All about Modeling

Starting as a Model

Some models are “discovered” and become an overnight success. 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 income.

Options available are:

1. Find a reputable agency to represent you.

2. Find a reputable photographer in the fashion industry to help get you started.

3. Enter a reputable contest or model search. While some of these often produce working models, others are scams that often charge exorbitant entry fees while giving little in return.

4. Find a client to hire you. If a friend or a relative has a business, tell them that you would like to model for their ads.

You can always promote and market yourself — some models are very successful at this. 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.

Types of Modeling
Editorial Print Modeling
This is photography for magazines, including covers. This work is very eagerly sought after by models because of the exposure it provides. For this reason you can expect to work long and hard but you will get tear sheets for your portfolio that will help you get work.

Catalogue Modeling
Models are hired to appear in catalogues like Otto Burlington to sell clothes / everyday products to average people. Requirements are flexible.

Commercial Print Modeling
When models are photographed to promote a product on billboards, buses, magazines and newspapers. This type of modeling can be divided into two sections : Fashion Advertising and Product Advertising.

Catwalk Modeling
This is one of the most effective ways to gain exposure. It is considered the most glamorous type of live modeling. It requires a lot of confidence and grace. The model must make the audience think that she loves the outfit she is wearing. She must look comfortable and make even the dullest outfit look attractive. The minimum height requirement is 5’6″ for catwalk work.

If you do not get a particular job, keep in mind that your ‘look’ may have been considered inappropriate for that particular shoot. Do not take it personally – perhaps you will have the right image for the next audition!

What’s in a Portfolio?

The Portfolio is a model’s basic promotional tool consisting of an album showing the best photos from tests and bookings. A model’s portfolio is their main selling tool. Presentation, quality and variety of shots are all very important factors to be considered.

Every agency, coordinator or producer will address this area differently. However, the photos in your book should be only the best that you can provide. It does not matter whether you have more black-and-white photos than colour ones; great pictures are great pictures. Some photographers might suggest that you shoot more colour than black-and-white, since it works better and is often less expensive.

Your portfolio should ‘read’ just like any other book: It should have a terrific beginning, a strong middle and a sensational ending. The people looking at it should want to turn the pages with curiosity. And each page should satisfy that curiosity. It should display your strengths to potential clients and show what you are capable of selling, be it clothes, cars or cosmetics.

At the beginning of your fashion modeling career, your portfolio should include:

  • At least two head shots with two different expressions (one smiling and one serious, or one in the studio and one outdoors).
  • At least two fashion shots (one casual and one a little more formal). If you move well, you might like to include an action shot.
  • At least one full-length shot showing the proportion of your body (feet to knees, knees to thighs, thighs to waist, waist to shoulders, shoulders to the top of your head). You could wear a leotard or a body suit, depending on what makes you comfortable and flatters your figure.

A full portfolio consists of about twenty-four 9″x12″ photos and tears (from magazines). Remember: it is better to have less photos, but ones that are really strong, than a full portfolio with photos that are mediocre. Every portfio needs a mix of commercial and editorial shots, location and studio. You will also need at least one great body shot (professional and tasteful – editorial style is best) and one beautiful B&W headshot with minimal makeup.

What is important is that you must ‘become’ the photo and direct and project every ounce of your energy and personality towards the camera. No matter what your mood, you must always give it your best and leave any unhappy feelings outside the studio. If you are not really ‘into’ a photo, it will probably show on the film, even if the rest of the team has done a first-rate job. YOU are the key to the success of a photo.

If you are looking to assemble a portfolio for yourself on a budget, try an economic option: Get together a team of new talent – aspiring photographer, make-up artist, clothing stylist -and pool all your abilities to set up a shoot. Each of you can then use the photographs in your respective portfolios

Models usually start by doing the rounds of ad agencies if their portfolio pictures are not flattering enough. If you think that your portfolio does you justice, simply post them to the agency coordinator, though you run the risk of the envelope bearing your pictures being put into the dustbin.

Getting a good portfolio, consider the photographers who also specialise in this work.

Modeling Agencies

After you are through with a portfolio, the next step is to find a suitable modelling agency. It is advisable to find an agency to represent and promote you as a model. Their job is to sell you, just as if you were a new product, and it is you that employ them. Just as in a standard job, you must pay your agency for the job they do (“commission”). However, there are a lot of scam agencies out there, so keep your eyes open…..


1. Pay to join an agency

2. Sign with agencies that sell useless classes (any good legit agency will teach you what you need to know for free)

3. Get involved with agencies that sell in-house photography resulting in a portfolio all shot by one person – this is a major no-no that is so common.

What do agencies do?

1. They find new faces.

2. They advise and train their models.

3. They promote their models.

4. They schedule and book their models.

5. They bill clients and collect fees.

Finding an agency

You can visit the modelling agencies listed for your city. They will be able to tell you if you have real modeling potential. Otherwise, do some research and find out which agencies in your area are the best, then visit them. Bring about 5 snapshots – full length in a dress, bathing suit and headshots.

Comps and 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. Other information will include clothing sizes, shoe size, or other special talents.

For b/w comp cards, it’s a good idea to list your hair and eye color (and even your skin color).

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.

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 and so on. 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. They key to getting modeling work is getting clients to think of you when they need a model.

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