Model Mayhem Has Some Competition – Finally!

Model Mayhem Has Some Competition – Finally!

Model Mayhem has long been the double edged sword that many of us starting in fashion photography have to deal with. How do you find talent and put together your team when you first start? Finding those resources and assets is difficult and the idea of having a database of people looking to do the same thing you are is brilliant, but the go to source for that is slightly less than brilliant. Model Mayhem requires that you put together and add a portfolio before getting started, but the vetting process is very much lacking. Those of you, especially photographers know the often agonizing process of finding good talent through MM. Especially for those of you, like myself, who live outside of the major fashion markets. We now – finally – have an alternative in the new service, Portbox. I have been fortunate enough to take a look at the new site and speak with its inceptor, Joseph Evans.

What Portbox aims to do is put professional freelance models in front of professional photographers. Listening to Joseph describe his experience with putting together a team and finding models for shoots was like deja vu, completely mirroring my experiences.

As a professional freelance photographer, finding the right model/s and organizing a photo shoot project had become an overly complex/convoluted process with a lot of loose ends. There was no centralized communication channel to help you locate, communicate and ultimately, book a professional freelance model. The process usually includes searching modeling/social networks, calling, texting, emailing models/agents; to find the right person. But once you’ave found someone, it can take days or weeks to coordinate schedules and photo shoot details; potentially leading to frequent scheduling conflicts and valuable time wasted.

After years of being frustrated with the lack of dedicated tools to help streamline the booking process; I set out to improve the way freelance photographers find, communicate and collaborate with models.

view of the Portbox homepage.

So What is Portbox?

Portbox is more than a collection of portfolios for you to spend hours sifting through to then be limited to sending out 5 messages to see who may be available or even who may even be still using the service. Its an interactive booking service, that allows you to privately see the schedules of those on the site. Photographer and Models will be able to share their calendars and offer jobs to those who are available.

"Portbox is much more than a limited portfolio hosting website, its an all-in-one solution for modeling photography professionals. Portbox hosts your portfolio, booking calendar and email all within one platform. We think of it as the modeling network 2.0." 

Another spin on Portbox that models will love, is that their is no "Inbox" photographers must actually send an offer for a job or shoot that exists in order to make contact. This protects the models from photogs just trying to say "hi" or "girl you so sexy", which may sound funny, but its this sort of things that detracts legitimate models from other like services.

I asked the creator of Portbox, Joseph Evans, where he sees Portbox going in the future.

"​We envision Portbox becoming a very strong brand and the premiere destination for booking professionals in the modeling photography/fashion industry."

Only time will tell if Portbox will be able to find its place in our community, but I for one am ecstatic at the possibility of a better alternative to like sites that I hate but can't stay away from.

sample view of a Portbox profile.

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32 Comments

Good. Modelmayhem is so outdated it aint even funny.

At this very moment, you can play a game of "Curve Ball" on Model Mayhem, but nothing else is working. I can't think of a single major website that periodically shuts down their entire site like that. They have a very long history of doing this too. Model Mayhem has always been plagued with serious technical problems.

So you missed the huge yellow banner at the top of every page stating that they would be down for maintenance on the 14th... and correlate this to be an ongoing technical problem?

Not to be misconstrued that this type of maintenance announcement went out in the 00's, and that Model Mayhem has a lot to do to make the site current. I just hope they don't throw whatever is trending in HTML development at the moment at the problem, and just face-lift a few things

Other than that it still is a pretty good network, community and open forum for just about anyone from beginners to pros to contribute or learn the business.

Disclaimer: I have nothing to do with their business whatsoever, but push a number of my photo and retouching students there to get their feet wet. FStoppers' often top-voted contributing author, board mod and retouching specialist Julia Kuzmenko McKim became rather famous due to her contributions at MM (just as a reminder).

Why so sarcastic, Doc? Of course, I saw the yellow banner that announced an upcoming planned outage. It wasn't actually "huge" like you falsely claim, but it wasn't difficult to spot either.

My point remains, and I still stand by it. None of the major sites I use are prone to periodically shut down their entire site, just to perform routine maintenance or upgrades. I'm sure those other sites are also doing periodic maintenance, but they have the infrastructure, redundancy, and expertise in place to perform the maintenance without shutting down the entire site. This, in and of itself, is a technical problem, and since it's been happening with Model Mayhem the entire ten years that I've been using it, it does indeed qualify as an "ongoing" technical problem.

Yes, it's a "pretty good" network, relatively speaking, but it's very far from perfect. It's also fairly stagnant in many respects. Many of the flaws it currently has have been there for years. They either lack the money, expertise, or will to fix many of their shortcomings. There's certainly an opportunity for someone else to come along and offer a competitive service, with significant advantages. I'll probably continue to use Model Mayhem, but I gladly welcome some serious competition to come along. It doesn't have to be a case of "winner take all". There's definitely room for more than one model & photographer network in my life.

You're right... there was no call for snark (bows head in shame). Also because I agree with you about "maintenance mode" which went out ages ago as a professional way to update a website.

I'm afraid my disdain (and wrath) for a number of websites, of which PortBox is now one of IMO, that jump on a new trend in UX, and don't take into consideration the actual and real usability of the professionals that they portend to service.

Not every site can be Pinterest, nor efficiently service their users by using paralax, responsive, or whatever else is trending BuzzFeed style just for the sake of being "in".

You would think that they would at least research what people liked/disliked for example with the recent Flickr "Flip" modernization; or what works good at 500px; or even what they would change to simplify ModelMayhem, but keep to time honored principles of graphic design and info-communication layout... for professionals... not simply for ADSD lurkers and the Instagram crowd.

There's a very good reason and many studies that point out that the simpler you make things the less professionals take you seriously. Take Windows Metro as a good case study. So why is everyone trying to use that failed design approach for professionals that value information and the time it takes to get from A to B?

/rant --- and again sorry for the unnecessary snark and belligerent tone.

Model Mayhem is owned by Internet Brands, correct? So their sole existence is to serve ads.

Lol. Some tool downvoted my comment. Must be an Internet Brands employee.

Yeah I get downvoted all the time. Mostly by uptight people who faint at the sight of nipples, the mention of women's rights or my "america is not the only place in the world" stance. People are weird.

Has anyone joined the site yet? I just found it today and read this post. I am interested, but I would love to see some honest to God personal reviews.

Chris Adval's picture

I hope and assume Lance Nicoll did... Lance did you have the chance to play in there?

Lance Nicoll's picture

Yes I have, the interface is much more engaging IMO than Model Mayhem. The search fields themselves are a little clunky, they start searching when you type instead of letting you finish.

The amount of people currently registered is low, as one would assume for a new service. For me in New Orleans, there are no models, but I am planning a 2 week trip to Miami and there are a good number of models in that market so I plan on using it there and seeing how well it works.

For right now its not really of use to me, but it has the potential to be much better than MM

Chris Adval's picture

yea, it looks more like a beta as it is "invite only" which based on their requirements makes sense to vet everyone as well.

Miami, of course since the owner Joseph did a ton of leg work with the local models I'd assume since he is Miami based.

I agree, not useful to me too if even New Orleans dont have any models for photogs I'm sure my area won't have any either. But I think an idea for Joseph is to look into ambassadors for metro areas or major cities to help grow the network faster and offer them the unlimited/business plan at no cost in return for the leg work to get models signed up... Hopefully they charge both models and photogs and its not like another OneModel Place where they treat photogs like men at a club having a cover charge just for men which is a bad idea in my opinion and pretty sexist even though photogs are not necessarily men but its obvious its mostly men and most models are women... just saying.

rich miller's picture

Thus far even in NYC there are only 2 models listed. Miami, LA and surprisingly Austin seem to have the most registered models. What I don't like so far, is that it seems like another 'half-naked hot girl' type of site.

Chris Adval's picture

What you said sparked an idea, maybe a dedicated model/photographer (and other creatives) site for just fashion peeps... like me and Peter House, etc.

rich miller's picture

The problem is that, today, 'half-naked hot girl' is what passes for fashion (on a very consumer level). For the most part (again, on a very consumer level) most 'photographers' out there who just want to see an attractive woman take off her clothes will call themselves a 'fashion photographer' (and at the same time, those who have no idea whatsoever what it is that they're shooting will also do as such). My point is that the 'half-naked hot girl' thing will be a part of every visual-creative site. Which is a shame

Chris Adval's picture

I agree, I'll be doing fashion with only with a touch of sexy to my style just because thats what the market (advertising/creative agencies) want for their campaigns.. most of the time.

Sander van der Veen's picture

Not my cup of tea i guess. ..

First very quick impressions:

a) what a messy layout... just to be "in" and responsive?
b) charging by the number of shoots booked? Good luck with that.
c) portfolios "behind closed doors", meaning you have to sign up once again for something that you very well might never use or return to again. How many people hate that besides me?

...last but not least: BLINKING TEXT!? REALLY?! GTFO!

Haven't made an account yet but can you tell me whether it's international? I hope this isn't just for the US. I hate it when things are only available in the US, not like that's the center of the world or something.

On their "Features" page, they do mention being a "global network".

Let's just hope that global doesn't just mean USA, Canada and Mexico. I know quite a few american businesses who claim to be global but only service these three countries, refusing to ship to civilized european countries altogether. There is no such thing as global without including europe.

Willie Brown's picture

I'm gonna give it a shot. I registered this morning, just gotta get the invite for them. I'm always up to try something new.

Anyone has any invite codes? I would love to have one. PM me

Anonymous's picture

might want to add that it's currently in beta and invite only.

Anonymous's picture

ModelQ is another I've received invites to

udor nyc's picture

I like the name "Portbox"... not bad... but... there have been many, many attempts to create alternatives and competitors over the years towards Model Mayhem. For a website to be an efficient competitor, you need to have a huge amount of talent registered. A much better interface than MM is not hard to create... what is much harder is that you need to be able to create a community and a large membership. So... good luck to Portbox and hopefully the hype will help to gain some members. Oh... and apparently, there are some spelling erros that the Portbox developers should take a look at... :)

Has anyone joined yet? I would like get an invite code to check it out.....
ayokocom[at]gmail.com

Roberto Inetti's picture

Old crappy website VS new crappy website...Fight!!

I would like to try Portbox but so far I couldn't find anybody who does have an invite.

I find it pretty ironic that the guy who wrote this says he is glad to see this site is starting up... but he won't be able to use it because they don't accept wedding photographers and he is a wedding photographer.