Why good photos are important

Your photos are your selling point. They are your only chance to make a great first photographic impression. A viewer will make judgments about your personality, your professionalism, your eye for detail, and your level of expertise based on what they see in your photos.

It doesn’t matter if you have 5 years of modeling experience if that experience isn’t reflected in your photographs. Conversely, you can have very little or no modeling experience, but if your photographs have “wow factor”, people will be more likely to want to work with you.

So you owe it to yourself to only put up your very best. Less is more.

When you’re first starting out (and from that point on!), good photography is important. It baffles me to see what some models use to market themselves. Just a quick scan of many of the portfolios on modeling sites, such as Model Mayhem or OneModelPlace, will reveal an abundance of poorly lit, poorly exposed, uncropped, out-of-focus, and badly composed photos. Photos that would look bad in a photo album, let alone a model’s portfolio!

If you were an agent or a model scout looking for talent, who would you pick, the aspiring model with mediocre photos or the model whose images really catch your eye?

Putting “snapshots” in a gallery online and calling it a “portfolio” does not make you a model. Be critical. Get good photos. Avoid representing yourself with photos that do not accurately reflect your potential and level of expertise.

Variety is important in a portfolio. When creating a portfolio, the photographer you work with should be willing to think outside the box. The last thing you need are photos that make you look exactly like everyone else. I have seen so many photos taken by photographers where the model doesn’t really matter at all in the photo. She’s just filling a space. It could be anyone. You want to create photos that show you, your diversity, and what you are capable of. If it’s been done before, trying to do it differently will help.

I’ve seen a number of models fall into the trap of “Since I worked with a professional, his photos must be good”. Not true. It is true that working with a professional photographer will absolutely increase your chances of getting some decent photographs. However, it is only the best of the best of these photos you should use. No photographer gets an outstanding photo with every click.

Even when all is said and done, there is absolutely no guarantee that good photos will create demand for you. However, bad photos can be damaging to your career and aspirations.

Modeling as a business. Why you should invest in yourself.

If your business is to be a model, then you will need to put in the time, money, and effort in order to be successful. Modeling is work and business is an investment. If this means having to pay a photographer to in order to get attention grabbing photos, then it is something you should absolutely consider.

Starting out in modeling does not have to cost you a lot. However, it pays to be selective about who you work with. As with any investment, it is important to think long-term and to plan out the steps of your career carefully. And in many cases, it pays to pay. And it pays to be prepared.

Try to associate yourself from the start with those people who can help you advance in your career. Who you know and work with in this industry can be just as important as what you know and what you do. Collaborate with people who can make a difference in your future. And continue to do so!

You will need a strong portfolio (which is built up by working with strong photographers). The more experience you gain as a model and the better your portfolio looks, the more legitimate and more seriously you will be taken by clients and photographers.

Only the strong models survive.

If you are serious about progressing your career, modeling will be hard work. Many jobs will be fun, but some will also involve working in difficult conditions (cold, wet, etc), wearing uncomfortable outfits, or holding uncomfortable poses for significant periods of time.

Persistence is important. Being a model will typically mean having to deal with rejection and criticism (not all of which will be constructive). You may be told you are too tall, too short, too fat, too skinny, too fit, too out of shape, don’t have the right look, are not intense enough, are too intense, are not relaxed enough, etc. The point it, you may be criticized in any number of ways depending on who you are working with and what their needs are. It is important that you develop a positive means to be able to deal with criticism.

Dealing with the difficulties associated with modeling will often lead many models to give up before they’ve really given modeling a chance. If it was truly that easy to make a living at modeling, then everyone would do it. As with any career, the rewards of success can be great, but you generally have to earn them.

Why modeling involves more than just good looks.

You are unique. Just like everyone else.

Many aspiring models feel that because they are “beautiful”, photographers will line up to take their photos. In some rare instances, this might actually be true. But at the same time, you need to position yourself in a way that advances your career and uses all of your available resources to your advantage.

I’ve worked with numerous models that are substantially more attractive than major successes like Brittany Spears or Paris Hilton. So why aren’t they also huge successes? Because being extremely successful in this industry generally involves more than just good looks.

It is important to recognize that there are thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of aspiring models out there and they’re all seeking work. If you are serious about advancing your career, then it is important that you take steps to distance yourself from the pack and give yourself every advantage you can over the countless others all seeking the same things.

Don’t settle for situations where working with someone will not benefit your portfolio or your career. And by all means, if you’re at all serious about modeling as a career or a potential source of income, be extremely discriminant about the photos you use in your portfolio. I will say this repeatedly in these pages, your portfolio is not a scrapbook.

With that said, a career in modeling usually requires a model to start from the bottom and work her way up. This means that not all jobs will be glamourous or high paying. And sometimes the best opportunities in your career will barely seem like opportunities at all. It is important to consider all opportunities very carefully. And if you’re already accustomed to getting paid for your time, it is important to consider when collaborating with a photographer for “free” may be worth more than any monetary reimbursement for time.

For example, photographers may sometimes work on creative projects that don’t involve compensating the participants. Yet the results from such a project could end up being worth their weight in gold and one of the highlights of your portfolio. A single photo could get you exposure leading to countless more paid opportunities.

Don’t be a flaky model. Why your reputation is important.

Just as it is important to consider who you work with, it is also important to take every aspect of your reputation seriously. Every time you work with someone, you are building onto your reputation. The impression you leave those you work with can have a potentially significant impact on your career. You will typically get much farther and progress much faster if you have a reputation that works for you, rather than have one that may be questionable.

Don’t be flaky. If you schedule a shoot with a photographer, don’t cancel at the last minute. Last minute cancellations are often done at great expense to the photographer who gave up valuable time to schedule working with you. When you cancel unexpectedly, it means that regardless of whether the photographer was paying you or getting paid, productivity is lost and that time is wasted. Photographers will often not work with a model again if she cancels a shoot without sufficient notice.

What you should be doing to make the most of your modeling career.

As with any career, it is important to plan. As the saying goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. You will get much farther and be more effective if you are organized, set realistic goals, and then set about to achieve those goals. You need to consider everything from how to get started and how to market yourself to how you will position yourself when paid offers for nude or topless shoots come in or a photographer’s behavior or request makes you uncomfortable.

As with any skill, practice and experience will make you better. Therefore, if you take your aspiring career seriously, it is important that you are either getting experience, practicing what you need to become better at, or both.

Be informed. Study. If there is a particular market you can see yourself fitting into, research it. Study the models in magazines. Find out who your favorite models are. Find out how they started out and became successful. One of the most common ways of becoming successful is emulating the behavior, attitude, and drive of those who became successful.

Understand a little bit about photography. Understand what makes a good photograph. Find out what types of photos you like best. Keep these photos in mind when you are shooting.

Who owns your photos? What you should know about copyright.

Unless a contract has been signed stating otherwise, the federal Copyright Act states that the photographer owns the copyrights in the photographs and thus controls how they may be used.

Copyright law is slanted in favor of the creator. The copyrights of photos are given to the photographer, not the model.

The exception is if the model (or client) pays the photographer for his services, and prior to shooting gets a contract signed by the photographer stating that the work will be a “work for hire”.

However, this prior designation of an independent contractor’s work as a “work for hire” can only be done when the work falls into one of the following nine categories: (1) contributions to a collective work; (2) parts of a motion picture or other audio visual work; (3) translations; (4) supplementary works; (5) compilations; (6) instructional texts; (7) tests; (8) answer material for a test; or (9) atlases. If you are paying a photographer for his services and wish to receive the copyright of the photos taken, be sure to get them to sign a copyright transfer release (your responsibility).

The ownership between the photographer and a client should be clearly stated and agreed upon in writing by both parties as the first item in the contract. It may be difficult to find photographers who will do this without significant compensation.

With that said, even when a photographer owns the copyright of a photo they cannot publish or sell a model’s photo without a signed model release. Nor can a model publish photographs without a signed publication release from the photographer (even if the model paid for the images).

Photographs taken at public events are considered newsworthy, and in most instances do not require a release.

Photos taken of public people such as the President or a celebrity do not require a signed model release because they are considered “public people”.

What models should know about modeling agencies.

Modeling agencies help represent and “sell” models to potential clients. You are essentially a “product” that the agency has the responsibility to sell by connecting you with paying jobs.

Signing with an agency can be beneficial to your career. Not only does signing with an agency help you appear more legitimate as a model, it will also provide opportunities that might not otherwise become available to you. Many agencies are provided with access to national casting calls, etc. that do not exist anywhere else.

When an agency finds you work, it is generally at a cost of a 10 and 25% commission of whatever the client is willing to pay you for a job.

It helps to keep in mind that not all modeling agencies are equal. There are well-known established agencies and there are small independent startups run by “Jane Smith” and her niece.

With regard to commissions, while they can encourage agencies to find you more and higher paying jobs, this relationship can also pose a bit of a problem.

This problem becomes apparent when some agencies may turn down paid work for you if it doesn’t make them enough money. A photographer may desire to work with you and offer $50 an hour to do so. In return, an agency may demand $200 an hour from the photographer for your time.

The motivation here is money, and not your career. And if the photographer, reputable or not, does not offer enough money, he may get turned down simply because it doesn’t make the agency enough money (even if the shoot (and the paid work) would be of interest to you). Your best interest is typically only in an agency’s best interest as long as they see a way to profit from you.

Clients that are willing to pay top dollar for models are generally seeking top quality and experienced models. Therefore, if you are just starting out with an agency and your agency consistently demands top dollar for your services, they may be doing you more harm than good.

Beware of agencies that are over-eager to sign you. While there are some good agencies and some not-so-good agencies in existence, it is important to keep in mind that they all tend to work based on that one simple need, to make money. If an agency sees potential to make money off of you (or from you), they will sign you. And while signing with an agency may sound like a favorable proposition, this is not always the case.

As a general rule, it is a good idea to avoid any agencies that also have a “school” attached to them. What these agencies will do is convince you that if you take the classes they provide (at your own expense), you will much more likely realize your full potential as a model. These classes, however, are generally a waste of time and will not offer anything over getting actual real-world experience by working with real-life photographers. As I mention above, the main way an agency makes money is by finding you work. If they need to supplement their income by requiring you pay for “extras”, then it is not very likely they are finding many models work.

What is key when you are signing with an agency is that you are completely aware of exactly what type of commitment you are making when you sign the dotted line. If an agency feels they will make money from you, it is entirely possible for them to sign you and make money from you without ever providing you with any work. Just the fact that you are signed with them creates an impression upon others. Obviously the more people they sign, the more “reputable” and “legitimate” they appear. This creates “credibility” that, in turn, increases their audience. An agency can generally survive off of the professional work of a very few successful models who they actively promote.

When working with an agency, never sign an exclusive agreement unless they can guarantee you a set amount for the duration of the contract. Otherwise, you may be bound to a contract that will not allow you to accept paying work outside of the agency you work with. And If that agency is not finding you work, you’re screwed.

Unfortunately, it can often be very difficult to determine a good agency from a bad one. Both will often tell you the same things and make you promises about finding you work, providing for your needs, and planning for your future. The difference is, some agencies will fulfill their promises and others will not. And when they don’t, it is at your expense.

It is in your best interest to ask a lot of questions. Find out how an agency plans to promote you. Find out how models at your level of expertise are treated. Find out what they realistically expect from your partnership. Find out if your agency will allow you to do TFP with other photographers. Whatever you do, make sure you do your homework and never sign anything without being confident that you are doing the right thing.

What models should know about contracts and model releases

Get a model release for all the work that you do.

A release is a legally binding contract between you and the photographer. A release will indicate in legal terms such things as how much a model will be paid, where photographs may be used and under what limitations.

It is extremely important that you read all releases (contracts) carefully. And if there is something you don’t understand, get it clarified. It is best to see all released ahead of shooting. This way you are not surprised by anything you may encounter.

Whether you are doing TFP or shooting for pay, establish exact terms of compensation prior to shooting and get it in writing. Terms may include the reception of CDs & prints to exactly dollar amount.

It is important to do this prior to shooting, so that avoid any “confusion” after a shoot when a photographer tells you, “I meant $50 for the whole shoot, not $50 an hour”. Sometimes situations like this are the result of genuine miscommunication. However, there may be other times where they are not. If doing TFP, it assures you that the photographer is legally bound to provide you with the contents of the shoot and within a specific time frame.

Establish your limitations prior to shooting (especially if you are doing any kind of nude work). Getting a photographer to agree to and sign a document stating how the photos from your shoot may be used will protect you from possible conflicts of interest. Also, discussing these limitations, and getting a signed agreement before-hand, should help constrain a photoshoot to these terms during shooting.

When doing a paid shoot, do not sign a release until you are paid.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The modeling industry is full of people who will tell you just about anything that they think you want to hear in order to get what they want.

The industry is also full of people who are, in fact, honest, trustworthy, worth working with, people who mean what they say, and are also willing to help you attain your goals. The hard part is differentiating between the two. Again, your most valuable asset is your brain.

Is a photographer promising you tear-sheets and published photos?

Photographers cannot typically guarantee you tear-sheets unless they are working on their own personal project. Usually they are working for someone else, such as a publisher, who makes the final call.

Whether you make it into print or not can almost only be determined after your shoot and depends on the quality of types of photos taken. There are, however, exceptions to everything, so use your common sense.

⚠️ Actors! See how Acting Upward can help you!