Modeling 101 // Model Education
Modeling is the easiest job in the world, said no model ever.
Below are some tips to get the most out of your modeling career
- Practice poses in front of the camera/mirror
- Updated modeling portfolio
- Build your social media following
- Find the right modeling agency (If the route you want to go down.)
- Do your research about the modeling agency you sign up with
- Learn to embrace rejection
- Take care of yourself, your body, & your lifestyle
- Be safe
- Be Professional
- Commit to work
Model Don’ts from Tyra Banks
- Do not be a “no-neck monster.” Try to elongate your neck for maximum extension.
- Do not be a limp noodle. Always pose with tension in your body completely from head to toe.
- Do not play it safe and stay in the same pose. Mix it up with innovative poses. Your wildest pose could be the one that’s picked.
- Do not show up to a photo shoot unless you are clean-shaven, have a clean face, and have clean hair.
- Do not let hating how your hair or makeup is done affect your performance. Model through it.
- Do not stare aimlessly when posing. Create intensity for the camera through your eyes. Smize (smile with your eyes)!
- Do not slouch on the runway; pretend you have a wire through your spine that is pulling you up to the ceiling.
- Do not be forgettable. Make an impression by showing your distinctive personality.
Pro Tip // Make connections
Make sure you are fun, easygoing, and willing to go the extra mile! You are 100% more likely to be rebooked if you are genuinely pleasant to be around. You are part of a team s, so make sure you do your part.
Pro Tip // Make sure you show up!
Nothing looks more unprofessional on your personal brand than not showing up. Keep it professional!
BEFORE THE SHOOT
Be sure you know where to be, when to arrive, and what to bring well in advance. Have a contact number you can call if you have questions. Doing TFP work may require hair and makeup or a salon visit beforehand. Give yourself time for that.
Know what you’re signing up for. Who’s coming? Can you bring someone? Will you do nudes or implied nudes? Is there a possibility of bodily harm? Before the shoot, know all these things – if anything changes on set, discuss it immediately.
Agency work generally means working with professional people who can easily be held accountable in a safe environment. However, freelance models sometimes take a risk when working with photographers who do not have a lot of credibility. This can be avoided by researching and asking other models about their experiences.
Sets should always be conducted professionally. The shoot has been compromised if the photographer or any other person does or says anything inappropriate that makes you feel vulnerable or uncomfortable – your discomfort will be noticeable at work, but communicating your pain may cause tension on set. When a line is crossed, the best course of action is usually to leave the set. In the case of an agency job, you should contact your agent.
Being early means being on time, and being on time means being late. Being late means you won’t be hired again. It’s not possible to wait on models, especially when hair & makeup can take a long time, and artists arrive early and are ready to get started.
Unless you are doing your hair & makeup, your hair should be day-old, not styled, and your face should be clean and fresh. Bring your modeling bag with essentials and anything else requested. Be prepared for anything on set!
Often, shoots last a long time – you might get hot, cold, hungry, tired, or be put in uncomfortable positions. Keep a positive attitude, even when it’s challenging!
As a model, you don’t get to call the shots – you should follow the photographer’s or director’s instructions so they can accomplish their goals.
- Vet them with Instagram. You can learn a lot just from the Instagram page of any photographer you might work with. Think of this as a background check for potential photographers or anyone you’ll meet in person.
- Bring an escort. It is always a good idea to bring an escort to a shoot if you feel more comfortable doing so. A photographer who tells you that you need to come alone is a huge red flag.
- Google them. Instagram doesn’t have reviews, but you can find legit ones on Google or Yelp. It’s a big red flag if you can’t find any reviews online.
- Know what’s to be expected. Before the photo shoot, you should always discuss what you both expect so there are no surprises. It is highly unprofessional for the photographer to try to persuade you to shoot nude or in your underwear if this has never been discussed before the shoot.
- Check the local black list. The majority of big cities have a list of photographers who have been blacklisted for being inappropriate with their models on their Facebook groups.
- Drive separately. It is common for photo shoots to require a drive, sometimes over an hour each way. If you do not know and trust your photographer, drive separately. If they persistently insist that you drive together, be suspicious.
- Tell someone where you’re going. Tell someone where you’re going and who you’re shooting with. Give a friend or family member the address and timeframe so they know where you are going and what you are doing.
- Notice their Demeanor. Is their communication professional? Take note of how they communicate with you. Is their behavior rude? Does it seem like they are pushing you?
- Beware of Fraudulent Modeling Agencies. It is common for people to pose as model agents. Be careful who you do business with!
You will need these items, but they may not be mentioned in pre-shoot communications.
- Nude/black underwear/bra
- Nude/black heels
- Makeup wipes
- Bobby pins
- Safety pins/clamps
- Water & Snack (Pro tip: bring a straw so you don’t mess up your lipstick)
- Lipstick for touchups (in case the MUA can’t stay)
- Eyelash glue (in case the MUA can’t stay)
- Hair tie (Pro tip: don’t leave this on your wrist)
- Deodorant, Brush
- Sweater or small blanket
GAINING EXPERIENCE, PRACTICING POSES
Beginners find it difficult to figure out what to do in front of the camera. It isn’t something you can do right away. As with any skill, it takes practice, and the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be. Test shoots and early practice, even with amateur photographers, are the best ways to learn.
You will learn which angles, poses, and expressions work best for you after you become more confident and fluid in front of the camera. Occasionally, a pose might feel awkward, but look amazing on camera. On the other hand, a facial expression might feel confident, but not translate well on camera. Tethered monitors or mirrors are great for this!
PHOTOGRAPHY & TFP (Trade for print, or trade for portfolio)
Having a basic understanding of photography, lighting, and composition is extremely beneficial for models. Your portfolio will be stronger if you have a good taste in photography when working with new photographers.
It is not uncommon for photographers to work for TFP or to do test shoots with you. Most often, this means they are also building their portfolios, and may be looking for a specific look or may not be very experienced, but it still gives you the opportunity to practice and build your portfolio.
DIGITALS, POLAROIDS & HEADSHOTS
For certain castings, you’ll be asked to submit digitals or take polaroids. ‘Digitals’ refer to raw images of your face and body, typically in underwear and heels, or form-fitting clothing. Ideally, these should be taken in natural light, without makeup or retouching, and with stoic expressions.
Casting or agency polaroids work similarly.
Although headshots are different, they should still reflect your real-life appearance. In general, headshots should show a little personality and style, with light makeup and retouching. Keep them updated, especially when you change your look (haircut, hair color, tattoos, etc.).
In general, commercial models use their headshots for castings, whereas runway / editorial models use digitals more often.
PRINTED PORTFOLIO & WEBSITE
A strong portfolio should be printed and kept in a book, which you’ll need at castings. Update it often with your best work, or images that show off your special skills or traits. Keep it between 12-20 images or spreads. Tearsheets should also be included. (Torn pages from your publications.)
A website can also serve as an online portfolio. Agents & casting directors usually want something they can look at immediately, and you never know how tech-savvy they are. Although it can help you book jobs abroad, it’s more practical to have a printed portfolio for local gigs, and Instagram is a better online presence tool.
Basic Posing Tips
- Think of your hair placement.
- Always position your chin forward.
- Place your arm slightly away from your body. Create separation.
- Position your waist away from the camera.
- Turn your shoulders slightly to avoid being photographed straight on.
- Keep your shoulders back, but relaxed.
- Ensure that you have a strong posture. Pretend there’s a string attached to the top of your head and it’s being pulled upwards.
- Give your hands something to do. Wear clothes & accessories you can grab, pull, or hold. Play with your hair or clothes.
- If you’re barefoot or wearing flats, stand on your tip toes. It’ll make your legs look longer and give your butt a lift.
KNOW HOW TO POSE YOUR BODY
- Hands on Hips = Smaller Waist. By placing your hands on your hips, you will create a background through your arms, which will make your waist appear smaller.
- Chin Up = Smaller Forehead. It will not only make a large forehead appear smaller, but it will also elongate the neck as well.
- Tippy Toes = Bigger Calves. When you stand on your tippy toes instead of flat feet, your calf muscles look bigger because they are working harder.
- Knees In = Slimmer Hips. Your hips will appear slimmer if you turn your knee in. In addition, this will give you a space between your thighs, which is something most women don’t have.
- Lean Forward = Smaller Bust. Your naval should be tucked into your spine as you hunch your back. As a result, your bust appears smaller.
- Emphasize Shoulder = Narrow Hips. Turn your shoulders toward the camera and turn your body to the side. If you place a lot of emphasis on your shoulders, your hips will be narrow.
The hardest part of modeling is facial expressions. Smile with your eyes. Show a tiny bit of teeth by parting your lips. Try relaxing or tensing your face muscles. You can tilt your head either way or tilt your chin up or down. Check out what works. Some models make very subtle vowel sounds with their lips. EEE.. OOO.. AHH.. A little silly, but it can really add a lot to a picture.
Walk and Run Poses
Action is illustrated with walk and run poses. Starting in a “T” position, keep your weight on your back foot. Put your toe up and extend your forward foot. Run poses involve shifting your weight to your forward foot and lifting your back foot’s heel. Play with hand positions to give your body the illusion of movement.
Posing Ideas – Inspiration for your Next Shoot
All Photos © Salvatore Cincotta Photography
WHAT MAKES A GOOD CASTING
Preparation is key! Give them what they want. If there are many models that look like you, it can be hard to stand out. In most cases, they just want to see you in person – a photo, polaroid, or a walk, and that’s it. The best way to make a good impression is to be well prepared and professional – and smile, smile, smile!
PREPARATION & WHAT TO BRING
You will usually be told exactly what to bring to a casting. You should wear form-fitting black clothing if not specified, but some color may help you stand out for commercial castings.
General casting wardrobe:
• Black skinny jeans
• Black tanktop, or black t-shirt for guys
• Black heels, or dress shoes for guys
• Avoid jewelry
Castings will usually want to see your book, and have a copy of your headshot or comp card. Sometimes more. Even though they might not ask for it, you should always bring:
• Printed headshot (8×10, portrait not landscape)
• Printed resume (sized to 8×10, so it fits nicely with your headshot!)
• Your portfolio book, including any tearsheets
• Printed digitals
• Comp cards
Most agency jobs have a set rate. When you’re just starting out, it’s okay to take a few low-paying jobs to build that relationship, especially if you’re newly signed. Eventually, the jobs improve.
In either case, your rates will vary depending on your experience, job type, and usage.
The harder you work, or the further you’re pushed outside your comfort zone, the higher the rate. Longer shoots generally cost more. Nudes, or implied nudes, should always be higher rates. Also, if you have special skills, such as dancing, or if you need to be in character, like promo modeling, you can negotiate higher rates.
Clarify usage – where the photographs are being used. The rates should be vastly different if the photos are being used on a local storefront rather than an international campaign, even if it’s the same shoot.
So, How much should you charge?
What is your experience as a model? What you can charge will vary depending on how many years you’ve been actively modeling and what other clients you’ve had.
What is the client’s budget? Sometimes they will give you their budget for an hourly rate and other times they will give you a flat rate for ‘X’ number of hours. If that doesn’t fall within your pricing, you can attempt to negotiate or turn down the booking.
If there’s no budget, does this booking benefit you? If you’re not getting paid, is it good exposure and would the images be good for your portfilio? Many publications don’t pay much or at all, but sometimes doing them despite the lack of payment can boost your career!
What type of booking is it- fashion, commercial, swim, boudoir, runway? This is important to know because you can charge more for showing more skin. It also may not be something you’re interested in even if it pays well, so it’s important to know up front.
What are the images going to be used for? Publication, web or social media branding, internal marketing?
How long is the shoot? Is it within “standard” working hours or not?
Is it local or is travel involved? If you do have to travel, who covers those expenses?
Other than being the model, what else is expected of you? If you have to do your own wardrobe styling, hair, makeup, etc. you have a right to charge more.
Payments can be set up in a variety of ways, and you can customize how you charge based on the type of booking. You can charge per hour or a flat rate for a window of hours or a whole day. Short bookings (under 3 hours) make sense as hourly rates. Typical rates are $50 – $75/hour for standard shoots, $75 – $100/hour for swim, lingerie, etc. (showing more skin = higher rates).
A flat rate is usually charged for half-day (4-6 hours) and full-day bookings (7+ hours)- for example, $250 for 4 hours. Sometimes models will cut clients a deal on multiple day bookings by charging a little less than usual. However, if the shoot is an overnight shoot or has call-times at 3am, you can charge a bit more. Since runway shows last for long hours, I usually charge a flat rate.
If a client cannot pay your full rate, ask them what pay range they feel works for them, and decide if the opportunity is worth going lower than your standard rate. I’ve been booked for many jobs where the pay was low, but they threw in perks like getting not only the published photos, but also some that weren’t published and getting to take home some of the products we were shooting (clothing, hair products, etc.) to help compensate. But, don’t overdo it on discounts and negotiations!
What you charge for your skills is ultimately up to you. Whenever your experience grows, you can reevaluate and adjust!
Unless you’re scouted by an agency from day one, you’ll be a freelancer. Once you get signed, you can continue doing freelance work as long as you’re non-exclusive. It may require some extra work, but freelancing gives you the most freedom; you decide what type of work you do and what rate you charge.
ADVANTAGES & DISADVANTAGES
As a freelance model, you are your own agent and must find jobs yourself. An agency works on your behalf. Although many commercial clients only work with agencies, you will still have access to numerous open casting calls, and once you build up a reputation among your local network, they will remember you and help you get jobs.
With Instagram’s current popularity and marketing tools, it’s much easier to be a freelance model today. Having a strong following can lead to paid promotions, trade offers or exciting collaborations with big and small brands, influencers & photographers. Booking new jobs will be much easier with this tool.
While it’s easy to get into freelance modeling, and social media is a casual way to find work, having an agent gives you more credibility. Keep your DMs short, then request an email address. DMs and texts aren’t professional.
Whenever possible, get things in writing and have a contract!
You can manage your schedule based on your life not the agent’s needs.
You can continue to embrace your own style and not conform to your agent’s requirements.
Also, agents usually work with 10 or more girls and sometimes you can fall under the radar and never get called for any assignments. Being that you are in a contract with them you can’t leave or look for other gigs on your own.
Heres a free template to a modeling contract – https://www.hellobonsai.com/a/freelance-model-contract-template
Model agency tips
- Start by contacting and researching modeling agencies in your local market. It is very important to make sure you are what the agency is looking for as every model scout manages different types of talent.
- Take classes and Model Workshops to get you in front of real industry professionals. Before getting into a modeling school, make sure the school and classes are in line with your goals and objectives prior to committing the time and money.
- Learn the basics of modeling. Getting test shoots is equally important. Rather than spending tons of money on one set of photographs, seek out multiple photographers and get on as many shoots as possible. This shows your versatility in front of the camera and can help land you a modeling agency. Most agents recommend a 4-look book meaning photographs featuring outfits for all 4 seasons (Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall)
- Expect to front your own marketing costs when you are starting out. Many models think that if an agency wants you, they pay for everything. This is not only wrong, it’s dangerous for new models starting out, as you can miss many great opportunities due to the lack of knowledge on what modeling is like in.
- Grow your social media. Agents want a person that is a brand name, not always a pretty face. Be sure to ramp up your Instagram and use hashtags to get attention from scouts. Use professional photography on social media and on your comp cards.
- Comp cards. These are used by models and actors, and are a composite of your stats and photographs.
- Seek out open call auditions to meet with agencies. Do research and see if there are any open calls in your area.
HOW TO SIGN
Find out what the requirements are for local agencies and how to submit your digitals or when to show up for open calls. Some agencies only accept written applications, while others only accept applications through their website. Identify your agency’s preferred method and follow it.
Please wear form-fitting clothing for your photos so that we can see your body shape clearly. Don’t wear makeup or large accessories because they may distract. There are no smiles! Last but not least, relax and be yourself!
Images below © elitemodel.com
Images below © elitemodel.com
EXCLUSIVE OR NON-EXCLUSIVE
When you are exclusive with one agency, you are more likely to be featured as one of their premier models and receive higher-paying jobs with low competition. This limits your options for other modeling gigs.
Models who are non-exclusive can have multiple agencies, so they have access to a broader range of jobs. Castings are more competitive, and if you’re not active with your agents, you may be forgotten about and offered fewer gigs.
How Long Does It Take to Hear Back from Modeling Agencies?
A modeling agency will contact you by phone or email when they are interested in you. Agents are extremely busy, so you will need to be patient. Please keep in mind that application forms won’t be reviewed immediately, so you may not receive a reply for a couple of weeks.
COMP CARDS & WEBSITE FEES
Typically, agencies require you to pay an annual fee to be listed on their website, along with updating your photos as needed. In addition, you may have to print your own comp cards, or pay the agency to do so for you. Comp cards (or zed cards, z cards) are like your modeling business cards, containing your stats, headshots, and your latest, greatest photos, or your digitals, depending on the type of modeling you’re into.
Questions to ask the agency
- Ask for a contract and read every last detail – even the small print. If you do not understand everything, ask them. If you do not agree with anything, do not sign.
- Does the modeling agency pay for travel? It has been known for this expense to be taken out of a model’s pay, leaving models with very little. Ensure you ask before committing to anything.
- When do models get paid and what percentage does the agency take?
- How does the system work i.e. offers of jobs?
- Explain your terms. For example, if you do not want to model nude, make sure this is in your contract. To ensure that the jobs they offer are in the right industry for you, be honest and open about anything you are uncomfortable with.
WORD OF CAUTION
It is not uncommon for some agencies to take advantage of young, aspiring models by charging substantial fees for portfolio-building test shoots with their photographer, high website fees, and new comp cards every few months. Castings or high-paying opportunities are often offered, yet you do not meet the requirements. Without booking you any work, they make money off of you. Alternatively, they may take a larger cut than usual hoping you won’t know your worth. Know an agency’s reputation before signing!
Agencies have working relationships with certain clients and that bond can increase your chances of getting the gig.
As an agency model you have more opportunities to book with major clients who prefer using agencies for liability reasons.
Agency models tend to get paid more money.
PRO TIP // Don’t cold call Modeling Agencies
A model starting out has a hard time landing an invitation or evaluation to their office, since they receive hundreds if not thousands of submissions a week. You’ll be more likely to get signed if you focus your efforts on building your resume!
Find an agency neat you (Filter by state) – https://models.com/agencies/modeling/United-States
Comp cards are much larger than business cards. It’s a bit bigger than a post card. It is usually printed on both sides and measures 5.5″ x 8.5″.
It contains the model’s name, statistics, and headshot on one side. Models’ headshots should clearly show their features. Clients might assume that the agency is trying to hide a flaw if the model’s face is covered.
Model’s stats to include:
- Vital stats (bust/chest, waist, hips)
- Hair color
- Eye color
- Shoe size
Showcase 4 or 6 photos from the model’s portfolio on the other side. Photos should show off the model’s range. This will serve as a mini portfolio. Also on this side is the agency’s contact information. In case you are a freelancer, include your details.
Create a comp card here (Click the customize button) – https://www.zazzle.com/model_actor_comp_card_5_photo_white_5x7-256490941401984662
ShutterFest is one of the largest photography conferences in the US. This conference is a great place to network and develop relationships with photographers all over the world. So how do you maximize these connections? Here are some tips below.
- Having business cards or some sort of contact information to provide to photographers is a bonus but not a requirement. You will be provided with model cards that you will need to have with you at each location so that photographers can take a picture of it but people get busy and sometimes forget to take a picture. We suggest you print a decent amount of business cards and hand them out to all the photographers you worked with.
(Pro Tip: Ask the photographers for their business cards as well. This is the best way to network after the event)
- Build or update your portfolio. You will be working with some of the best photographers in the world. Bring your A-game so you can ensure you get quality images back for your portfolio.
We did lots of research, check out some of the blog posts we got some of this information from.
Reading Is not the only way we learn. Videos are a great resource. Check out some of our favorite videos to help step up your modeling career.