This guide is organized into the following sections (click on the section you want to see). The tips here are not legal advice, rather general suggestions. If you feel the need for legal advice, consult with a reputable attorney. Understand that the concepts included here are common sense suggestions. Be thoughtful as well as determined in your efforts to pursue modeling as either a career or as a part-time effort.
For some, the idea of a fashion supermodel life-style is the epitome of modeling. But it represents only a portion of the modeling performed every day throughout the world. You can make money at modeling, but it will take determination, hard work, and patience. Be willing to model for product advertisements. Don’t tell yourself that you will only be a fashion supermodel. If you do, you will probably limit yourself to an area of modeling that is fiercely competitive and where only a few make it.
Are you serious about modeling? Honestly look at yourself: what type of modeling is best for you?
Above all, be honest, reliable, and enthusiastic. Realize that it is difficult for a beginner to make a living as a model. If possible, work in a business like beauty supply stores or others businesses related to the modeling industry (photography, clothing, fashion coordinators, etc.).
When building your portfolio, always treat a photo shoot as an opportunity to practice in front of the camera. Ask the photographer for tips and ask an opinion about how easy you are to work with. Learn from every exposure to the camera.
A majority of models try to start careers through modeling agencies. If you choose this route, then check them out with the Better Business Bureau and then only call or visit reputable agencies. Be careful because many modeling agencies charge fees for services such as photos and printing for your portfolio/composite/headsheet, a resume, to be included in a headsheet. You may also be required to join a union for TV-related work (such as commercials).
There are typically three types of contracts.
How do you tell if an agency or scout is not reputable? Some of the warning signs include:
If you can’t find an agency to represent you, it does not mean you should not pursue modeling. Rejection is basic to the modeling business. Go back to agencies you like regularly (even monthly). If they see you regularly, they know you are serious. Be willing to ask for advice on how to better represent yourself.
Some agencies and scouts claim to be able to help you achieve a great career in modeling, provided you pay them up front. That is where they make their money. If any agency or scout makes the majority of their money on teaching and photography, then they will not really be able to help you find work. If they charge up front, then that means their models are not getting jobs and they are not getting commissions, so the easy money has been made up-front from you. There are so many people trying to become a model that they can make this money and never really promote you, or only make a minimal effort. If you really need to learn some modeling basics, then refer to a reputable agency or school.
Call them after hours. A good agency always has either an answering service or a machine offering an emergency contact number so they can ensure photographers who need something at odd hours can be serviced. If they do not have a means of contact other than 9 to 5, then this may not be a good agency.
Also, a Test Shoot should not cost you anything. Legitimate agencies will provide you with a list of photographers that you may go to for photographs that will cost you (not a test shoot). If they tell you that you must use their photographer, this could be a scam.
Don’t take classes if you don’t need them. If you have already been through classes, but the agency wants you to go through their course and pay for it, then this could be a scam.
Always: Remember Safety !!
The makeup is different from your every day. The skin must be smooth and not reflect light. The eyes and mouth should be clearly defined. Photographic makeup is usually heavier than regular makeup. In many modeling jobs makeup artists are not available so you should learn to apply your own makeup. Remember to powder. Visit local beauty supply stores and ask for suggestions. Build your own photographic makeup kit and practice. Always bring your kit to every interview and assignment.
Long hair, at least to the shoulders, is best for female models. Versatility is very important. Have your hair styled and practice changing it.
Relax in front of the camera. Practice in front of a mirror with different expressions. Imitate poses from magazines and catalogs. Be creative and fluid in your movements.
Special Note About Glamour, Figure, Body Part, and Nude Modeling
Decide before you accept any assignment as to whether you are willing to perform any modeling that may involve lingerie, partial nudity, or full nudity, and ask about it when you are discussing a potential assignment. If you decide that some nudity or full nudity is acceptable to you, be sure to carefully read the entire model release agreement. Always check references. If they don’t have any listed then bring a none distracting friend with you. Always think safety!
Freelance models need to build their own more complete portfolios than models using agencies. If you are using an agency, only obtain the photographs they want you to include. For self promotion, you should have head shots, evening dress, casual outfits, sporty outfits, in a coat, tank and shorts, swim suit, lingerie, product-demonstration, outdoors in a dress, and if interested in potentially revealing glamour modeling, some tasteful or artistic nudes. You want at least one picture of everything you are willing to do.
Make sure you select a photographer who can properly light you. Look at samples from the photographer. If the lighting washes out the subject or appears uneven with shadows on parts of the face, you may not be happy with your photographs. As soon as you show your portfolio, you will learn that the lighting can hurt your chances of getting an appointment for a job.
Also, make sure the photographer can provide different backgrounds so your portfolio is not comprised of one look. You should definitely have digital images available for electronic and print presentations.
Don’t be surprised if your photographer has a studio in the home. This usually means a better cost for you, and sometimes, the home studio is very well arranged. Always remember Safety.
Always: Remember Safety !!
Modeling forums and message boards are a great way to learn about modeling and promote yourself. Check for messages from photographers looking for models. Post some information about yourself, including the city where you live, and include a photo with your post.
Be sure to visit photographers websites before speaking with them. Always reply quickly to any requests you receive, even if you are not interested. Courtesy and networking are important. You never know when you will get an offer you want from someone referred to you by someone you communicated with. If you don’t at least respond, the interested party may think you are no longer interested or that you may be difficult to work with. Always try to answer all questions asked.
Always put your website address on every communication you send out, whether electronic or print. Make it easy for someone to quickly go to your online presentation/portfolio.
Be very clear as to what kind of work you’re willing to accept.
Again, always: Remember Safety !!
Promote yourself !! Create a comp card and resume. Call professional photographers in your area to find out if they use freelance models, then meet them and leave your comp card and resume. Do test shoots. Sometimes a photographer recommends a model if the test shoot goes well. Meet with advertising agencies, commercial film developers, and camera stores. Advertise your services in photography magazines.
Regarding pay rates: plan on doing shoots for free or minimal income for the first three or four months. After some experience, you can probably set your rate for about $25-50 an hour, depending on what type of modeling with a two-hour minimum. Be somewhat flexible when starting out for the first year or so. If you are late, don’t expect overtime pay for running beyond the original schedule. You can damage your reputation.