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9 Steps for Creating The PERFECT
It goes without saying that a make-up, hair, fashion stylist or manicurist's portfolio should be neat and clean, devoid of scratches, prints should fill up the pages, and every tear sheet (published work) should have a neat clean edge before it is displayed in your book. But besides the mechanics of portfolio building, here’s what really counts when it’s time to show your book to potential clients and/or agencies for representation or to get on the assistants list.
1. CHOOSE WISELY. Knowing where you want to end up in 5 years is paramount to building your book today, because having a goal to excel in beauty, fashion, lifestyle, or entertainment will determine which photographers and crew you choose to work with when testing.
As a makeup artist or hair stylist, if beauty is your passion, it doesn’t make sense to spend a year working with a photographer whose dream is to shoot lifestyle advertising for Tide now does it. Seek out photographers who are passionate about excelling in the same genre’s that you see yourself excelling in 5 years down the road.
2. LESS IS MORE. Makeup, Hair and Stylists need to work with good models. And that is especially important when it comes to testing. It’s better to get and use one great agency model and change her look 3-4 times than to try and manage and control the outcome using 2 or 3 so-so models because you think you’ll get more pictures.
Open up a Vogue, Elle, Marie Clare, or W magazine, and what you’ll see most of the time is a story feauturing ONE MODEL being shot in several different but similar locations (ex: one forest with many opportunities: standing next to a tree, sitting on a fallen log, walking past a bubbling brook, etc.) wearing a new change of clothing, and subtle changes in makeup, and hair that compliment the environment the photographer is shooting in and the clothing choices made by the fashion stylist.
3. PAGES 1-5. If you are a makeup artist or hair stylist, or both, always lead with your very best beauty. Anything less than 5 pages of consistent beauty will cause the decision-maker to pause and wonder if you can duplicate the work on his/her shoot. One great image could be a fluke. Four or five consistently beautiful images, is a signature.
4. FLOW. Try to work in a creative environment where the goal is to produce stories for your book instead of the one off photograph. As you lay your portfolio out with new test shots and tears, you will find it easier to create a flow in your book when you have at least 2 images from the same shoot that can be laid out together in a double page spread. Spreads eliminate the choppiness of trying to match up images that were shot on different days with different models, using different teams (makeup, hair and stylists) and different themes.
5. RANGE not EXTREMES. The strength of your book is in your ability to share your passion while also demonstrating to the decision-maker what you are able to accomplish within an 8-10 hour day––the average time frame of a photo shoot. Range for the makeup artists or hair stylists means that the breadth of images in your book has convinced the decision-maker that you know innately when to do something, or when to do nothing each time the photographer changes the environment and the fashion stylist changes the clothing.
As the fashion stylist on the shoot, it’s your job to convince the decision-maker that you have the ability to read and interpret the photographer’s vision perfectly with the clothing that you choose for the model in each specific environment.
6. LEAD WITH A SOLUTION. If the photographer that you would like to work with balks at the idea of organizing another test shoot, be prepared with as much of the team (makeup, hair, fashion stylist, manicurist) put together as you can. I have often heard photographers say that they are just too busy or tired to pull together another test (TFP), though they would do it more often if they just had some help. It’s okay to make suggestions, but don’t ever try to shove your team down a photographers throat––that’s like taking your cousin to a job interview with you, but be prepared should the opportunity present itself. If he doesn’t like the other people, he may not hire you.
And lastly, create a look book of your own and keep it full of great ideas (torn from the pages of your favorite magazines, movies and more) and resources (names, phone numbers and email addresses) that you can pull together in a moments notice. You will be surprised what can happen when you are ready.
7. WHAT SIZE BOOK SAY YOU? There are only two acceptable sizes of portfolio pages in a print portfolio in this business. 9X12 or 11X14. As long as you choose one of those, you’ll be just fine. 8X10’s are for amateurs and headshots. You are neither.
8. OUT WITH THE OLD. IN WITH THE NEW. Your portfolio is a work in progress. I’ve had many stylists call me and say, “I’m almost done with my book”. You are never done with your book. Like a closet full of old clothes, every once in a while, you have to call the Salvation Army to make room for something new, but that never stops you from shopping.
A portfolio is like that, there are ALWAYS some images that will stand the test of time and never seem to age, but others begin to look dated and must be removed. Can’t live without them? Frame them and hang them on the wall at home. Just take them out of your book. Remember, the one picture that you don’t take out of the book when it’s time is up, is the image that will cost you the job.
9. RULE OF THUMB. If the images you create look like they could live inside your favorite fashion and beauty magazines, you’re moving in the right direction. Keep up the good work and you’ll be commanding thousands of dollars per day instead of hundreds, in no time.
Crystal Wright is Author of the freelance styling bible,
The Hair Makeup & Fashion Styling Career Guide.
For 24 years she represented freelance stylists who
work in print, video, film and TV. Currently she travels
throughout the US and Canada teaching artists how to
master portfolio building and marketing (self-promotion).
For more information about her PORTFOLIO BUILDING AND MARKETING WORKSHOPS in
Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Chicago, click HERE!