Advice for Models (Author’s Note)

This section contains some advice and observations for amateur or beginner models interested in developing a career in modeling.

This is just my personal opinion based on my experience so far. It is not intended to apply to every model in every situation, nor do I claim to have the definitive answers. It is up to you to determine what, if anything, works for you.

Keep in mind that every photographer probably has some advice to offer. Not all of this advice is necessarily accurate nor does it apply to every situation or every style of photography. This includes the advice that follows.

So even though I am offering some advice, it is entirely up to you to determine what works best for you and to consult more than one source of information. Always get a second informed opinion from what you would consider a reliable source and fact check whenever you can.

Believe it or not, your most valuable asset is actually your brain. Use it. Common sense is great, but it’s really not that common.

Continue to learn what you need to know and also adapt what you’ve already learned to different situations. There is no one “right way”, no matter who says so.

Why models should be selective about who they shoot with.

Stop TFP’ing yourself out of a potential career. If a photographer is offering to work with you for free, or worse, is offering to pay you, be selective about who you work with. Shooting with photographers who don’t have the necessary skills to provide you with outstanding photos is not helping your career.

If a photographer doesn’t value the services he has to offer you, you should ask yourself why you should value what they have to offer?

Photographers who provide the majority of their services for free are not likely to hold themselves to the same standards as those who make a living from their services professionally. They don’t have to. It’s not how they make a living. And if they’re actually offering to pay you, what is their incentive to provide you with prompt and professional service?

I’ve heard countless stories from models about photographers whose behaviour was less than professional. I always have to ask, were you working with a professional photographer (someone whose soul source of income is from the photography services that they provide)? And they almost always exclusively say, “No”.

It’s worth noting, however, than even professional photographers will occasionally provide their services for free or at reduced rates. Often this is done for testing purposes or under special circumstances.

Making money from photographers who pay you out of their own pocket is not a career and is not professional modeling. While getting paid to model for photographers may seem like a nice source of income, unless you are working on real projects, for real clients, with resulting tear-sheets, this is not “professional modeling” and is an eventual path to obscurity.

If a photographer is offering you pay you, ask yourself why. What is the photographer’s intentions with the photographs? How will he ever offset the cost of paying you? Is he shooting photos for stock photography or for submissions to magazines that will pay him if the photos are published? Or is there simply no intention to recoup on his investment?

If his intention is to not make money from the photos, then is he simply paying you because you’re pretty? Is he paying you to see you wear lingerie or take your clothes off? What is he getting out of the opportunity? Experience?

It is true that some photographers’ only opportunity to work with experienced models is by paying them. And out of this opportunity a photographer can gain valuable experience and learn a lot about the process…but he can also learn a lot about the process by working with mannequins. However, if a photographer is consistently paying models to work with him, think about what that motivation might be.

Why models should set high standards and maintain them.

Do your homework. Find photographers who provide work that fits a particular style you are looking for. Keep your standards high and don’t settle for less.

Models who are serious about their career know that it pays to work with professionals.

They also know there are no shortcuts to success. Modeling is a lot of hard work and often a significant investment. Often this means paying to work with the people who value the services they have to offer. A single outstanding photo taken by a professional can help elevate your career, but 100 mediocre photos will do nothing but hold you back.

Why you should not treat your modeling portfolio like a scrapbook

Already have a modeling portfolio? Throw out the trash. Be selective of what you find worthy of putting on display. One good photo is more effective than 10 crappy ones. Your portfolio (printed or web version) is not a scrapbook. It is not a place to put photos simply because you want to record the fact that you had a shoot with some photographer somewhere.

Not every photo taken from a shoot is noteworthy. In fact, depending on who you work with, sometimes none of the photos from a shoot are noteworthy. And if they’re not noteworthy, keep them out of your portfolio.

If you have more than 10 photos in your portfolio, then ask yourself why and be sure that every photo is justified and has a specific reason for inclusion in your portfolio.

Your portfolio should be reserved for the best of the best. Each photo should present itself in a way that says “quality” and “professional”. If you have a photo in your portfolio for sentimental reasons, save it for your family & friends, but do not put it in your portfolio.

Although it may pain you to hide some of those lesser quality photos, just remember that quality over quantity will get you further in the long run.

Note: This “less is more” rule generally applies to photographers as well. Why then do I sometimes highlight multiple images of the same model in my gallery? Because showing multiple images of the same model during the same shoot helps demonstrate an overall consistency and quality in my work. Any person wielding a camera can take a “lucky” good shot now and again. Being able to do so consistently is what matters.

Why you should keep your modeling ego in check.

Good looking people are a dime a dozen. Good looking models who act professional and are fun and easy to work with are not.

Having a good attitude, being professional, reliable, on time, serious about what you do, and being a pleasure to work with are factors that will help. Really want to help your career? Then be the type of person that leaves the people you work with with a positive impression that makes them want to say nice things to others about you.

Why isn’t that professional photographer agreeing to work with you for free, or “ACK!”, offering to pay you? Because after a lot of hard work, years of experience, and significant investment, he now makes a living from people who pay him for his services. He has paid his dues.

He knows his work and services are valuable and he has to ask himself why he would work with something who doesn’t put any value on his services, when he can work with others who do.

There are thousands of beautiful people, just like you, who wish to get into modeling or who are doing so on an amateur level. Those who are serious about it and work hard at it are more likely to be successful than those who don’t. You have to pay your dues like everyone else.

Additional Points:

I am not suggesting models should not be paid. I am suggesting that one should think about their expertise, experience level, and from whom they are expecting to get paid (and why).

There is a difference between getting paid by photographers who pay you out of there own pockets and getting paid by clients who hire you to perform a professional service.

Professional models get tear-sheets and tend to work for professional and reputable clients. These clients are usually very selective about the models, and the types of models they hire. They generally do not with models at random and they do not simply pick the first “pretty people” that come along.

Models who get paid out-of-pocket by photographers and then call themselves “professional models” is like someone who mows lawns during the summer calling themselves a “professional lawn mower”.

Why having some modeling experience is not the same as being a professional model

Having “some modeling experience” is not the same as being a professional model.

Yes, maybe you’ve invested in some clothes (perhaps you’ve invested a lot), you are comfortable in front of a camera, and you have your poses down.

A professional photographer, and by “*professional photographer” in this case, I mean someone whose soul source of income is from photography, still has a lot to offer you.

*There will always be debate about what a “professional [anything]” is.

A. A professional photographer has generated enough demand in his service and abilities to make a living from it. This is saying a lot considering that photography is very expensive, including thousands of dollars worth of equipment, costly studio rental space (if he works in a studio), liability insurance (to cover you if you have an accident), and that nearly 30 percent of his income goes directly to taxes (no, that is not fun).

B. A professional photographer often has years of experience. Experience doesn’t necessarily signify that he’s a good photographer, but if you are considering working with him, then hopefully he is. This experience can be valuable. A professional photographer has (hopefully!) worked with a lot more models than you’ve worked with photographers.

Why a model shouldn’t take their online photo feedback seriously.

Having people say nice things about your work is always a nice thing, but if you are serious about modeling, it is important to consider the source of your feedback.

I’ve seen this again and again, much to the detriment of the models… You have a portfolio or some photos posted on ModelMayhem and others have left feedback…

“Great photo!”
“Best shot evaaaar!”
“You look soooo good in this!”

While it may be true that model is attractive, the outfit is revealing, the location is stunning — none of this really matters if the photo is flawed.

While “John Smith” thinks your photo is “the best shot ever!” and someone else thinks you are “Sooo sexy!”, the photo itself may be complete crap for modeling purposes.

Why? It’s usually something along the line of:

Poor lighting, an awkward expression, odd pose, or distracting background.

And yet, some of the worst photos featuring any (or all!) of the above get rave reviews on public sites.

This doesn’t mean you should invalidate all feedback you receive, it just means you should always take it with a grain of salt.

Unfortunately, the people who most likely have an eye for good photographs don’t leave feedback because it may offend the model. Especially if it follows any of the types of comments listed above…

“This is an awesome shot!”, says one person.

And then your review…

“The expression on your face is completely out of sync with the style of the photo and the lighting is very poor.”

Doesn’t exactly work, does it?

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