So You Want to be a Model

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LaDaska Mechelle Fashion Show by DRoc Photography

I have received many inquiries from people wanting to get into modeling, but are unsure where to begin. Making money as a freelance model can seem vague, confusing, and overwhelming for those unfamiliar the process. This is by no stretch of the imagination a complete guide to the intricacies of the business, instead intended to be a starting point for aspiring models to build from.

Where to Start

Model Mayhem is a great place to start. Having an account on this website is a smart first step. It’s a good place to find photographers to pay or trade with when you’re starting out. It's also one of the best networking sites for getting paid work. In addition to Model Mayhem, it may also be interesting and helpful to keep a Blog of your exploits. Tumblr is a  favorite site for this, for it is easy to use, there is currently no censorship, and has many amazing artists users. If you’re thinking of doing ANYTHING, then you may not want just everyone you know to see. Especially a future employer, therefore come up with a fake name (or modeling name).

Can You Really Model?

If modeling is something you’re seriously interested in and you’re willing to put the time and effort, then I suggest giving it a go! People of all body types, heights and quirks can model. You'll just have to find your niche. When many people think of modeling, they think of high fashion runway models, but that is just one tiny slice of the pie.

Models are human beings just like you, therefore ALL models have flaws. Everyone has to learn to work their angles and get over being self-conscious. It’s okay to be known for something. It’s okay to be a curvaceous model, a bald model, a short model or a model that always has a different hair color. Many of the things that may cause nervousness about the idea of modeling, can also be what sets you apart and just may intrigue photographers.

Be Professional

Just as important, if not more than your looks, is being professional. Have clear communication with your photographer, prior to your photo session. Show up ON-TIME and prepared to shoot.

Bring your ID to every shoot. Check references beforehand, in order to avoid feeling uncomfortable or the need to bring someone along. Unless you’re a minor, then always bring a parent along! Be open to new ideas and don't be afraid to take risks. If the photographer wants you to jump in the mud, then jump in that mud! Again, see above statements, be a professional model.  An open line of communication should have already been established, prior to your shoot, to discuss concepts.

Before you set up your first shoot, know your limits. Are you willing to do nudes? Implied nudes? Lingerie? Video? Fetish? None of the above? This is incredibly important. Once you set boundaries, stick with them. Only change those boundaries, when you're comfortable to do so. Don’t let anyone bully you or talk you out of your comfort level. Especially when you’re just starting out. If the content/concept was not discussed prior to the shoot, then don’t do it if you're uncomfortable.

Roc Angels Model MsGiGi
Build a Portfolio

Early in their career, many new models get caught up in over stylized and edited photos. Remember that the base of your portfolio should really show what you look like. I highly suggest paying a professional photographer for a really good headshot and body shot. This should be shot with very little to no makeup, very minimal styling, and minor editing. Polaroids can work well to set up this base, as well, then build from there. Think about what genres you’re interested in and for which genres you’re seeking casting calls. If you want to get booked for a certain kind of work, then you should be able to show that in your portfolio.

Trade vs. Paid

When you’re starting out or branching into other genres, it’s likely you will be doing a fair amount of trade work.

Trade work means nobody makes money, but the model gets some of the images, although copyright still lies with the photographer. Different trade shoots will generate different amounts of images/edits, based on the photographer. But, do remember quantity does not equal quality.

If you're thinking about a trade shoot, then consider the following. Is this something I don’t already have in my portfolio? Is this something that may generate more work, if I have it in my portfolio? Is the photographer’s portfolio consistent? There are many reasons to trade, but if you’re looking to model professionally these are good things to keep in mind. For many of the same instances that you’d accept a trade shoot, they may benefit you as you look to hire a photographer.

Set Your Rate

Even though you may just be starting out, you should still have a set a rate in mind. In the event that someone wants to shoot you for trade, but that session most like won’t add to your portfolio. You should be prepared to counter with a rate instead. Setting a rate is hard, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

Some models have tiered rates. Some models have flat day rates. Some models have hourly booking rates. When you’re starting out, I’d suggest doing an hourly rate. Be flexible with your rate, but don’t deal with extensive haggling. Keep in mind that some photographers will say no! There are many photographers out there that don’t like to hire models, but don't allow that to get you down. There's no need  to lower your rate, just because someone says no. In terms of raising your rate, raise it when you start to get overbooked! If you’re having to schedule things three weeks out it might be time to start thinking about adjusting.

Also worth noting about paid work. If you were paid for a shoot. then Do Not beg the photographer for photos afterwards. Most photographers will send you photos because they want you to have them. However, you don’t have a right to them from a paid shoot. Treat photos as a bonus or tip! One exception, if you've discussed specifically beforehand during negotiating. If the photographer in somewhere in-between trade and your full rate, it may be possible to offer a discounted rate in exchange for guaranteed edited images.

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Do not be afraid of movement and your natural expressions. It’s okay to take risks, as well. Many models practice at home in a mirror or emulate poses that they've seen in a magazine. However, I find it equally important to sit with models to go through their gallery of photos, from the shoots, to critique their different poses. Have a friend play photographer with a point-and-shoot camera or a smartphone, then go back through all those shots. Give yourself the critique, then see firsthand what works for you and what does not.

Social Websites

As stated before, Model Mayhem is a good place to start. Be sure that you take advantage of the casting, travel and availability sections. Also keep an ear out for any Facebook group for castings in your area. I’d also suggest Tumblr and Instagram for further social networking sites. If you’re considering nudes or glamour, then it may worth having a Zivity account. All of the above social sites help build exposure and may help earn that extra lunch money.

Good luck!


Contributing Source: Model Mayhem