Model 101- Avoiding Scams in the Image Industry.

This is an article that discusses what one should know about getting into modeling as a career. I've spent countless hours on this subject with women and men who want to get into the image industry, and there's no secret to getting yourself noticed by legit agencies and people in the business. But what you don't know, can and will hurt you- and that my friends is what the predators, scam artists and deceitful businesses out there are counting on to take advantage of you and trick you out of your money.  If anything, I'd say that the modeling industry is about the only thing out there that doesn't require any money to get into!  There's no school you have to go through first, no sign up fees- nothing.  Zero. Nada.  You just show up and they either take you or they don't.  And if they don't, keep trying.Below is a long list of FAQ's that I get all the time and gladly explain to new-comers to the industry. Before spend a dime on someone telling you that you need to pay them to get you started in modeling, you need to know this information.

1. Q: What kind of photos do I need to get into modeling?

A: If you are visiting an agency for consideration to be represented as a model, your photos should be generally simple in nature.  I'm talking snapshots here.  You only need about 3 shots or so, and they should show the agency what you look like without a ton of makeup on, wild poses or over-processed photography. It's ok to bring in shots of other work that you've done if any, but agencies only need some simple shots of you against a blank background.  You should just wear some simple, form-fitting clothes like fitted jeans, tank top, shorts or just anything that shows your shape.  Keep it simple.

2. Q: A local agency said that they would sign me up. They wanted me to pay them for a photo shoot for my comp card, and they also wanted me to pay them additional money to be on their website. Is this normal?

A: Does the owner of this "agency" drive an expensive car? If so, they are paying for it with the money that they are ripping off from you and everyone else who falls for that scam. No LEGIT agency will ever charge you money to promote you or charge you money to take your pictures themselves.  A good, legit agency makes their money from booking you lots of work, not by selling you anything- that's a business that makes it's money off scamming hopeful models. Leave immediately and report them to the Better Business Bureau.  Your agent is the one who finds you work, not the one who sells you things.

3. Q: An agency wanted to sign me as soon as I walked in, and they kept telling me about all the magazines, fashion shows, movies and big celebrity parties that they've gotten their models in. They kept dropping all kinds of big names and told me how much money I would make with them. It sounded great, but is this for real?

A:  Sorry to have to break the news, but a scam artist is eager to put "stars in your eyes" and get you to believe anything they say about how cool they are. This is a primer for getting you to believe them so you will loosen up your checkbook. A legit, industry-known agency doesn't have to hype themselves up to you  Their name and reputation is already known for it's success. A consultation with a real agency representative is more like a job interview They want to see if you are professional-minded, on-time, and have what they want.  You must be what they are looking for-  they don't need to sell you on their name. Beware of organizations that have to try to lure you into them.  They will flat out lie to you about how great they are to get you to give them money.

4. Q: Do I need a "Portfolio" to get into modeling?

A:  It depends.  To get into an agency you don't one, but if you're promoting yourself then I'd say yes.   A Portfolio is a collection of the work you have been booked for already as a model, usually in the form of "tear sheets" which are literally sheets torn from magazines that feature you in the photo. A portfolio can also be prints from modeling work you have done for photographers. It doesn't matter if it was paid work or work for TFP ("Time For Prints" which means you traded your time doing the photo shoot for free prints), a portfolio is just a collection of prints showing your ability to model. It doesn't hurt to have one to show agencies, but a real portfolio comes after you are already a model. Just get some "Test Shots" done and you can put those in your portfolio (otherwise known as your "book").  Test shots are just shoots done with different photographers and you can use those prints to get something in your book until you get some tear sheets.

5. Q: Are the photos I bring to agencies the same photos I use to get work if they represent me?

A: Eventually, if you get into an agency, they are going to need professional photos of you for your test shots, assignment / promo shots and comp (composite) card shots so that they can promote you and get you booked (hired) for jobs with real clients. That's where a professional photographer comes in.   I provide that level of specialized photography for agencies and models so that potential clients can see you in a way that makes you look professional.

6. Q: An agency told me that they would only allow me to get my photos done by one certain photographer that they use, why can't I choose whom I want to shoot my promo shots?

A: Because a common scam is that an "agency" will cut a deal with a photographer where the agent sends the photographer business (hopeful models), then photographer charges the model a bunch of money and then pays the agency a cut of the photo shoot fee. The "agency" makes money, the photographer makes money, and model never hears from either of them again. Plus the photos most likely won't be very good. A legit agency has a roster of many photographers that they can recommend to you, but you are free to choose whomever you like as long as the photos are what the agency would use. It would of course, be in your best interest to hire a photographer who knows how to shoot fashion and has experience doing assignment photography for agencies.

7. Q: How do I know if an agency is telling the truth about what they promise they can or will do for me?

A: You don't. You have to check any agencies' reputation with the talent that they represent- not the girl at the front desk. See if the talent that are with the agency are working a lot and are happy, and whether or not they had to pay the agency for anything (meaning they got scammed). If you are talking to an agency that is not a well-known, legit and professional agency with actual successful models or actors represented by them, then you have to just go on your own gut instinct on whether or not you think they are going to work hard for you. Be a good judge of character with people who are promising you things.

8. Q: I don't know a lot about modeling, will my agent help to train me in the profession?

A: Yes. It's in your agencies' best interest to make you a pro. A legit, professional agency have the contacts and resources to get you into the classes and in front of the photographers who will train you how to be a professional model. If you work hard at it, and listen to what they teach you, you will become an expert at modeling. If they recommend classes, a fitness trainer, a photographer or something outside of the agency, you may have to pay for those services yourself though, and that's normal.

9. Q: How much money does an agency get (i.e their "commission") for the work they get me?

A: This can vary by country, market, your experience and other factors, but usually around 20% of what the job pays is generally what an agency's commission is for getting you the job.   Agencies make their money by getting you booked by as many clients as they can, not by taking a large percentage of  your income. One bad tactic is for an agency to book you for a job that pays say, $1000, then tells you it only pays $500 and keeping the rest for themselves plus taking their 20% commission without ever telling you what the client paid to book you.  Find an agency that you can trust, and don't be afraid to ask questions.

10. Q: My mom and all my friends tell me I'm pretty and I should be a model. Should I be a fashion model then?

A: Get a clue. "Pretty" and "Model" don't mean the same thing. "Pretty" is a subjective opinion, "Model" is a skill and a developed ability. Pro models don't just look good, they learn how to represent the products they are wearing, and how to convey a mood on camera. There are many types of modeling out there, and a successful model knows how to master their look for different jobs. It takes practice and dedication, not just pretty looks.

That's the very basics to help you get some insight on how to get started and not get ripped off. At the end of the day, if you are happy with what any photos you have done regardless of what you paid, then you're in good shape. There are tons of photographers out there, and many do a decent job of taking photos for models to use in their profession. Just watch out for those who don't have a legitimate cliental base or who's work can't get you noticed as a professional model. And always read and understand what you sign!