Building an Impressive Portfolio

by Kelly Taggart, Purely Visual

Photography is an incredibly powerful medium that is openly embraced by the salon industry. Having your work captured on camera is also exciting and rewarding and the outcome can be very useful.

There's nothing better than using your own images for your salon advertising, brochures, social media, website, and displays on your salon walls.

Many artists also enter industry contests or opt to submit work for editorial publishing, a great way to increase credibility with clientele and peers alike. But, building an impressive portfolio of work doesn't happen quickly or easily and really should be targeted with your goals in mind to be the most effective.

If you yearn to educate or see yourself on stage as a platform artist, a strong portfolio that targets your peers would be a great ally. The same goes for entering contests. The best advice in that case is to do your homework and research what the judges are looking for and then do everything you can to hit that mark.

If your goal is to build clientele or increase your value with the clients you already have, it's vital to create imagery that appeals to your clients. Clean commercial styles on younger, pretty models are your best bet in that case.

Once you've figured what your end uses are and the market you want to appeal to, look for samples of images that you like to help you in your planning. Pull images of hair that interests you and targets your market, but more so search for samples with a look and feel of the photography you like so you can communicate with the photographer. This also helps with makeup and wardrobe; just know that you likely won't find one sample with everything you desire.

Now that you have your ideas in mind, it's time to assemble your team. That includes models, makeup, wardrobe, photographer, and yes, hair.

Models — Remember that the look of the model is 90 percent of the success of the image, so choose carefully. Think young, slender and attractive with balanced facial features and a well-proportioned body. Good skin is a plus and piercings and tattoos should be considered carefully. Take the time to search for the right face and then make the hair work the best you can.

Photographers / Retouches — Photographers are the corner stone of your shoot, so you want to find one that has a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish as well as the experience to achieve it. It's highly suggested that you use an established professional that specializes in hair or beauty, as they know how to light and pose models for the sake of the hair. If a hair or beauty specialist is not available, a fashion photographer might be your next option. Regardless, look at their portfolio to be sure they can accomplish the looks you want.

Makeup — The next member of your team is the makeup artist. Makeup for camera work is very different than what is used in the salon or for everyday life so it's vital to choose a well-seasoned makeup artist with the tools and experience on-camera. Their portfolio should give you an idea of what they are capable of. The photographer might be able to help recommend artists they've worked with before, as they know that the true value of a makeup artist shines through when it's time for retouching.

Wardrobe — Wardrobe ties everything together and should also be given plenty of attention. If you don't have a budget for a wardrobe stylist, it's suggested that you shop for the clothing and then assign someone to help you the day of the shoot. They will basically prep the clothes, dress the models and work on set to insure that the clothing looks the best it possibly can. As the hair artist, you simply don't have the time to worry about the clothing while shooting.

Hair — When doing hair for photography, it's important to understand that it looks very different on camera versus what you are used to in the salon. You and your hair team need to think in three dimensions and consider all angles. Strive to achieve an ideal silhouette and pay attention to the little details. Watch for unclean partings or sections, frizz, holes, messy napes and hairlines, stray hairs where they don't belong and avoid the overuse of products.

To overcome these issues, prep well. Practice really does make perfect. Aim for slightly more body than you are used to, working cleanly and providing a pliable finish. Even with all of the practice, hair has a mind of its own sometimes so be ready for the unexpected and roll with it the best you can.

During the shoot, bring the right tools on set and be very attentive, standing quietly behind the photographer so you see what they see. Continue working until you are sure you have captured the looks, angles, and expressions you want. If in doubt shoot more and edit later.

When finished, take a fair amount of time to edit the images down to the top few for each hairstyle or look. Avoid the impulse to pick too many images – you really just need a few of the best ones. Have the photographer retouch or rework the images as desired keeping in mind what the images might be used for.

Work closely with all members of your team, but especially with the photographer to produce the best possible finished images for every need you have. It will be well worth your time as great images truly do speak for themselves.