How to Make a Hair Stylist Portfolio to Wow Any Employer

Hair Stylist Portfolio

If you want to nail your dream job as a hairstylist, you’ll need to create a stunning portfolio. This shows employers that you’re ready and can handle all of the hard work and creativity that goes into this career.

But how do you make a portfolio that wows employers? You want to be sure to showcase all of your skills in a clear, easily accessible way. It’s important that the photos are fantastic, and that the format adds to your art, rather than distracting from it.

Today we’ll talk about how to create a portfolio that shows the best of you, starting with why it is so important in the first place.

Why is it Important to Have a Jaw-Dropping Portfolio as a Hairstylist?

You already have a resume and cover letter—why a portfolio too?

Surely you’ve heard the expression: a picture is worth a thousand words. Hairstyling is very hands-on work, and it’s difficult to get a feel for your skills without seeing them firsthand.

This is what your portfolio allows an employer to do.

Related read: What are cosmetology working conditions like?

Having one place to display all of your hairstyling skills is beneficial for more than just getting your first job, too — it can also help you advance in your career in various ways later on.

What Should You Include in a Hairstylist Portfolio?

First and perhaps most importantly, you want your portfolio to display every skill you have. Don’t leave anything out!

Ideally, you want a variety of hair textures, face shapes, and styles in your portfolio. If all your models have the same face shape, how will employers (or clients) know you can style anyone who looks different? If they’re all sporting everyday looks, how does anyone know you can also style hair for special occasions?

That said, don’t cram your portfolio full. If two photos showcase the same skillset, it’s best to remove one so that your portfolio isn’t cluttered. Each photo should tell the viewer something different about you as a hairstylist.

Also, be sure to include before and after photos so that it’s clear what your models looked like before you styled them.

Don’t be afraid to swap out photos, either—make sure you’re keeping the best of the best in your portfolio. If you learn to do something better, take new photos to show this!

Lastly, once you have what we’ll call your “Big Portfolio,” go ahead and cut it down to suit whatever job you’re applying for. If a job doesn’t require a certain skill, removing the pages that cover that skill will leave your portfolio less cluttered and allow your relevant abilities to shine through.

Customize your portfolio to the jobs you apply for, just like you do for resumes and cover letters.

Hairstylist Portfolio
Hairstylist Portfolio

When Should You Start a Hairstylist Portfolio?

Ideally, you should start your portfolio as early as possible. While you’re in cosmetology school is a great time to begin.

This gives you a head start in preparing for your career and allows you to showcase the skills you learned in school.

If you are almost graduating, take our free cosmetology practice test to help you find out if you are ready to take your exam. You should also check out our cosmetology exam prep kit!

If you’ve graduated and haven’t started your portfolio yet, don’t worry! You can still start today, no matter where you are in your career.

How to Take Photos for a Hairstylist Portfolio

One of the worst things you can do for your portfolio is to fill it with low-quality photography. It’s okay if you aren’t an expert photographer, but blurry phone photos are unlikely to get you very far.

You want sharp photographs that allow viewers to see all the details of the hairstyles you’re showcasing. You also want your models to be dressed to fit the occasion.

Don’t shoot a model wearing a fancy wedding up-do and an old t-shirt. Make sure their clothing and make-up fit with your style and photographs nicely.

After this, you can skip a few steps by hiring a photographer to help you take photos. But if you don’t have the cash, let’s discuss briefly how you can get the most out of limited resources and photographer skills.

First, you might want to read a few basic photography guides, such as this guide about posing models or this portrait photography guide.

You’ll probably want to invest in some plain colored backgrounds to pose your models against. I use the word “invest” very loosely here, however!

Personally, I’ve gotten gorgeous photos using cheap materials, like colored poster board, or cheap fabric that can be hung someplace behind the model’s head.

Get creative with this, and don’t be afraid to search for coupons or sales before going into your local craft store for materials.

Your next challenge in getting great photographs for your portfolio will be your lighting. Sometimes you’ll be lucky enough to have great lighting indoors, or be able to do a shoot outdoors in the sun.

Even if your lighting is bad, you don’t have to invest in anything expensive. These lighting tips can help you make the most of what you have!

With this information, you’re ready to pose your models and take photos! Use whatever camera is available to you, but if you can afford to invest in a decent one, you should do so.

Think of it as a business expense to make your portfolio the best it can be.

Hair Stylist Portfolio
Hair Stylist Portfolio

How to Find Models for a Hairstylist Portfolio

If you need models for your portfolio, there are plenty of ways to get them.

For starters, look at the people you know—and the people they know. Ask friends and family if they know anyone who’d be interested.

Related read: Can a cosmetologist become a barber?

You can also ask for permission from clients if you’re already working, or you could try asking around on social media.

Consider offering free or discounted haircuts, especially if you’re not yet a professional. Remember that modeling is work, too, and that exchanging services is fair!

If you’re still in cosmetology school, this is a great place to find models as well.

Wherever you find your models, try to find people who have healthy hair and who want a cut or style that shows off your skills and fits into your portfolio.

How to Format Your Portfolio as a Hairstylist

You want your portfolio to be well-organized and also look nice.

You should first categorize your photographs so that viewers can find what they’re looking for easily. Organize by style and skill.

So, your everyday styles should all be displayed together. But put all the dyed hair together as well, not just under every day looks where they will blend with your haircuts and styling techniques.

You also want your portfolio to have a nice design for both the online version and the hard copy. If something looks weird in one format, don’t be afraid to tweak it or even create two different layouts.

There’s no need to do anything fancy when it comes to layout, and you definitely don’t want anything to take away from your photos. Keep things nice and professional, but don’t choose busy backgrounds or distracting fonts.

The most important thing is that your portfolio is easy to browse. Make sure all text is easy to read, photos are crisp and large, and everything has its place.

If you’re still feeling lost, you can hire a professional to put your portfolio together, or find a template online to help!

Hair Stylist Portfolio
Hair Stylist Portfolio

Should You Have an Online Portfolio?

Yes, you should have an online portfolio! It’s good to put yourself out there so that you’re open to any opportunities that may come your way—including new clients!

Your online portfolio doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be displayed on a website or even hosted on social media. The important thing is to display your skills and broaden your reach.

Related read: What is a cosmetologist’s typical work schedule?

If a client sees your hairstyles on Instagram and falls in love, that’s a new client who you may not have found otherwise. And that client may tell their friends about you, too!

That said, you don’t want your portfolio to be online-only. Having a print copy of your portfolio will help you in other ways, so it’s best to have both.

How to Keep Your Hairstylist Portfolio Fresh and Up-to-Date

You’ll want to set aside time to update your portfolio at least once or twice a year.

Take out photos that are dated, whether they’re old trends or your skills have improved since taking them. If needed, replace these with photos that showcase your new and improved talents.

Add photos to your portfolio that display your knowledge of current trends, focus on your new skills, or are needed to replace old, less-quality photos.

As time goes on, it’s normal to change your mind or not see your portfolio the same as you used to. If you revisit your portfolio in a few years and it’s not as great as you remember, that probably just means you’ve improved as a stylist!

hair stylist portfolio
Hair Stylist Portfolio


A great portfolio will help you throughout your career, as long as you put in the effort to make it fabulous and keep it updated through time. We hope these tips have helped you to get started on a portfolio that will last!

For cosmetologists seeking to blend creativity with security, discovering the right insurance coverage is a step towards peace of mind—see what fits your profession.

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