How to Make a Showstopping Digital Portfolio for Hair Stylists & Cosmetologists
So you've done it. You've graduated from cosmetology school, and you're ready to slay. Or maybe you've been in the beauty business for years, but you want to take your career to the next level.
If you want to impress your ideal employer or score a spot at that boujee salon, you need an effective way to highlight your skills, your passion, and your unique sense of artistry.
Enter the hair stylist portfolio.
What is a hair stylist portfolio?
A hair stylist portfolio is a collection of model photos that showcase your cuts, colors, and styles and is sometimes called a lookbook. It can also include your hair stylist resume and other relevant information about your work.
For cosmetologists, you can highlight nail art, skincare, and any other specialties you excel at.
Once upon a time back in the analog days, that portfolio was often housed in a 3-ring notebook with plastic sleeve protectors for the photos. Nowadays, cosmetology portfolios are best created digitally on websites or portfolio hosting sites.
Why do I need a cosmetology portfolio?
A cosmetology portfolio is a great place to house photos of your best work to help market your business, land employment, and win competitions.
A portfolio is often a prerequisite for employers and salon owners so they can evaluate your work before they hire you. It is also important to have a cosmetology portfolio you can show people if you want to work on projects, like shows, photo shoots, or special events. In addition, freelancers can create a hair stylist portfolio that can help get business and generate referrals.
Nowadays, many jobs demand online applications, and being able to include a link to a digital hair stylist portfolio rather than lugging a physical copy around is a huge benefit. If you're looking to land a freelance gig or get hired on a project, you may not have the chance to present a physical lookbook, but you can easily share your online portfolio.
In addition, online cosmetology and hair stylist portfolios allow you far more creativity in design than old school lookbooks, and they can be easily updated and changed as you progress.
If you're a salon owner, a portfolio can be a great way to highlight your business's unique offerings and to create your brand's look and feel.
Hair stylist portfolios grow as your business grows, whether you're a salon owner, freelance hair stylist, or employee.
How to set up a hair stylist portfolio
First, find a site to host your hair stylist portfolio. This can be a website service or a portfolio hosting service such as Journo Portfolio. Website services can be an excellent option if you want to sell products online or build out a website from scratch, but tend to be complex to set up and maintain.
Portfolio hosting platforms may have fewer features, but they are specifically designed for portfolios and are easy to create and refresh. They're also mobile friendly, so they'll look good if someone is viewing your cosmetology portfolio on their smartphone or tablet.
You can also choose to have both a business website and a personal portfolio site as well, as each fulfills slightly different functions. Either way, many platforms offer a free option or trial period to get you started, which is great for students or newcomers.
As your business progresses, you may choose to expand to a paid option that gives you the ability to have multiple pages on your site, newsletter sign-ups, embedded video, and more, so choose a platform that can scale with you as you expand.
When you're ready to begin the design process, you'll choose a theme, a color scheme, and templates for your pages. A good hosting site will make it easy to design a hair stylist portfolio for the career you want.
What to include in a hair stylist portfolio
Photos. The best way to impress future employers and clients is with a stunning visual presentation of your work. Pictures really are worth a thousand words when it comes to a hairstylist or cosmetology portfolio. In fact, photos are such an important part of your portfolio that we've included an entire section dedicated just to that below.
Social Media Links. Social media is the fastest way to promote your business, so make sure your portfolio includes social media buttons so people can find you.
About Me. A bio section that gives details about your education, experience, and style motto is a great way to let people know what you're about. Keeping it professional but adding a bit of personality goes a long way, and be sure to include a well-done professional bio pic.
Hair Stylist Resume. You can include your resume as a section or on a separate page, or upload a pdf version.
Services Offered. Since cosmetology and hair styling cover many different services, having a section or page dedicated to what you do can be helpful. Do you specialize in nails? Bridal makeup? Men's cuts? Color? Skincare? You can also let people know if you're available for projects or events.
Contact Information. After you've impressed everyone with your portfolio, you want to make sure they can find you. Be sure to include contact information and/or a contact page.
How to include great photographs
The photos you include in your cosmetology portfolio showcase your skills and range. That means you'll only want to include your best looks and a range of looks instead of many versions of the same thing.
As for how many photos to include in a hair stylist portfolio, it's far more effective to include 5 to 7 great photos of unique styles than to include 15 to 20 photos that are less than stellar or repetitive.
Here's some top tips on how to maximize your style pics.
Types of photos to include
Include Before/After Photos
Some of the most impressive hair style photography shows the transformation you create for your clients. Not every photo needs to be a before and after, but Including a few dramatic transformations can be truly convincing. Make sure you take both the before and after picture from about the same angle and with the same background -- you really want to keep the focus on the changes you made.
If you're just starting out, see if you can wrangle a few friends or family members to let you work with them on a before and after shoot. And if you're already established, ask clients if they're willing to pose.
Another great aspect of before and after photos is that they usually do well on social media, too, so you can use them for social media content and then upload the best example to your portfolio.
Highlight your special expertise
Do you specialize in Black hair? Beard trims? Bridal hair styles? Makeup? Get plenty of high-quality photos of what you do best, using different models, backgrounds, and styles to create intrigue.
Work with diverse models and a range of styles
This may sound like it contradicts what we just said, but chances are, you're unlikely to only be doing a single type of cut or style. And even if you did, you're likely to work on a range of clients.
It's great to show that you can work with different hair types and facial structures. It's also valuable to include photos of clients of different ages, ethnicities, and skin tones.
And unless you're trying to get hired behind-the-scenes at Paris Fashion Week, everyday people work great for these shoots.
How to take great hairstyle and cosmetology photos
Ideally, you'd work with a professional photographer in order to create stunning photos for your hair stylist portfolio. If you're in a position to do so, this can be a great option. However, most of us don't have the time or the money to hire someone to do a professional-level shoot.
In addition, a digital portfolio is meant to be updated frequently as you evolve as a hair artist and cosmetologist. That means most of the pics you share are going to be taken by you. So here's a few tricks to help your hairstyle photos stun.
Keep the focus on the hairstyle
Distracting backgrounds that are too busy or angles where you can't really see the cut take away from the point you are trying to make, which is that you are an awesome hair stylist! A simple background out of a single colored swathe of fabric can work wonders and is cheap and easy. Or choose the portrait setting on your phone or camera to blur the background and focus on the cut.
Create interest without distraction
Doing some location work out in nature or in unique urban settings can add texture and interest. The only caveat is to make sure the setting remains firmly in the background and your model's hair/nails/skin take center stage.
Make sure that you don't take every picture in the same place or with the same background. This happens most often when hair stylists always take pictures of their models while the model is still in the salon chair. Those photos can be great for social media but are less ideal for your professional hair stylist portfolio.
Keep the overall impression of a photo consistent
While it's important to keep the focal point of your photos on your hair styles, cuts, and colors, it's inevitable that viewers will also be looking at makeup, clothes, and background.
Make sure each element works together to create a vibe, so take some time on wardrobe and makeup before you shoot. Your hairstyle should fit the location and fashion.
You also may have to work with your model to help them pose, especially if you are working with clients, friends, and family instead of professional models. It's worth taking the time to set up a photo well, so that your image conveys what you want to say.
Keep it fresh
As you work, keep taking photos, especially the coveted before and afters. Not only can these be super important for building a clientele through social media, but you can upload the best of the best easily to your portfolio, keeping your selection fresh and replacing older photos.
Avoid using manikin heads.
Avoid overexposed or blurry photos. Take the time you need to really get a good shot, or ask for help from someone with more photography skills.
Don't use too many similar photos or highlight too many similar cuts and styles.
Make sure the lighting is flattering. You don't have to get fancy if you don't know how, but weird shadows or highlights can be super distracting.
There are some great videos on YouTube that can also help you take better pictures of your hair styles as well as how to effectively pose models.
How to use your hair stylist portfolio to build your business
Build an online presence. Link your portfolio to your social media accounts, and be sure to list your portfolio site in your social media bios.
Include an email newsletter sign-up. This is a great way to convert site visitors to future clients and keep everybody updated on your work.
Make online appointments. Link to an appointment booking site such as Booksy.
Set up a blog. Get online traction by writing about style trends, showcasing special projects you've worked on, and utilizing SEO best practices to rank well on Google.
Share, share, share! Remember part of the benefit of a digital portfolio is ease of sharing. Don't be afraid to include a link in any email or DM outreach you do and include your cosmetology portfolio link on business cards and marketing material.
Keep updating your hair stylist portfolio with your best work and be sure to add new pages, sections, and features as you grow as a cosmetology artist.
Ready to build an amazing cosmetology portfolio?
Now you know what it takes to develop a jaw dropping online hair stylist portfolio, land your next gig, and grow your clientele. Get started with your new cosmetology portfolio today!