How do you find work as a model?
There are two approaches:
1) You work with an individual or organization that finds you
2) You put together your own marketing plan and go out and find
the work yourself.
With the first approach, you work with a modeling agent or agency.
There is more information about Modeling Agencies under the "The Agency" section. With the
second approach you work as an independent or 'freelance' model.
As a freelance model you track down your own jobs and may sign
non-exclusive contracts with several agencies. In both cases
you must put together your marketing tools - a composite card,
a portfolio, and a web presence (more info on this follows).
All of these marketing tools require photographs and you get
these photos by tracking down test
After you have some photographs in hand you can begin to put
together your marketing tools. The first of these tools is a
composite. This is a single sheet of paper that has a head shot
printed on one side and more photos and your vital statistics
on the back. Many years ago the basic marketing tool was an 8x10
inch Black & White glossy photo of your head and shoulders
and stats typed up and pasted on the back. This later evolved
into a printed front and back '8X11' B&W sheet, then to 5X7
printed or photocopied card, to today where, with computers and
on-demand printing, you can produce your own sales brochure.
At any rate, this is your basic marketing tool. You give it to
photographers, art directors, casting agents and others. This
gives them something they can put in their files and refer to
when looking for talent. It is your sales brochure and business
card all in one and it is hard to get far without it. It cost
some to put together but that's the cost of being in business
Comp Card Front
Comp Card Back
Your second marketing tool is the portfolio. After someone
shows interest in you, they are going to want to see more photos
of you. This is where your portfolio or book comes in. Your portfolio
contains an assortment of photos and tear sheets showing what
you have done and your "look". They all, of course,
must be of excellent quality. When you're starting out you won't
have any tear sheets as you haven't done any jobs yet. As you
do get work, you will add tear sheets to show you have done actual
How many photos and tear sheets do you need? Enough to show
what you are about, but not so many as to overwhelm and bore
someone. It is a tricky balance and takes a lot of scrutiny and
evaluation to get a balanced book. What size and format? I think
that is open. You need to be able to leave it behind, messenger
it over, mail it out, and carry it in. It doesn't hurt to be
distinctive, but it needs to be easy to look through rugged but
fashionable - sounds like a Professional Model. [More
information on portfolio cases and Best Buy ideas]
So what types of photos should be in your book? First, you need
a good clean head shot. This goes for your composite card as
well. This head shot needs to show you - both your physical appearance
and personalty. This gives a photographer clear idea of your
"look". In addition have a couple of full length shots
that show your body shape. The head shot and body shots might
be more technical kind of shots. The rest of the portfolio should
be filled with WOW! shots. Just as in any kind of advertising
(which is what a portfolio is), you need to sell the client.
That is what the bulk of the photos in your portfolio should
Photos for a portfolio should usually not be done by just
one photographer this is because many photographers develop their
own style. If your portfolio were to be shot by just one photographer,
it would only show that one style, that one way of looking at
you. Although one photographer can shoot your initial composite,
a portfolio needs variety. It needs to show how several different
photographers see you and how they capture your look. Remember,
for print models the portfolio is your major marketing tool and
can often close the deal. Also, having said all that, there are
exceptions and exceptional photographers who can produce enough
variety images to fill your portfolio, but it's rare to find
[This is a rapidly changing topic. The following material
I wrote two years ago and it maybe out of date. I still believe
in much of this material so I will leave it for you read. The
two trends I am seeing that bring this material into question
is modeling agencies' web sites and if anyone will ever find
you on the web. I am currently seeing, to my dismay, modeling
agencies dropping their web sites. It appears the idea of an
agency putting all of their talent on line for clients to see
has not worked out for agencies. Two things agencies have going
for them is personal contact with clients and filtering which
models a client sees. Both of these are loss on the web. So far
no one has come up with a dominant model web listing site. Instead
I am find hundreds of listing sites all of which are hard to
navigate or with pass word protection that make them a bother
to deal with. It maybe the case that you either put up a professional
web site and promote it or don't bother with the web. All of
this is still changing as the web changes so we will see where
Since you are reading this you already know how important
the Internet has become. Like other small businesses it has become
important for a model to have a web presence. Almost all photographers
and art directors have computers now and most are either on line
or soon will be. This gives you a large potential web audience.
For photographers and art directors searching for talent, on
line offers speed, greater selection, 24 hour a day search possibilities,
and ultimately cost savings. This certainly is not perfected
yet but, like digital photography, you can see its day is coming.
Most modeling agencies have web sites and most are password
protected. Since they deal with a select local clientele, they
do not need every nosy web surfer checking out their models and
eating up their download bandwidth. This password protection,
like other activities a modeling agency does, helps to screen
out problem clients. If you sign with an agency, they will have
some means to get your portfolio on line at the agency's web
site. Though this system has some good points, it does block
the photographer who may just occasionally need a model - especially
if it is a last minute idea.
If you are with an agency you still may want to have a web
presence that is accessible to everyone. This gives you a place
to which you can direct friends, reach clients who don't work
with modeling agencies, and for that one-in-a-million chance
that a major modeling agency scout or that big-time Hollywood
casting director might just come surfing by and spot you. For
a freelance model, setting up an independent web presence is
the only option and essential.
Currently I see three possible options for setting up a web
1) A free model listing site,
2) Your own web site, and
3) An online virtual modeling agency or model listing site. Be
aware that with any independent web posting you have to exercise
caution. You are putting material out there for everyone to see,
both the good and the bad.
Free Model Listing Site
There are a few free (and with the melt down of the NASDAC
very few) model-listing sites that allow you to post either information
about yourself and a link to your web site or a few photos and
some information. There is no cost except for some time and getting
images ready for the web. Generally you do need to know a little
about posting things on the web but most of these sites have
instructions on how to do this. Since it is free you may want
to take advantage of this service and see what happens. [List
of free posting sites]
A Web Site of Your Own
There are a few free web-hosting sites left. With these hosts
you can put up your own complete web site (covered with ads).
This does take some level of web skills, either by you or a friend,
to accomplish so this may not be an option for everyone. Also,
it is unlikely anyone will find your site unless you promote
it. You do have full control of what you put up and how you represent
yourself to potential clients. There are also a lot of low price
($10 per month or less) web hosting service. The free part of
the internet is almost gone.
A Paid Virtual Modeling Agency or Paid Model Listing Site
There are now hundreds of these sites. They vary on just what
they offer and how many photos you can post. Their costs vary
from initially free to several hundred dollars a year. They also
vary on how many other services they offer (their own traveling
photographer, virtual modeling classes, and signing fee - starting
to sound familiar?) They all do seem to make the same wild claim,
that every modeling scout, modeling executive, casting director,
art director, and photographer on the planet will possibly see
you; all of them, of course, have nothing better to do than search
through millions of web sites so they can happen on this one
and see your picture - and you might also win the lottery tomorrow.
As you can guess from my tone I think most of these sites are
rip-offs. However, I also believe at some point a couple of these
sites will, after a major shake out, be key and useful sites.
This is an evolving area of model promotion. We have already
seen major players like Iam.com go under and the rise of the
on line "modeling scouts." So far, as a photographer,
I have yet to find a modeling listing site that is useful. So
I am still uncertain how useful any of these services are.
What to Look For
If you are looking for a paid model listing site and you actual
want to have some hope of getting work from it, consider these
factors before signing up:
1) The site should be easy for someone who wants to find a
model to use starting with the home page with clear directions
for the model seeker(photographer, art director, and such) to
follow. Most sites clutter their opening page with model mania
news, how a model should sign up, and stories of not so famous
models. If a potential client can't find how to search the site
and feel welcome, they are not going to stay.
2) Does the site have a good search system? Many of the model
listing sites let you search by size, gender, hair color, ethnic
background, and planets in the solar system, but most fail to
let you search by city. Since 90% of the work for models outside
of New York does not include travel money, only local models
will be used. If I, as a photographer, can't find what talent
this site is listing for my area, the site is useless. Again,
most of these sites want you to think top casting directors from
around the world are going to find you so they don't include
city search and in reality these sites are useless.
3) Does the site use thumbnail (small pictures) of the models
and do they load quickly? I am amazed at how many of these listing
sites think an art director or photographer is going to sit there
while 5 or 6 high K files down load, and do this time and again
trying to get an idea of the talent the site is offering. Or
worse yet, where their thumbnails are 80K files rather than a
quick-load 3k. Believe me as a photographer you go through a
couple of these and you are out of there. You quickly don't care
what talent is there - you have a life to live.
4) Does the model get to include other information? Many of
these sites let you post just a couple of photos and vital statistics.
After a photographer, or other potential client, has narrowed
the choices down, extra info, like resume or interview questions
can help show a model's personality and experience. Not only
do you like a model to have that "look", but you also
want to know she or he is someone you can work with. This extra
information can help with that.
5) How easy does the site make it to contact and book the
model? This part does not seem to be a problem with most sites.
Many sites just let potential clients email you. Other sites
try to be more like an agency and screen clients and set up bookings.
The key point is that if someone does respond to the web listing,
you must have a plan on how to proceed. Remember most of these
sites are open to the whole world, so you do not know for sure
who or what might contact you. You need to work out a system
to qualify clients and make sure they are legitimate.
6) What does the site do to attract potential clients? The
bulk of these sites just try to get listed on search engines
and hope someone finds them. A few actually have a plan for attracting
clients and a very few of those actually have budgets with which
to do so. If potential clients can't find the site or are not
driven to it, it does not matter what else the site does right,
it will eventual fail, and along with the site's failure goes
any hope of the models finding work.
The final marketing tool is the personal appearance. In its
different forms it can be the "go see", the "cattle
call", or "doing the rounds". If a photographer
or art director has worked his or her way from your composite
to your portfolio, then they will probably want to take a look
at you. They may meet with you individually or they may look
and interview several models at one time (the cattle call). This
is the moment when a photographer has a chance to see you and
evaluate you in person. You will be evaluated on your physical
features, your professional appearance, and your working relationship.
From here you get the job - or not!
Doing the rounds is at the beginning rather than the end of
the marketing cycle. After identifying businesses that might
employ models you get to do cold calls; that is, you drop in
and see if the business uses models and you drop off your composite.
This cold call can be done by phone, also. What is most effective
will vary among photographers, art directors, and casting agents.
This is why you sign with an agency as this is what they are
supposed to do - market you.
So, how do you find who is using models and who to cold call
or to whom to send your composite? The first place to start is
with the professionals who traditionally work with models. This
would include photographers, advertising agencies, graphic design
firms, some public relation firms, and casting companies. Most
of these can be found in the yellow pages for your city or a
local business directory (available in some libraries). Then
you must call, mail, e-mail or walk in the front door to see
if they use models. Be prepared for a lot of rejection!
You should evaluate your city or region to see if there are
businesses that are major users of models. A business directory
can help locate these businesses. In Portland we have two major
department store chains with their own studios, as well as manufacturers
such as Jantzen, Pendelton, Columbia Sports Ware, Nike, and several
catalog mail order companies. All are heavy users of models and
at times have hired freelance models to fill their needs. You
will have to research your own community to see what your local
opportunities are. I knew of a small town in Tennessee that had
a photo studio that specialized in photographing furniture and
kept models busy just sitting on sofas to add a human touch.
You may have to turn over some stones to see if there are any
hidden opportunities in your town.