As a professional photographer of female models for almost four decades I’m often asked to provide advice for a model based on someone’s idea she has the “look.” These requests come in all shapes, sizes and forms, usually from a relative or friend of a model hopeful, or a potential model herself. As time consuming as it is, as a professional photographer I feel obligated to answer–and this is how I usually answer these requests whether a person has the look or not.
“Not being a model myself, my best advice is to visit a licensed agency and let them give the model advice. They are experts in that field. They are the ones that book models and help them out. Just do your research and make sure they are legit and not a scam. Agencies are the best place for her to get advice. I hope that helps.”
Unfortunately that canned response hasn’t reduced the amount of requests I still receive, so here’s a little more advice that can help you if you’re looking at becoming a model and to help you avoid the traps:
Do your research, Google! Enter key words like model advice, modeling, modeling agencies, etc., and also explore modeling agency websites. The best modeling agencies usually have tips plus model submission forms. Though do your research diligently as there is also misinformation on the Internet. The larger and well-known agencies like Wilhelmina, Ford, Elite, IMG, etc., allow you to submit online, though if an agency offers an “open call” day, go that route as you’ll get instant feedback.
Most agencies don’t scout outside their actual building. There are many “imposters” out there. Wilhelmina gives some great advice on their website, “Because the safety and best interests of aspiring models are matters we take seriously, we ask that you please be aware and cautious of scouting imposters misappropriating the Wilhelmina name…In the event that you are contacted by an individual claiming to work for or represent Wilhelmina Models, we strongly advise that you call any of our three offices to verify their identity directly before responding.”
In most states, a model agency, and/or model agent, is normally required to possess a state license. There are many wannabe model agents that like to skirt this law by calling themselves, “model managers.” Avoid model managers, especially photographers that claim they manage models. In the real industry of modeling, and even photography, this is frowned upon. While not all photographers that practice this are bad photographers, it’s still best to avoid any unlicensed person that wants to manage your modeling career.
A lot of these model managers, and sometimes even family and friends, often will compliment your beauty and make you feel like you’re the next supermodel–well unless one of them is actually a licensed model agent, don’t pursue modeling with that mind set. Accept the fact it’s very competitive, over saturated, and very few models make it to the top. That doesn’t mean don’t try, it means be prepared for rejection and if you do get accepted, you’re rarely paid immediately after the shoot, sometimes it can take weeks before you get a paycheck for your talents.
When it comes to commercial and advertising campaigns, normally an advertising agency hires models from a modeling agency, and they also hire the photographer directly or through a photo rep. Usually photographers do not hire models directly and traditionally the model is paid by the agency after the agency gets paid. All that takes time as an advertising agency bills the client after the shoot, and once the agency gets paid, they take their cut then issue the agreed upon payment to the model.
The best thing a potential model can do is thorough research to understand the industry, and not just on the Internet, but by phone and even chatting with existing agency models about their experiences. Just like photography, with digital and social media, the modeling industry is changing its methods of operation, so stay up-to-date with your research so you’ll know what to expect. Professional photographers might be able to provide some great advice on modeling, but the experts are licensed agents at reputable modeling agencies.
With that I close and as always, please do not forget the men and women who serve so proudly to protect our freedoms; God Bless them, their families and friends, Rolando.