- Administrative Issues
- General Information for Models and Photographers
- Model's Questions
Q1.1: Copyright Restrictions
This document is Copyright © 1995-2000 by Kevin Zwack
Photography. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for personnel
non-commercial use and distribution within the internet community provided this
document is kept in its entirety and not modified in any way. No part of
this document may be copied or quoted within another document or publication,
either electronic or otherwise, except under the United States Fair Use regulations
and ISO copyright laws. This document may not be included in commercial
collections or compilations without the express written consent of the author.
This FAQ is provided as is without any express or implied
warranties. While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of
the information contained herein, the author and contributors assume no responsibility
for errors, or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information
The contents of this FAQ reflect the personal opinions
of the author and contributors, and not necessarily those of their employers and/or
internet access providers.
The author assumes no responsibility for inaccurate or
libelous statements from contributors.
The author assumes that all submitted material conforms
to international copyright laws and accepts no liability for submissions in violation
The contents and format of this document is subject to
change without notice.
The modeling industry is one in which are there are few
rules and for all rules there are exceptions. Therefore, the material in
this FAQ is a mixture of facts, experiences, and opinions. You should not
depend solely on this information without taking into consideration your own situation
and common sense.
The fashion and modeling industries are volatile in the
sense they change with every season, much like the weather. The practices
and needs of the industry also vary with different markets (e.g., cities, products).
A reputable agency can provide current information for a given market.
AGFA is a registered trademark of Agfa-Gevaert,
Kodak is a trademark used under license from the Eastman Kodak
Penthouse is a trademark of Penthouse International, Ltd.
Playboy is a registered trademark of Playboy Enterprises.
Welcome to the Modeling Profession FAQ. This FAQ is
designed to help models get started in the modeling industry by answering their
frequently asked questions. Photographers will also find some of this information
useful. If after reading this (and hopefully some of the material listed
herein) you think the modeling industry is right for you, then by all means pursue
it to the best of your abilities. Good luck and have fun!
Q2.0: Types of Modeling
When we think of modeling, images of Cindy Crawford, Claudia
Schiffer, or perhaps Fabio come to mind. However, these celebrities only represent
a small segment of the modeling industry.
Some types of modeling include:
- High Fashion -- This is the type of modeling
most often associated with supermodels we see on TV or in major fashion magazines.
High fashion models must generally be tall and slender. Specific height
and weight requirements vary with each market, and of course there are always
- Commercial -- Catalogs, brochures, annual reports
and the like are a good source of steady income for models. While such models
are generally not famous, they often make substantial incomes.
- Specialty -- Specialty modeling essentially involves
photographing body parts, such as feet, hands, eyes, lips, etc. This is mostly
done for product photography such as shoes, jewelry, and cosmetics.
- Nude -- Nude modeling can be loosely divided
into several categories:
Nude modeling can be a rewarding and fun experience, but
be extra careful when choosing a photographer. Be sure to ask for references
from previous models.
- Nude fashion modeling, where the model is nude, yet
sometimes "nothing" is showing in the photos.
- Artistic/figure modeling, for the purpose of creating
art, often shot in b/w, although this is not a requirement.
- Glamour such as might be seen in Playboy or Penthouse.
- Sexually explicit photos, usually for men's magazines
and more recently adult web sites.
In addition to the various types of modeling, models are
often asked to perform several different kinds of work. Some examples include:
- Runway/Catwalk -- Modeling clothes at fashion
shows. Such shows not only take place in Paris, Milano, and New York, but
also at local shopping malls and stores. Almost every large city has a market
for runway work.
- Print Work -- Simply posing in front of the camera
for still photographs. Print work is usually split into two categories:
commercial and editorial. Commercial work is shooting advertisements and
this form usually pays the best of the two. Editorial work involves photos
for articles and magazines, or even magazine covers. While editorial often
pays less than commercial, it offers great exposure which can lead to other work.
- Mannequin Modeling -- Usually work in department
stores where you pose perfectly still for long periods in window displays.
- Promotions -- Models are often hired to appear
at various functions such as car shows, conventions, etc., sometimes to pass out
literature or to just stand around and look beautiful.
- Media -- Models are sometimes asked to work in
film and video, such a TV commercials. While this can involve some acting
ability, many models have obtained this type of work because they move well or
have a good speaking voice.
Q2.1: Model's Portfolios
A model's portfolio or "book" is an essential
tool for getting work in the modeling profession. An agency will usually
provide a modeling portfolio book to new models with the agency's name or logo
on the cover. Of course it is up to the model to get the blank pages filled
in. (See Q3.2, Finding a Photographer).
Before you spend a lot of time and money on a portfolio,
check with your agency first. They often have specific requirements
of their own and can provide you with a list of reputable fashion photographers
to work with. Avoid agencies that insist your entire book be shot by a particular
photographer, as these situations are often kick-back arrangements
At a minimum, your portfolio must have a head shot, and
a 3/4 or full length shot:
- The head shot must be clear (no diffusion) and little
but natural looking makeup. Avoid hats and sunglasses as these can hide
your face too much.
The rest of your portfolio should consist of tear
sheets (see Q3.6) or photos that show how diverse looking you can be, i.e.,
photos which demonstrate different looks, moods, and so on. Portfolios may
contain a mixture of b/w or color photographs, with a total of 10-20 photos being
typical. All your photos should have pizzazz, or be memorable in some way,
but show the model in the best possible way.
- Your full length shot must reveal your figure somewhat,
so a clingy dress, swimsuit, or leotard might be used. Baggy clothes will
quickly tip off viewers that you have something to hide.
They should represent your best work and be flattering
to your looks. In particular, choose poses which make you look tall and/or
slender, rather than photos which make you look heavier. Be sure your face
is clearly visible in most of the photos.
Be careful of photographers who are not familiar with
the requirements of the industry. Many unqualified photographers take artsy
pictures, which are of little help in getting a model work. Portfolio pictures
should be treated like any other commercial/advertisement, except that in this
case the model is the product.
Do not put nude photos in your portfolio unless you are
strictly a nude model. Nude photos are not used in fashion portfolios except
in certain markets, and then only "fashion nudes" as described in Q2.0
are used. If you are interviewing (Q3.3) for a "nude"
job, bring your nude photos, if any, in a separate envelope apart from your portfolio.
Potential fashion clients might be offended with nudity, so use discretion.
Be aware that nude photos are taboo in many countries and that bringing nude photos
into such countries could result in your being arrested.
Photos are usually printed on 8x10 or A4 size, F-finish
(glossy) paper, with or without borders. I usually provide 8x12 photos which
create the illusion of a taller more slender image. Photos larger than this
will not fit most books and would be a waste of money. Again, check with
your agency or use a photographer who is familiar with the requirements of the
Models sometimes include a contact sheet or two which
shows a diverse range of poses from a single photo session. Experienced agencies
and photographers often keep a loupe handy just for viewing contact sheets.
However, it would be a good idea to have one with you. (See Q3.9
for information on loupes.)
You can and should build your portfolio up by testing
with different photographers, as different photographers can help you achieve
different looks and posing techniques. I feel photographers have a professional
and ethical obligation to explain this to potential models. You should avoid
any photographers who insist on shooting your entire portfolio themselves.
Granted, after explaining this to people, I have had clients who say "well
our daughter Suzy wants to be a model now; we don't have time for all this testing
business; just shoot the whole thing; we don't care how much it costs..."
Be sure to keep your portfolio current. If you
obtain tear sheets from a job, be sure to put them in your book. If your
looks change with time or you change your hair style or whatever, get new photographs
to add to your book. Models in their teen years should have new pictures
annually, while older models can go two years or more.
Be sure to keep your name, address and phone number of
your agency in your book, in case it gets lost or stolen. It's also a good
idea to keep one or two laser copies of your book as well.
Q2.2: Comp/Index/Sed/Zed Cards
Composite cards go by many different names. They are
to models what business cards are for the rest of us, but in some ways even more
important. A comp card contains photos of a model, either color or b/w,
along with the model's name, height, weight, measurements, and his/her agency's
name and phone number or other contact information. Other information might
include clothing sizes, social security number, or special talents.
For b/w comp cards, it's a good idea to list your hair
and eye color (and even your skin color).
Note that comp cards used in the acting/entertainment
profession are considerably different than modeling comp cards. Be sure
you are getting the right style.
An agency can usually arrange to have a model's comp
cards printed, but in most cases models are expected to pay the agency or printer
for their own comp cards. The setup costs for comp cards is fairly high
such that comp cards are usually only cost effective for quantities of 200 or
more. At the other extreme, do not buy too many comp cards; your looks will
likely change in two years or less, at which time you will need to get new comp
cards. Your agency can probably recommend a good starting quantity for their market.
If you are not with an agency, your photographer can
probably recommend a good printer to make your cards. In the United States,
there is one "mail order" printer that I know of which specializes in
681-B N. Perkins
Appleton, WI 54914
Call them and ask for their brochure and sample comp
cards. I found their B/W samples to be quite good, but their color comp
cards had poor color balance. I have not done business with them so I cannot
speak to their business practices. [I would be interested to hear from anyone
who has used them.]
Avoid large fancy comp cards that fold; most people punch
holes in them and bind them, so folded cards are seldom seen on the inside.
Stick with standard sizes (5.5 x 8.5 inches is common) and styles; it's your looks,
and thus the pictures that make the difference.
Another option which has become popular is to make pseudo-comp-cards
using color xerographic machines. This can be a low cost alternative, especially
for temporary comp cards until you get better photos.
Once you get your comp cards, make them available to
clients and photographers that you meet at interviews. Keep some handy in
the back of your portfolio. Your comp cards are your easiest way to market
yourself and you want people to remember what you look like so they will consider
using you for all future jobs. The key to getting modeling work is getting
clients to think of you when they need a model.
Q2.3: Release Forms
In order to prevent lawsuits, release forms are not only
common place but required for many types of photo sessions. They are required
in the United States in order to use photographs for commercial purposes.
Essentially a release form gives a photographer or his clients the right to sell
As a model you should understand that release forms are
a routine requirement for most photography sessions. For most types of modeling,
you should not have any cause for concern about signing a release, but always
read anything carefully before you sign it. When in doubt, ask your agency
or private attorney for advice. If you have a problem with having your photos
published, then modeling is probably the wrong profession to be in.
Signing a release form for nude photography or other
pictures that you might be uncomfortable with deserves special consideration.
By signing a release form, you are giving permission for the pictures to be published
at any time, forever. Consider whether you want nude pictures of yourself published
years from now.
A reputable photographer will take the time to discuss
and answer any questions you might have about release forms.
Q2.4: Negatives and Copyrights
Models need to understand that in almost all situations,
the photographer or his client owns the copyrights and negatives or other media
of a photo session. Do not expect to be given any negatives, nor should
you have copies made of any photos you receive, except for promoting yourself.
In particular, it is illegal for you to sell the photos of yourself unless you
purchase the copyrights to the images from the photographer.
Models are often required to send their portfolios or
photos out of town to other agencies and clients. While you can send your
book out, models should instead send copies so they do not lose their portfolios,
and so they have their portfolios at all times for local interviews.
It has become increasingly expensive for models to buy
additional prints. However, technology has provided an answer. It
is now common practice for models to send "lasers" (color xerographic
copies) of pictures. While this practice hurts photographers to some extent,
it has become common in the business. To this end, I now provide a letter
on my letterhead granting the model rights to have the images copied for self
promotion purposes. This prevents models from getting a hard time from reproduction
centers that enforce copyright laws. (My photos contain a copyright notices
on the back, but models have been challenged even on photos without a copyright
Portfolios based on PhotoCD technology and electronic
(e.g. WWW) transmission are starting to enter the profession as well. Both
of these present their own copyright problems. It is yet to be determined
how these will be solved in the long term.
Q2.5: Modeling Books & Videos
There are several fine books available on modeling that
can benefit both models and photographers. They should be available in bookstores
or your local library. In bookstores, modeling books are frequently located in
the fashion/beauty section or the photography section.
- Anderson, Marie, "MODEL -- The Complete Guide
to Becoming a Professional Model", Doubleday, 1988. ISBN 0-385-26020-2.
[A good how-to book on getting into modeling. Covers a broad
range of important topics.]
- Cheyenne, "Posing Techniques for Photographers
and Models", AMPHOTO, 1983. ISBN 0-8174-5544-2.
[Focusing on print modeling, this book is written for both
models and photographers. Not a great book but might be useful for beginners.]
- Elgort, Author, "Author Elgort's Models Manual",
Distributed Arts Publishers, 1993. ISBN 0-9639236-0-9.
[Essentially lots of wonderful pictures with a few quotes
and such from models thrown in. No really useful information for someone wanting
to get into the business.]
- Esch, Natasham "The Wilhelmina Guide to Modeling",
Fireside (Simon and Schuster), 1996. ISBN 0-684-81491-9.
[An up to date and comprehensive guide for models; recommended.]
- Goldman, Larry, "Becoming a Professional Model",
Beech Tree Books, 1986. ISBN 0-688-04765-3.
[A good general how-to book on getting into modeling.]
- Gross, Michael, "MODEL -- The ugly business
of beautiful women", William Morrow and Company, 1995. ISBN 0-688-12659-6.
[A history of the modeling business, war stories, and seedy
tales. Makes for interesting reading if you are in the business.]
- Maiwald, Sue, "Exposed! How to Become a Model
Without Getting Scammed", Maiwald Productions, 1994.
[Written by a formal model, this booklet offers useful advice
for getting into the modeling profession. Copies may be ordered by sending a check
or money order for US $4.95 per copy plus US $1.50 shipping and handling to EXPOSED!,
POB 370853, Denver, CO 80237. Colorado residents must add applicable sales tax.]
- Matheson, Eve, "The Modeling Handbook, Third
Edition", Henry Holt and Company, 1995. ISBN 0-8050-3830-2.
[This is one book I whole heartily recommend to all models.
What is most useful is that this book contains a (fairly current) list of most
of the major agencies in major markets throughout the world.]
- Morris, Sandra, "Catwalk -- Inside the World
of Supermodels", Universe Publishing, 1996. ISBN 0-7893-0056-7.
[A great book for supermodel fans and some practical information
about the modeling profession.]
- Glamour Video Associates, "Glamour Photography
for Models and Photographers", 1987.
[An excellent video features all aspects of glamour photography
including makeup, lighting, posing, etc. The video contains a good blend of information
aimed at both models and photographers.]
- Forte Entertainment, "The Practical Guide to
Volume I: How to Become a Model
Volume II: On The Set: Preparing for Pictures
Volume III: Designing Your Portfolio
[This is a excellent series for getting models started. The production quality
is excellent, the information useful and well presented. Highly recommended.]
Check for these videos at local video store. If they are
not in stock, ask if they can be ordered for you. Also look for mail order ads
in photography magazines.
- Kodak Advanced Photography Series, "Glamour
[Intended for photographers, this video may also be useful
for models interested in glamour photography, posing, etc.]
Q2.6: Makeup Books & Videos
- Aucoin, Kevin, "The Art of Makeup",
HarperCollins, 1994. ISBN 0-06-017186-3.
[A beautiful book with wonderful pictures and good makeup
tips. The how-to information is not thorough enough to really learn all one should
know about makeup.]
- Aucoin, Kevin, "Making Faces", 1997.
[The best how-to book yet...]
- Jackson, Carole, "Color Me Beautiful MakeUp
Book", Ballantine Books, 1988. ISBN 0-345-34842-7.
[A pretty good how-to book. Covers every day makeup, but
also useful for makeup artists and models.]
- Crawford, Cindy, et al; "Cindy Crawford's Basic
Face -- A Makeup Workbook"; Broadway Books, 1996. ISBN 0-553-06220-4.
[A wonderful book for models to help with their makeup and
young women in general. Highly recommended.]
- Jewell, Diana Lewis, "Making Up by Rex",
Clarkson Potter, 1986. ISBN 0-517-56954-1 or paperback 0-517-56955-8.
[Contains lots of good how-to information. Useful for every
day makeup as well as photography makeup.]
- Payton, William, "Creating Beautiful Faces --
The Art of Corrective Makeup", Unpublished, 1993.
[As a photographer and makeup artist, Bill is one of the
best in the business. He taught me makeup and I shall be eternally grateful for
his classes. Look for his workshops under his trade name "Destin Beach Photographic
- Perrin, John & Trish, "On Broadway -- Make
it Hot" Series, Photo Concepts International, 1988.
Volume I: Fashion/Art -- The Magic of Blank & White
Volume II: Makeup Magic
[Part of a seven volume series, the first volume covers makeup for B/W photography.
The second volume covers color makeup. These two volumes are the best videos
I've seen for photographic makeup. Anyone serious about makeup should check
Check for these videos at local video store. If they
are not in stock, ask if they can be ordered for you. Also look for mail-order
ads in photography magazines.
- Smith, Shannon, "Photographic Makeup Techniques",
Art Ketchum Studios.
[This is the second volume in a series produced by Art Ketchum.
The production quality is not up to par, but Shannon presents many useful makeup
Q2.7: Useful Web Sites
What follows is a listing of web sites which might be of
interest to models and photographers:
The internet is too dynamic to list all the useful sites.
Check with your favorite search engines for more listings.
Q2.8: Travel Tips
In the fashion industry, successful models and photographers
are frequently required to travel. The rec.travel.* newsgroups are an excellent
source of travel information. Especially useful is their FAQ located at:
Q2.9: International Travel
International travel poses special problems for models and
photographers. If you do not already have a passport, be sure to get one
well in advance before traveling abroad. Call the appropriate officials
in your country for passport and other travel information.
Some destinations also require visas, which can involve
a lengthy process. As a photographer, you may require a special commercial
or business visa. It is best to arrange for such things well in advance
of your trip. A good travel agent who frequently handles international travel
can be invaluable.
I have found the following items to be essential for
models and/or photographers when traveling abroad:
- Prescription and over the counter medications.
They are often difficult to obtain in foreign countries.
- Voltage converter kit. Be sure to get one of the
more complete kits which includes all the various plugs and receptacles that you
might encounter. Be sure the one you purchase is rated with enough watts
to handle that big blow dryer or curling iron.
- A language conversion dictionary, e.g., English/French.
Those little computerized language translators are also handy to keep in your
pocket, purse, or camera bag. [Stavros Macrakis <email@example.com>] writes
" I find that small paperback dictionaries are more complete, and much cheaper."
- A little computerized currency converter and pocket
calculator is also useful.
- An extension cord (more important than you can possibly
- A list of local phone numbers for your long distance
carrier, such as AT&T or MCI.
- A small "beeper" used to create DTMF or "Touch-Tone"
tones. Many countries still have rotary phones, which can make long distance call
difficult unless you have a DTMF tone generator.
- Get a detailed street map of the city you are visiting
at the airport or train station.
- Take time to learn the mass transit systems in the cities
you visit. The cities with large fashion markets often have excellent subway
(underground) systems which are fast and inexpensive. Maps you often available
free at the stops.
- Photographers also have the problem of their photography
equipment. I find that for lighting and grip equipment, it is easier to
rent/hire the necessary equipment at my destination, if possible.
- As for your camera equipment, it is essential that you
obtain a "Carnet" from your customs office before you leave. A
Carnet is a customs document which allows you take your equipment into a country
(or when returning to your own country) without having to pay customs duty on
all your equipment. You will have to bring all of your equipment to the
customs office so the serial numbers and descriptions can be recorded (apparently
they don't trust anyone). Keep the Carnet document on your person at all
times, as it can provide a useful inventory should your equipment become lost
- The following book is an essential source of useful
information for photographers traveling abroad: Haas, Ken, "The Location
Photographer's Handbook", Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1990. ISBN 0-442-31948-7.
Q3.0: How Does One Become a Model?
There are many answers to this question. On rare occasions
models are "discovered" and become an overnight success, as was the
case with Claudia Schiffer. These are often the stories you hear about because
the press likes to print these. Most often however, models become successful
only through hard work and many tedious interviews. Like most careers, it
takes years for most models to reach a point where they are making a substantial
Options available (in decreasing order of preference)
- Find a reputable agency to represent you.
- Find a reputable photographer in the fashion
industry to help get you started.
- Enter a reputable contest or model search.
While a few of these often produce working models, many are scams that often charge
exorbitant entry fees while giving little in return.
You can always promote and market yourself -- I have met
some models who are very successful at this and the internet is making it easier.
This requires some special skills that many models do not possess. For example,
you must successfully "network" with as many people involved as possible,
but this can be difficult to initiate.
- Find a client to hire you. If your uncle Ed sells
used cars, tell him that you want to be in his ads.
There are some national modeling books/listings in which
a model can pay to have pictures and/or a comp card published. How effective this
approach is probably varies greatly from model to model, but I suspect this is
less likely to be successful as other methods.
The World Wide Web (WWW) offers a new means to promote
models electronically and there are many web sites listing models, as well as
models with their own web pages. If you go this route you should be able
to get yourself listed for free; avoid sites that charge.
You can always try putting an ad in alt.models or rec.photo.technique.people,
after all it's free. Be sure to list your location and other pertinent information.
The downside of this is that these Usenet groups seem to attract the less competent
Frankly, I still prefer to use models from an agency.
The good agencies weed out the "flakes" and agency models tend to be
more professional, harder working, and more experienced.
In any case, you should also look for a photographer
(see Q3.2 below). No matter which route you take, you will need some professional
quality photos early on. If you get photos first, you can bring them to
prospective agencies. If you get an agency first, they can help you locate a suitable
photographer. Either way works.
Q3.1: How Do I Find an Agency?
Finding a reputable agency is probably the best means for
a prospective model to break into the business. There are several approaches
to finding an agency:
- Ask someone you know who is a model.
- Ask a commercial photographer which agencies he works
- Sometimes local newspapers will promote local models
in their fashion editorials. See if the model and/or agency is credited
in the article or photos. Such agencies are probably getting other work
for their models too.
- Check your yellow pages or phone book.
When choosing an agency, you want to avoid agencies which
make their money from selling modeling classes. Also avoid agencies that
charge "signing fees" or other nonsense. To start your career,
you will likely have to pay for photos and comp cards, but you should not have
to pay any "fees" to an agency.
- Check some of the WWW sites listed in this document
or use a search engine such as Yahoo. Many contain lists of agencies throughout
Avoid agencies that insist you use one particular photographer,
stay at a certain hotel, etc. Scams like this often involve kick-back arrangements
and generally do not provide the best price or service.
Ask a prospective agency what other models they represent,
and which ones have received work in the past week or two. Ask for references
of other models that you might call.
Before signing with an agency, check with the local Better
Business Bureau or other appropriate consumer protection agency about the agency's
Do not sign with the first agency that offers you a modeling
contract. Interview with several agencies first. Their fees can vary
Do not sign a modeling contract on the spot. Take
it home overnight, and read it over carefully. If you see a clause that
you don't like, ask them to take it out. (Note: Some countries or markets
do not use formal contracts, which has good and bad points.) Most contracts
can be negotiated, so feel free to ask for changes that would be fair for both
parties. If you want, you can always ask a lawyer to examine the contract
Never accept a clause that says if you leave the agency
you will not model elsewhere. Such classes are not enforceable in most states.
Tell the agency that they do not have to worry about you leaving them if they
treat you right.
Always remember that an agency's job is to get you work.
So in a sense, the agency works for you.
Never rely solely on an agency to promote you and manage
your career. Always promote and market yourself when opportunities arise
and be in charge of your own career. Only you know what's best for you.
If you have not heard from your agency recently, it often
helps to call them or stop by to gently remind (or prod) them that you are one
of their models. This seems to be highly effective in getting more work
for models. Become friends with the bookers.
While you should consider the advice of your agency,
all decisions are yours alone to make. In particular, it is highly questionable
when an agency recommends cosmetic surgery. Suggesting a new hair style
or nail polish is fine, but drastic and permanent alterations to your looks will
usually not make or break your modeling career. It is unlikely that you
would recoup the expense of cosmetic surgery and the risks to your own health
are not worth it for a modeling job. As always, use your own judgment to
make the final decision.
Q3.2: How do I Find a Photographer?
Early on you will need photos to start your portfolio, for
your comp card, and sometimes just to see if you are photogenic.
If you are with a reputable agency, they should be able to provide a list of competent
photographers to choose from. Ask other models who they used. Otherwise,
check your phone book for commercial fashion photographers. You should avoid portrait,
wedding, wildlife, etc. photographers as they do not understand the needs of the
modeling business when it comes to pictures.
Of course you can always post an ad in alt.models or
rec.photo.technique.people (be sure to ask for an experienced fashion photographer
in the later news group). Always list your location, as these are read the world
Several web sites have photographers listed, see Q2.7
Useful WWW Sites.
Ask your agency how they want your pictures done.
Many have very specific requirements such as studio/location, background, size,
film, etc., even lighting.
Discuss with the photographer the option of testing,
or trading some modeling time for the photos. The days of free testing are
generally long gone, but most photographers will do the pictures at cost or some
low rate. You should not have to pay and arm and a leg for photos, and expensive
photographers are generally best avoided.
Plan on paying for a stylist as well. A good stylist
can teach you about hair and makeup, as well as help you produce better photos.
It is the industry practice for the model to pay for the stylist during testing.
The photographer or agency should be able to recommend one or more stylists for
you to choose.
Regrettably I must offer one last caution. While
not common, there are some unethical individuals who claim to be professional
photographers to photograph woman for the wrong reasons. If during a photo
session you receive improper suggestive remarks or sexual advances, LEAVE IMMEDIATELY!
Be sure to warn your agency about the person(s) involved. If the circumstances
warrant it, do not be embarrassed to notify the police as well.
Your agency will try to get you modeling jobs by sending
you on "go-sees" to as many prospective clients and photographers as
possible. The frequency of your go-sees varies drastically with the market,
sometimes producing only one a week or month. Good models may sometimes
be run ragged from having as many as ten such appointments a day in a great market.
The purpose of a go-see is to allow the prospective client
to view your portfolio and to see what you look like in person. Always
bring your portfolio and comp cards with you!
Unless requested otherwise, you should wear business
attire which flatters your looks. Sometimes however, a client who sells
blue jeans, for example, might ask you to wear blue jeans to the interview.
It doesn't hurt to wear the client's brand of clothing. :) Check with
your agency (or the client if you have no agency) what to bring or wear. Ask your
agency for a "bring list".
Always arrive on time to your interviews. If you
do not know where the meeting place is in advance, find out. Never assume
you can find an address (especially in a strange city) easily; if you get lost
you could be late.
Always introduce yourself to people you meet, offer a
firm handshake, and make eye contact (except in countries which have different
customs.) Hand them your portfolio to review. Be polite and personable,
but do not try to create a conversion unless the client initiates this.
Do not explain or critique your photos. Clients usually do not have time
Remain quiet except to answer questions from the client.
Do try however, to appear enthusiastic, show positive energy, and maintain a presence
about you. Maintain good posture at all times.
A go-see can take as little as 30 seconds; just enough
time to quickly flip through your book. This does not necessarily mean rejection
however. Sometimes the client may ask to see you walk, especially if the
job will involve ramp work.
When the client is finished with you, thank them for
their time and see yourself out.
Go-sees are one of the most difficult aspects of modeling.
It is understandably difficult to meet strangers all day and have them assess
your looks. Secondly, modeling is filled with rejection. No matter
how many go-sees you do, only a fraction of them will result in jobs. Never
the less, a successful model must relentlessly follow the go-see process until
he or she becomes successful/famous enough to obtain regular work.
Q3.4: Appointment Book?
A model should always keep an appointment or day calendar
with her/him at all times. You should be meticulous in recording your future appointments,
go-sees, hours worked, etc. I n addition, keep a phone/address book of all photographers,
clients, makeup artists, etc. that you work with. These people are part
of your networking process in acquiring more work.
As you begin to get work, you should maintain a current
résumé and keep copies of it in your portfolio. Clients and photographers
often prefer to work with an experienced model, since they are likely to be more
professional and dependable.
Your résumé should be brief and simple.
Just list the dates and clients you have worked for in the past. Also, include
the type of work you did such as a ramp show, swimsuit catalog, or whatever.
Résumé's kept in chronological or reverse chronological order are
Q3.6: Tear Sheets?
Tear sheets are the Holy Grail for new models. Tear
sheets are the finished ads or editorial photos of you from published works.
Often times these are literally pages torn out of the magazines, catalogs, or
whatever. Be sure to put these in your portfolio to show clients your work
Depending on how your agency works, they may give you a
voucher book to keep. These are forms which your client must sign after
each work session indicating how many hours you worked. These are sort of
like a time-card in that they determine how much the client is billed and how
much you get paid. If you use vouchers, always bring them to every job,
no exceptions! Always be sure you spell the client's name correctly on your
voucher forms to avoid embarrassment.
Q3.8: How Should I Prepare for a Photo
Like most professions, modeling is one that requires some
time and effort on your part outside of working. The following tips will
help ensure your success.
- Men and woman both should get a professional manicure
and maintain their nails in perfect condition.
- Eat properly and maintain your weight at desired levels.
Some models become depressed when traveling to foreign countries and put on excessive
weight as a result. Be sure to avoid foods which degrade your skin complexion.
- Use appropriate products to treat dry or oily skin conditions.
- Avoid getting sun-burned or a tan just prior to a job.
Sometimes however, you may be asked to tan before a job. In this case, a
tanning booth works best as there is less chance of sunburn, and no tan lines.
- Modern high quality self tanning products from fine
department stores work well and photograph well. For best results it should
be applied a day in advance. The key is to apply it evenly. You'll
have to stand around naked until it dries, however.
- Common sense here, but bruises, scars, scratches, and
tattoos will work against you in getting work. Be careful.
- Maintain a healthy life-style of exercise, sleep, etc.
No drugs, minimal alcohol. Models who do the clubs every night quickly find
themselves unemployed if not black-listed.
- Practice walking, posing, and depicting different facial
expressions/moods on a regular basis.
- Woman should shave (or whatever) to remove unwanted
body hair before a job. Do this far enough in advance to allow any resulting
red marks to fade.
- If you will be wearing revealing clothing such as swimsuits,
lingerie', or posing nude, do not wear any tight clothing or elastic 12-24 hours
prior to the job.
- Your hair should be freshly shampooed and conditioned
before each job. Bring combs, brushes, curling irons, hair spray, etc. that
you normally use for touch ups to each job. Avoid last minute perms or haircuts
just before a job unless told to do so. Longer hair is preferred on female
models as this is more versatile, but there are always exceptions.
See also what to bring to photo sessions in the next section.
- If you are testing or shooting for your own portfolio,
your choice of clothing will impact your photos. You want to choose clothing
that flatters your appearance. Avoid loud patterns as these distract the
viewer. All black or all white outfits can be used to create low or high
key photos respectively, depending on your own looks.
- Do not eat a large meal just before a photo shoot.
It can make your stomach bulge and make you sleepy.
Q3.9: What Should I Bring to a Photo
Models should have a tote bag of things to bring to their
photo sessions. T he following are examples of things that might be included.
(They are some of the things I carry in my makeup kit.)
- Bobby Pins
- Curling Iron
- Duck-bill Clips
- Hair (blow) Dryer
- Hair Pins
- Hair Spray
- Scrungees or hair bands
- Styling Gel
- Blush Brush
- Cosmetic Sponges
- Cotton Balls
- Cotton Swabs (e.g., Q-tips)
- Cover Sticks
- Eye Liners
- Eye Shadow (avoid sparkle types)
- Eyebrow Brush
- Eyebrow Pencil
- Eyelash Curler
- Facial Cleanser
- Facial Tissues
- Facial Toner
- False Eye Lashes
- Lip Balm
- Lip Brushes
- Lip Gloss
- Lip Pencils
- Mascara (water proof)
- Mascara Remover
- Moisturizing Cream
- Nail Clippers
- Nail File
- Nail Polish
- Nail Polish Remover
- Pencil Sharpener
- Powder Brush
- Powder Puffs
- Skin Conditioner
- Sun Screen/Lotion
- Translucent powder
- Tweezers (angled style)
- Vitamin E Stick
- Wash Cloth
Remember, this is a list of suggestions. Nobody can
carry all this stuff around all the time . Check with your agency or the client
for a "bring list".
- Appointment Book
- Band-Aids (round)
- Bath Robe -- something warm to put on during nude or
- Clothes Pins -- useful to pin back clothes that don't
- Jewelry -- Keep some inexpensive jewelry with you, especially
earrings, bracelets, necklaces. Earrings are very important if you have
- Loupe -- A type of magnifying glass sold at camera stores
which are useful for looking at contact sheets. An inexpensive plastic one
is fine. AGFA makes a cheap 8X loupe which works well for models.
Check local camera stores.
- Mirror -- for hair and makeup touch-ups.
- Mosquito/bug Spray -- for location work.
- Panty-hose -- woman should always bring several pair
of panty-hose, in both nude/tan, black, and perhaps white. Avoid "shiny"
looking or opaque hose as these do not photograph well.
- Safety Pins -- always ask before poking holes in a client's
- Shoes -- Models are frequently required to use their
own shoes at photo shoots . Woman should keep one or two pairs of heels or pumps
in their tote bag in neutral colors, such as a pair of black, beige, white shoes.
Men should have a pair of black dress shoes available, and possibly brown ones.
A pair of comfortable sneakers or tennis shoes are often helpful too.
- Shoe Polish
- Underwear -- woman should bring a set of bra and panties
in both black and white, so that a color which does not show through the clothing
you will be modeling can be used.
- Voucher Book
- Bring a bottle of water or beverage.
- Bring a snack if it will be a long shoot.
Items used for modeling should be used only for modeling,
especially shoes. You want anything you wear in a photo session to look
brand new. Also, items used exclusively for modeling may be tax deductible,
check with your accountant.
Q3.10: Do I Need to Know How to Pose?
Yes, but... An experienced photographer can direct
a model into poses. However, a professional model should have a repertoire
of 36 or more poses. You should be able to move swiftly through a routine
of poses. Photographers can shoot a 36 exposure roll with a professional
model in about 30 seconds.
It is definitely in your best interest to come up with
a routine of poses. Start by learning 12 at a time. Get ideas from
ads in fashion magazines. Study photos of yourself carefully. You
can learn which poses work well and which ones do not. Avoid unflattering
Even more important, is to practice facial expressions
in front of a mirror. Learn how to smile without showing too much of your
gums. Practice facial expressions which depict different moods.
Q3.11: Do I Need to Know About Makeup?
Absolutely. When you arrive at a photo session, one
of three situations will exist:
The first thing you must learn is that photography makeup
is not the same as our everyday makeup. Both the products and their application
can be different from everyday makeup. Most women apply their makeup wrong
anyway because they were taught by someone at a cosmetics counter, not a professional
- You won't need to wear any makeup. Unlikely, except
perhaps for nude figure work or specialty modeling.
- A makeup artist (or the photographer) will apply your
- You will be required to apply your own makeup.
This is common, especially for low budget or testing situations.
You must understand that makeup must be applied according
to the nature of the desired picture, the type of film that will be used, and
the type of lighting used, etc.
I frequently run across models who insist they know how
to do their own makeup, when in fact they do not. Remember, incompetent
people never think they're incompetent. :) If a make-up artist or
the photographer are available to do your makeup, always take advantage of this.
By letting them do it, it becomes their responsibility and one less thing to worry
about. Besides, you might learn a new makeup trick or two.
Learn as much as you can from professional makeup artists
when you are fortunate enough to have one work on you. Consider reading some of
the books cited in Q2.6. Always ask the photographer
about the type of makeup he/she wants, and about the type of lighting and film
that will be used . Do not use iridescent (glittery) eye shadows as they do not
Q3.12: What Do Photographers/Clients
Look for in a Model?
There are two aspects to this question: First, the
physical appearance which will get your foot in the door. Desirable physical
attributes change with trends in the industry and the type of model required.
Obviously tall and slim have been in vogue for some time, although there
is also some work available for petite models as well. Currently high prominent
cheek bones, large eyes, and full sensuous lips are good features to have.
Few models are perfect, but different physical appearances
can help get you work in a particular market. For example, long beautiful
hair might get you a shampoo ad.
While physical appearances can get you work the first
time, your degree of professionalism and dependability will get you repeat
work with a client or photographer. Conversely, a model who behaves unprofessionaly
will not be hired again by that client or photographer. See Q3.13 below.
Q3.13: Modeling Professionalism?
There are plenty of attractive men and woman our there who
want to be models. What is most important to clients and photographers are
models who are professional and dependable. Your looks might get you a job
once, but your professionalism will get you repeat work. Some advice:
- Always be on time for a job. A photo shoot with
assistants, makeup artists, location rentals, equipment rentals, not to mention
the clients time can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Wasting people's
time costs money. Allow enough time in case you have difficulty finding
the location. In general, plan on arriving 15 minutes early.
- Accidents happen, but if you are going to be late try
to call and let people know. Get a cell phone, but keep it turned off while
- When you arrive you should look and feel your best,
ready to work, not tired from lack of sleep. No hang-overs!
- You are being paid to do a job. No whining or
complaining, unless of course you feel that your physical well-being is in question.
- You like the clients product or clothes, no matter how
stupid they look.
- Never steal anything from a session. I f you forget
to remove the earrings or whatever, return them immediately or people will assume
you stole them deliberately. Models who steal are quickly black-listed and
never work in that market again.
- Pay attention to what you are doing. Often times
you may be asked to repeat the previous pose. If your mind is wandering,
the photographer will have to direct you back to that pose again; wasting time.
- Be pleasant and cheerful to the people you work with.
Modeling is hard work but so is everyone else's job. Nobody wants to be
around someone who isn't a team player.
- Always remember that the photographer is the one who
is ultimately responsible for every photo shoot. Everyone works a little
differently and some photographers might want to hear your ideas or suggestions,
while others do not. Watch and listen to see how a particular team works before
offering advice. In any case, the photographer and client always have the
final say. Certainly you can refuse to do something if you feel your safety
or well-being would be endangered.
- Treat every session and appointment, even if you are
just testing, as though it was the most important session of your life.
The people you please or make angry today just might make or break your career
months down the road.
- Always bring your voucher book to your sessions.
Having the client sign you voucher book provides them a last impression of you.
Be sure to spell the client's name right!
- Always pick up after yourself; do not expect others
to pick up after you.
Q3.14 What About Taxes?
Depending on your country, there will likely be various
tax laws to follow concerning your income as a model. The following general
advice is recommended:
- An agency can provide helpful information for the country
you live in, and/or the country you are working in regarding tax laws.
- The single best piece of advice is to maintain detailed
and accurate records and receipts from your profession. This can include
mileage to/from appointments, money spent for clothes and accessories used exclusively
for modeling, travel tickets and expenditures, etc.
- If you are getting work frequently, you will likely
have to make periodic (e.g., quarterly) estimated tax payments.
- Find an accountant who specializes in taxes for self-employed
people to advise you and help plan for tax requirements.
- Being self-employed, you are less likely to be audited
if you have a professional CPA prepare your tax returns, rather than doing them
Q3.15 Should You Become a Model?
Despite the glamour and hype you have seen about the modeling
profession, it's hard work. It's boring. It's tedious. It's
filled with rejection, ups and downs. It's a life-style, not an 8-5 job.
Not all jobs pay that well and there is tremendous competition. The market
is filled with wanna-be models.
Unless you are seriously committed about modeling, willing
to work at it on your own time, live a healthy life-style, etc., you are not likely
to succeed as a model. You have to understand that there are lots of other
people who want to be models. They are doing everything they can to be successful.
Are you willing to put the time and energy into competing with these people, 24-hours
Do you have what it takes to be a model? Are you
tall and slender and unusually attractive enough that you are as good or better
looking than most other models? Be really honest with yourself about this.
Ask the opinions of your friends (but not your parents, they're too biased.)
Besides looks, do you have the tenacity, patience, aptitude,
fortitude, interpersonal skills, communication skills, stamina, etc.?
If you think you do, then go for it! Despite its
drawbacks, modeling can be fun, exciting, and adventurous. Be sure to maintain
realistic expectations however; the odds of becoming a highly successful or famous
model are similar to winning a lottery.
Q3.16 Photo Clubs/Group Shoots?
As a model, you will sooner or later see an ad or hear about
photo clubs, group shoots, "workshops", or whatever. Generally
these are organized events in which a number of photographers photograph models.
Depending on the situation, there could be four or more (perhaps a dozen) photographers
shooting a single model at one time.
There are good and bad points to these events.
First, some problems:
The good news about these events:
- Depending on how well the event is organized, they can
become free-for-alls and chaotic. There is often little chance for a photographer
to direct a model for any length of time, let alone establish a rapport with a
model which is so necessary for good pictures.
- While some models do well in these situations, I have
seen other models "freak-out" at these events.
- These events often attract "amateur" photographers
or worse who are more interested in taking sexy pictures of or hitting on pretty
woman rather than learning about photography.
- The "models" used at such events are sometimes
strippers, rather than the high fashion models you might be expecting.
- Due to the spontaneity (i.e., lack of planning), it
is often difficult for even good photographers to take good pictures at these
events. Remember that most successful photo shoots require hours if not
days of planning and are done under more controlled circumstances.
Some advice for models if you are considering participating
at one of these events:
- It's a an opportunity to get paid for modeling.
- The photographers usually represent a wide range of
abilities, but some will be extremely talented. Thus you can often obtain
some terrific images at little or no cost.
- It's an opportunity to "network" with photographers
and other models.
- Many workshops are well run and can provide useful experience
as well as help you learn to pose better.
- Such events can be a means to safely break into glamour
or nude modeling as opposed to working alone with a stranger.
-- EOD --
- Talk with the organizers about what is expected of you.
What will you be wearing? Or are you to pose nude? What will the ratio
of photographers to models be?
- Ensure you will have a proper place to change clothes,
be given breaks, beverages, etc.
- Understand exactly how long you be working and how much
you will be paid.
- Ask to speak to previous models who worked for the organizers
in the past.
- Try to make a mental note of which photographers treat
you professionally and which do not. Ask the good photographers for their
- Never give out you last name, address, or phone number,
where you work, etc. If a photographer asks for your phone number or other
information to reach you, ask that he give you a business card and that you will
call him instead.
- Depending on the situation, try to "rotate"
through all the photographers by giving each of them you attention, look in their
- If you want some prints, arrange to meet at a neutral
location after the photographer has time to process and print the photos.
- Get references and/or advice from the other models about
which photographers you should or should not work with on your own.
- If you are interested in finding these events, check
in photography magazines, local camera stores for flyers, or your local newspaper
which might have ads where used camera equipment is listed. Local colleges
and art schools also sponsor such events.