My "Top Five Things Models -or Anyone- Can Do To Get More Work"

I recently had a casting call for a print ad campaign and wanted to give some feedback to models who may have submitted or been called in, but could use some help on how to improve their next casting or opportunity to be selected for any project. This article is designed more for unrepresented aspiring models without professional agencies. Others looking to improve in the fashion world such as makeup artists, hair stylists and wardrobe stylists can also benefit from this post. If you're a legitimate agency represented model (not a small town scam agency represented model in which case you're screwed) then most of the info here will be handled by your booker. For those who are not represented, here's a first-hand experience look at how you can improve your success with photographers, companies and even real agencies. A lot of this is geared toward fashion modeling, so if you a are different type of model, then this info may not apply to you.

1. Be very timely in your response to those who contact you.

If someone whom you would like to work with reaches out to you, don't take days to return a communication with them. This sounds common sense enough, but you're be surprised at how many people have no sense of professionalism and readily prove it with flakiness. Nothing says "difficult to work with" more than someone who is slow to respond. People in the fashion world in particular are very busy, and by not responding quickly to them you are showing that you are careless and lazy. By the time you remember to return an email days later, the offer is no longer on the table. Don't use the "I don't always check my email or have time to reply" excuse, because it's not valid. I don't know anyone who doesn't check their email, private messages, voicemails, etc multiple times a day, and you always have time to return an email, it only takes a minute. Bottom line: You only get one first impression, use it wisely.

2. Have at least some sort of portfolio book to present your work.

Other than a new model meeting with an agency for the first time, in which a book is not needed, one of the first ways to identify yourself as a professional or at least pro-minded is by having a portfolio, otherwise known as your "book". A book is important because it shows that you are taking yourself seriously enough to place your best work in a book format where you can present it to someone in a professional context. A portfolio doesn't have to be expensive or large, it can be a regular artist portfolio bought at a local hobby or art store for a few bucks. The prints in them can even be printed with a home inkjet printer. In this digital age, a lot of people use their iPads, tablets, laptops or even smart phones to show our work (myself included). This is fine for impromptu situations where having your work on hand to show is convenient. However, I would never show up to an important scheduled meeting where I needed to impress a client or business contact without a portfolio book. If you go to a meeting and when asked to see your portfolio you proceed to set up your laptop and show your Facebook page, you've variably taken yourself out of contention as a professional. Bottom line: A book gives you and your work more validity.

3. Quality, never quantity.

I can't remember how many times I've been interested in working with a particular model or makeup artist and when I see their portfolio, it basically talks me out of working with them. A clue that it's a bad idea to work with someone is if they put every photo shoot or project they've ever done in their portfolio. A few good shots in your book can easily be overshadowed if the majority of your work is generic, boring or poorly done. It looks like you have a couple of lucky shots, but as a whole you are unusable. I've even heard people say "I don't really like these photos" to which I have to ask why they put them in their book. Your portfolio shouldn't be "the good, the bad and the ugly", it should only be the best examples of your work. Your book is your representation of what level you are on. Are you a beginner? Do you only work with the same amateur hobby photographers or are you shooting with really skilled and inventive artists? Your book communicates that. Don't advertise yourself as a skilled professional and then present a book that is full of badly produced, amateur work. It defines that you are as such. Bottom line: What's in your book directly communicates how professional you are.

4. Models, be for real.

There's nothing more obvious than someone who calls themselves a model but their photos show that they are more appropriately described as, "someone who needs photos to feel pretty". Real modeling is a business as well as an an art. Showing that you can have your picture taken doesn't do anything for showing that you are a legitimate model. Sure, it's important to do a lot of test shoots with (good) fashion photographers when you are starting out, but don't post up every amateur, boring shoot you do with the need for your friends to comment on how "stunning" you are. That's just showing desperation for acceptance. A real model doesn't need modeling to fill an empty void with compliments from endless amateur photos. If you want to be a model, show that you are for real in every way possible. Otherwise you will only be sought by other amateurs and you'll receive no interest from those who need good models for legitimate projects. Bottom line: Modeling is a skill, not a compliment.

5. Direction is not just doing what you are told.

If you are doing a photo or video shoot or other project, chances are there is going to be someone giving direction. From a photography standpoint (and being that photo shoots are about 80% of what you will be doing), the photographer will direct you. All photographers are different; some like to micro-manage you and some will let you do more of your own thing. Speaking for myself and the lion's share of photographers out there, it's very frustrating when someone calls themselves a model and then has no clue how to actually model. Unless it's your first time or you are very new, no one wants to work with someone who has to be told every single thing to do when shooting. Models are booked for their look, but more importantly for their ability to have great presence on camera. Direction is an idea, a mood, or an improvement to make the shot better. Direction is not telling you exactly what limb to move, how to stand, what to do with your head, what to do with your eyes, what to do next, etc. That's "puppeteering", and it's extremely frustrating. Modeling is not showing up empty-headed and having the photographer do everything for you to make you look good. I've done shoots where I had to use every trick in the book to make a so-called model look good, to which they gladly accepted the credit that came afterwards. I'd love to show everyone the first 100 frames and the unedited shots, then we'd see how she really was.  Bottom line: Understand direction, but make it your own movements, expressions, etc. Be a model, not a mindless puppet.

Hope this is helpful and I'll check comments for questions or feedback. Until next time, always do your best!

Avoiding Scam Model Agencies Day 3: The Photo Scam- Can You Say "Cheese"?

December 20th, 2012 (Earth's last day!!) :-D  


When you walk into an agencies' door for the first time, what do you see?  Are you flooded with a visual sales pitch for the agency or is it an environment of business being conducted?  Let me explain.


When I walk into a small-time scam agency, the place is a sales pitch from the second I walk in the door.  The walls are plastered with big movie posters, framed magazine covers, glossy model photos and generally a lot of glitter and prestige.  It's obvious that it's a sales pitch, not a place of business.  There is nothing much going on and I feel overwhelmed by their "we're so successful" decor.   When the agent or representative greets you, they expresses a false sense of excitement for your visit.  The agent begins to tell you how glad they are you came to them, and they'll usually make sure to slip some passing line of BS about how they just got off the phone with the big-time fashion name or director who's looking for someone just like you.  They name-drop like crazy.  I mean according to them, every big name in the business is booking their models, and you're lucky you came by at the right time to sign up.  Every line out of their mouth, every sign, every false smile is based on making you feel as if though you've came to the right place.  Their biggest trick is putting stars in your eyes.  Once they've got you believing that you are on the verge of making it big, they have you.  Your checkbook practically flies out and writes itself to them.  Sometimes the chair you're sitting in is still warm from the person who just sat there before you arrived and fell for the same lies.


When I walk into a major agency like IMG Models in NYC, I'm somewhat greeted by a receptionist who is continuously on the phone transferring calls.  The walls are plain, sans for a logo on one wall, and all you see are bookers busy in front of computers with phones to ears, working.  Hard at work booking and promoting their models.  At a real agency, they are not glad to see you unless they know you.  It's all business.  To a real agency you might as well be a bum coming by asking for money.  You're lucky to even get a "hello".  It's more like, "Who are you here to see?  Do you have an appointment?  Who are you?"  In other words, they are a successful modeling agency, and they don't need to sell you on that fact.  Their reputation is enough.  The scam agency however, IS NOT a successful modeling agency, and that's why it is paramount that they make you believe that they are, otherwise their lies won't work.



So how does the various "talent agencies" actually rip people off?  Here's the most common ways that a scam agency stays in business.


So the agency has you hooked with all their BS that they told you about how you're just what they're looking for, but you don't have photos (or the ones you have "won't work"), and they can't get you started without photos immediately.   So they either:

a).  Hand you a piece of paper with their "Photo Shoot Packages" rates.  They tell you that they have an "in house photographer" and who better to shoot your photos than the agency?  So you pay them anywhere from $300 to $2500 for photos (based on what you can afford).  But what you don't know is, the agency hires an amateur photographer, gives him/her $50 for the photo shoot, and keeps the rest of the money for themselves.  I've had an agency even call me once and ask me if I'd do a shoot for a total of $300, for 25 girls ages 8-14 and they wanted multiple images, retouching and all the rights.  I found out they were charging the models' families over $1,000 each for their photos.  That's $24,700 profit for the "agency" in one day.  I declined to be a part of it, but they found someone else.  There's always a cheap photographer who doesn't do photography for a living that will do anything for cheap or free.  The photos were very disappointing from what I heard.

b).  The other way the scam agency sells you photos, is instead of shooting the photos themselves, they have a business buddy set up a photo business and the agency sends you to them to have your photos done.  They work a deal with each other to split the money somehow, but the scam is still the same.  They still hire a cheap $50 photographer, and keep the rest of your hundreds of dollars for themselves.  It just looks more legitimate because the agency will actually pretend to be doing the right thing by sending you to a "recommended photographer", but it's actually the same scam.  You're overcharged for cheesy, amateur photos, and the agency is behind the shady deal with their buddy.  Or boyfriend across the hall. :-)


Yes, they actually have a scam where they tell you that it's a "separate company" that runs their website otherwise you wouldn't have to pay.  Well, that's a lie.  They do it themselves, and keep your money.  If they didn't, then website management would fall under any business's normal operating expenses.  I was charged $150.00 by one of my former agencies and lied to the same way.  They did it annually for each person on their talent roster.  KA-CHING!


What a joke.  Let's see, how many professional, successful models in the industry today went to small town modeling school?  None.  Now how many girls that went to modeling school became successful models?  None.  These agencies are such effective liars that they can even subvert facts that would otherwise prompt people to ask, "Why should I pay you for your modeling school when it's never done anyone any good- ever??" When they try to teach you your "runway walk"- there is no one runway walk.  How you would walk for Karl Lagerfeld is different than how you would walk for Betsy Johnson.  Their runway coach will show you what they want during rehearsals (if there are any) or backstage before showtime.  It's not hard enough for their to be an entire school for it, much less taught by people with no experience.


So the agency makes an announcement that they are hosting a guest speaker, acting coach, photographer or someone that you should come to hear lecture to help your career.  But there is an "admission fee".  Well, guess who's going to be keeping the money?  Yup, your  agency that you are so loyal to.  Best yet, the guest speaker is some loser who's doing workshops for free or a small percentage.  They have no credits that you have ever heard of -or can find- or it's some hack who's real job is working in a cubicle but wants to make models think he/she's someone important.  They just make stuff up and try to sound like a big deal for an hour or so and you don't even know that you're listening to complete fodder.  And you paid for it.


So the agency calls you and says they have a big cool runway show for you!  But it doesn't pay anything, it's just "good exposure".  What that can mean is that your agent just isn't paying you for your work.  Yea they're just keeping all of your money for themselves.  An agency doesn't go into business to supply models to other businesses for free.  Chances are, your agent is charging the business that is putting on the runway show something like $200 per model.  You should be getting $180.00 after your agent takes out their %20 commission.  But the scam agent makes 100% when they lie to you and get you to do the job for free.  Legitimate models get good exposure AND 80% of the job fee.  The only time this ever may not apply is for charity shows.  But I have also seen an agency charge a charity for models and then not pay them because it was for "charity".  There are no limits to what these people thieves will do to take your money.  To this day I have never seen a model do a local runway show for "good exposure" and had any sort of career advancement come from it.


Every model agency knows that not everyone who walks in their door is model material.  Legitimate agencies just turn those people away, but scam agencies welcome them in with false praise and temptations of success.  If you're one of these people, not only is the agency going to put you through the ringer, but if they really think you're desperate, they sometimes will tell you that you have to go book your own model jobs for the agency to "prove" your worth to them.  Of course the real tall, pretty girls don't have to do this, they will be used other ways (agency advertising), but the shorter, 'ordinary' girls have to hit the streets finding clients for the agency.  Wow.  Now you're doing the agents' work for them- for free.  It's just their way of saying, "Hell no I don't think you can be a model, but I'll lie to you, take your money, and have you do my work for me.  Sucker."  I know a girl with a scam agency that did all her own promotion as a model- and her agency did NOTHING for her.  She booked all of her own jobs and her agent made her pay %20 to the agency anyway.  Why would a scam agency turn you away when they can use you for their own profit?  Oh yea, because they don't have those things called ethics or morals.

There are other ways that scam agencies swindle you and do nothing for you, but the underlying message here is that if you don't feel good about the way an agency is treating you, or if they are trying to sell you something, or if they sound like a used car salesman, or they generally don't seem to be showing you that they care about you, get out of there.   Tomorrow we finish this up with what you should expect from a real agency, as well as some extra tidbits of knowledge to arm yourself with as you look for the right people in this business, and they do exist. :-)

Avoiding Scam Modeling Agencies: Day 2, Website or Web-Trap.

December 19th, 2012 Agency websites: Website or web-trap.

Your first clue of whether or not a business that calls themselves a "modeling agency" or "talent agency" is going to be legitimate or a possible scam begins with their own website, current model roster and reputation around town. Chances are the first time you see a modeling agency is when you look them up online. How does their website look and feel?


Simply put, the scam agencies' website is designed to impress the general public. Their website is usually full of unverifiable testimonials of success, tons of promotion for themselves, overly-glamourous model photos, flashy graphics and the overall appearance (illusion) of their agency being very successful and in-demand. That's done on purpose. Their website is designed to lure in hopeful girls and their parents, not for getting their models booked. They want to hook you in by making up all this hype about themselves. They make it appear as if their models are being sought after by all the biggest names in the business, and that their agency is THE place to be. Now take a look at their model roster, what do you mostly see? Their roster reveals that their models are anything but in-demand.* The photos are cheesy, portrait studio-style photos that the agency sold to the model themselves at grossly over-inflated prices, or at best, test photos by amateur, weekend hobby photographers. Most of the models on their roster are obviously not working models. That's because they "sign" anyone who walks in their door with a checkbook.

*The scam agencies' SECRET WEAPONS: Now, lots of scam agencies have what I (sarcastically) call a 'secret weapon'- that is a model or two who might be semi-success stories. Yes, every scam agency knows that they have to display a couple of models who are at least semi-successful to put up front on their website for the purpose of creating the illusion of making successful models. But what you don't know is that the agency may have never had anything to do with that models' success story at all. That's right- sometimes young models find their own jobs, or are discovered by someone who actually does have the ability to put them in high places without any help from the scam agency. But because that young girl signed a contract with the scam agency at some point before she found success on her own, that agency now uses her success to lure others in thinking that they will get the same results if they sign up with the agency.  Oh and the flood of lies they tell you about how they got that model the job.  It's sad, but even the scam artists have their luck.  They have someone they never did anything for, yet found their own way into some success, and the scam agency exploits it to the fullest. Often times these agencies will just all-out lie on their websites about what these models are doing in order to really get you in the door.  But of course, what you'll never see are the hundreds of people who came through their door with the same hopes, and left months or years later in worse shape then when they arrived. Once I even read an article in a local newspaper about a new model's success story that was filled with completely false information about her contract's monetary worth and her overnight super-stardom in the industry (which of course turned out to be lies). No doubt this article was fabricated by the agency to dispense completely false information to the public for the purpose of getting more girls and their parents with the checkbooks into the agency. Think this is ruthless? This isn't even the tip of the iceberg of how immoral and driven by greed these so called agencies can be.


Simply put, the legitimate, professional agencies' websites are designed to showcase their models to large companies, fashion designers, magazines and to be seen by professionals in the industry. Their sites are usually very simple, subdued, professional and clean, without much- if any at all- frivolous and excessive promotion for themselves. They have pages that show their model roster, and many have a page about how to be discovered with all the info you need and what to send them. That's right- you don't need a small town agency to get you to the large ones, you can follow their instructions and submit yourself. You can also walk in and visit them during open calls. Now take a look at the agencies' model roster. The pro agency has very professional photos of their models which may feature magazines they've been in, ad campaigns they've shot, or for the newer girls (called "New Faces" or "Development Board") just generally striking photos usually shot by professional or semi-professional fashion photographers. The photos are scrutinized to represent the model in the best way they see fit. There are no cheesy photos taken by weekend amateur photographers (normally). There also aren't any 'secret weapons' on the front of their website. All their models are listed in alphabetical order by name. Most all of their models are working continuously, and most of their photos are from the jobs they've done. These are called "tear sheets" (pronounced tare-sheets). That's a sign of a working model who has a real, hard-working agent behind her or him. The professional agencies' website is not based in hype, it's based in real results.

You should always inquire in as many ways as possible as to whether a small local agency is someone you can trust. Ask around town. Talk to their current and more importantly, their former talent. Is the talent agency listed with the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists Franchised Talent Agencies? Here is the list for the New Mexico talent agencies that are SAG/AFTRA recommended. If an agency claims to book their talent in major movies and television but isn't on that list, you might dig deeper to find out why. SAG/AFTRA does not recommend talent agencies that have been known to pull scams. Don't ask a talent agency themselves why they aren't listed as a reputable establishment, they might already have a lie fabricated for that question. Use good judgement. Remember, scam agencies make their living by being expert liars. Always have your built-in "lie-detector" on when speaking to a talent agency. If it sounds like they are trying to sell you something, well, there ya go.

Tomorrow we'll explore visiting an agency and the biggest, most obvious clues that you are either in a place that can really bring success closer to you, or if you're entering a Black Widow's web.

Avoiding Scam Modeling Agencies, Day 1: Welcome to the Jungle.

December 18th, 2012It's been awhile since my last post about avoiding modeling scams, but it's time for another refresher course on keeping yourself informed on how these so-called "model agency" scams operate. As a commercial fashion photographer based in New York, I currently work with some of the most prestigious modeling agencies in the world as well as in Los Angeles and Milan. I have casted, booked and photographed models with top modeling agencies such as Major Model Management, DNA, Elite, New York Model Management, ONE Management, Mc2, Soul Artist Management, Wilhelmina and others. I'm hired by and work with these agencies and their models on a continuing basis and can tell you that there is a vast separation between a legitimate modeling agency and a small business scam "agency". But there are just not enough educational resources out there for people to learn how to recognize the many predators posing as talent agencies and cashing in on the frenzy of young girls with modeling aspirations. The illegitimate business of exploiting these model hopefuls is now an entire industry in itself.  It makes tens of millions of dollars a year by scamming mostly young girls and their supportive parents who think their child could be bound for greatness.  The scam industry is keen on this hopeful desire and it's the key ingredient to the scam industries' continued success.  Every year there is a new generation of young upstarts with model dreams, but unfortunately the first place they usually visit are the small "modeling agencies", "talent agencies" or "modeling schools" who mostly do anything but represent and book models.  The bad places are owned and operated by expert liars that have years of experience refining their skills at scamming young models and their parents.  Like a Black Widow spider, they build their trap and just wait for their prey to come to them.  The scam agency drains them of their money and their time, while always promising them that success is just around the corner. I know this information first hand, because I was scammed by one of these predators myself once- and only once.  This fake industry is bad for everyone but these borderline criminals.  They hurt the legitimate fashion industry no differently than a sweatshop making fake Louis Vuitton handbags to sell in Herald Square for $25.00.  Fake is just wrong.  Fake agencies scam the money out of people who probably don't have money to waste, and leaves them feeling bitter and used about the fashion industry as a whole, as well as hurting their self esteem for being tricked and victimized.

The scam agency wants to make you believe that they hold the key to your modeling dreams-- and you will end up believing everything they tell you. They will lie to you and convince you to be loyal to them. They will brainwash you into putting all your trust into them, and to alienate anyone who tries to warn you away from them.  They are so experienced at lying that you will believe whatever they say.  You'll spend months if not years of wasting your time and money on them.  Your career window will close and your dreams will turn to failure while these scam agents just work on recruiting the next wide-eyed model hopefuls, leaving you to figure it all out after it's too late. This is a hard look 'behind the scenes' of the world of small-time scam modeling agencies who make their living ripping off the very people whom they are supposed to be taking care of- the young models.


Now, I first want to clarify that unfortunately there is nothing illegal about what these scam agencies are doing- they are operating within the law.  Calling their business an agency, lying to you and taking your money, is all perfectly legal. It's your own problem if you fall for it. The FBI won't bust down their door and arrest them. You can only report them to the Better Business Bureau, review them through online review websites, or sue them- the latter being difficult and expensive to do. I'm also not here to tell you where to spend your money. If you want to give these scam agencies your money, go right ahead. I'm just informing you of how their scams work, so you can make an informed decision before you get fleeced.

There is also an understandable contrast in how business is done at a large major-market agency verses a legitimate small town modeling agency. A legitimately run, small town modeling agency basically does two things: 1) Books models for paid local/regional jobs, and 2) finds models to scout to the larger agencies, for which they make a commission. The latter task is referred to as being a "Mother Agency". The small agency cannot (for the most part) book models for major ad campaigns, magazine editorials and all the large modeling jobs because they don't have the connections, business history, negotiating savvy or experience handling highly paid models that work on high-profile jobs. Only the large agencies have teams of people who possess that level of experience and skills.


Legitimate modeling agencies represent models in exchange for a commission from the jobs the models book, normally 20%.  Real agencies do a lot of things for models, but they don't get paid unless the model works, period.  You as a model go to castings, go sees, fittings, and other "job interviews" that the agency sets up for you.  When you are chosen for a job (called a "booking"), the agency handles all the business and financial aspects of the job, plus coordinates for you all the logistics for you such as hotel, transportation, addresses, directions and call times.  They negotiate the rate you are paid for the job and handle any licensing limits of your image.  They take 20% of the job's pay for their income.  There's a lot more that agencies do for models, like print and organize your portfolio (called your "book"), make your comp cards, put your photos and sometimes video on their website, and can even set you up with a place to live.  All this costs money, but they don't make the model pay for this up front.  The model is given an account, and everything the agency pays for on behalf of the model, such as airline tickets, rent, or to print your book, is entered as a balance owed by the model.  When the model works and gets paid, the agency deducts their 20% commission, and also reimburses themselves the money they have "advanced" the model for expenses.  Some agencies policies are different than others, but this is generally how it is in the U.S.  Now- the agency is making an investment on the model because if the model doesn't ever make any money and the agency releases the model from her contract, then the model doesn't owe that money.  So the agency is taking a risk, and making an investment on the model that they may not, and often don't, make that money back.  If a legitimate agency believes in you as a model, and signs you, then they spend their money on you- not the other way around.


Well, there's tons of ways they do this, but I can guarantee you if a business that calls themselves an agency is not continuously booking their models on real paying jobs for a 20% commission, then they are keeping their doors open some other way.  The most common way being that of hiring a cheap photographer and then charging you ridiculously over-priced rates for photo packages in which the agency makes most of the money.  Another is claiming that you need to take their expensive "modeling classes" (more detail on these later).  Other ways include charging you money to put you on their website, having you work promo jobs for the agency that they don't pay you for, making you go out and book your own jobs in order to network for the agency - without paying you, and- get this- putting on clinics, seminars or acting classes by people who absolutely don't know what they are talking about and then charging you money to attend. And yes, your agency keeps the money because the guest speaker they brought in is a moron with no experience and will do the class for free or cheap just to make a name for himself.   Another classic scam is to tell you that there's a local runway show in town that "doesn't pay anything but is good exposure".  Right. This agency just exists to supply free models to other businesses.  When your agent tells you that a job "doesn't pay anything", that probably means that your agency just isn't paying you anything.  Instead of paying you and taking 20%, they are just taking 100%, and you have no way to know any different.

So when you are searching for or being scouted by a modeling agency, how can you tell what's legitimate and what's a scam?  It can be very difficult sometimes, because the scam artists are so experienced at lying and making it seem like they are the ticket to your modeling dreams that you don't even know what to think.  But that's where their weakness is.  The scam agency always has to sell themselves to you.  They always want you to want them.  So no matter how cool they try to seem, they need you to "sign" up with them.  They can't get your money if you walk out the door.  So everything they do- even acting not interested at first- will lead to them somehow wanting you to sign with them.  The real agency doesn't need you.  They might be interested in you, but that's about it.  Since they're not going to be ripping you off, the only way they make money is if you make money.  Therefore, they don't sell themselves to you, they have to decide (usually after several days) if you are right for them or not.  The scam agency signs anyone who has the money, or whom they can use in other ways.  That's the one thing that is blatantly obvious between the two.

Tomorrow we will explore the differences between a legitimate agency or one to be warned away from in the first place you'd be looking for information on them- their own websites and online presence.  I'll show you how to see the obvious clues that a scam agency uses online verses the websites of trustworthy and reputable agencies.  Until tomorrow, see you back here then.


New Models: Tips on how to find a legit photographer to work with.

November 16th 2010 I saw this article online and thought I would share it with new models who might not know whether a photographer is really interested in photography or just getting girls over to his "studio" (house).  It's kind of funny, but so very true.  Thanks to Chris Grymes Cantrell for posting a link to this.

"How to Tell the Difference Between a Legit Photographer and a GWC (Guy With a Camera)."

Model 101: Building Your Portfolio- and Do You Even Need One?

October 9th, 2010 One thing I get hit with all the time by aspiring models is that they think they have to "build their portfolio" before going to see an agency.  Or worse yet, hearing a young model tell me that her "agency" told her that she needed photos for her portfolio and then charged her big money to shoot them -which is a scam by the way (see my previous Model 101 post on how to avoid scams).  Here's the thing; your portfolio is a collection of prints showing your looks and ability in front of the camera to (hopefully) get you booked with a client for work.  When you're starting out, you are not required nor expected to have a full portfolio book of professional photos to get signed by an agency.  Now, there's nothing wrong with wanting to build experience, and collecting photos of yourself as you get practice, but don't think that an agency won't see you unless you are a "pro" with a full portfolio book of work.  In fact, it's totally the opposite.

Now before I go on, I need to say that you don't necessarily have to have an agency to be a working model.  You can represent yourself if you want to.  In some smaller markets, you can't even find a legit modeling agency, and don't even need one if you can get work on your own.  I know one model that works locally and nationally and doesn't have an agent, she just promotes and manages herself.  But for anyone who wants to work in fashion, or  any "high-end" market, I would strongly advise getting a good, respected agency to represent you.  They know all the big clients, can get you booked with them, and handle all the business for you.

Ok, so to get into an agency, what do you need?  Simple snapshots.  Even the largest fashion and commercial ad agencies in the world only need to see a couple of simple, no-makeup snapshots of you to consider contacting you.  If you really want to know the specifics, go to an agencies' website.  Yes, it's that simple!  I can't believe how many people who want to be models have never even gone to an agencies' website to get info.  Internet generation my a**!   Professional agency models are basically expected to have and carry their portfolio with them at all times.  The photos in it are there to show potential clients what the model looks like in print, and what other work the model has booked and with what other clients.  However, for you though, (without an agency since I assume you are reading this because you are just starting out) you don't "need" a portfolio at this point.  At most, you may be required by an agency to get some professional test shots.

Test shots are photos by a professional photographer whom is one of many who are recommended by an agency to shoot their model's pictures for portfolios, comp cards and website images.  A test shoot is just what the name implies- it's a shoot put together to see how you photograph, and also to get some images of you that fit the agencies' style of how they represent their models.  Most of the time a model has to pay the photographer for a test shoot, but sometimes the agency arranges for the shoot.  If you're new, expect to pay for your first test shoot.  Or if a major agency is interested in signing you, and you're a 5'10" potential supermodel from Russia with no money, the agency may front the money for the test shoot, and you'll repay them when you start working.  Once you're listed with an agency, sometimes approved photographers will contact the agency for a model to test with.  This will be a free shoot if the photographer chooses you. However, you might have to pay for the prints yourself, as many photographers will just supply you with the digital images from a test shoot for free, but not the actual prints.

Essentially there are going to be two ways to build a portfolio.  One is by signing with a legit agency, testing with various photographers until you start getting real work, then you can replace your test shots with working shots as you go.  The other way is to just go out and find photographers and either collaborate with them to get free shots, or just outright hire them to shoot you.  NOTE: I've heard some self-proclaimed "models" claim that they would never pay a photographer to shoot them.  These are not real models, they are non-professional TFP (Time For Print) "models" who think that they are so "hot" that they deserve everything in life for free- and their photos usually suck.  Real, working models have started out just like you, and many top-models even paid for their first photos to start their careers.  But here's the important part: the only thing that matters if you hire a photographer, is YOU.  You getting very professional and legitimate high-end shots which can get you to that next level in your career that the free photos may not.  I realize it sounds biased coming from a photographer, but again, it's not about the photographer, it's about the photos your going to get.  It's an investment in your career.  If you can manage to get real model shots for free, then all the better.  But I would strongly urge you not to let your ego keep you in the same career-less league with those people who tell you to never pay for photos.  Just make sure you are hiring a legit model photographer who is recommended by real modeling agencies.  Don't end up paying for cheesy "senior photo" looking shots or amateur glamour photos with bad Photoshop retouching- that's IS a waste of money.  A real photographer who shoots professional models will know how to shoot you that way.   Whether or not you will need a portfolio will in large part depend on the industry you want to work in.  There's lots of different types of modeling.  Both male and female models usually want to work in fashion, so a really impressive, professionally shot portfolio is essential to show fashion designers and big companies, but again, not necessary to be signed with an agency.

If you're going to build your own portfolio, the biggest thing I can advise you on is to make sure your photos give someone a reason to want to book you as a model.  Having a local photographer call you up to do some trade (TFP) shoots is flattering I'm sure, but sitting there in front of the camera doing some fake pose and hoping the photographer will make you look good is NOT modeling.  Think you're pretty? Great. No one cares by the way, except your your friends.  In this business, models are not only usually very gorgeous, but they know how to make a great shot.  Just standing there in front of a camera relying on your looks will only get you compliments from your Facebook friends, but is worthless in the fashion and beauty industry.  If you're a girl and it's cheap-looking glamour portraiture you're interested in, then you can pretty much just stand there and let your boobs carry the shot.  A portfolio will be helpful for this kind of work because you probably won't get any real agency to represent you, so you'll just be marketing yourself.  Your portfolio can be full of those glamour-portrait shots, and although boring and talentless, you can book that kind of work based on your lack of clothing alone because those types of jobs don't require any ability anyway.  On the other hand, if you're wanting to model swimsuits in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, then you will need to know how to really bring an emotion to the shot in your eyes and body language- and that's what you would need to show in your portfolio.  Make sense? Let your portfolio show your ability to convey emotion and personality, and not just another generic girl trying to look hot (yet clueless) in a photo.  Make photographers want to shoot with you, not want to hit on you.  Make them want to call you back because you make their portfolios better.

Again, it's great to get out and work with photographers to create beautiful images, build experience, try out new ideas and make connections.  For most young women, shooting a portfolio will never have any more purpose than just fishing for compliments on their Facebook page (it shows in their work). But for the very few who actually want to pursue the hard uphill climb of a real modeling career, a portfolio is a valuable tool in getting bookings.  For the most part, you don't need a portfolio to get started in fashion.  You just need a positive attitude, very thick skin, a very hard work ethic and a professional acumen.  More to come..

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!