Becoming a Model

This article is based on questions I have received about becoming a model. If you can’t read it all at least think about the following golden rules:

If you look like a contemporary model then all you need to do is send a few pictures taken on your phone to a proper modelling agency. They all have their own requirements but you will always include a full-length shot and a headshot. You should wear tight clothes and have minimal makeup.

If you don’t make it as an agency model then you have to go it alone.

You may choose to pay a few pounds a month to a model and photographer site to get access to photographers. But do not pay for photo sessions or to join organisations that seem to be agencies. You pay an agency from the money you make from jobs they find you.

See Model Photographer Sites

Before you begin

Before starting as a model you must decide what you are going to call yourself. Your own name is an obvious choice, but modelling can take you in directions that may be frowned upon by conservative organisations such as banks or schools. Even fashion modelling can be provocative enough to upset people. If you were to get a part-time job teaching music to schoolchildren the parents might be displeased if the first thing they find when Googling you is a picture of you in your underwear, even if it is for Calvin Klein.

By separating your modelling activity from other endeavours you give yourself more freedom.

It’s very hard to keep track of models who have different names on different platforms. You make yourself more employable if you have a consistent name everywhere.

Being a model

Being a model is hard work. It often involves working seven days a week with lots of travel. On the other hand you sometimes can't find work, and travel and parking can be very expensive.

It’s fine if you are just doing it as a hobby, but you should talk to some real working models before planning a career.

Instagram and Facebook

The first rule of Instagram is that your feed should have a consistent theme. If you post content that differs from your norm you may find that followers will stop following you.

Your theme can of course be yourself. But lots of models have a separate Instagram account dedicated to modelling. Clients like Instagram as it is often more authentic and up-to-date than a traditional portfolio website. Some models post pictures of the back of the camera, or behind-the-scenes videos to help demonstrate that they are proper working models.

If you convert your Instagram account to a business one you can then link it to a Facebook page and arrange for content posted on Instagram to be copied to Facebook automatically.

Note that this is a Facebook “page” not a “profile”. A profile is always your personal identity that allows you to befriend other users. A profile can create any number of “pages” that are used for brands or businesses. The rules on following, liking, and friending are a little different for these.

In any case it is important to post regular on-topic content. It’s hard to do this at the best of times, and it’s even harder with multiple accounts. So you should concentrate on making quality content for your modelling identity,

Building a Portfolio

Photographers are always looking for models. A Time For Photos (or TFP) shoot is one where a photographer and model work together to produce photos that they can both use on their portfolios. It is important that you agree up front, preferably in writing, how many images you will receive, in what timeframe, and whether they will be edited or straight-out-of-camera.

There are several model-photographer websites that help arrange TFP or paid shoots.

Scams and Maniacs

There are lots of scams involving free model shoots. Sometimes you are promised one or two free images, but high-pressure sales techniques are used to make you pay hundreds of pounds for images that you could have got for free.

Other scams involve attractive-sounding shoots or events that promise unreasonably high fees. There is no reason for them to do this. Anyone can go to an agency and hire a model if they have the money. Offers like this are scams. If something sounds too good to be true then it usually is.

Most photographers are completely harmless. But occasionally you come across one that is not. Either they want you to take photos that are more revealing or sexual than you agreed, or they are more interested in you than in the photographs.

You have two ways of dealing with this before you arrange a shoot. First, you should look at their work and ask yourself what they are getting out of it. Do they enjoy photography or half-naked girls?

Second, if you have any doubts about a photographer you should message a model that they have worked with recently. It’s easy enough to make contact with people tagged on Instagram. You could arrange a voice call if they are reluctant to put things in writing.

When you are going to a shoot, leave contact details, the address, arrival and departure times with a friend so they know where you’re going and what time you are expected home. Text them when you arrive and when you leave to let them know all is OK.

On a shoot, never be afraid to say "no" to an idea you don't like, but try to be diplomatic. If it isn't going well and you are uncomfortable then leave.

When you start modelling you may feel that being accompanied by a chaperone will help. Friends are usually a much better choice than family members or partners. You want someone who isn’t going to comment or interfere with the shoot. Make sure you agree it in advance with the photographer as if you turn up with one unannounced you may find you are both sent away.