You don’t really want to be a model, do you? What you’re really trying to tell me is that you want some cute, professional photos of yourself, right? And who doesn’t? The vain side of me does, too. No judgement, but let’s be upfront about this so I know how to best answer your question.
If indeed you sincerely want to become a professional model a lot of time, energy, and effort is required on your part. Sometimes a bit of money as well. I can only speak for myself and tell you that when I decided to start modeling in 2009 I didn’t even know where to begin and I had no idea how much effort and work would be involved. It took me one year to land my first paying gig which surprisingly was also my biggest paying job to date.
It is an unpredictable industry that is rife with exploitation. I’ve dealt with creepy photographers who wanted more than just photos, e.g. One “photographer” tried to kiss me on the mouth – yuck!; I’ve had to be extremely diligent to the point of aggressive in order to receive products and payments that were promised to me (Get everything you are promised in writing!), and I’ve had to work with a lot of people with negative attitudes and fake personas.
It’s the modeling industry. What did you expect? I wasn’t completely naive going into this profession but nothing could have prepared me for the bullshit I would encounter. You’ve really got to want this in order to make some real money from it. I worked with amateur and unprofessional photographers that either found me or I found them on ModelMayhem.com. This was a way for me to get some practice in front of the camera and somewhat professional photos without having to fork over any money.
I had to sift through all the creepy invites I initially received when signing up with ModelMayhem.com to find the photographers who actually had some talent and seemed to be decent human beings. A non-creeper will allow you to bring a friend, family member, or significant other to the photo shoot so that you feel safe and comfortable. If they do not allow this, then don’t go. The risk is not worth it and there are plenty of other photographers out there.
If you are lucky enough to have a friend or know someone who would be willing to take photos of you then that would be a good opportunity to practice posing, facial expressions, and to gain some comfort and confidence in front of the camera.
Practice, practice, practice. Practice in front of the mirror at home. Get inspiration from photos you see on the web or in magazines. Pay attention to what types of clothing flatter your body. Also consider color palettes that compliment your skin tone, hair, and eye color.
There are so many details that go into making a beautiful photo. I can’t stress enough how great styling, make-up, and hair are so important. Working with amazing photographers obviously helps tremendously, too. In the beginning you may not have that luxury but I have found that there are some pretty good photographers on ModelMayhem.com that I have worked with before for trade.
TFP means Time For Prints or Time For Photos. That means there is no exchange of money. You will most likely be given a Model Release to sign, which means you are waiving your rights to any of the photos taken on that date with that photographer. In exchange, the photographer will email or mail you photos (usually edited/Photoshopped) for you to use in your book (portfolio). This is a fantastic arrangement for those who are just starting out. Of course, you could also pay someone or some company to do headshots for you. It just depends on how much money you are willing to spend. Some of my first photos are really good and I didn’t pay a penny for them.
After I did about 20 photo shoots with various photographers I felt that I had a strong portfolio to show. I also gained a lot of experience and learned a lot about the industry. I took my very best photos from each one of the shoots and created a book to present to modeling agencies and clients. My book is a black leather folio that holds 48 8×10 photos in transparent, protective sleeves.
Clients and agencies want to see a variety of poses and looks. They want close-up headshots, full length body shots, side profiles, 3/4 shots, and 1/2 body poses; They want a good mix of everything. I have photos with various hairstyles, emotions, make-up styles, indoor shots, outdoor shots, solid backgrounds, landscape backgrounds, location shots, black & white, color photos, action or movement shots, and photos that make me look like certain ethnicities. Versatility is key.
FYI, modeling is not as glamorous as y’all think. When I first heard that I would be lucky if I could model for Target or Kmart I thought, “Hell no, that’s beneath me.” Well, in reality it’s super difficult to make real money as a model and it’s the car, electronic, pharmaceutical, alcohol, cigarette, diet pill, phone, and clothing companies that offer real paychecks. It took me some time to grasp the reality that I am not a super model and that I’m totally happy with that. Print modeling is highly competitive but becoming a super model is like winning the lottery – the genetic jackpot. Unless you are Gisele Bündchen you will most likely make more money as a print model anyway.
I’ve modeled for companies like Sony, Chevrolet, Apple, Boeing, Chandon, and PrAna just to name a few. These are typical companies you would model for as a print model. Half of the time I get booked as a “young mom” which doesn’t necessarily make me happy but makes me grateful for the opportunity nonetheless. This is the reality of the modeling business.
As I said before it took me a year to get my first paying gig. If you have the time and passion to build a portfolio, then great. Know that it is very difficult to just become a model overnight unless, of course, you are super tall, skinny, have flawless skin, and are naturally beautiful in which case you would most likely make it as a super model as opposed to a print model. The modeling industry is a bit more forgiving, but it is highly competitive and not for the faint of heart. Be prepared to be judged and criticized and not always politely. This industry requires a thick skin and determination.
I will say that if you decide this is what you want the rewards can also be amazing. The money can be nice but the self-confidence gained can be priceless. My eye contact with others, comfort level with my body, and social skills have all improved. I only work with companies that I am proud to represent which falls perfectly in line with my morals and values. It takes time and determination to get to that place. I’ve had to put in a lot more work than I initially thought to get to where I am. And I only do this part-time.
So let me ask you again. Do you really want to put in all the time, energy, and effort into becoming a professional model or would you rather find a way to get some cute or sexy photos of yourself that you didn’t just take yourself? If you answered, “Yes, I want to be a model and I’m willing to put in my due diligence,” then fantastic. What you’ve read so far is just a teeny tiny taste of what to expect when you’re starting out.
I’ll go into the process of getting accepted by a reputable agency in future posts. I’ll also talk about working independently as a freelance model. If you answered, “I’m not necessarily in it for the money but I would like to try modeling to see what it’s like and hopefully get some amazing photos of myself,” then I say thank you for your honesty. You can actually achieve this using many different methods:
- Reach out to your network of friends, family, and acquaintances to find out if anyone of them knows a good photographer. Get their contact information and book a photo shoot or see if they are willing to do a TFP shoot.
- Sign up with ModelMayhem.com and get in touch with local photographers that way. I’m sure there are other websites like ModelMayhem out there that you can find. Google it.
- If you want to do a super sexy shoot then find a boudoir photographer in your area that you would like to shoot with and pay for a photo shoot. Most of these photographers have package deals where you can pay to have your hair and make-up done. They may even have “costumes” or sexy clothing for you to wear. They will also help you with your posing.
- You can also search for local photographers online, view their portfolio, and contact them directly.
I started out by getting photography contacts from my friends and by using ModelMayhem.com. The more people you let know that you are interested in doing modeling, whether it is for pay or not, the better your chances are that you’ll find someone who can help you achieve your goals.
Stay beautiful inside and out.
If you want to learn more about how I started modeling, check out this post: