They parade around in stunning gowns, furry coats and exotic headwear. They grace the cover of your favorite glossie. Their smiles penetrate and their gaze is convincing. Models are everywhere and they creatively and effectively sell products, promote ideas, and inspire us to live a more creative life.
Unfortunately, many people naively believe that modeling is an easy career path. Despite what the movies and reality television portray, becoming a model isn’t just about being tall, beautiful, and coiffed. Modeling takes guts, uniqueness, talent and drive. The work can be uncertain and, at times, feel unstable. Models have to work long hours building up their portfolios, making connections, and creating a brand around themselves. In a “winner takes all” sort of environment, models have to be sensationally business savvy and industry oriented to find regular work.
While the reality of modeling can be harsh, it can also be a rewarding, fun and creative career. If you are serious about pursuing modeling and work with unprecedented enthusiasm, you can reap the rewards of a surprisingly joyful and exciting life.
Time for Reflection
Before you spend a lot of time and money making mistakes or superfluous decisions, it is important to spend some time reflecting on a variety of issues concerning your personal talent, best industry fits, and longterm goals. Remember: you probably aren’t going to make a lot of money at the start of your career. It is important to conserve your energy and save your money for projects that have a high career value and that will propel you into solid job opportunities.
Taking Personal Stock
The first business related task you should tackle is taking a personal stock of your current talents, interests, measurements, and areas of improvement. It pays to be painfully honest. Ask yourself:
- What are my best physical features?
- Do I lead a healthy lifestyle?
- What opportunities are appealing to me?
- What are my unique personality traits?
- What is my confidence level?
- What do I currently know about pursuing a modeling or talent career?
- How much time am I willing to devote to this endeavor?
These questions are a good starting place but as you continue reflecting on your new job possibility, new questions will certainly arise. It is important to stay organized. Even though this might feel like high school journaling, it is the beginning of your career and thus should be treated with due diligence. However you choose to organize your thoughts, keep a pen at the ready so that you can write down questions and concerns as you continue researching.
Modeling Types and Niches
After pulling together a list of your potential talents, it is important to understand the differences between various modeling genres. In general, most people believe that models walk up and down runways in exotic cities wearing the newest in colorful couture. And while this is a possibility, many models find happy and regular work in other types of modeling. Generally speaking, many models can find work in these particular fields:
- Fashion Catalog: Many models find regular work in the advertising and print market. The physical height and weight requirements are not as narrow as runway work. The purpose is to sell or promote a line of products from a particular company or designer. The rates for this type of work are generally higher but depend on the type of company usage and the length of usage.
- Plus Size: The market for plus size models is growing and there is currently a high demand for full-figured models. If you measurements fit into the plus-sized market, this can be a very successful job opportunity. Generally speaking, plus-sized models are well proportioned and range from sizes 10-20.
- Petite Model: Petite models are generally 5’4” or shorter and will not be able to find regular work as a fashion runway model. However, petite models can still find work in many other categories including
print, commercial, glamour, or promotional markets. They are often sought out for parts modeling because of their smaller features.
- Niche Market: If you feel like you have a specific talent or interest that would help you find a very specific type of modeling gig, niche modeling might be a good opportunity. Niche models are expected to visually embody the very essence of the community they address. Some niches might include: pinup styles, ethnic clothes or brands, or showroom. Some niches that are often not represented in general modeling materials are:
- Gaming or Cosplay Models: Cosplay (short for costume play) is a type of modeling performance art in which the models are asked to represent a specific character or idea in gaming culture. Influence might be drawn from manga, anime, comic books, video games or films. There is a subset of cosplay modeling that centers around sex appeal and the characters are often known for their attractiveness or revealing costumes.
- Fetish Models: Fetish models will be hired to display a variety of fetishes including latex clothing, bondage, foot photoshoots, etc. If you are interested in this type of modeling it should be noted that these models are almost always self-represented.
- Alternative Model: This is a catchall category for any type of modeling that does not fall into “typical” modeling standards. Models in this genre often have tattoos, piercings, unusual< style, etc.
- Promotional: This type of modeling encompasses a wide variety of jobs. In a simple phrase: Promotional modeling is live marketing. It requires an attractive, outgoing, and personal type of temperament. The physical requirements are minor in comparison to other types of modeling as the company is often looking for attractive clients who will help sell their brand.
- Commercial: Most agency models will work in the commercial market. There are many different types of jobs that fall into commercial work including: print advertisements, campaigns, television shows, magazines, trade shows, etc. There are no height or size requirements to be a commercial model although many models are often between the 5’6” to 5’11” range. This category encompasses many different looks and niches.
- Glamour: Glamour modeling focuses on the model’s appeal, beauty and body more than any other type of modeling market. Models in this category often get bookings because they are considered attractive, fit, and have a general “sex appeal.” While there are no size requirements for glamour models, the age restriction is 18 years old. Glamour models can work as a non-nude model or as a nude model.
- Non-Nude Glamour Models: Typically hired to model swimsuits, bikinis, lingerie, and other form-fitting attire. They will often find work in magazines and music videos.
- Nude Glamour Models: Nude models are almost never represented by mainstream modeling but they can find work through their own means including internet, friends, referrals and casting calls. Many photographers are willing to pay models to do nude photo shoots as well.
- Fitness Models: Often considered niche models, these models have physical requirements that are demanding enough that agencies will often have their own “fitness modeling” departments. There are no height or size requirements but fitness models MUST be in shape.
- Parts Models: These models typically model a specific area of their body such as their hands, legs, feet or stomach. The best way to find parts modeling gigs is through an agency.
- Art Model: Art models work with visual artists. The model is usually the subject of the intended art piece. Models are often required to post for variant amounts of time while the artist renders a representation of them. There are many mediums an art model might be asked to participate in but common ones include illustrations, sculptures, photography or painting. There are no physical requirements for this type of modeling.
- Editorial, Print, and Runway: In a lot of ways, editorial and runway modeling can be considered the most prestigious of all the modeling types. They also have the strictest physical requirements as they are only interested in models who are between 5’8” and 6’0” and weigh 90 - 120lbs. These models are featured in the world’s leading fashion magazines. Many supermodels fall into this category. There is a high crossover between runway models and editorial print models and the physical requirements are rather particular.
Becoming a Model for Your Market
Moving forward it is important to remember that each modeling market has different salary rates. There are also a number of factors that can affect the overall amount that you take home for a specific job. For example, location. Rates for commercial modeling in New York are generally the highest where it is not unusual for a model to make $5,000 - $6,000 for an eight hour day. In other local markets, such as LA or Chicago, the rates are more likely to be around $1,500 - $2,000 a day.
In most commercial or print markets, the hourly rate is in the neighborhood of $150 a day. Clients are often willing to raise their rates if the model has experience or a specific type of look that they desire. Promotional models can expect to earn about $300 per day. Runway models often start with an understanding that they will make $200 for every hour and a half.
It is important to remember that agencies will make their money by charging a fee. They will generally pull about 20% out of your earned income. It can seem unfair at first but agencies are interested in developing your talent since they will make their income based on commission. Top agencies will help you train, pay for test shoots, layout your portfolio, and help you create an excellent comp card. They will then present you to designers, photographers, and ad agencies. When you are working with an agency it is also important to have excellent budgeting skills as payment may not be received for a couple of weeks. Agencies work on a voucher system in which the model carries the promissory note to the client and has it signed by the producer at the end of the shoot. Your agent will issue you a thick book of vouchers that you will need to bring to your bookings. Once you have a signed voucher, you will give it to your agent or agency accounting department. From there, payment is sorted and then deposited into your account.
As you start to gather up your research and answer your questions, it is important to formulate long-term goals. Make sure that all your hard work is geared towards your ultimate goals. It is important to have a good balance between your realistic expectations and your overall dreams. Let your goals drive your business-related decisions.
Do I Need a Class?
A lot of people find themselves interested in modeling because they are approached by a modeling school scout. Modeling schools are a fun place to make friends, do semi-related activities, and get general advice about eating right, applying makeup, and proper posture. They may even take your picture.
However, taking classes isn’t a guarantee that you will get a gig. It also doesn’t put you ahead of the competition. The vast majority of modelings school are businesses that are looking for your money, not agencies looking to book talent. They may provide you with some entertainment and practical life skills, but if your budget is already tight, they are not worth your time.
Know Your Lingo
Before you contact any of your connections, photographers, or a modeling agency, it is important to brush up field-related lingo. Just like any other career, agencies and models have a trade language. If you want people to take you seriously, you need to sound serious and knowledgeable. Some terms to know might include:
- TFP/TFCDs: time for print photos or time for CD of images.
- GoSee: The first meeting with a potential client
- Casting Agency: An agency that contracts agents for potential auditions and gigs.
- Tear Sheets: A page from a magazine or publication that you appeared in.
- Cheat: Industry speak for “move.” For example, “Cheat to the right.”
- GWC: This is an acronym for “guy with camera.” This phrase is used to pinpoint men with expensive cameras but who generally have no formal photography training.
- Implied Nudity: A type of modeling or shot that suggests nudity but does not show any explicit parts.
- Book: A model’s portfolio.
- Comp Card / Zed Card: This is a models calling card that agencies will use to shop around their models to potential clients.
- Voucher: A slip of paper that is given to a model by their agency and must be brought to the actual shoot. These vouchers of necessary for receipt of payment.
- HWP: This stands for height-weight-proportionate.
The list can be exhaustive but you should trouble yourself with keywords that will help you get your foot in the door. There are many sites on the web that can help you. As with any job, there will be a learning curve. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you have to ask for clarification.
Building Your Portfolio
Every model needs an amazing portfolio. Consider it your calling card. Your portfolio is your ticket to the modeling job market and so you should put serious time and effort into making it shine. Your portfolio should include pictures that focus on your target agencies and the type of modeling you hope to pursue.
Finding a Photographer & Getting Ready for Your Shoot
Building your portfolio starts with getting into contact with a photographer who is willing to take your pictures. Many photographers will work with you on a TFP/TFCDs basis. This means that you will give your time in exchange for prints or digital photos. There are many ways to meet photographers including social networking sites and portfolio hosting sites such as OMP.
Once you have a running list of photographer possibilities, follow up on the phone or in person. Make sure you are comfortable with your agreement. It is never a bad idea to get your understanding written down and signed for easy reference. This is also an excellent time to bring examples of work that you want to mimic. This will ensure that the photographer is on board and will help you develop a portfolio you can use.
When you book a photographer it is important to take exhaustive measures to ensure your safety. Make sure that his or her referrals check out and, if at all possible, talk to a model or agency that has worked with your particular choice. If you are under the age of 18 you must bring a chaperon who will accompany you at all times. However, it is never a bad idea to hire an escort or someone you trust to join you at the shoot.
It goes without saying, getting ready for you shoot will take serious preparation. Run through your makeup and clothing options before your big day so that you can focus on the task at hand. If you trust your photographer, don’t be afraid to ask them for input. They may see a new or different creative opportunity.
Basic Building Blocks
The type of modeling you want to pursue should dictate the types of photos you include in your portfolio. Unless otherwise requested by your client, there are no specific rules about what types of photos should be placed in your portfolio. As a general rule, it is better to have fewer photos of a higher quality, than many photos of a lesser quality. A new model should have 6 - 12 photos especially if you are presenting yourself to a new agency. You are trying to create a brand around yourself. Build your portfolio around common themes and markets.
Comp cards are often not included in your book but are a necessary portfolio element. The standard size is A5 and typically a comp card will contain a minimum of two pictures, a cover page with a full size portrait, and a second page that contains representative shots from your portfolio. It should showcase your best work. The card will also contain the model’s basic stats including height, weight, measurements, shoe size, hair/eye color, ethnicity, and contact information. This card is an essential marketing tool that will be kept or passed around to book potential clients.
Sharing & Storing
Every model should have a hard copy of their photos including tear sheets. The portfolio should be well maintained and easy to look through. On a practical level, you should keep all horizontal photos together or print one image in two parts so that it is right side up spread across both pages of the book.
Portfolio Hosting Sites
Many models also choose online portfolio hosting sites as an easy and inexpensive way to get started as a model. These sites offer jobs, free exposure, and networking opportunities. One of the nice nice advantages of a portfolio site is that there is no contractual obligation or commission like with modeling agencies. Modeling portfolio sites offer you the opportunity to learn from and actively network with people in the industry including photographers, hair stylists, makeup artists, and agencies. The knowledge you can gather through other professionals experiences and expertise is invaluable and can help shape and tailor your look and career.
Like with your printed portfolio, your online modeling portfolio should contain a collection of photos that reflect your target market and that create an air of professionalism. Your profile should be complete and organized. Also, make sure not to only upload your best images and leave out your worst. Do not upload any self-taken images of yourself in the mirror or where your arm is stretched out with the camera pointed back at you. Unless you have a really good camera on your phone, it is best to avoid taking any images with a cell phone. Images taken by a cell phone are generally very low in quality.
Many sites will ask for your size, measurements, and other info. Make sure that your profile is 100% complete. The more info that you have on your profile, the more likely it will be for potential clients or agencies to be able to find you. Portfolio hosting sites are recommended for every model even those who are represented by an agency. Having an online portfolio is a great way to constantly promote yourself. If you do not already have a portfolio on OMP, you can get your modeling career started by signing up for a free portfolio here, http://www.onemodelplace.com/user/register.
Finding the Right Agency
It is entirely possible to have a successful career through job offers and casting calls offered through portfolio hosting sites, but signing with an agency will be the best way to take your modeling career to the next level. Modeling agencies are almost exclusively used for the biggest campaigns by the biggest companies with the best opportunities to make money.
After you have a drool worthy portfolio, you are ready to start contacting agencies. For a new model, this task can be very overwhelming. Beyond that, you will have to navigate a plethora of scams.
Starting Your Search
Get ready to sit in front of your computer and phone with a pen and notepad. Legitimate agencies will want to attract new talent so a good place to start is yellowpages.com, Yelp, or Local Google. You should double check your list against the Better Business Bureau listings. General Internet searches will turn up numerous results but you have to be weary because many listings are scams. Remember:
1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
2. If they ask for personal information, especially bank information, they are not worth your time.
3. They should let you review the contract with another professional or someone you trust.
4. It is always okay to walk away.
Agencies will post their requirements online or in their literature. Read it carefully. If you waste their time, they will not be happy and it will create a bad impression. They may ask you for a resume or a cover letter. Be prepared and be professional. Return calls promptly and set out to make a good impression.
Do I Need Really Need An Agent?
Well, it depends on what type of modeling you will be doing. If you want to work for big corporations or in high-end fashion and apparel, than you will want to find an agency. However, there are many opportunities available from small and medium size businesses that do not require the assistance of an agency. Many models choose to sign with agencies because they can act as a buffer between you and your client. If there is a problem, they will sort it out. They also negotiate your fees, invoice your clients and make sure you get paid. They will help you organize your schedule and help you find jobs.
Preparing for Your First Gig
After months of hard work and millions of phone calls, you might be lucky enough to book your first gig! This is it..the moment you have been waiting for! Your first job will be memorable and it is important to prepare.
The short list:
- Keep your skin hydrated and away from sun exposure.
- Dress to impress, but not overdone. Make sure that you are looking clean, healthy, and professional.
- Pack a bag with water and any requested accessories.
- Have essential phone numbers on hand and cash for fare or other important purchases.
- Avoid drinking alcohol the night before.
- Get a good night sleep the night before.
Be professional and kind. Photo shoots can be stressful for everyone. Listen to directions and focus on having positive and energetic interactions with everyone you meet.
Most importantly: be yourself. You have worked hard to get to where you now stand. They picked you because you offer a unique set of skills and talent. Let it shine and don’t forget to enjoy yourself.
In your life, you will come across all sorts of naysayers. People will tell you that there is nothing to being a model besides sitting around and looking pretty. The bottom line is that models have to work really hard to make their dreams a reality. They represent products we love, inspire us with stunning smiles, and are extremely business savvy. With a lot of work, talent, and great genes, you can be on your way to a fulfilling your dream of becoming a model. Best of luck to you!