How to become a model


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How to become a model

  1. 1. How do I get started in Modeling?Getting StartedHow does one get started in modeling? There is no one way for a person to get started. Differentmodels have reached success through different routes. If one wants to become a doctor there is aset course of schooling, experience and testing, but for modeling there is no clear path. We doknow of some of the ways models have gotten started in the past. This is by no means anexhaustive list but it might help in your efforts to launch a career in modeling.Front Door - Go to the SourceThe bulk of the work in modeling is booked through Modeling Agencies. So literally go to thefront door of the modeling agency. This is the number one way for a wannabe to start. You haveto do some research to find where the modeling agency door is, locally or other big city, and thatthey are no SCAM AGENCY. You can approach a modeling agency through their open call,schedule an interview or by submitting a cover letter and photographs. Give them a call or emailthem and ask how they want new talent to contact them. There is no reason to try another way ofgetting started until you have been turned down at the front door.Know SomeoneSome models get started because they have an in. You hear stories of someone who has a friendwho models and goes to a photo shoot with them and is then discovered by the photographer.Some might have an aunt who modeled or runs an agency and helps to get them started. Othersmight work in a related field and one day finds them not working beside the camera but in frontof it. In smaller markets child models are most often used because they are an art directors,buyers, or photographers kid. Knowing someone in the business can help a lot in getting acareer in modeling started.The FatesModeling agencies are in fact constantly looking for new talent. This is very true in fashionmodeling. This segment of modeling is composed mostly of young models. By the time a modelis thirty their career is over. There is always a need to find the next generation of models.Because of this need for new talent, folks involved with modeling agencies are looking for newtalent. This can be modeling agencies personnel (owner, booker), photographers, art directors,and of course the "model scouts." Some agencies are in fact large enough to employ anindividual who is just out looking for that next generation of new talent or to fill new needs of aclient. Unfortunately, the term "model scout" is being used more often by rip off organizations,web space salesmen and scoundrels, so one is correct in being suspicious of anyone calling themselves a model scout. But there are numerous stories of models being discovered at the mall, onthe beach, or other public place. So if you hope to start your career in modeling by waiting forthe fates to smile on you, plan on spending a lot of time hanging in out in public places.Hard workSome models do work their way into modeling (I have also heard from models that modeling ishard work and all models work their way into the business). These models track down tests
  2. 2. shoots and put together their comp cards and portfolios. They study and practice being a modelby working on their expressions, posing, runway walking, hair styling, make up, working in frontof a camera, and how the business works. These models may work freelance or havenonexclusive contracts with a number of modeling agencies. In smaller regional markets, whereagencies do not have the resources to develop new talent, an agency might not work with amodel until they have developed their skills and marketing materials. If you enjoy the process ofmodeling and doing good work, then all of the time and expense that go into this process can beits own reward. If you have to make a living at modeling, you should be sure you meet the basicphysical and aptitude requirement of the type of modeling you want to become before you investyour time and money into this process. If you want to be a high fashion model and do not havethe size or a look, no amount of hard work will make you a career model.Try to Buy SuccessThere is a whole industry built around this approach to getting started in modeling. Very fewmodels actually come from this avenue of trying to start a career. This area includes many of themodeling school, modeling camps, model searches, Internet listing services, modeling contest,modeling conventions, and pageants. This is not to say that these activities cant be interesting,educational and fun. Most of these organizations will take on and take money from almostanyone who wants to be a model. This leads to a very low percentage of career models whoactually come from these activities. Most of these organizations survive by playing on people’sdreams, ignorance, and pocket books and not by finding and developing top modeling talent. Butin spite of this sometimes someone does make it and this is what these organizations feature intheir sales pitches and videos.What are the height and size requirements for a high fashion model?This does seem to be the burning question. The general guidelines for women are; 56" to 6,around a size 3, 34B-24-34, and between 14-21 years of age. For men around 6 (a couple ofinches over or under,) size 40R. Are there exceptions to this? You bet. Is it fair? No. Are therepetite sizes and plus sizes? Yes. Do commercial, glamour, acting, or smaller markets careanything about these sizes? Not much. Only if you want to work high fashion in the majormarkets, like New York, are these numbers important.Are there jobs for models who specialize in just parts of the body?Yes. Hand models are often hard to find especially when you need one. It has been myexperience that many models will have photogenic faces and good bodies but their hands andfeet can be just horrid. Often times you will use one person for the face and have a hand modelreaching into the picture to provide the hands. Of course the photographer makes it look like oneperson but in fact there are two. With jewelry photography we look for good hands, nice neck,and ears. A good ear is very hard to find as they have to be shaped just right, the skin has to bevery smooth, and you want them pierced for only one earring not 25. Unfortunately, paying jobsfor jewelry modeling seldom come along. It is best to find other industries that need good-looking body parts. Parts models follow similar career paths as regular models. So if you areinterested in this type of modeling read through the Modeling Advice section of this site.How much do models make?
  3. 3. What you hear about is the fabulous big bucks that super models make. Out of all the models inthe world, only a handful of them make this top dollar. Their yearly income can be in themillions. But for most models it will be far less, assuming you get any work at all. As a generalrule for markets outside of New York, modeling fees will be in the range of photographers fees.For a market like Portland, Oregon, the last I check modeling agencies were asking $150 anhour. As you move to larger markets fees for photographers and models will go up (I saw oneagency in New York asking $250 per hour) This may not bring you the big bucks of a supermodel but it will give you a good living if you can find steady work. And that is a big "if".Can a modeling agency tell just from a snap shot if I have what it takes to be a model?Yes and No. One of the normal screening practices for modeling agencies is to have you send acouple of snap shots of yourself, usually a head and shoulder shot and a full-length body shot ina bathing suit or tight clothes. From these snap shots some say they can tell if you have what ittakes for modeling. They say, "Dont spend money on getting photos taken, a Polaroid by yourfriend is just fine".To respond to the "yes" part of this question requires that you send to the modeling agency good,clear, properly exposed, properly composed and with you properly positioned photographs. Theycan use these photos as a screening tool. This means that if they have an opening for someonewith your look, they will be interested in meeting with you in person to see if, in fact, you looklike your picture. This does not necessarily mean you have or do not have what it takes to be amodel. It just gets you an interview and maybe on to a test shoot.To respond to the "no" part of the question means most people send bad pictures, or they maylook great but you dont meet the agencys needs at that moment or the agent guessed wrong.When they talk about sending a simple snap shot, they are actually looking for at least anadvance amateur level of photography or a wannabe professional photographer level. Havingtaught photography for a number of years, I can say that most beginners have problems withexposure, focus, and composition, let alone knowing how to position you to look your best. Youmay not want to trust your career to your best friends ability as a photographer unless they knowsomething about photography.Normally you will want to try several modeling agencies to see if they are interested in you. Oneagency may be full of blue eyed blondes while another may have none and need someone. Someof this is just being in the right place at the right time.Also, we all have our war stories of getting it wrong. One agency or photographer may saysomeone does not have what it takes and then they go to another agency and become a star. Iremember photographing a young 14-year-old, Jody, who I thought just didnt have the classicbeauty look and told her I doubted if she would accomplish much in this field. Fortunately, shedid not listen to me. She started working out, kept up her modeling and beauty work, switchedover to the pageant side of things and became Miss Oregon. I was way off on that call. I think theinitial snap shot, interview, and test shot are just screening processes to find those who wouldhave an easier time in modeling. Some special few may still find some measure of success inmodeling by hard work and developing special talents. They wont become superstars but theycan find enjoyment and financial rewards pursuing a modeling career.
  4. 4. Are modeling conventions and searches a good place to start a modeling career or are they atotal rip-off?I do not know. I have never personally been to one of these events (nor are any of them askingme to come and check them out) and I have not seen any 60 Minutes type investigation on them.I have looked over their web sites and I have seen endless chat rooms where they are called thebiggest rip-offs out there. I do not know of any top models (all though I do know of one TVactress discovered at IMTA) that have come from conventions and searches and you would thinkwith how many are put on that all models would come from them. I do know for what some ofthese organizations charge, you could fly to New York, stay for week and do open calls at everytop agency. Personally, I think they are not a very good investment and there are better ways toget discovered, but that is strictly my opinion.Why is everyone giving different advice on modeling?Remember the story of the three blind men describing an elephant. One man felt the trunk,another the tail and the third the leg. Each had a different description of what the elephant waslike. The modeling industry is the same way. The modeling industry is big with many specialties.What I have experienced is quite different from what fashion photographer Richard Avidonexperienced. And what he has experienced is quite different from what glamour photographerJeff Dumes has. And what we all have experienced is quite different from what the modelingagencies are going to tell you.Another part that leads to different views on the industry is that we are all small business people- each one running their own business in their own way, and hopefully better than thecompetition. This leads to a lot of different ideas of how things work and how things should bedone. It can also lead to confusion and present opportunities for con-artists. There is a set way tobecome a doctor, there is, however, no set way to become a model. This leaves the door open forthe "expert" to "guarantee" to make you a top model for only a small, non-refundable fee. Watchout and try to educate yourself on the many parts of the modeling industry.The AgencyYou hear that all the top models have great agencies, and you think, "If I can only sign with amodeling agency I will be set." But what exactly is a modeling agency and what does it do? Thisis not an easy question to answer. Modeling agencies operate as small independent business withno two agencies working the same. A lot depends on the market in which an agency operates andthe owner(s) and agencys personnel. The other problem with describing a modeling agency isthat there are a lot of rip-off and scam agencies out there. Because most wannabe models knowlittle about how the modeling business works, they are easy prey for these vultures. We can lookat what an agency might be at its best and worst and what they can do for your career as a model.A modeling agencys number one purpose is to find the model work. They work as the modelsrepresentative or agent. As an agent they seek and negotiate contracts of employment for themodel or talent who is an independent business. For finding the model work, they take a percentof what the model makes (10% to 33%). In some states they are considered private employment
  5. 5. agencies and must be licensed by the state. That sounds fairly simple and straightforward, but itis amazing how it can vary.New YorkNew York City is the number one city for models. It is the heart of the fashion and advertisingindustries in the United States, which leads to a high demand for all types of models. Themodeling agencies in New York compete to fill that demand with the finest talent in the nation.When an agency sees someone who has potential or someone who satisfies the demand, they willinvest in that individual to get him/her ready for the market. They dont do this to be nice people- they do it because they feel they can make money from that person. They know the market andthey will invest in you (a loan against future earnings) to prepare you for that market. If theyguess wrong and you do not become marketable and profitable, they will cut their losses anddrop you. The top agencies are working with big-budget ad agencies and fashion designers sothere is money available to develop new talent. These top agencies will help train you (more likeon the job training), get you test shoots, layout your portfolio, and put together comp cards andother printed materials you need. They take care of finding you work, booking the jobs, bill forthe jobs and eventually cut a check for the work you do. Once you are in an agency like this allyou have to worry about is following instructions and modeling.ElsewhereWithin a secondary market, the modeling agencies are not working with big budget clients likeNew York. In some cities there may be enough work that an agency can be a full time operation -perhaps even supporting a few people on staff but there is not enough work to pay for thedevelopment of new talent. For this type of agency you must provide the marketing tools andtraining. The agency may help you with where to go to get photos, composites and training, butthey cant afford to pay for it or loan you money. There just isnt enough budget for them to guesswrong even once. So it is up to you to foot the bill. This is fine if the agency is really out therelooking for work for its models and there is enough of a market to make a living. The problem Ihave found with some of these agencies is that they have no idea what they are doing. They arehaving a great time playing at being a modeling agency, but you could do better marketingyourself.What if you do find a good agency, what will they do for you? A good agency will help manageyour career and find you work. In big cities this can be split into two parts, managers andbookers. The manager will help you develop your "look", your modeling skills, and develop yournatural talents. They will help in preparing your marketing materials for the market in which theythink you will be most successful. They should have knowledge of the market place and willhonestly evaluate your potential for that market. They should have contacts so they can send youto photographers, graphic designers and printers to prepare your marketing materials. Theyshould have the means to prepare you to be a model. The booking side is where the agencytracks down who uses models. The agency has a phone that is manned and an office that a clientcan visit. They make the rounds to keep in touch with those who use models and provide themwith composites and head sheets of their talent. They advertise, do lunches, do cold calls andturn over stones to find who is hiring models. They book time for models to work, give directionto get there and make sure models show up. They handle billing, collections, and complaints. A
  6. 6. good agency finds you work and earns every cent of their commission (usually 15% to 33%).But, in smaller markets, they are a rarity.Further on down the ladder you find agencies in markets that are too small to support a full timemodeling agency. In these markets the modeling school is usually the full time moneymaker andthe agency is just a hook. If you finish the school you get to be in the agency. This can be fine ifyou like to play at modeling and have the money to do so. In most cases if your city has apopulation of less then a million it will not be able to support a full time agency. Even in a city ofa million you may be better off marketing yourself than working with a so-so agency. When youget to a city with a population of a couple million or more there may be just too much ground tocover and an agency can be very helpful.How do you find a modeling agency?I have links to sites that have lists of modeling agencies on my Modeling Agencies links page.Since Modeling Agencies want to be easy-to-find, you should also be able to locate them in yourlocal yellow pages. If you find one in your area, you will want to contact them to see what theirnew model screening process is. Some may have you send a couple of snap shots to them. Othersmight have an open call where they have all new wannabes show up at once to be evaluated.Others might schedule an interview time for you. All work differently, so call to find out first.Also, be sure to check out the agencies you find with the Better Business Bureau to see if theyhave any complaints against them. And dont be pressured into signing anything right away. Ifthey offer a contract or want you to sign up for a class, ask if you can take the contract with youand you will get back to them in a few days. Be sure to read over the Modeling Scamsinformation and watch for any of the warning signs.This same process of finding a modeling agency also applies if you are looking for one in amajor market like New York. Check the link page for links to sites with directories of modelingagencies. Many of the top New York modeling agencies have web sites and some are listed onthe link page. Some even allow you to email photos and your vital stats to them.Checking out a Modeling AgencyA certain mystery surrounds the modeling industry. How does one become a top model? There isno clear-cut answer to that question. Because of this mystery and uncertainty, a great deal ofroom exists in which a scam artist can work. Since a modeling agency is often the key tobecoming a successful model, this is where many scams take place. How do you find a legitimatemodeling agency? There is no easy answer.First, there is no rating service for modeling agencies; there is no governmental authority; thereis no licensing organization to tell you which agency is legitimate and which is not. Mostagencies are small, independent businesses working in a very competitive market place. Theseseem to be in constant flux with new ones starting, old ones merging, and some closing up shop.This makes it a real challenge to find just a legitimate agency, let alone a good agency.The following are some ideas on how to find and then check out a modeling agency in yourarea:
  7. 7. 1) To find the modeling agencies in your area you can check the yellow pages of the phone book under Modeling Agencies. Remember that a modeling agency wants to be easy to find so a phone listing is a must. From the agencies listings you may find they are often, also, modeling schools. If there are no agencies listed for your area, you may have to check with the closest large city. If some one approaches you and says they are a scout for some agency and you cant find them in the phone book, be very skeptical. Also, check out some of the model agency directories listed on the Modeling Agencies Links page to see what is in your area.2) Check with the Better Business Bureau. They may have information on the modeling agencies you are interested in or complaints against them. Usually an agency has to be pretty bad for the BBB to have anything. Businesses that are bad businesses, or new scams, wont show up. When I checked on modeling businesses in the Portland area, I found that all of the modeling schools were members of BBB, the legitimate agencies were not, and the one known scam agency did not show any complaints. The BBB is not a perfect source for information, but it is a place to start. You will find many regional BBBs have web sites on which you can find information.3) One thing I like to do to check out agencies is to call them after business hours. I can find out fast which agencies are trying to be legitimate businesses. The idea behind this is that modeling is a very competitive, fast moving business and things dont just happen 9 to 5. If, I, as a photographer, have an emergency come up after business hours (a cancellation, a client who has to shoot tomorrow and will pay anything to do it) I need to be able to contact someone now or I am down the road to another agency. A good agency knows this and you will find, when you call them after hours, they will have an answering machine or service that will give you an emergency number to call (a cell phone or pager). If you find the machine just tells you to call back during business hours or they have no after hour answering service at all, look for another agency.4) The best way, which takes the most work, to find a good agency in your area is by studying and researching your market. If you follow the local news media (newspaper, TV), there is a good chance information on local agencies will show up. This past year the Portland newspaper had articles on a local girl who was discovered and went off to Europe to model (the article gave the name of the local agency that signed her) and a new face modeling contest the paper put on (the judges were from three local modeling agencies and the article gave the name of the agency and the contact at the agency). One of the local TV news stations did a story on a rip-off modeling agency and interviewed people from some of the legitimate agencies. In one year of just following the news (which you should be doing anyway to be an informed voter), I was able to find three legitimate agencies and one scam agency.5) Another method of researching the local market takes even more work - follow the local fashion print advertising. When you start to see which stores use local models regularly, you can start making phone calls. Call the store and find out who handles the advertising. You can hope that the person at the store who does this can direct you to their advertising agency, their photographer, or may even direct you to the modeling agency they use. Basically, you
  8. 8. are making phone calls to trace your way to a modeling agency supplying the models for the store ads. This will lead you to an agency with working models. I hate making cold calls like this myself, but this can be an effective way to find a modeling agency. Then again, if you can make cold calls like this, you may want to forget the modeling and become a photography rep!Modeling Agency ContractsThere are three styles of contracts that you typically will run across. Some modeling agencieswill work with exclusive contracts. This means that they are your exclusive representatives andthey get a commission on any work you do. They get this commission whether they find thework or you find it on your own. If you sign this kind of contract; be sure the agency is reallygoing to be working for you. If they are providing a lot of guidance getting your career startedand are out there beating the bushes to find work for you, this type of contract is fine. If theagency signs you just to fill space in their roster and then leaves you hanging in limbo for thelength of your contract (usually one to two years) it can be a bad way to try and start a career.Another type of contract is a non-exclusive modeling contract. In this case if the modelingagency finds you work, they get paid their commission. If you find work on your own you paythem nothing. You are free to sign non-exclusive contracts with other modeling agencies. Thisway you might have several agencies representing you at once. Now dont expect the sameservice and help from a non-exclusive agency as with an exclusive agency. In smaller markets,where you are expected to provide all of your training, portfolios, composites and othermarketing materials before an agency will work with you, signing an exclusive contract is a kindof a rip-off.The final contract is a Mother Agency Agreement. I have not seen one of these so I am not surehow they make it legally binding but you do hear about them. In this case the modeling agencyknows there is not enough work locally to support any one over the long term. Their positionthen is to move you on to a major market and get you signed with a major modeling agency.They may get you work locally but it is more with the idea of getting you ready for the majormarket. For helping prepare you and helping to place you with a top modeling agency, they get apercent of your earnings for a long time to come. You, in essence, never leave the mother agency- you are just loaned out to the top agencies. This can be an attractive arrangement if the motheragency invests time and money in your career and gets you on with top money making agencies.The trouble comes when this gets attached to a modeling school. You not only have to pay for allof the classes, the photo shoots, the career guidance session; you then must keep paying thesepeople again for doing nothing. You need to examine these agreements very carefully before yousign.What does it take tobe a Professional Model In the 50s, 60s, and 70s a female model had to be about 5 9" and acertain dress size. Men were something like 6 foot and a 40 regular. Of course you had to bebeautiful. The reason for this was that fashion manufacturers made dress and suit samples in onesize and it was easier to find a model in that size than to make a sample in a different size. As theplus sizes and petite sizes arrived and super models of varying sizes came on the scene, these oldrules had to change some (but not much). At the same time the "fashion look" for a season
  9. 9. changed as to what is considered beautiful. One season the look is anorectic drug addict, the nextinnocent and medieval. I dont think the classic beauty look has been in since the middle eighties.In the secondary fashion markets, the look that might be needed can vary even more. When itcomes to commercial modeling, size, look, and age can vary wildly. In a secondary market themore you can vary your look rather than having "a" look, the better your chances of findingwork. So, ultimately, it all comes down to three things:1) Having the look that someone needs (generally the client) for the project they are working onat that time,2) Making life easier for the art director and the photographer so they will want to work withyou, and3) Making sure the client, photographer, and art director know you exist and want to work.The first has a lot to do with what you inherited genetically (your looks and talent) and what youhave done with them. The second and third are where being a professional model comes in -knowing what to do and how to market yourself. When a project calls for someone attractive tostand next to a new product, the person who can constantly look good in front of the camera,show the emotional expression that is needed on cue, show up on time and leave on time and inso many other ways make the shoot go quickly, efficiently, and successfully, is the person whowill get the job. That is also the person who gets asked back the next time. The part after thegenetics is what I consider makes a professional model.Guide lines for what it takes to be a model.Well, all the above is fine but does not give much to go on, so do you have what it takes to be amodel? The first thing you have to consider is what type of model do you want be? If you aretrying for high fashion modeling, the runways of Paris, the cover of Vogue, etc., therequirements are stricter. If you are hoping to do commercial modeling (such as product orlifestyle) there are much broader requirements. If you want to be a glamour, or pin-up model, ithas its own set of requirements.First Thing to UnderstandAll modeling, except for some glamour, is client driven. There is no need for a model (or for thatmatter, a photographer) until a client has something to sell (a product, service, or idea). At thispoint, the client becomes willing to part with the dollars to accomplish his/her sales goal and amodel is hired. It is also the size of the potential sales goals and the models importance in thosegoals that determines how much a model is paid (hourly fees and usage). Some types of glamourand stock lifestyle modeling can work differently as the photo itself has a value and the buyercan be found later. So, when we look at different types of modeling we are looking at differentclasses of clients. As an example, the Fashion Industry has become very dependent on usingmodels in its advertising, promotion, and sales material.So let consider the job market when considering types of modeling projects and if you can makea living as a model. In a large marketplace like New York there is an enough work in a givencategory of modeling that a model can specialize. A model can be just a fashion editorial model
  10. 10. or fashion catalog model or even a plus size model or a hand model and be able to make a living.In smaller markets one would have to be more versatile to make it. When look at jobs and whocan make it as a model I like to view it as a pyramid. The pyramid represents all of the jobsavailable for a given year and the shape is formed by the requirement for the jobs. The large baseis made up of standard fashion jobs, commercial modeling jobs, and the large numbers of otherjob where they want someone who "looks like a model". Only models who fill the StandardFashion model requirement (tall, thin, and beautiful) will fill these jobs. As we move up thepyramid and the job pool gets smaller we get to the Plus Size Beautiful models and the PetiteBeautiful model. There are fewer fashion jobs available but one can still find commercial jobs(you are of course competing with standard size models for these jobs but size is less important) .As you move further up the pyramid to the Plus Petite Beautiful models and the Older models,the job possibilities get smaller still. And at the top are the Special Beauty, "Real People", andSpecial Character models. At this top of the pyramid are the jobs that come up once in a bluemoon, but are great for modeling schools and model searches to give as examples when givingtheir pitch that anyone can be a model.Test Shoots - You Need PhotosWhether you are working with a modeling agency or working freelance you will need photos -photos for your composite, portfolio, and web presence. With a modeling agency, they may tryto help you find test shoots. Working independently, you will have to track down your own testshoots.Test shoots or testing has become a generic term for photographic shoots where a model acquiresphotographs to use for the models promotional materials. I will elaborate on this further on.You have two basic goals when doing test shoots. One is to get good quality photos as fast asyou can to start getting work. The better quality (more professional and creative) photos youhave in your portfolio the better paying jobs you will get. The second is to get experience in frontof the camera and learning how to find your way around a studio or location shoot.Test Shoots - Advice for ModelsMy definition of a Test Shoot (also refereed to as a photographers test shoot and Time For Prints[TFP] shoot) is when a photographer wants to try out a new creative idea, test some newequipment or film, wants to build the photographers portfolio, or just wants to practice andfigure out how to take pictures, he sets up a photo session. In the case of a fashion or peoplephotographer he needs a warm body to put in front of the lens. This is where the volunteer modelcomes in. This can work out well for both parties. The photographer does not want to pay for amodel and the model does not want to pay for a photographer, so by trading services both getimages for their portfolio and gain experience. In some cases the photographer might give you acouple of prints for your services, in other cases you may have to pay for prints. In all cases youwill not get the original and dont even ask to borrow them.There are several problems you will find with this arrangement. A beginning photographer maybe eager to do test shoots, but he or she is still learning, so the quality of work may not be thatgood. You may end up with just so-so prints in your portfolio. In some cases they may forget to
  11. 11. take the lens cap off or some other technical problem so you may end up with nothing (of coursethat can happen to a pro pushing the limits also). In the case of seasoned professionalphotographers, they are often too busy with paying jobs or burned-out on doing new-model teststo do any test shoots. Thus it might be hard to find someone who is capable of producing goodwork and wants to do a test shoot with a new model. On the occasion when a seasonedphotographer has a burning desire to do something new and creative, he usually turns to a modelhe already knows and with whom he enjoys working. So for your first goal of getting qualityphotos fast, free test shoots may not be the best route.Is it bad or a total waste to do a test shoot with a beginning photographer?No. When you are starting out any chance you have to get in front of the camera and see someresults is valuable. It is a chance to gain some experience, try new make-up, poses, expression,wardrobe, and see how the photographer sees you. And once in while you and the beginningphotographer may even hit upon something that will produce an outstanding photograph. Itseems to happen more by accident then design, but sometimes neat things can happen. For amodel this learning by doing is the best teacher. So you can build a portfolio by this approachbut it can take a long time. But it does help to accomplish your second goal of gainingexperience.If you are lucky, you may be able to find an advance amateur photographer or a pro who isgetting back into model shooting. In either of these cases you have a shooter who has the abilityto produce good work but may not hit it on the first try. The photos they produce may not alwaysbe top tier shots but would give you good photos to start your career. This situation gives yougood quality photos, very fast, for little money, and the experience of working with someonewho knows something about the business. These types of shoots can also be the hardest to find.This information applies to fashion models, life style models, and commercial models. If you areseeking adult glamour modeling, you it will be no problem finding free test shoot once you learnwhere to look for them.WarningThis is where the warning should come in when looking for test shoots. There always seems tobe these "semi-pro" photographers out there. These guys are more then willing to do test shootswith new young models. These guys are more interested in hanky-panky than in producing agreat photograph. At some point they want to get your clothes off or they are all over you like anoctopus, saying they are trying to show you how to pose. Now this is different from very young,starting photographers who just have raging hormones. They are most likely just looking for adate rather than anything lecherous. In either case you will not end up with any usable photos foryour portfolio. This is where professionalism on both the models and photographers part isneeded. And they take pictures or movies of you undressing without you knowing. The Model Release As you start to do photo shoots the need for a model release will come up. .Finding Free Test ShootsIf you sign with a modeling agency they may already have a list of photographers that need thatwarm body to put in front of the camera. The agency may have checked out these photographers
  12. 12. and feel they are of a professional quality that the agency can recommend. In some cases, evenwith an agency, you may be on your own to track down test shoots.What are some strategies for tracking down photographers for free test shoots?If you find some photographers in your area, email them and ask if they do any freephotographer test shoots (TFP). They may say no, but you dont know until you ask. You canalso try calling around or visiting photographers studios but that will take more work. Theyellow pages might be helpful for this approach.If all of the current professional photographers in your area turn you down for free test shootsyou may want to try the wannabe photographers. These are the student photographers. You cancheck to see if your local community college or university has a photography program. If they doyou may find you can tell the instructor or place a notice on a bulletin board in the photographydepartment that you are looking for test shoots. As a professional photographer I know we allhad to get started somewhere and for many of us it was at college. As a beginning photographerif we wanted to learn any type of people photography we had to try and find a subject tophotograph. This could be your place to connect with a student photographer. Keep in mind thatthe photographer is as new to photography as you are to modeling so you will both be trying tolearn the business.Some other fringe spots where you might make contact with a photographer for test shoots arecamera stores and camera clubs. Sometimes the clerks at a photography store or photo lab mightknow of someone who is doing fashion or people photos. They may be able to keep an eye outfor a photographer once you let them know you are looking for test shoots. Also, some cameraclubs may have members who do people photos. Letting the head of the club know you arelooking for test shoots may lead to something. With both of these you run a greater risk ofrunning into the "semi-pro" photographer/lecher. Be extremely cautious about any leads you getthis way, but you may find an amateur photographer who does good work.I have started a web site I am calling Test It is a place to post your need for aphotographer to do test shoots. It has been up for a couple of years and has work for some. It isfree so you may want to give it a try.Another area that at first I thought held great promise to find test shoots but now I think is a longshot is one of the regional forums for models and photographers. I have been studying the onefor the region I am in for several months. I think forums in other regions will be similar and I amnot sure all regions will have such forums. It seams these forum tend to attract a lot of the "adultentertainment" wannabe photographers and not many fashion or commercial print photographers(although there maybe some lurking around). The photographers range from beginners to seasonpros. The photo interest can run from fashion but tend to be a lot of Playboy type glamourphotography to web "adult entertainment" photography. So these Forums are not for those under18 and please read the warnings below and use caution.If you find a forum in your region that has not become a place for "adult entertainment" contactsor if you are looking to become an "adult entertainment" model then a forum will allow you tosee what different photographers are shooting and what quality of work they are doing. Theforums are a chance for photographers and models to post photos from their latest shoots, ask
  13. 13. questions, share news, and get into lively debates. Those who post usually have email addressand web sites. You can study the postings and hopefully find some photographers to contactabout doing test shoots. You can also posts a notice on the forum saying you are looking for testshoots. If you are just starting, you can post without a picture but most of those postings getignored. The forums work better if you can get some photos up on the web and be able to link tothese photos when you post your message. Most photographers would like to see what you looklike before committing to a shoot. This makes the forums a tough spot to get that first allimportant test shoot but they can be good for finding shoots to build your portfolio, gainexperience and all for free. Forum photographers can be spread all over a region so you mayneed to be ready to do some traveling to get to shoots.Warning - Making Internet ContactsWarning when looking for test shoots on the web use caution. You do not know who is reallywho from postings, chats or websites on the Internet.What You Can Work OnNow for what you can work on to become a professional model. Facial expression, posing,make-up, hair styling and wardrobe are items that you can practice on your own. People talkabout models spending a lot of time in front of a mirror. They are not looking into the mirror toadmire themselves but to practice their expression & posing and to see how their make-up,hairstyle, and wardrobe look. After you get past your genetics and business professionalism thesebecome your modeling tools. By honing your skills in these areas to perfection and combiningthem in creative ways, a professional model is produced.Working on Expression and PoseIn the old days of melodrama and vaudeville they made a science out of communicating withfacial expression or body position. They exaggerated and standardized every emotion that onemight want to express. They produced books showing these standard expressions and poses andwhen you studied theatrics this was part of what you learned. All of this early work was a bitover exaggerated and through the years has gone through a lot of refinement. When photographsbegan replacing drawings in fashion magazines the photo fashion industry came up with theirown set of expressions and poses. These expressions and poses usually communicated beautyand grace. A model would learn a standard set of poses which told where the feet, hands, torso,and head would be positioned. One would work on ones cheery smile or surprise facialexpression. By the early sixties it had become pretty regimented. But just as all the rules forbeing a model were set, along came the late sixties and a time for breaking all of the rules. It hasbeen a muddled mess since. Today there are no set rules for models except all of the old rulesstill can apply except we want to break them all the time. The modeling schools say they willteach you the standard modeling poses but the agencies and fashion industry say that there are nostandard poses; everything is creative and you either have it or you dont and we decide who hasit.As a working photographer I think it is great to have both. I like it when I can tell a model tolook sad and she has practiced that look in the mirror and can do it on cue. I also like when wecan play sad music or tell a side story and get an honest sad expression. I like when shooting a
  14. 14. simple fashion shot and I ask the model to go through her short or long group of poses and shehas a set routine that we can shoot through. I like it when we need something very different for ashot and I can tell the model how to stretch, twist, and reach and she is aware of her/his body andcan do it. I think you should know the rules so you can break them. You should know your bodyso you are aware of how it moves, what lines it forms, and how it can be coached into differentpositions. I think you should know yourself and your emotions so you can show these to thecamera and feel confident in what you are showing.So how do you work on expressions and posing? One good way to start is doing activities thatteach you how to move you body gracefully. For this I like dance and rhythmic gymnastics.Dancers and gymnasts move great in front of the camera. They know how to created a longsweeping line with their bodies. Other sports can help with kinesthetic knowledge and are goodfor conditioning but I favor dance to teach how to move and communicate with you body. Ofcourse for expression theater is a great teacher. That is part of what an actor must do at times -communicate without words. If you have an opportunity take a class or participate in theseactivities, I encourage you to do so.You can work on facial expressions by practicing them in a mirror. What do I mean by facialexpressions? We are all capable of showing various emotions on our face. Most emotions thatyou can think of can show on your face. Hate, love, sadness, longing, happy, and more can beexpressed on your face. What you should do is make a list of all key emotional words you canthink of and practice those expressions in front of a mirror. After you have practiced for a while,try them on a friend and see if they can tell what emotion you are conveying. The idea is thatwhen you are in front of the camera and the photographer wants you to look longingly into thedistance you know how to do that.You can work on posing by practicing in front of a full length mirror. To learn the basics youmay have to track down a modeling book that covers this. I would say look at the fashionmagazine to see how to stand but most of the poses are breaking the rule and at this point youneed to be learning the rules. You may want to look at fashion catalogs for poses. They usuallyshow the more standard poses (the most basic poses are based on the five positions of ballet).Pay attention to tilt of the head, position of the hand, and turn of the ankle. These little things canmake a big difference. Just as with facial expressions your body posture can relate to anemotional word or phrase. Body posing is easy to show someone but it is hard to put in words.With both expressions and with posing it is also good to practice with props, products andwardrobe. Props might be a floppy hat, a long shawl, and a beach ball. You want to practicereacting to the prop and using the prop. Since the reason for doing these photographs is to sellsomething, it is good to practice with a product that might be sold. Practice holding the productso it shows well and you dont cover the label. With fashion you are selling the clothes. Practiceshowing important features of the clothing. Show off pockets, collar, belt, how the garmentmoves, what ever makes the garment interesting you want to call attention to it.Make-upMake-up is an art. I took my make-up classes from a lady who assisted on the movie Little BigMan. In that movie they took Dustin Hoffman from being a young teenager to a 100-year-old
  15. 15. man. What she could do with make-up was amazing. If a shoot has a budget for a make-up artistand a good one is available then we just sit back and let him do his magic. But on a shoot withouta budget for a make-up artist or in some smaller towns where one is not available, it may wellfall upon the model to do her own make-up. Even when you have a make-up artist it is necessarythat you know of any corrective make-up you may need.For learning make-up there are some great books available. You may also find theatrical make-up classes taught at some community college. The cosmetologist at the local department storemay be fine giving some pointers for your street make-up, but make-up for photography can bequite different. This is especially true for B&W photos. A big part of learning make-up is justtrying it in front of a mirror. Study something in a book or magazine then try it in front of amirror. Eventually, you have to get in front of the camera with your make up on and see how itlooks.Make-up for black and white photography gets weird. Color no longer matters. It is only thelightness and darkness that matters. I guess it is a kind of a gothic thing. It takes some gettingused to. You must ignore the color and only see the make-up in terms of black, white and grays.Hair StylingBeing able to do things with your hair can be a great help when photographing. Of course it isgreat when you have a professional hair stylist who can do some fabulous looks and keep everyhair in place, but there may not be a budget for a hair stylist. So again it may fall to the model tobe able to do her own hair. I have always thought shoulder length hair was the most versatile.You can put it up, pull it back, comb it to one side, fluff it, curl it, or just leave it natural. Shorthair locks you into one look, end of story. Long hair can be fun to work with but not quite asflexible. Being able to restyle your hair can be very helpful on a shoot. You can check variousmagazines to see what they are doing and practice in a mirror. For most modeling purposes youdont need to be incredibly creative with your hair - just so you can redo it to offer severaldifferent looks.WardrobeIn a secondary market, on a lower budget shoot, for your own composite and portfolio you willneed a basic working wardrobe. When I was starting in photography the modeling books wouldlist the basic wardrobe a model should have. This, of course, was where the simple black dresscame from. I am not sure what should be in ones closet today, but a range of basics would begood. You must have a business suit for interviews, cold calls, and modeling. I am alwaysgrateful when a model has a formal dress. The formal is best for the super dress-up shot. Youmay have to wait till you get going and call on a few photographers to see what you might wantin a basic wardrobe.As part of wardrobe and clothing I would also encourage learning about fashion. Thirty yearsago most women had some experience in sewing. From that experience they had anunderstanding of what different fabrics were like, what standard cuts of skirts were, differenttypes of collars, different types of pockets, and many more variations that could make up agarment. All of this is still important today when modeling clothes. It helps to know how a fabricwill drape or move when you are modeling it. It helps to know if a pocket is deep cut or shallowcut so you can show that. It is very important to know what the lines are of a garment so you canaccentuate them and not break the line of movement. Fashion history and how the fashion
  16. 16. industry works may be fun to learn, also, but I think it is more important to understand thegarment itself.Scams, Rip Offs and Bad BusinessThese days there seems to be a whole industry that has developed to take advantage of those whowould like to become models. They are far removed from the world of actual professionalmodeling. This modeling scam and rip-off industry makes its money by alluding to or promisinggreat careers in modeling, but first you have to pay them up front. Of course your modelingcareer never comes about and your money is long gone. These enterprises pray upon anindividuals desire to be a star and their lack of knowledge of how the modeling industry reallyworks. And this leach industry seems to be getting bigger everyday.I view these enterprises as falling into three categories: the scam, the rip-off, and just badbusiness. All cost a wannabe model and give little or nothing in return.The scam is a fraudulent and illegal activity. This type of enterprise has no intention ofdelivering on what it promises - and it usually makes big promises and guarantees. It normallyasks for a substantial sum of money up front and vanishes in the night with it.A rip-off is not illegal. It tends to make vague promises or have one or two out of thousands thatactual do get careers. It tends to work with anyone who has the money to pay up front no matterwhether they have talent or not. Of course, it tells everyone they have some type of talent. This isa big category. It can include modeling agencies that charge up front for signing fees; photoshoots, or require you take their class before they will work with you. These can include some ofthe modeling conventions, searches, and competitions. There are lots of virtual modeling sitesthat are springing up all over the web. It seems there are new rip-off enterprises starting everyday.In the case of bad businesses, these enterprises may be trying but they just dont know what theyare doing. They are trying to be legitimate businesses but do not have the knowledge of theindustry they need or they are located in the wrong place. This might be someone who sets up amodeling agency in a market that is too small to handle one, a photographer offering to shoot aprofessional modeling portfolio but does not have the skill level to carry it off, or a modelingschool that should be called a finishing school (that offers classes in image enhancements or isusing teaching materials that are 30 years old). I think these businesses mean well but still costthe model money for classes or photos that are useless.If your goal is to become a professional model, then all of the scams, rip-offs, and bad businessesthat promise to take you to that goal, in fact, stand as barriers to it.Warning SignsWarning signs of a scam or a less then legitimate or poorly run modeling agency. If you see anyof these warning signs it does not mean the business is for sure a scam operations but be sure toask lots of questions, be sure the agency has lots of good answers and always check references.New York City of course is the exception to many of these warning signs.
  17. 17. 1) Newspaper classified ad or display ad looking for any kind of model or talent other than nudeglamour modeling (models for the adult entertainment industry). Modeling agencies have plentyof wannabes coming to them so they dont have to advertise for models. If they are short oftalent they will send their scouts out to public places to look for potential talent.2) Pictures of famous New York supermodels on the walls or their comp cards on a wall rack. Idont think Cindy Crawford needs a modeling agency in small town USA. Get real people!3) Any up front fees. This might be signing fees, new account fees, evaluation fees, etc. If anagency has to charge money at the front end it means that there is not enough money at the backend. This means the agency does not have enough modeling work for the agency to survive oncommissions and not enough work for a model to survive.4) "We are interested in you but you need to test shoot with our photographer and its going tocost you". Legitimate agencies will provide you with a list of photographers that you may go to.Many will have a place by the front door for photographers business cards that you can take onyour way out. You should be free to go to any photographer you want to. If the agency tells youthat you must use their photographer, watch out. A new twist on this same theme is where theagency does not charge for the photo session but you have to pay a high fee (an example $700)for a "professional make up artist." You will need photos at some point but you should be free toshop around and find you own photographer and make up artist.5) "We are interested in you but you need to go through our classes first and it is going to costyou". Again money at the front end = not enough modeling work at the back end. CombinationSchool/Modeling agency has a conflict of interest and SAG (Screen Actors Guild) memberagencies can not offer both.6) "We guarantee you work". Modeling agencies are not employers. They represent you to tryand get you work. Most of the time they dont know for sure what type of jobs will come in orwhat look may be needed, thus there is no way a legitimate agency can guarantee you work. Thebest they can do is give you an idea of their track record on placements. But, just like a warningwith mutual funds, past performance is no guarantee of future performance.7) "As it said in our ad in our local small town newspaper we guarantee you work, just like thefamous models on our walls, just as soon as you go through our modeling classes, shoot with ourphotographer, and pay our agency fees". RUN do not walk to the nearest exit.A Modeling ScamThis past week we had a newscast on a modeling scam. It was a Los Angeles operation that wastargeting small towns in Oregon. They ran ads in the local newspaper saying they were lookingfor models for TV commercials. You were to send in some info on yourself and a couple of snapshots. After you sent in your info they would contact you and tell you that you had the look theyneeded. They then signed you up for a commercial paying the big bucks. They did need to do atest shoot before the actual commercial, but all of it was paid for except the makeup artist. Theysent contracts, airline vouchers, and lots of official looking paper work. The catch was that the
  18. 18. model had to pay for her own make-up artist and that they needed $500 up front. The small townwannabes, not knowing how the industry worked and having a contract in hand, sent in the $500.Of course once the check was cashed the scam artist vanished and the commercial, contracts,airline vouchers and the guarantees were all bogus. It is easy to con someone when they are noteducated in an industry and, as the song says, "The lure of easy money has a very strong appeal."Classic Rip-offThe following was emailed to Modeling Advice. She agreed to let me share this with others. Thisis not uncommon and shows what can happen if one gets caught up in ones hope for a career andis not ready for shysters that are out there. This young lady ran into one of the classic rip-offagencies. It began with a newspaper ad, and then having to pay for photos. They promisedimmediate work without even photo testing or much of an interview. This is not an illegaloperation, just a rip-off.She writes:Hello. I read your section on modeling scams. I know this e-mail may be long, but please hearme out. I really need your advice on this one. I feel really stupid now. I went to a modeling/talentagency so that I could get my singing career started. I found this agency in the newspaper (onething you wrote about). I didnt even go there for modeling I went there for the agent to listen toa demo tape I had done. He told me he could not do much for me in that field, but asked if Iwould consider modeling or doing commercials, etc. He told me I would have to take picturesand gave me a chart to look at. Three pictures cost $475.00. I had taken a friend with me whoadvised me to do it, because through this I could always meet people and start my singing career.There were many other people in the office - for example, teenagers and babies. He asked mehow I would feel about doing a fashion show this weekend and also said he got called for avideo. Now, anyone who has met me knows that I am a bit shy and have low self-esteem, so whywould you want me for this job? He even told my friend that I had to break out of that and bemore aggressive.Of course it was after I paid him that these questions ran through my head. I had never doneanything so stupid and rash in my whole life. I think it was the rush of thinking I might finally goout there and sing. He didnt tell me that I needed to change anything about myself, which Ipersonally thought was odd. He had the secretary come in and take one of the photos I brought into FedEx it to the people making the video. Personally I think it was all a big act. He also said itwas good that I lived in a particular area. He took pictures of me (I dont even know if there wasfilm in the camera) and said I could come back in another day to take the other pictures. I wasgoing back today, but got stuck on the highway and did not make it on time. I called and said Iwould be there in 10 minutes and the secretary told me that I would have to reschedule becausethe agent was going to a meeting, so I rescheduled for Thursday. When I had called to cancel theinitial appointment she jumped down my throat saying that they are a professional agency andthat she didnt think I was serious about this. But this time she most easily rescheduled, after theygot my money. The contract he gave me said that they would get 10% of what I make. I paidwith a credit card and called the company and froze my account, but it will probably go throughanyway. Im not sure if they are for real or not, because I just did this on Saturday, 4/1/00. Iprobably wont be able to do anything about it now, but I still want people to know about this andto be more aware. What can I do as far as that goes? Maybe you can let the people know since
  19. 19. you have a web site. What can I do to protect myself as far as this matter goes? I was alsothinking about the fact that if he is not legitimate and he does have pictures of me would he usethem for other purposes? I also called the Better Business Bureau and they said that thiscompany has been around since 1993 and they have had 14 complaints in the last 36 months andthey had responded to all of these complaints. Please e-mail me and let me know how much of ascam this sounds like if it is. I appreciate your time. Thank you.Other Site with Info on provides a scam watch page for reporting modeling scams.Modeling Scams - This site contains assorted information about scams, rip offs and bad - You can check to see what folks are reportingabout different business. Reports on modeling agencies and modeling schools.Please be aware that some of the material on these sites is from proper news organization and hasa degree of credibility. Please also be aware that there is a lot of material that is people blowingoff steam, stating there opinions or personal views and unidentified (questionable) sources. To bean informed consumer please research both sides of an issues.KRON a Bay Area Stations report on Options TalentAlso check out Options Talent website or Trans Continental Talent and see what they have tosay. Also find out more at As with all aspects of modeling try tolearn as much as possible before investing your time or money. If you are looking for online paidhosting of your model portfolio there are hundreds of sites offering this service. Do a search to find them. One site that is a paid and free site that seems to be popular withmodels and photographers is One Model Place . Two of the oldest paid sites are andModel Net For free Internet model listing sites check out the Free Model ListingpageStill have a Question?If you have read through Modeling Advice site and are confused on some point or just cant findthe answer to your question, you can email. I dont have all of the answers but I am happy to passon what info I do have. I love intelligent, well thought out questions so please think beforeemailing. Learn the secrets of to become a successful model.Deciding to become a fashion model is the same as deciding to be a writer ora singer. Either you have the talent or you do not. But, talent is not the onlyattribute you will need to go after your dream career. Besides, talent, youwill need plenty of luck, and more!
  20. 20. First, you must figure out if you have the standards of the industry. If youare a woman, are you at least sixty-eight inches tall? (Men should be at leastseventy-one inches tall.) Is your hair healthy and shiny, and kept in one ofthe latest styles? Are your teeth straight and white? Is your body toned andattractive? The next step is to measure and write down your height, weight,chest size, waist size, hip size, dress size, shoe size, hair color, and eyecolor. You will need to have an attractive figure in order to be a model.Now that you have the physical attributes out of the way, it is time to take alook at your personality as well as your personal care habits. Are yououtgoing? Are you a self-starter? Are you a goal setter? Are you energetic?Modeling usually requires a grueling schedule. You can expect to be on yourfeet for several hours at a time until the shoot is done. Do you eat right andexercise regularly? Eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep isimperative to having and keeping a healthy body. Can you handle rejection?Modeling is like writing or singing in that you can expect to get your share ofrejections. Every model cannot be right for every photo, so start yourself offright by expecting to hear the word "No" many times.The next step is to either hire a professional photographer or, save lots ofmoney and ask a talented friend to take several shots of you in a bathingsuit, shorts and a top, or other suitable apparel. The finished pictures shouldbe at least eight by ten. Pick out the best half dozen or so shots and placethem in a portfolio. If you want to send more than one portfolio around, thenyou will need extra sets. Now, check the telephone book for modelingagencies. If there are none listed in the town where you live, then check inthe bigger cities around you. Write down a list of the ones that lookappealing to you. Next, you will have to call each one and find out if they arelooking for models right now. Tell them that you have a portfolio and thatyou would like to set-up an interview. If they are not receptive to you, youmight want to go ahead and send or drop off a portfolio of you and thencheck back in a week or so to see what they think. Remember--a picturespeaks a thousand words, especially in modeling.Keep showing your portfolio and talking to as many people as you can thatare in the business. During this time, keep a look out for modeling conteststhat you can enter. Be persistent and dont give up!