or print copy of published work. This one is from a shoot I did with Heart of Haute. Photography by Mitzi Valenzuela.
Digital portfolios can be a third party hosted site, like Model Mayhem or your own website. Avoid using social media as your portfolio. Remember, this represents you as a working model. As impressive as your Instagram may be, it isn’t the same as a professional portfolio. Make sure your digital portfolio is easy to access. Asking photographers to input passwords and other permissions is a great way to get passed up. The idea is to promote yourself. You can’t do that if your best promotional tool is hidden.
Print portfolios are the traditional way to share your work with potential clients. While you may not use a print portfolio as frequently as a digital format, they’re nice to have on hand for casting calls or even chance meetings. Print portfolios should be nicely bound in an art portfolio folder. Your photos should be professionally printed in (at least) 8×10 format and 300 dpi, DO NOT use grainy or pixelated images. Starting out you really only need 6 to 12 images in your portfolio, certainly no more than 20. Less is more. Quality is more important than quantity.
Because your portfolio is often your first impression, it is imperative the photos you use are your very best work. You will be judged by your worst photos, not your best. Separate your photos into four categories: bad, good, great, and outstanding. Toss the bad, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. The good can be used in social media or sent to your grandmother. The great and outstanding make it to your portfolio (they can also be shared with grandmama and Instagram). For print portfolios, set the great photos on the right hand pages and the outstanding on the left where they are most visible.
Be sure to show a good sampling of your work. Anyone can look at you and see you’re beautiful. Your portfolio is to show your versatility as a model. If you’re focused on pin-up work, show lots of different styles: 1940’s noir, cheesecake, old Hollywood glamour, 1920’s flapper, 1930’s starlet, and so on. A mixture of color and black and white images will add interest. Its also a good idea to include both headshots and full body images. Variety is the spice of life, so give your portfolio that WOW factor.
Another tool to have on hand is an actual resume. Modeling is a job. Like any other job, you need to present your experience. Just starting out, you may think you don’t have anything to list on a resume. Be creative. Were you active in drama, band or choir in school? What about community theater? Have you done any public speaking? Those all count as experience. You will also want to list your particulars: height, dress size, shoe size, measurements, weight and body type, current hair and eye color, tattoos and piercings, and of course your contact information. A modeling resume is formatted much the same as any other resume, with the addition of a color photo of you in an upper corner.
Any stage or performance work should be on your resume. I am first and foremost a singer and dancer. All of my performances are listed on my resume, not just the photo shoots.
And there you have it. I do hope you’ve found this week’s lesson informative. When next we meet, I’ll share with you my photo shoot preparation checklist and some very important safety tips. Be sure to subscribe to my diary so you don’t miss any of my Pinup 101 lessons. As always, you may leave questions and comments here, electronic telegram, or via social media (@DollyMarlowe on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook).