Modeling Terms

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The terms used to describe various types of modeling and photography are often poorly defined. Such ambiguity can result in misunderstandings and uncomfortable situations for models, photographers, and other industry professionals. In an effort to clarify terms and reduce miscommunication, we have provided a list of terms which describe various types of modeling and photography, as well as various styles and states of dress.

This list is not all inclusive and serves only as a guide for models and photographers, so that they may have some common ground by which they may discuss various projects. Please note that the terms are not mutually exclusive, in other words, Fetish may be Semi-Nude, Full Nude, or may not contain any nudity. You should always ensure that the terms of any agreement you make with another individual are explicitly stated in writing.

(American Federation of TV and Radio Actors) is the union that represents most actors in TV shows, videos and commercials. There is an overlap with SAG, (Screen Actors Guild) which represents talent in movies, etc. Generally speaking AFTRA deals with video and SAG deals with film, but each may be involved with either. A project is either AFTRA or SAG, but not both.

The person from the advertising agency who is responsible for the art/design of the project.

Artistic nudity is a form of nudity that is quite tasteful in the nature of poses, but is still revealing. Photographers who do this often work in black and white or with unique lighting scenarios. Generally speaking, these are the types of photos that are intended for gallery display rather than in magazines.

Interview with a photographer, art director, casting director or client where they evaluate you for a particular opportunity. Where specific talents are required, it is not unusual for you to be asked to perform. As an example, for acting, one might be asked to read lines from a script.


The same as an audition except that one will be asked to appear in a bikini so that the client may evaluate your figure.


The term applies to a role as an extra where the actor is asked to do something specific on camera for which there are no lines. As an example, if one were an extra acting as a doorman at a hotel, went up to a car, opened the door so an actor might exit, that would be doing a “bit.”

For an assignment where shape is critical, a casting director may want to view your figure. This will often be done in a bikini. In some cases, a body check will require nudity (if the assignment requires nudity). It is important to never disrobe at an audition unless you were informed in advance of the nature of the assignment and have discussed the requirements with your manager and/or agent first.

Normally in feature films, when a featured actor/actress is either unwilling or unable to show their body, an alternate person is used without showing their face, and filmed in such a way as to suggest it is the featured character. NOTE While body doubling often involves nudity, many times it does not. As an example, an actress may need to appear pregnant when she is not. An actress might need to appear in a swimsuit, but for a particular reason, she may not so a body double might be used.

This is where shape and form are essential. It isn’t necessarily, and often is not nude. Examples posters you see for beer or tools. You will see a model dressed in a sexy swimsuit.

Another term for “portfolio” which is defined here in detail.

A person who works for a talent agency and actually books jobs for models.

A term used synonymously with “a job that has been offered to the model and accepted.”



A style of print that is normally a lingerie style or an implied nude glamour or similar shot in an indoor, bedroom setting.


After auditions have occurred, the casting director will often narrow the field of candidates for a particular assignment. You are then being called back for further consideration to help the casting director make a final selection. A call back will often entail a more specific process such as a body check, screen test or wardrobe check.

A notice put out by a producer, art director or casting director of an opportunity in a film, video, commercial or print project.

A term from the early days of the entertainment industry. It basically means that a producer is soliciting sexual favors in return for a part in a film or a print project. This needs to be emphasized. This is a big business. Nobody is made famous because they sleep with a director. There is just too much money involved. If someone propositions you in return for a job, get up and walk out. That is the smartest move you will ever make!

The person in charge of, or responsible for casting a project. Most commonly, a casting director is used in film and video, but are sometimes used for print projects.

An audition where dozens of models are brought in and paraded by the casting director to seek out a particular look. It could also just be a notice of an opportunity where the casting director is trying to get the largest participation so that he can select someone who has just the right look and talent.

A set that has been closed to public access and is likewise closed to anybody who has not been given a specific authorization to be present.

This is modeling in which a product is being presented and it is the central focus of the photo. A shot might be generic, such as a model outdoors walking, yet the photo would be commercial if it were used in advertising or marketing.

Commercial nudity is similar to implied nudity except it is intended for the commercial, rather than the glamour market. Examples would be Calvin Klein ads where the model is topless but wearing jeans, panty hose ads where the model is nude in panty hose or soap commercials where a model is taking a shower but nothing shows. This can be contrasted with Maxim magazine, where again, the nudity is non-revealing, but is clearly more glamour than commercial.

A card with photos on it as well as your stats and contact information that is submitted for consideration when casting projects.


This is a term that is being seen more frequently. It originates in the United Kingdom and generally signifies a pornographic assignment.


This is another term for “Deferred Compensation.” In this form a payment, all or part of the monies due a model or actor are deferred until a certain event. Most commonly, talent is paid a percentage of future earnings. A word of caution, while deferral agreements sometimes sound appealing, legalistic definitions of profit or a production that is unsuccessful means that, in reality, most of these arrangements will not result in payments to talent.



This is a level of nudity that is somewhat less than what would be considered pornographic. The term “explicit” means that you will be asked to reveal your genitals fully.

A person with a non-speaking part in a film or commercial. They may be part of a crowd or non-descript in the distance. If they are alone on camera performing a specific function, they are considered a “featured extra.”

The modeling of clothes where the clothing is the central focus of the photos.


This is a form of nude modeling normally used for art rather than glamour.



With full nudity, you are expected to completely disrobe and your body will be fully exposed to the camera. Unless you have been warned in advance and have agreed to it, poses should be tasteful and should not include graphic views of the genitals.

A slang term for a job or a booking.

A broad term of modeling where the model’s appearance, rather than the attire or product is the central focus of the photo. There is a misconception that glamour modeling involves nudity. A glamour shot could be nude, but it could also be taken in formal evening attire. It is the presentation of the model, not the wardrobe that makes a shot glamour.

The period at dawn or dusk when the outdoor photographic light takes on a golden hue, which is ideal for taking pictures.

Similar to an audition. You go and visit a client to investigate what a particular assignment entails.

Guild is term used to identify most of the unions dealing with film/video. Good examples are the Screen Actor’s Guild, the Writer’s Guild and the Director’s Guild. There is no union representing models because there is no conglomerate group that employs them as there are studios in the film business. In several cities there are companies that call themselves the Model’s Guild (Seattle Model’s Guild, the Model’s Guild of Los Angeles, etc.). Although these are official sounding names, these are just private companies that have no official affiliations. These companies should be evaluated on their own merits and not by their names.

Acronym: “Girl with snapshots” is a derogatory term for a girl with no experience who posts snap shots or webcam images as her “portfolio” and then posts her modeling rates in her on-line profile.

Acronym: “Guy with camera” is a derogatory term for an amateur photographer more interested in collecting model photos as trophys as opposed to capturing good images.




The portable restrooms brought to locations by film companies to provide for the comfort of the cast and crew.

Where implied nudity is required for a shot, you will generally be asked to disrobe fully or partially. While the standard is subjective, a photographer will normally not reveal nipples or genitals in the photographs. In some cases, buttocks will be shown. The essence of implied nudity is that the photograph is suggestive but not revealing.

That is the term that reflects one viewing of a print advertisement by an individual. Thus if four people see an ad, that would be four impressions. The number of impressions may not necessarily equal the number of copies printed. For example if you printed one hundred posters and each was seen by three people that would be three hundred impressions. Impressions are important because the rates paid to talent for national advertisements, etc., are often based upon the exposure measured in the number of impressions.

When a photographer takes a photo of a model, he almost always owns the copyright to a photograph. If a model is given and wants to use pictures she has been given from a photographer, she needs to ask him for permission to do so. The giving of permission is a license by the photographer to the model to use the photos for a specific purpose. Some photographers have detailed, legalistic forms for this purpose, others just grant the consent in a note or e-mail. Photographers also give clients a license to use the photographs that they have taken.

This term would seem self-evident, but it is not. Lingerie is a broad term signifying modeling in undergarments or sensual sleepwear. However, the model needs to realize that lingerie varies from quite modest to very revealing. Always inquire as to whether it is sheer or tasteful lingerie when considering an assignment.

The unique appearance of the model.


A first meeting with a client where you are not auditioning for a specific assignment. Instead you are introducing yourself to a client with the hopes that you will be considered for a future potential assignment.


This is a union term applies to film and video. For simplicity we will use SAG as an example. If you are not a member of SAG but have already had one speaking roll in a SAG project, you will be required to join the union before you can appear in a second SAG project. You can also reach a “much join” status if you have appeared in SAG projects as a SAG extra and have accumulated a certain number of vouchers.

An audition that is not by invitation or appointment, but instead is open to anyone who wants to try out for a particular opportunity.

A set that is open for anybody who has access to enter. Sometimes an open set is open to the general public, but it is usually just open to people who happen to be in the studio, on location or on a studio lot.

Modeling of a specific body part such as hands or legs. A model normally specifies which body parts she is interested in working with.

A payment given to a model who travels to cover her daily expenses. A model could be given a flat per diem to cover all expenses including lodging, transportation, meals and incidentals or just specific things like food. In the latter case, the client might choose to pay things like lodging separately.

This is a misunderstood term. Generally speaking, large agencies look for talent to be 5’9″ or taller because that is what is needed for fashion and runway. There is a smaller market for petite models, but there are opportunities for them with agencies. A petite model is normally one who is 5’6″ to 5’8″. In addition to fashion, petites often find work in the commercial area. A model shorter than 5’6″ is considered sub-petite. Sub-petites have the greatest opportunity in glamour and body modeling.

This is a commonly used term to describe a tasteful style of nude modeling intended for print or Internet publication. The term is vague and often leads to misunderstandings. The reason is that Playboy Magazine has a constantly evolving style. Generally speaking, it means full nudity where the legs are kept reasonably together and there is no overt sexual activity. Our advice is when accepting Playboy Style assignments; discuss clearly what is expected to ensure that you are not being asked to do more than you feel comfortable with.

A book, normally 8″ X 10″, 9″ X 12″ or 11″ X 14″ filled with photographic examples of a model’s work.

The document a model signs after a paid shoot giving the photographer permission to use the photos that have been taken. When a model has been paid to do a photo shoot, she will almost always be asked to sign a release, therefore, the model should always ask about this before accepting a booking and should read the release before shooting begins.

A payment made to talent for subsequent use of a material after its initial release. It normally applies to film/video. As an example, if an advertisement were to run on TV for six months and the producer chose to renew it for an additional six months, the talent would receive a residual payment to compensate them for the additional use.

RUNWAY MODELING Live modeling on a stage or walkway where clothing is the central focus of the show.

SAG ELIGIBLE In order to join SAG, you must first be given and actually accept a speaking part in a SAG project. Once you have appeared in a SAG project, you may join, if you choose within a specified period. During that period, you are free to do either SAG or non-SAG projects. AFTRA has similar requirements. You can also become SAG Eligible by appearing as a SAG union extra and accumulating an appropriate number of vouchers.

SAG Screen Actor’s Guild
SAG is the union that represents most actors in feature films (as well as some industrial films and TV commercials). The other dominant union is AFTRA (American Federation of TV and Radio Actors). AFTRA concentrates more on TV commercials and television programming.

This is a common term that many people don’t understand. It means “Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope.” Basically, if you are requested to provide SASE when you are submitting photos for a project, it means that the casting director won’t send your pictures back unless you send a preaddressed envelope with postage already affixed.


Modeling in clothing or drapes which are sheer or transparent. Generally the model will be exposed to the camera through the material. The model might be topless or completely nude beneath the sheers.


A portion of a script that is given to an actor to read at an audition.

An assignment where a model promotes a product at a tradeshow, convention or similar.

The roster of models represented by an agent.

The statistics for a model. Normally this is height, weight, hair color and measurements. Age is also included in some cases, but is not necessarily required.

Types of modeling that a person would be interested in. Examples would be fashion, glamour, parts, implied nudity, etc.

The sending of your zed card to a project for submission.

Self explanatory.

Someone who works for the L. A. Dodgers looking for baseball players to sign. This is a dangerous term and models need to be skeptical of anyone calling himself a talent scout. Generally speaking, larger agencies don’t go scouting talent. Enough people come to their door to keep their stable full. While managers and agents occasionally want to expand and thus seek talent, few companies have the need to employ full-time people to seek models out. Don’t expect to be “discovered.” While it happens, very rarely, success in this business comes from hard work and perseverance.

Also referred to as a “Tear Sheet.” This is anything that has been published in print in which a particular model or photographer is featured. It is referred to as a “tear” because it is most often a page that has been torn from a magazine.


The term means “time for prints.” A model works for a photographer without a cash payment. Instead, the model is given a pre-arranged number of prints and/or enlargements as payment for her work.

As the name implies, you will be expected to remove your top and the full breast will be exposed.

A show where companies in a particular industry gather to demonstrate or promote their products.

The term means “Under five lines.” It is a term used by the acting unions to designate a speaking part in which the actor delivers less than five lines. The term may be significant under some clauses of the SAG or AFTRA contracts.

This is a misused term. A true “ZED” card is similar to a comp card except it is usually shorter than a comp card and folded into three sections. When looked at from above, it looks like the letter “Z.” ZED is how the letter “Z” is pronounced in England where the ZED card originated. People often use ZED card to refer to a comp card, but the usage is actually incorrect.

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.