Wedding And Portraiture
Portfolios For Models, Always Something New

Photos © 2000, Monte Zucker, All Rights Reserved

For years, now, I've been asked to shoot portfolios for models, but I always felt as if I didn't have the time or the desire. In truth, I was just never excited about the challenge.

Then JJ, the man who's been my groom model in many of my recent classes, asked me to create a portfolio for him. No way out this time!

We talked about the professional image he wanted to create. The challenge was to make his portfolio stand out from the many others that are handed out to those seeking male models. My personal opinion was the main factor that he had going, on his behalf, was his phenomenal smile. He's the all-American wholesome, natural man who could represent all that's clean, healthy, and athletic. He's in great shape and looks good in everything from a formal tux down to bathing trunks.

In addition, he has a complement of facial expressions that he can turn on and off in split seconds. He's anything but shy in front of a camera.

Since I had pictures galore of him as a groom we decided to go for the outdoor, casual look in these new pictures. A clothing conference before the session resulted in his bringing everything from a simple white bathrobe to tennis clothing and a great selection of simple, casual clothing.

Living in a golf and tennis community, I took JJ down to the tennis courts for starters. What I didn't realize was that the building beside the courts had a covered porch all around it. I was in my element. I'd been there--done that--many times previously for classes. It was going to be my kind of lighting.

I brought with me my new Hasselblad 203FE camera with automatic through the lens metering, a full complement of lenses, all kinds of Kodak film, my ever-present Benbo tripod, all kinds of reflectors, two Quantum flashes, and a new (to me) Wein infrared slave synch.

I always knew that if I were ever to shoot fashion photography outdoors it would generally be with a long telephoto lens so that I could shoot wide-open and throw the background way out of focus. That meant bringing my 350mm lens. As it turned out, that was the only lens I used.

I began out in the bright sunshine on the tennis courts. Photographing out in the midday sun didn't bother me at all. I loved it. I turned JJ's back to the sun and looked through my lens. I placed his head right in the middle of a bright area in the background. It was as if I had purposely positioned a background light in exactly the right spot.

The telephoto lens, opened up all the way, threw the background completely out of focus, just as I had seen in other fashion shots. I finished the picture off by having my assistant hold my Westcott reflector, camera left, to pick up some sunlight and open up detail in the shadowed front of his face. The fact that he squinted slightly only added to the naturalness of a "happening" out in the bright sunshine.

From there we went around to the other side of the building where I posed JJ poolside. When I looked through my 350mm lens again I saw the distracting chairs behind him. I removed only those that were around his head, choosing to keep the naturalness of the setting by leaving those on the left side of the composition.

JJ lowered himself into the water. As he came up dripping, I snapped the shutter again, using the exact same technique that I had done on the tennis courts.

I knew from past experience that the best lighting was going to be under cover. So, I brought JJ in and posed him against the plain wooden walls leading to the changing rooms. The light looked fairly flat as he turned pretty much straight out to me. Again, remembering past successes, I had my assistant hold the reflector out in the bright light. It created great highlights on him and cast a really neat shadow against the boards.

Then I simply moved him over to the edge of the wall, where he posed himself for a couple of pictures. Once again, I was particularly careful of the backgrounds behind him. They had to be simple and non-distracting. If there were going to be bright areas, they had to be where they would bring attention to him, rather than take your eyes away from him. That meant moving the camera little by little, placing his head in just the right spot.

For the picture of JJ seated on the ground he posed himself. Ordinarily, I would never have photographed anyone with legs spread apart like that, but his shorts were dark and I felt the naturalness of the pose made the picture. Of course, the wraparound lighting coming in from outside couldn't have been nicer.

I finished off the session by placing one of the chairs just at the outside edge of the overhang. Light was coming in all around him, but it was still controlled by the roof blocking the light from overhead. I had JJ straddle a chair, lean on the back and mug the camera. He's great at that having had lots of practice posing for my classes.

I photographed a complete range of his expressions that way, figuring that prospective clients looking for a model might like to see some of his different "looks." Finally, on the way back to my house JJ asked me to stop by the side of the road, so that he could pitch his little tent just a few feet off to the side. The final shot was one more way of showing still another of the range of the personalities that he could portray.

You know what? I didn't even use my flash during the entire sitting. Oh, well€better safe than sorry. I'd never leave home without them.

Then, just after I had put these three composites together in Adobe Photoshop, a local model stopped by my home. Proud of what I was doing, I showed him my work on this story. He promptly told me that in today's world just another "pretty face" isn't what's selling. "Lifestyles" were what was important. He thought that JJ would be perfect as the young father, the family-man image.

So, back to the computer. I picked up some past images that I had created of JJ to show him as the young father and lover. I had to admit that the concept of my final mixed-image composite excited me more than the first two.

Now it's up to my pictures and JJ's agent to find him work. Just in case someone sees this story and wants to hire him, he can be reached at:

In the meantime, I thought that the message here was worth publishing. Who knows how many of you, too, are being asked to photograph models' portfolios? I can tell you this. Even though I was working from past successes with my portraiture, I still had and have plenty to learn about this particular market.

Now, I'm really excited about what we can and need to do for professional and aspiring professional models. I just wish that I had more time to do them. I also wish that they could afford my prices!