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Sunday, 17 July 2011


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I'm in NYC. I used to shoot agency models here, for portfolios and for a few professional jobs, but never committed fully enough to be a full-time pro here. That said, i now am an art director at a small ad agency here, and am still involved with castings, etc., and have also worked with a casting agency, helping a friend (the owner) with a major hair campaign.

I have no idea what the midwest agency scene is like. I imagine, these days, with the internet, everything is much more easily 'global' than it used to be. As for 'headshots,' there really isn't such a thing for models. That kind of image is probably reserved for acting work. Models need 'fashion' images, and they should be as close to the style currently seen in magazines, especially if someone is hoping to appeal to an agency in a major market from a more 'remote' location.

If she can visit an agency, anything will work. Snapshots even. A girl i once shot was sent from her agency to me and all she had were a handful of Polaroids shot by her booker. But, she 'had it.' After i shot her, she was shot by Albert Watson, and then went on to do the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and become a tv show host.

If she has the look, agencies will see that. If she's 'borderline,' it will probably take good imagery to get her an edge. There is no shortage of photographers who will TEST with models, though. She should look on ModelMayhem.com for someone in her area. That would be my first step. From that, i would find out the submission policy at the major NYC agencies, and inquire if they have affiliates or scouts in her area.

I do not know about rates. They are so highly variable, it's not worth discussing. But, test shots should not cost the model anything. They're an exchange of time between a new-ish photographer and new-ish model. If she gets signed to an agency, the agency may direct her to a photog who does charge for more professional tests, but that amount should be minimal and arranged by the agency which may be later reimbursed when the model gets real jobs.

An alternative to ModelMayhem is OneModelPlace.com. Look for the type of photographer who already works in the style she's best suited for. Many of those photographers are interested in 'Maxim' style work, which may be fun for the photographer, but do not lead to 'real agency' situations.

If ever you identify some potential photographers, you can send me a link to the work and i'll weigh in on if i think they're right for your friend's situation.

Mike, your photo of G. is very...enticing. Obviously, she's waiting for a good conversationalist to sweep her off her feet. Very nice shot.

Talk them out of it.

But... Factor (used to be Elite) in Chicago is a decent "real" agency.

I believe skin quality still rules, along with being tall and skinny. Like 5-9, 5-10, 105-115 lbs. That sounds ridiculously thin. It is. But they have to be healthy too, not frail swans... these girls need to work out everyday, watch what they eat, and never party. Think of them as athletes, not divas. Ideally they want to start at 15-16-17 years old. 21-22 is on the older side, especially for beginners.

What works best is for them to go to an open call and simply have a few clean, non-styled, no make-up headshots and a full-body shot, 4x6 snapshot size is fine. Show blemishes, thin hair, keep it real. If it is a respectable agency they will pay to have her properly styled and photographed by one of their selected photographers.

If the modeling agency wants her to pay them money, then they are not a legit modeling agency, they simply prey on wannabees and that is how they make their profit. Run away. They may book a few small promo jobs - bikinis at car shows, hawking booze at festivals - it can be fun but it isn't really the kind of modeling you want nice people to aspire to.

They can dabble with sites like Model Mayhem if they want to enjoy the fantasy of being photographed. Tell them to be very, very selective with who they shoot with, to adopt a screen name so that Google won't find them, and to never do photos they wouldn't show their Grandmother.

In other words, don't shoot with the likes of me ;-p

(I don't shoot with minors anyway.)

Thanks Rod. Helps if you have a good subject to work with.

She was Northern Italian, and had naturally blonde hair that could shine like dark burnished gold--it really could look almost metallic if she'd been in the sun. I also used to joke that Anglo women had to work on their tans all summer, but all G. needed for a deep tan was three sunny days in May.

Whatever genetic markers she had, it seemed to be exactly what drove Italian men wild. She literally had to be chaperoned on the streets of large Italian cities, or she'd get harassed by male strangers too much.

The pic was taken in a studio--she had been watching me work, sitting in that gross old chair, and I just turned the light and the 4x5 on her for a shot. I still like the picture myself.

I haven't heard from her for years, but I'd love to know what she's doing now.


Hi Mike,

I came across this web site a while ago:


Interviews with models and photographers

Cheers Rex

"Broke, busted Disguasted, Agents can't be trusted" The Mamas and the Papas — Creeque Alley, 1967

I have worked Sydney, Australia (and abroad) since the 1970s shooting editorial and advertising glamour for publication. Throughout all that time I have avoided using agency models like the plague.

There has never been an easier time for aspiring models to break into the business. There has never been a time that benefits could be reaped without becoming fodder to rip-off agencies and their kindred parties. Agencies have notoriously charged higher commissions than is legislated, demand use of 'their' contractors in the production of promo material, invariably with a kick-back fee system and even 'registration fees'. The model as fodder.

I can't speak for mega centres such as New York, London, Paris, Munich (as the song said) but away from the megalopolis I am sure that the internet provides a golden opportunity for models to tout for work and to, essentially, manage their own careers.

These days we use a combination of international and local model sites (such as Model Mayhem) to source talent. The models present a selection of images of themselves of varying quality, sometimes organised into albums categorised by work discipline: Headshots, Fashion, Sports, Nude, etc.

Photographers, stylists and Make-Up Artists also have representation on these sites and so it can be a one-stop shop to plan any level of play that appeals.

It seems all very much about market-price given the overly democratic nature of internet information. It is hard to keep a secret for very long on the internet, I suspect.

If a model has potential and garners some assignments then there they have a career springboard at theirr disposal. THEN they can go in search of acceptance of listing with a big agency.

It is true that there are a lot of tyre-kickers with cameras that frequent these websites, but it is easy to sort the wheat from the chaff. And, in the earliest stages, even working with some keen amateurs can give valuable experience. Experience in what to do and in what not to do.

I've not seen a composite card for a long long time but I guess they are still in use in some quarters. The comp card was an ideal 'memory-jogger' that could be left behind to be pinned to the art room notice board.

The "Book" is probably slower to disappear over here. Frankly, I think an iPad presentation is ideal for models. The content can be continually fine-tuned and arranged almost on a job by job basis. The "Go-See" is still crucial for me. IT determines the veractity of any model's claims, irrespective of where they was sourced from. It is not unknown for some of the most striking pictures in a portfolio to be somewhat ancient and pre-childbirth repetitions.

It is also worthy of note that the internet has truly opened up the bit-player's stage to a global phenomenon. Just last week I shot a Brazilian girl who lives in Los Angeles. I have worked numerous times with a Californian model based in Texas who has no fixed abode and travels the world posing day by day. There was a time when we shot the girl next door. Then, from further afield, it was the girl we wished lived next door. Now, she could be the neighbour of pretty much anyone, anywhere on the planet.



Here's what I say: "There is always someone younger and prettier. It's a lot better on my side of the camera. If you decide to try it, always take along a chaperone."

Mike...I used to run a big photo staff for a large retailer, so I know something about the modeling thing, but actually had gotten to the point where four people on the staff were arranging fashion photo shoots and booking models, so in a fast changing business, not sure how valuable this info will be, it's 'years' old...

Frank P is dead on, bring a few nice photos to the biggest 'known' agencies in the biggest city near you. If they can make money off booking you, they'll give you the break and get you around. Any 'agency' that wants to sell you a 'package' to 'teach' you how to become a model is bogus, always has been. Being in that business means that in order to survive, you have to take money from people that have no chance of EVER modeling! I remember years ago having to put up with the onslaught of literally hundreds of women every year that bought packages from local modeling 'schools' to teach them to become models, that wouldn't have been able to model for anything. They must have had pretty healthy egos to look at themselves and then look in the fashion magazines, and think: "...yeah, that's me!"

That said, there's modeling, and then there's modeling. There's the elite magazine modeling that leads to contracts from make-up companies, there's catalog work, then there's 'leaning against the car at the car show' work. What are your 'looks' going to get you? And the location where you live? The Milwaukee-Chicago corridor has become a huge catalog center, with Kohls, Bon-Ton, Lands End, and a few other catalog and internet companies in the area pumping out a lot of work. A man or woman that has the 'right look' can work regularly, and bank a very tidy sum, much tidier than I ever made as a photographer. They may never get 'magazine famous', but they'll be well set! Many are easily paying for college as they go, a few days a month at a time! Again, most all these place book through the biggest agencies, not direct, so you have to be accepted by an agency.

BTW, the place I worked was always looking for someone we called: 'the indefinable ethnic'. If you're Japanese-Filipino, Black-Latino, or any other combination, and you're tall and thin, RUN to the nearest high-end modeling agency ASAP!

The best info is to look at who's being used, and see how you measure up, and look at the catalogs you want to be in and the magazines you want to work in...recognize your 'look' too; if you look like a Playboy model, is probable that you're not going to end up in Elle or Vogue or anything that looks more 'euro-sophisticate'.

Plenty more to talk about, but no time. Also, remember this is all practical information, not a paper on whether modeling is sexist or whatever, that's for someone else to figure out; but it's good to remember that the fashion business is run by woman and a lot of gay men, not fat cigar-smoking aging white-guy lechers, so police thyselves!

I was astonished looking for models on Model Mayhem and One Model Place (the latter is a pay site BTW) how many of the younger ladies have tattoos to varying degrees . I got so if I saw ink, I just went on to the next subject. That said, the variety and quality of models on these sites is huge.

...BTW, when it comes to catalog work, don't forget the 'plus' sizes...if you're a size 16 and up, have classically good looks, and are a decent height, you'll work, get yourself to an agency too!


I get asked this a lot due to an odd coincidence on Google's search page for certain modeling terms. (For a long time I was the number one hit for "model tfp portfolio" and high on the list for variations. Should've monetized it. Alas.) I usually refer such questions to this website:


While I don't know how "up to date" it is the person who maintains it was active in agency modeling in NYC for a long time and it seems to blesh pretty well with what I know about it from my own experience and reading.

Lookwise, it's like FrankP says. Models are at the end of a lot of bell curves. And no, they don't all have eating disorders and/or drug habits. Bell curves, I said. I know female models who are 5'10", and maintain a healthy 120# (which is really a bit big for a fashion model but on the slender side for a glamour model) eating more than I do. (I'm 6'2" and around 240#.) Models with interesting or extremely beautiful faces, really pretty hands or feet, etc, can get parts modeling jobs, but girls under 5'8" with sorta slender bodies and pretty faces are never gonna get anything but Internet model jobs. Not that there's anything wrong with that and lots of them make a nice and perfectly respectable living that way. (Not all of them do nudes, and most of the ones who do nudes don't do explicit ones.) But don't talk to me about Kate Moss. You are not Kate Moss. Kate Moss is Kate Moss. There are no additional Kate Moss openings at this time.

As far as what they need photographically, they don't need much. Even agencies who put up a wish list for online submission basically just want "what she looks like" shots. They have seen a zillion pro headshots and they know all about what lighting and makeup can do for a model. Here's a page I made from a want sheet I got from one of the big Chicago agencies. That was a few years ago but it hasn't changed much.


(Yes, she's wearing makeup. Yes, the want sheet says no makeup. She was paying and after I pointed it out I shut up and took the pitchers.)



Careful. The Escort Wars rage ne'erendingly across the Internet Model scene.

I can understand why an Internet model would want to bring an escort to a shoot but I, generally speaking, did not allow it after a couple of bad experiences. If they wanted to bring somebody, that was fine. But they had to wait in the lobby. There was an IRONCLAD rule that they could be in earshot but they could NOT be where the model could see them. Since escorts are frequently boyfriends and/or relatives this just does not work. Inexperienced models (the only kind who bring escorts) do not act the same in front of boyfriends and/or relatives and it makes the work much harder.


Mike wrote:
Whatever genetic markers she had, it seemed to be exactly what drove Italian men wild. She literally had to be chaperoned on the streets of large Italian cities, or she'd get harassed by male strangers too much.

Mike, not to take away from your friend's beauty, but all young girls get harassed walking the streets of Italy, especially foreigners. I've seen it happen so many times... Being friends with many Italians, I can also tell you that had your friend replied in kind and asked them to make good on their promises, they would have crapped their trousers :-)

All of the above comments are good but I would add advice in regards to the reality of being a model. As photographers we are used to hearing negative comments about our work, everyone's a critic, if we have been doing it long enough they will just roll off your skin. As a model these comments are directed specifically at them not there work. Your body (and face) become a product like a car or a piece of furniture. Something that is discussed openly among groups of people a lot of times in front of the model. I find myself doing it (although I try to be discrete) because its our job, we have to adjust the pose, the lighting, shes not the best for that location etc... Its a very hard thing to take all that criticism over and over again. No one woman is perfect for every job. The model has to have thick skin he/she has to be able to go to work and be treated as a product not a person, not all the time but some days. I think if the person cant get over that its going to be very tough for them.

Mike, that is a wonderful photograph – it does for me exactly what I want photography to do even if it is a "commercial" piece. What is G. up to now I wonder.

Misha, a model might very well say something similar to you: "There is always someone younger and cheaper. It's a lot better on my side of the camera."

Maybe, but take my word for it, G. was a traffic-stopper. She got more response from strangers--men, I mean--than any other woman I've ever been with. Not that that's necessarily a good thing, but it was very obvious.


Ed, I think maybe it's gotten to the point where, in a photo showing even fashionable (as opposed to swimsuit) amounts of skin, the absence of tattoos looks strange to the young, hip, crowd that fashion markets to. I know I see a lot of tattoos in catwalk shots by various photographers.

Unvarnished info for the want-to-be model:

Miserere, Mike

I can't but help mention Ruth Orkin's classic photograph 'American Girl in Italy' in response to your comments



i think - dear editor - that the proper spelling is "non sequitir."

"i think - dear editor - that the proper spelling is "non sequitir.""

Actually, we're both wrong. It's "sequitur."


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