So you wanna be a model....
At least once a week, I get a message from someone asking for my advice and guidance about how to break into modeling. I’m always quick to point out that I'm primarily a goat farmer, very un-glamorous, and the opposite of a model in every way. I know nothing about fashion. I am pretty much a self-taught photographer with a studio located in the middle of nowhere on a goat farm miles and miles away from Atlanta. When asked, I always make a point to explain that maybe I’m not the best person to talk to, but still, some people insist upon seeking me out and asking for my guidance. So here it is:
1. Be ready to deal with mean people. Realize that modeling is a field that’s based entirely on outer beauty. It’s a very superficial profession. There are people that will tell you that you have no worth unless you look a certain way, are a certain size, height,etc. Be prepared to get your feelings hurt. You need to have thick skin and not allow criticism to affect your self-worth.
2. I always spend a great deal of time explaining to new models that it’s a very dangerous world. There are a lot of individuals in this industry who will not hesitate to victimize you sexually and/or financially. The two main rules that I always stress is always take along a chaperon,and always check some references on photographers, agents, etc. There are some photographers out there that will act insulted, tell you their work speaks for its self, refuse to provide references, and tell you chaperone’s are not allowed. That’s what I’d tell you, too, if I was a serial rapist who wants to lure you to the middle of nowhere, alone, in order to victimize you. But I’m not a serial rapist. I’m a photographer, and there is nothing I do that is so complicated that a non-intrusive chaperone will interfere with. When contacted by a photographer, or before you contact a photographer, do a little research. You can discover a lot from simply doing Google searches, checking with the Better Business Bureau website,and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Sex Offender Registry. I am dead serious. Always check the GBI Sex Offender Registry. Also, if you have a mutual face book friend (that you actually know) who has shot with this person, ask her/him. If you start to uncover information from any of these sources that throw up red flags, walk away because it’s better to be safe than sorry. Proceeding isn't worth the risk.
3. Protect your image. Decide early on what your limits are. The line between bikini/lingerie/implied/artistic nude/pornography is not always clearly defined. I always encourage everyone to keep it as modest as possible, (especially at first) but ultimately, the choice should be the models,and no one has any right to encourage someone to go beyond their limits and comfort zone. Your parents, significant other, siblings, etc, are all entitled to offer their input because they care about you and have invested in you emotionally, and believe it or not, maybe there is some wisdom that these individuals have to offer you. Listen to their input and take it to heart. When you have decided upon your limits, stick to them. There are some highly manipulative people out there that will try to convince you, after the shoot started, that “when we discussed the shoot, you agreed to pose nude,” etc. I've even heard of some of these guys throwing some pretty impressive fits, make threats to sue you if you don’t undress, etc. No one can sue you for not posing nude. Do not let these guys push you into something that you aren't comfortable doing. There are all sorts of tricks they will try. Walk away. Keep in mind that many years ago, a lot of current grandmothers and great grandmothers posed in “Gentlemen’s Magazines.” These provocative images faded away into obscurity as the magazines were thrown away, deposited under tons of earth in land fields, or otherwise disappeared. We live in a different world now due to social media, the internet, text messages, and other high tech devices. Once a photo of you is snapped and sent out into cyberspace, you have no control over it. It takes on a life of it’s on, and it will never disappear. This can come back to haunt you if you ever run for public office, become a teacher, lawyer, or any one of a number of different positions in the modern work force. And it’s wrong that something you do as a kid (or young adult) can comeback and haunt you years later, but it happens, so be careful and use good judgment. It’s also important to realize that once photographer snaps a photo of you, he/she pretty much owns the rights to it. There is not much you can do to get photographer to take it down, not post/publish it, etc. You are at his /her mercy. That is why it is even more important to do some research. I personally have never declined to take down a photo if the model didn’t approve of it, but from what I’m hearing lately, I’m definitely in a minority when it comes to this.
4. TFCD. When you are at the point where you are ready to select photographers, spend a lot of time looking at their work. If you can located someone who is shooting quality images consistently, has a good reputation (spend some time checking),and is doing “TFCD,” contact them! Basically, TFCD means “Time for CD” and the goal is for both the model,and photographer to gain some new portfolio images without money changing hands. Understand that every photographer doesn't do TFCD, and that you definitely don’t want to do TFCD shoots with every photographer who offers. If the quality of their work is lacking, and you do a TFCD shoot, you run the risk of inferior images of yourself being published on the photographer’s profile sites (such as Model Mayhem), on Facebook, their websites, etc. Also, understand that a lot of photographers don’t do TFCD, and if you are starting out and really want to shoot with one particular photographer, you may have to pay. Generally, you can locate someone doing TFCD.
5. Know the photographer’s rules and respect them Personally, I don’t have many,but recently that has started to change. If a photographer gives you a CD of pre-edits (most don’t), ask “can I post these?” Most of the time, the photographer prefers that you don’t. And it’s not in your best interest to post pre-edited shots. Also, do not EVER take it upon yourself to edit the photographer’s work, or allow another photographer to edit the photographers work unless you have specific permission. Preferably, written permission. Prior to the shoot, ask specifically how many edits are included. Sometimes it’s 5-10. I personally allow 20 on the rare occasion that I shoot TFCD. My two biggest pet peeves are logging in to face book and finding myself tagged in 300 different unedited images uploaded by one individual, or getting a list, sent in a message/email, asking that 57 images be edited. I can be talked into 25 or maybe even 30 if things are slow. The goal of the shoot, if you desire to be a model, is to achieve quality over quantity. Realize that more is less, No one has the need for 57 images from one individuals shoot in the same outfit in front of the same backdrop. If you post that many, 90% are “mediocre, “ and definitely don’t show you in your best light! Also, it doesn't show the photographer best work either, which could definitely limit your future TFCD options.
7. Being Prepared. I can’t over stress this. If you show up consistently late, and unprepared (red eyes/hung over due to partying all night), word spreads quickly. Also, having a tendency to back out or cancel at the last second will impair your ability to get work(paid/ tfcd) in the future. “Flaking”(just not showing up at all without any advanced warning) will result in no one being willing to work with you. I’m not over stating that. Personally, I’m very understanding, and if something legitimate comes up (illness, emergency,boyfriend comes home early from Afghanistan, etc), we can reschedule. If you “flake,” it’s extremely unlikely that I will reschedule.
8. Have a Drama-Free online presence. Think about having a separate “professional”profile for modeling on various social networking sites so you don’t have a lo tof personal information/business out in the public eye. There are two reasons for this. The first is your safety. You will probably have a stalker or two at some point. You don’t need the stalker having pictures of you standing in front of your house, or of your kids. Secondly, if you are prone to any drama at all, it’s best not to have this on a profile that you are trying to use for professional networking. Just tonight, I received a message wanting to know my rates, and I clicked on the profile of the individual who sent the message. She had stated several time that she’s not afraid to “cut a witch,” and she actually named the “witch” that she was currently ridding around looking for. Except she didn’t’ say “witch.” She used the other word that I’m not allowed to say. When I see that from someone wanting my rates, my rates usually are very high. Usually unaffordable. If I have to factor in the potential cost of getting cut, it’s not going to be cheap for you.
9. Eventually, you will probably need to get an agent. A legitimate agent doesn't try to get you to pay them $$ upfront to represent you. That’s a scam. A legitimate agent gets you work, and takes a cut. Any business model other than that is a scam. Check the Better Business Bureau on all agents! Most are not legitimate!
So there it is, in a nutshell. My advice. Get other advice too, but most importantly, stay safe!