How do I Get Started In Modeling?
There is no single path to follow for getting started. Different models have found success through success through different routes. If you want to become a doctor, for example, there is a set course of schooling, experience, and testing to follow. But for a career in modeling, there is no clear path. Some of the ways that I know models have gotten started in the past are listed below. Although it is by no means an exhaustive list, it might help you launch your career in modeling.
Front Door - Go to the Source
The bulk of the work in modeling is booked through modeling agencies. So, literally, go to the front door of the modeling agency. This is the number one way for a wannabe model to start. You will have to do some research. First, find out where the modeling agency door is, whether locally or in some big city. Second, determine that it is not a scam agency. The Modeling Advice site has links to a list of modeling agencies and information on how to check out an agency (The Agency). You can also approach a modeling agency through their open call, by scheduling an interview, or by submitting a cover letter and photographs. Give them a call or email them and ask how they want new talent to contact them.
Some models get started because they have an in. You hear stories of someone who has a friend who models and goes to a photo shoot with them and is then "discovered" by the photographer. Or maybe someone has an aunt who modeled or runs an agency and helped him or her get started. Others might work in a related field and one day finds them working not beside the camera but in front of it. In smaller markets child models are most often used because they are an art director's, buyer's, or photographer's child. Knowing someone in the business can help you get started in a modeling career.
Modeling agencies are constantly looking for new talent. This is especially true in fashion modeling. This segment of modeling is composed mostly of young models. By the time a model is 30, his or her career is over. There is always a need to find the next generation of models. Modeling agency personnel (owner, booker), photographers, art directors, and of course the "model scouts" are the ones who are out there looking. Some agencies are large enough to employ an individual whose sole job is to look for that next generation of new talent or to fill the new needs of a client. Unfortunately, rip-off organizations, web space salespeople, and scoundrels often use the term "model scout", so you should be suspicious of those calling themselves model scouts. But there are many stories of models being discovered at the mall, on the beach, or in some other public place. If you hope to start your career in modeling by waiting for the fates to smile on you, you must plan on spending a lot of time hanging in out in public places.
Some models do work their way into modeling (I have also heard models say that modeling is hard work and all models work their way into the business). These models track down test shoots and put together their comp cards and portfolios. They study and practice being a model by working on their expressions, posing, runway walking, hair styling, makeup, working in front of a camera, and learning how the business works. These models may work freelance or have non-exclusive contracts with a number of modeling agencies. In smaller regional markets, where agencies do not have the resources to develop new talent, an agency might not work with a model until they have developed their skills and marketing materials. If you enjoy the process of modeling and doing good work, then all of the time and expense that go into this process can be its own reward. If you plan to earn a living at modeling, i.e. as a career, you should be sure you meet the basic physical and aptitude requirements for the type of model you want to become before you invest your time and money into the process. If you want to be a high fashion model but do not have the size or look requirements, no amount of hard work will make you a career model.
Try to Buy Success
There is a whole industry built around this approach to getting started in modeling. Very few career models, however, actually succeed through this avenue. This area includes many of the modeling schools, modeling camps, model searches, internet listing services, modeling contests, modeling conventions, and pageants. This is not to say that these activities can't be interesting, educational, and fun. But most of these organizations will take on and take money from almost anyone who wants to be a model. This leads to a very low percentage of career models that actually come from these activities. Most of these organizations survive by playing on one's dreams, ignorance, and pocket book and not by finding and developing top modeling talent. But in spite of this, sometimes someone does make it and this is what these organizations feature in their sales pitches and videos.
What are the height and size requirements for a high fashion model?
This is the burning question. The general guidelines for women are height 5'9" to 6', around size 6, 34B-24-34, and 14-21 years of age. For men the guidelines are height around 6' (a couple of inches over or under), size 40R. Are there exceptions to this? You bet. Is it fair? No. Are there petite sizes and plus sizes? Yes. Do commercial, glamour, acting, or smaller markets care anything about these sizes? Not much. Only if you want to work high fashion in the major markets like New York are these numbers important.
Are there jobs for models who specialize in just parts of the body?
Yes. Some models that have photogenic faces and bodies do not necessarily have photogenic hands and feet. Hand models, for example, are difficult to find and frequently a photographer uses one model for the face while another model's hands may be reaching into the picture. Of course the photographer makes it look like one person, but in fact there are two. Jewelry photographers look for good hands, a nice neck, and photogenic ears. As with hands, good ears are hard to find, as they must have the right shape, with smooth skin, and pierced for only one earring, not five. Paying jobs for modeling jewelry, however, seldom come along. Body-parts models follow career paths similar to regular models.
How much do models make?
You hear about the fabulous big money that supermodels make, but only a handful of models in the world ever achieve this kind of income, which can be in the millions. Most models earn far less, assuming they get any work at all. Modeling fees for markets outside of New York, as a general rule will be in the same range as a photographer's fees. For example, in Portland, Oregon, when I last checked, modeling agencies fees were $150 an hour. As you move to larger markets fees for photographers and models go up (one agency in New York was asking $250 per hour). While you may not have the income of an elite supermodel, you can make a good living if you can find steady work. And that is a big "if".
Can a modeling agency tell just from a snap shot if I have what it takes to be a model?
First the YES part. Reviewing snapshots of potential models is a normal screening practice used by modeling agencies. You send them a couple of snapshots of yourself, usually a head-and-shoulder shot and a full-length body shot in a bathing suit or tight clothes. Some say they can tell from these snapshots whether you have what it takes for modeling.
You should send good, clear, properly exposed, properly composed photographs in which you are properly positioned. They can use these photos as a screening tool. This means that if there is an opening for someone with your look, the agency will be interested in meeting with you in person to see if, in fact, you look like your picture. This does not necessarily mean that you have or do not have what it takes to be a model. It just gets you an interview and maybe on to a test shoot.
Now the NO part. Most would-be models send bad pictures, or they may look great but they don't meet the agency's needs at that moment, or the agent guessed wrong. Modeling agencies say, "Don't spend money on getting photos taken; a Polaroid by your friend is just fine." But when they talk about sending in a simple snapshot, what they are really looking for is at least an advanced amateur level of photography or a would-be professional photographer level. Having taught photography for a number of years, I know that most beginners have problems with exposure, focus, and composition, let alone knowing how to position models for their best look. You may not want to trust your career to your best friend's ability as a photographer unless they meet the advanced amateur criteria.
You should try sending your photos to several modeling agencies to see if they are interested in you. One agency may be full of blue-eyed blondes while another may have none and be in need of one. It can be as simple as being in the right place at the right time. For example, one agency or photographer may tell a would-be model that he or she doesn't have what it takes; that wannabe model then goes to another agency and becomes a star model. I remember photographing a young 14-year-old whom I thought just didn't have the classic beauty look and told her I doubted if she would accomplish much in this field. Fortunately, she did not listen to me. She started working out, kept up her modeling and beauty work, switched over to the pageant side of things, and became Miss Oregon.
The initial snapshot, interview, and test shot are just screening processes to find those who would have an easier time in modeling. A special few may still find some measure of success in modeling by hard work and developing special talents. They may not become superstars but they can find enjoyment and financial rewards pursuing a modeling career.
Are modeling conventions and searches a good place to start a modeling career or are they a total rip-off?
I have never personally been to one of these events (nor are any of them asking me to come and check them out) and I have not seen any 60 Minutes type of journalistic investigation on them. I have looked over their web sites and I have seen endless chatrooms that call these events the biggest rip-offs out there. I don't know of any top models that have come out of conventions and searches, although I do know of one TV actress discovered at IMTA. What I do know is that for the money some of these organizations charge, you could fly to New York, stay for week, and do open calls at every top agency in the city. Personally, I don't feel that they are a very good investment. There are better ways to get discovered.
Why is everyone giving different advice on modeling?
Remember the story of the three blind men describing an elephant? One man felt the trunk, another felt the tail, and the third felt the leg. Each had a different description of what the elephant was like. The modeling industry is the same way. The modeling industry is big and has many specialty areas. What I have experienced is quite different from what fashion photographer A has experienced. And what he has experienced is quite different from what glamour photographer B has. And what we all have experienced is quite different from what the modeling agencies are going to tell you.
Another thing that leads to different views on the industry is that we are all small business people, each one running his/her own business in as many unique ways, and hopefully better than the competition. This leads to a lot of different ideas about how things work and how things should be done. It can also lead to confusion and presents opportunities for con artists. Since there is no set way to become a model, it leaves the door open for the "expert" to "guarantee" to make you a top model for only a small, non-refundable fee. Watch out and try to educate yourself on the many areas of the modeling industry.
What do you know about Emodels now Options Talent now Trans Continental Talent now Wilhelmina Scouting Network now who knows?
I can't keep up with this group. They keep changing their name and their antics. Emodels merged with Options Talent that merged again to be become Trans Continental Entertainment Group, Inc., and then changed its name to Trans Continental Talent, Inc. Then it moved into an agreement with Wilhelmina to form Wilhelmina Scouting Network. More changes have occurred since this last. According to news reports they plan on continuing to do business as usual. I have seen some postings where they are calling themselves Transcontinental Talent.
The following information is what I have found on this changing organization:Options Talent, Inc. part of Options Talent Group is a publicly traded company. All SEC fillings are available to the public. The following is taken from Options Talent Groups Form 10-QSB filed April 30, 2002:
"Options Talent, Inc. (formerly eModel, Inc., hereafter "OTI"), was incorporated in Delaware on August 22, 2000 under the name eModel, Inc.com. OTI maintains a website as a portal for the entertainment industry. Through a significant scouting organization and an international franchise network, OTI enrolls clients into a sophisticated database for a fee, and provides them increased exposure to registered agencies and other industry professionals seeking cost effective access to various talent using the Internet. OTI also markets interactive events to its database of clients and prospective clients to showcase various talents to relevant industry professionals. OTI intends to market additional products, advertising, and other services to this emerging networked database of enrolled talent, registered agencies, and other industry professionals.
OTI generates revenues from enrollment and maintenance fees paid by clients posting profile information on the Company's website (model revenue), through the sale of franchises to franchisees (franchise revenue), to developers through the sale of specific territorial marketing rights (developer revenue), through the sale of interactive events to clients seeking to showcase their talents before relevant industry professionals (event revenue), and until January 2001 through amounts paid by field talent scouts for the right to recruit clients (scout revenue). Model enrollment revenues are recognized upon sale, as substantially all of the services necessary to post client profile information on the website is completed as part of the sales process, and there exist no uncertainties surrounding collection as historically all such sales have been made for cash or as credit card charges. Initial and renewal franchise fees are fully recognized when received, as there are no significant commitments or obligations on the part of the Company to perform future services other than the initial territory designation and to maintain the website. Event revenues and associated event costs are recognized when the event occurs. Advance collections and costs are deferred accordingly and estimated revenue and cost accruals may be required from time to time.
Franchise operations expenses include the direct and indirect costs of personnel associated with franchise marketing, training and support, and operation of remote corporate offices. Sales and marketing cost include the direct and indirect costs of personnel associated with model enrollment and maintenance revenues, including assisting franchisees in the sales process where necessary. Scout expenses include amounts paid to independent contractors for enrollment referrals. Technical operations expenses include the direct and indirect costs of personnel responsible for the design, implementation, and support of the Company's database and website. General and administrative expenses include direct and indirect costs of personnel engaged in corporate executive management, administration, finance, legal, and human resources, depreciation expense and corporate headquarters facility charges."
If you are looking for online paid hosting of your model portfolio there are hundreds of sites offering this service. Do a search at Google.com to find them. Two of the oldest paid sites are Models.com and Model Network.com. For free internet model listing sites check out the Free Model Listing page.
**Pic: Credit to my friends Ed Ng