So, you want to be a model? I’m going to start by saying I’m not a model anymore. However, as a photographer, I do work with lots of them on a regular basis. I specialize in shooting portfolios for beginner models. Some of the models I’ve helped to get started have taken off into phenomenal careers that have them jet-setting all around the world. I’ve also seen some disappear into anonymity. I’ve been around long enough to put the pieces together, and have a sense of what it takes to succeed in the industry. It didn’t take me long to see that having a beautiful face and body is not enough to make a model’s career take off. As you might expect, there’s more to it than that. Here’s my no-punches-pulled advice for anyone who wants to be a model.
1. Be professional and reliable.
It should go without saying, but sadly, a lot of people don’t really get it. Modeling is a business, so you have to treat it that way. If you’re booked for a shoot, show up on time. Don’t call at the last minute and say your car broke down and you can’t make it. Do everything you can to be the most professional and organized person on the shoot. Follow up on phone calls and confirm your appointments. Arrive five minutes early for your meetings. A model who develops a reputation for being flaky won’t last long, but a model who is professional and committed to the job will turn everyone’s head! If you’re working freelance, your clients will recommend you to their associates, or hire you again themselves. If you’re represented by an agency, word will get back to your agent, who will be more likely to recommend you for other jobs if you’ve gotten good feedback.
When you’re just getting started, hire the best photographer you can find to shoot your portfolio. A good portfolio is a solid investment. If you are serious about modeling, you’ll make that money back quickly in bookings. If you’re trying to get by with snapshots and poor quality photos, you’ll have a much harder time booking work.
2. Learn about clothing.
Unless you’re going to specialize in nude modeling, you’re going to have to know about clothes! Learn what looks best on you. Learn what cuts of clothing are the most flattering on your body. If there are certain types of clothing that don’t look good on you, then know about that too. Even better, find ways to wear that unflattering clothing so it fits you better. Figure out which labels and brands suit you best. Know your sizes and always be honest about them. Lying to wardrobe people about your measurements means extra embarrassment later when you’re popping buttons on your jeans! Keep an eye on fashion magazines so you can follow trends and keep your wardrobe current. The added bonus of flipping through fashion magazines is that you get to be inspired by the world’s top models at work!
3. Know your job.
A lot of people get into modeling because they think that they’re good looking. Beyond that, they don’t think much about the job. It takes much more than being gorgeous to be a model. It takes a real understanding of what a model’s job is. At least in the commercial world, a model’s job is to sell a product. Whether it’s jeans, perfume, jewelery, cars, cell phones, pencils, or whatever, a model is only there because they are promoting the product. When you’re doing commercial modeling work, you should not be thinking, “How can I look better?” Rather, you should be thinking, “How can I make this product look better?” Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and make suggestions about poses and angles.
Learn as much as you can about modeling and the industry. Read and watch interviews with models and photographers in the media. Talk to other models. Join modeling communities online. Take classes. Learn new skills that apply to your job. One of the most important skills model should learn in order to do their job better is how to convey emotion and attitude through pose and facial expression. The best models are able match the mood or feeling of the image the team is trying to create. This takes some practice, but if a model can master it, it becomes a very powerful tool.
Great models understand that they’re just one part of the team. Every person on that team–including hair dresser, makeup artist, photographer, art directors–is there for the same purpose too: to sell the product. Models who realize that they’re no more or less important than anyone else on that team end up being the most successful.
4. Take care of your body.
Realize that your body is your product. I said before that looking good is not a model’s entire job, but it certainly is a big part of it! As a model, you have to take better care of yourself than the average person. Learn everything you can about nutrition. I’m not saying you should starve yourself into anorexia, or that you should be perfect. I mean, what is “perfect” anyway? It’s a crazy ideal that no one can match. But you do need to have some discipline about your lifestyle. You’ll need to eat healthy and nutritious food to keep yourself looking and feeling your best. Exercise regularly to stay fit and toned so your body matches the image of the type of modeling work you want to do. Care for your hair with quality products that don’t damage it. Your hairdresser can help you with this.
Your health and well-being extend beyond those obvious points about nutrition and exercise too. It’s also important to get enough sleep and to try to reduce stress in your life. If you take care of those things, it’ll make it easier for you to follow through on the next tip…
5. Have fun!
Modeling should be fun, and if it’s not, you’re probably not doing it right! I know a lot of the stuff I said above might seem a bit heavy, but it’s actually not. When you’ve taken care of the business side of modeling, and you are comfortable with your position in the job, it’s actually pretty easy to relax and have a good time in front of the camera. It’s really obvious when someone is comfortable in front of the camera, and that’s when a model can really shine. Enjoy your job! It’s a dream to be a model, and if it’s not your dream, then you’re probably in the wrong line of work!
Anyway, those are my tips. Based on my experience, that’s pretty good advice. If you’re still interested in being a model after reading all of that, then congratulations! You’re already off to a great start. If you don’t have one already, your next step would be to get your portfolio started. I can certainly help you with that.