Most aspiring models wonder “How do I get started in modeling” and “how do I become a model?”
The quick answer to that is with photos. A models job is to take great photos so it only makes sense that the place that a new model begins is with acquiring great pictures. Modeling is a business of first impressions. Make a great first impression and you may get the job or at least an invitation to meet. In modeling first impressions are not made in person. First impressions are made with your photos.
Not all modeling photos and portfolios are created equal! In the modeling word a models portfolio is called her book and the way a model fills her book is by doing photo shoots. The problem that aspiring models face is that they have not done any real work and do not have any photos to add to their book. So here is the dilemma…. without photos you cannot get work and without work you cannot get photos. What is a model to do? Hire a photographer!
There is a common misconception in the minds of many aspiring models and their families. That misconception is that the model should not have to pay for anything. That is simply untrue. To get an agent a model will need to have some decent quality photos and after getting an agent, she will need even better quality photos to show to potential employers. Have you heard people say that “If the agency likes you, they will pay for everything”. That statement is rarely true and most agents require the models cover their own expenses for photos and test shoots.
Agents expect models to have tools of the trade. Actually, most industries do. When you hire a professional you expect them to have what they need to get the job. Professional contractors have tools, professional dentists have drills, professional artists have paint… see where this is going? Models are professionals and expected to have their own books, and comp cards.
Don’t go the cheap route! Many new models are tempted to use family, friends, students, amateurs or mall photo studios as their photographers. Unless your family or friend professionally shoots working models, it is probably a bad idea to use them.
Try this… get a Big Mac and take a picture of it. Wow, the burger looks so great on the table, but in the pic it looks kinda gross. Doesn’t actually look like that great photo of a yummy Big Mac on the drive thru menu. That’s the difference between professional photography and amateur photography. The picture taken by the pro makes you crave a Big Mac, the lettuce looks so crisp, the bun so fresh. The one you took is reminding you of why you may want to stay away from fast food, wilted lettuce, greasy meat and a flattened bun. As a model you are the product you are selling and you want your pictures to sell you too.
To get great pictures, you need to start with a great photographer and great lighting. Shop around. Ask questions. Ask others for recommendations. When you are getting pictures for the purpose of a portfolio it is called a test shoot and make sure the photographer you are using has experience with test shoots. A wedding photographer or a children’s photographer most likely will not be able to give you a good test shoot.
Another misconception in modeling is that TFP is a great way to get your book together. TFP stands for ‘Time for Print’ or ‘Trade for Print’. Many popular forums and classified sections have 1000’s of ads for TFP. There is a problem in using TFP for a portfolio. Many of the photographers involved are either complete amateurs with no real work of their own, sleazebags trying to get you naked, losers looking to date a model or photographers with questionable picture usage such as adult, dating sites, resell without your knowledge, etc. Sometimes, there may be a good photographer doing TFP for a personal project but the images will be styled for HIS project, not what you need them for.
A professional photographer who does this for a living will not be giving away his time or knowledge. Nothing is free. If someone wants to give you something for free, there will be a catch whether you find it at first or 2 years later when your boss stumbles across an adult site with your picture on it.
Aspiring models should stay away from TFP for their portfolio, however, if you do make a decision to give it a try be very careful, not just in meeting a stranger at a location, but also with the wording that is on the model release. Make sure you read anything you sign and you are well aware of what he has the right to use them for. Also, never do TFP that involves any nudity, partial nudity, so called ‘artistic’ shots, or lingerie – you can only imagine what someone will do with those.
Remember that there is no guarantee that you will even get the pictures. Once the shoot is done, the photographer walks away with the images and you have to trust him to do the right thing and send them to you. Unlike a professional photographer who normally sees you at an office or studio, TFP is often times done in a location like a park or beach. Once he leaves, you may not know where to go looking for him if you need to.
Once you have pictures you will need to put together your book. You only want the best pictures in your portfolio. A portfolio is about quality, not quantity. Putting a bad shot can hurt your chances. To get it together take all of your images and separate into 2 piles, a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ pile. We do not need a ‘maybe’ pile because if you need to ask ‘is this good enough?’, it gets thrown into the ‘bad’ pile. Now take the good pile and repeat the first step. You should now have the best of the best.
Once you have the photos you think are great, you should get a second opinion, from a professional if possible. Most people can not be objective when looking at their own pictures and someone else can help you here.
There really isn’t a set number of pictures you need to end up with. Some people say that a half dozen pics or so for beginners is fine. Remember, quality, not quantity. You are better off having a few great images that wow the casting directors rather than many mediocre ones they will forget the moment you walk out the door.
So there you have it. What you need to get started in modeling is pictures! Once you have your pictures, it is your pictures that will get you invited through the door.