Modeling 101 // Make the most of modeling
Modeling is the easiest job in the world, said no model ever.
It’s not all just “stand there and look pretty,” or the dreaded “say cheese.” Don’t believe me? Hold that expert-level yoga pose for 30 more seconds, because the camera loves it!
For many people, the life of a model seems to be an ideal one. You get to travel the world, wear designer clothes, all while making a lot of money. But the lifestyle of a model is not all glitz and glamour. There is a lot that goes on when the cameras aren’t flashing that might shock anyone who isn’t familiar with the modeling world.
Below are some tips to get the most out of your modeling career
- Practice model poses in front of the camera
- Get a killer modeling portfolio
- Build your social media following
- Find the right modeling agency
- 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
Be fun, easy going and willing to go that extra mile! If you are genuinely a delight to be around, you are 100% more likely to be rebooked. You are part of a team so pull your weight, diva’s are so 2010.
Simple, natural and minimal. A slight bend of the knee or a hand on the hip.
Powerful, athletic and strong stances. Lifting weights, lunging or performing press ups and sit ups.
Artistic, creative and striking. An elongated neck, fierce eyes and good posture.
Seductive, provocative and alluring. Suggestively lying on the floor/bed or up against a wall.
BEFORE THE SHOOT
Figure out the details of your shoot well beforehand; exactly where you need to be, when to arrive and what to bring. Get a contact number to call if you have questions. At times, especially when doing TFP work, you will need to do your own hair & makeup, or visit a salon beforehand. Plan time for that.
Make sure you know what you’re getting into. Who will be present? Are you allowed to bring someone? Will you be doing nudes or implied nudes? Is there a possibility of bodily harm? These are all important things to know and should be figured out before the shoot – if something changes once you arrive on set, discuss it right away.
Generally, if you are doing agency work, you’ll be working in a safe environment with teams of professionals who can easily be held accountable. As a freelance model, however, you are sometimes taking a risk by working with photographers who may not have a lot of credibility – this can be avoided by doing some research, and asking models they’ve worked with about their experiences.
There should always be professional conduct on set. If the photographer, or anyone else does or says something inappropriate that makes you feel vulnerable or uncomfortable, the shoot has been compromised – your discomfort will be noticeable in the work, but communicating your discomfort may cause tension on set. The best course of action once a line has been crossed is usually just to leave the set. If it’s an agency job, call your agent, and let them know what happened.
Arriving early means you’re arriving on time, and arriving on time means you’re late. Being late means you will not get hired again. Nobody can afford to wait on models – especially when hair & makeup can take a long time, and typically the artists are there early and are ready to get started right away.
Unless you’re doing your own hair & makeup, you should arrive with day-old hair with no product or styling, and a fresh, clean face. Bring anything else that was requested as well as your modeling bag with the basic essentials. Don’t forget snacks!
Shoots can last a long time – hair & makeup can take awhile, you might get hot, cold, hungry or tired, or be put in uncomfortable positions. Even though it can be hard at times, try to maintain a positive attitude!
Remember that as a model, you don’t really get to call the shots – you should do your best work while following instruction from the photographer or director so that they can achieve their vision.
- Vet them with Instagram. Any photographer you might work with will have an Instagram account and there is a lot you can learn just from their page. Look at this like a background check for potential photographers or really anyone you’ll be meeting in person for the first time
- Bring an escort. if you feel more comfortable bringing an escort to a shoot the answer should ALWAYS be yes. If the photographer gives you an excuse why you need to come alone that is a huge red flag.
- Google them. You won’t find reviews on Instagram but you will find reviews on Google or yelp if they are legit. If you can’t find any reviews by googling them that’s a huge red flag.
- Know what’s to be expected. What you both expect should always be discussed before the photo shoot that way there is no surprises in the moment. If shooting nudes or in your underwear was never discussed before the shoot it is extremely unprofessional for the photographer to try to persuade you to do so.
- Check the local black list. Most big cities will have a list of photographers in facebook groups who’ve been blacklisted for being inappropriate with their models.
- Drive separately. Many photo shoot’s will require a drive, sometimes over an hour each way so unless you know and trust the photographer drive separately and if they persistently insist that you drive together this is a huge red flag.
- Tell someone where you’re going. Always tell someone where you’re going and who you’re shooting with. Send the address and time frame to a friend or family member so they know where you’re going what you’re doing and when.
- Notice their Demeanor. Do they communicate in a professional manner? Notice how they communicate with you. Are they rude? Are they Pushy?
- Beware of Fraudulent Modeling Agencies. People will pose as model agents. Just be careful who you do business with!
These are the things you will need, but may not be directly 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
The hardest part of modeling for beginners is knowing what to actually do in front of the camera. This is not something you will magically know how to do right away. Just like any other skill, it takes a lot of practice, and the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be with it. That’s why doing test shoots and getting this early practice in, even with amateur photographers, is the best way to start.
Once you begin to feel more confident and fluid in front of the camera, reviewing the images from shoots will help you learn which angles, poses and expressions work best for you. Sometimes certain poses may feel awkward, but look amazing on camera – conversely, you might feel really confident about a facial expression, but on camera it might not translate well. Working in front of a mirror or a tethered monitor is a great way to help with this!
PHOTOGRAPHY & TFP (Trade for print, or trade for portfolio)
As a model, there is a huge benefit to learning a little bit about photography, lighting and composition. Having a good taste in photography will give you a better eye when working with new photographers and will provide you with a stronger portfolio.
Many photographers are willing to work for TFP or do test shoots with you. This often means that they are also portfolio-building, and may be looking for a specific look or might not be very experienced, but it still provides you the opportunity to get you the practice you need, and at least start building a portfolio.
DIGITALS, POLAROIDS & HEADSHOTS
You’ll often asked to submit digitals or take polaroids for certain castings. ‘Digitals’ are industry lingo for raw images of your face and body, typically just in underwear and heels, or form-fitting clothes. These should be taken in natural light, with absolutely no makeup or retouching, and stoic facial expressions.
Polaroids function in the same way, but are taken at the casting or agency.
Headshots are different, but similarly should still be an accurate real-life depiction of your look. Headshots can show a little bit of personality and style, with a bit of makeup and light retouching generally acceptable. These should be updated regularly, especially when you change your look (haircut, new hair color, new tattoos, etc.)
You are likely to need both, but generally, commercial models commonly use their headshots for castings, while runway / editorial models more often use digitals.
PRINTED PORTFOLIO & WEBSITE
Once you’ve done the work to build a strong portfolio, you’ll want to consider having it printed and keeping a book, which you’ll often need at castings. It should be updated often with new work, but should only have your very best images, or ones that show off your special traits or skills. Time is valuable so try to keep it between 12-20 images or spreads max. You should also include any tearsheets you might have. (Torn out pages of your published work.)
You can also consider having a website as an online portfolio. Keep in mind though that agents & casting directors will typically want something they can look at immediately, and you never know how tech-savvy they might be. It can definitely help you book jobs abroad, but typically a printed portfolio will be more practical for local gigs, and Instagram is a more effective tool for online presence.
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. Putting your hands on your hips creates a background through your arms, which will make your waist appear smaller.
- Chin Up = Smaller Forehead. Not only will it make a large forehead look smaller, it will also elongate the neck.
- Tippy Toes = Bigger Calves. Standing on your tippy toes instead of flat feet will make your calf muscles appear bigger because they are working harder to keep you up!
- Knees In = Slimmer Hips. Turning a knee in will make your hips appear slimmer. This will also give you a space between your thighs, which is something that most women don’t have.
- Lean Forward = Smaller Bust. Hunch your back and bring your naval into your spine. This creates a slight lean forward, which will make your bust look smaller.
- Emphasize Shoulder = Narrow Hips. Turn your body to the side and turn your shoulders toward the camera. The emphasis on your shoulders will narrow your hips.
Facial expressions are one of the hardest parts of modeling. Practice smiling with your eyes. Try parting your lips to show just a tiny bit of teeth. Try relaxing your face muscles or tensing them up. Try tilting your head to either side or tilting your chin up or down. See what works for you. One technique that some models use is to make very subtle vowel sounds with their lips. EEE.. OOO.. AHH.. it’s a little silly, but it can really add a lot to a photo.
Walk and Run Poses
Walk and run poses are used to illustrate action. To simulate a walk, begin in the “T” position, keeping your weight on your back foot. Extend your forward foot and point your toe up. A run pose involves shifting your weight to your forward foot and lifting the heel of your back foot off the floor. Try a variety of hand positions to give your body the illusion of movement.
Your profiles follow you throughout your life and career. Once something is published online, it’s out there forever, so really think about what you’re posting and make sure it’s mature.
Because you’ll be in contact with so many different professionals online, social media is great to give credit to photographers and clients that you work with. Be sure to post about those who give you a leg up in the industry because being appreciative is always in style.
Increasing your number of followers increases your public profile. The more well known you are, the more likely you are to be discovered. The model and entertainment industry is all about who you know, so get out there and start making those connections – even if they’re just online.
Instagram is the best platform for fashion and modeling content. It’s all pictures after all!
Share a mixture of behind-the-scenes photos of your photoshoots and then post the final product. Followers love knowing what’s going on in your life and what it’s like in your shoes. Instagram stories are a great way to show what you’re doing day-to-day, whether it be personal or professional.
There are plenty of hashtags to use in order to gain more attention and followers. These tags are essential to boosting your profile and reaching more users.
Check out best model hashtags here – http://best-hashtags.com/hashtag/modeling/
Facebook is a great way for businesses to interact with their clients. While as a model, you should think of your followers as your clients. They’re the ones who want to see more of you and are invested in the content you post.
Facebook can allow you to interact with them in the comments, post news of projects you’re doing, or just keep them updated on your life!
You probably already have your own personal profile, but once you start making it big, it’s best to have your own modeling page for people to follow and keep up with your professional side.
Even though Twitter only allows 280 characters per post, it’s still a huge social media phenomenon that millions of people log into every day. Twitter is great to promote your own brand and keep in touch with the current fashion trends and models.
You’ll be able to connect with others in a much more immediate and personal way and build your online personality.
Pro Tip // be selective about what you post
Do not repeat the same photos on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all the time.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD CASTING
The most important thing you can do is be prepared! Give them exactly what they ask for. It may be hard to stand out against a room full of models that look just like you, but you don’t have to do anything special. Remember that, most of the time, they just want to see you in person – they’ll often take a photo or polaroid of you, or have you do a walk, and that’s it. Being well prepared and professional is the best way to make a good impression – and of course, stay happy, smile and be polite!
PREPARATION & WHAT TO BRING
Castings will usually specify exactly what they need from you. If not specified, it’s recommended to wear form-fitting clothes that are all black, but a bit of color might be okay for commercial castings, as it may help you be more memorable.
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
Agency jobs typically have a set rate that is not negotiable. Sometimes the rate is low, especially if you’re newly signed – if you’re just starting out, it’s okay to take a few low-paying jobs to start building that relationship. The jobs eventually get better.
Regardless if it’s through your agency, or you setting your own prices, your rates will vary based on your experience, job type and usage.
Job type is pretty straightforward, the harder you have to work, or the more you’re put outside your comfort zone, the higher the rate. Generally rates are by the hour, so longer shoots demand more. Nudes, or even implied nudes, should always be a higher rate. You can also negotiate higher rates for using your special skills, such as dancing, or for needing to be in character and act in front of people, such as promo modeling.
Always clarify usage – meaning where the photographs are being used and featured. Even if it’s the exact same shoot, you should get vastly different rates if the images are just being used on a local storefront as opposed to printed in an international ad campaign.
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.
When it comes to how you pay your clients there are different ways your payment process can be set up, and you can tweak how you charge depending on the type of booking. Rates can be charged per hour, or be a flat rate for a window of hours or a full-day. If the booking is short (under 3 hours), then an hourly rate makes sense. An example would be $50 – $75/hour for a standard shoot, $75 – $100/hour or higher for swim, lingerie, etc. (showing more skin = higher rates!).
For half-day bookings (4-6 hours) and full-day bookings (7+) it’s usually to charge a flat rate for that timeframe- i.e., $250 for 4 hours. If it is a multiple day booking, sometimes models will cut clients a deal and will charge a little less than their typical flat-rates. However, if the shoot has call-times at an extreme hour (3am) or is set to be an overnight shoot, you can add a little more to your rates. For runway shows, I usually do a flat-rate fee as you are there really long hours.
If a client isn’t able to pay your full rate, ask the client what pay range they feel would work for them and then decide if the opportunity is worth going lower than your standard rates. 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 some that weren’t published, and I’ve also gotten to take home some of the products we were shooting (clothing, hair products, etc.) to help make up for the lower pay. Again though, don’t make a habit of giving discounts or negotiating too much!
At the end of the day, what you charge for your skills as a model it is up to you to decide. As your experience grows, you can always reevaluate where you’re at and adjust accordingly!
Unless you get scouted by an agency from the get-go, you will start out as a freelance model. Even after you do get signed, as long as you’re non-exclusive, you can continue doing freelance jobs. It may require some extra work, but freelancing gives you the most amount of freedom; you choose your exact rates and what type of work you do.
ADVANTAGES & DISADVANTAGES
An agency works on your behalf to find jobs, so as a freelance model you will have to be your own agent and find jobs yourself. This will limit the pool of jobs available to you, as many commercial clients will only work with an agency, but there are still numerous open casting calls available, and once you start building up a strong reputation amongst your local network, they will remember you and help you get jobs.
Today, it is much easier to be a freelance model thanks to social media platforms, namely Instagram with its current popularity and marketing tools. With a strong following, you can start to get noticed by big or small brands, influencers & photographers, who may offer paid promotions, trade offers or exciting collaborations. This is definitely going to be your most helpful tool for booking new jobs.
Even though it’s easy to get into freelance modeling, and social media is a casual away to approach job opportunities, you gain a lot of respect and credibility by conducting yourself as if you were an agent. It’s okay to DM about jobs at times, but keep it short and sweet, then ask for an email address. Texting or DM’s are generally not professional.
Ask for details, get things in writing, and always try to have a contract when applicable!
Heres a free template to a modeling contract – https://www.hellobonsai.com/a/freelance-model-contract-template
The standard model comp card size is much bigger than a business card. It is slightly bigger than a post card. The standard size is A5 or 5.5″ x 8.5″ and is usually printed on double-sided.
On one side, it has the model’s name, stats, and headshot. The headshot should show the model’s features clearly. If the model’s face is covered, clients might assume that the agency is trying to cover a flaw.
Model’s stats to include:
- Vital stats (bust/chest, waist, hips)
- Hair color
- Eye color
- Shoe size
On the other side of the comp card, showcase 4 or 6 photos from the model’s portfolio. The selected photos should show off the model’s range. This will act as a mini portfolio of the model. The agency’s contact information is usually found on this side of the comp card as well. If you are a freelancer, include your own details here.
Create a comp card here (Click the customize button) – https://www.zazzle.com/model_actor_comp_card_5_photo_white_5x7-256490941401984662
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
Do your research on local agencies, look at their requirements, and learn how to submit your digitals or when to show up for open call days. Some agencies will only accept written letters, whilst others will only accept applications via their website. Research your agency’s preferred method and act accordingly.
For your photos, please wear form fitted clothing so that we can clearly see your body shape. Do not wear any makeup or large accessories because they may be distracting. No smiles! Lastly, relax and be your natural and empowered self!
EXCLUSIVE OR NON-EXCLUSIVE
Being exclusive (locked in with one agency) shows loyalty, meaning your agency is likely to feature you as one of their premier models and work harder to get you higher-paying jobs with low competition. It does, however, limit your freedom to do other types of modeling gigs.
Non-exclusive models can have several agencies, allowing access to a wider range of jobs, and also gives models the freedom to do freelance work. Your castings will usually be more competitive, and if you’re not actively engaged with your agents or the jobs they’re offering you, they may forget about you and you’ll be offered fewer gigs.
How Long Does It Take to Hear Back from Modeling Agencies?
When a modeling agency is interested, they will contact you via phone or email. However, you do have to be patient as agents are extremely busy. Remember application forms will not be viewed immediately and they therefore may take a couple of weeks to get back to you.
COMP CARDS & WEBSITE FEES
Typically agencies will require you to pay annually for having you on their website roster, and also update your photos when needed. You’ll also often be required to print your own comp cards, or pay for the agency to do this on your behalf. A comp card (or zed card, z card) is like your modeling business card, that includes your stats, as well as a headshot and your latest, greatest photos, or your digitals, depending on the type of modeling you’re focused on.
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
Sadly, it’s not uncommon for some agencies to take advantage of young, aspiring models – they may require you to pay substantial fees for portfolio-building test shoots through their own photographer, high website fees, and new comp cards every couple of months. They will send you castings or talk about high-paying opportunities, but often fail to mention that you do not meet the requirements for those jobs. They are making money off of you without ever booking you any work. Or alternatively, they may be taking a larger cut than normal hoping that you won’t know your worth. Learn an agency’s reputation before signing!
PRO TIP // Don’t cold call Modeling Agencies
They get hundreds — if not thousands of submissions a week, landing an invite or evaluation to their office is rare for most models starting out. Instead, focus your efforts on building your resume – this will help you get an agent’s attention and get signed!
Find an agency neat you (Filter by state) – https://models.com/agencies/modeling/United-States
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.
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.
Check with the BBB (Better Business Bureau) regarding companies and agencies.
Create a business email separate from your personal email (same goes for phone numbers).
If a company asks for you to send provocative pictures — (RED FLAG ON THE BUSINESS BEING LEGIT).
Trust your instincts on projects that you may feel are questionable (your safety is priority #1).
As a freelance model, you need to be very cautious of giving your information out freely, I cannot stress enough on doing your research.
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.
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.