How to Become a Model

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is “how do I become a model?” The answer to that question completely depends on what it means to you to “become a model”. Everyone has a different idea of what exactly it is a model does besides sitting in front of a camera, and everyone wants to know how much money the model is making.

I became interested in modeling seriously when I was 20. I’ve always been interested in modeling, but I have always been wary of what a demanding industry it can be, no matter how good you look. I’m 5’11” and my measurements are 33-25-34 and I’ve received many a rejection letter. Your measurements and height are the entry requirement. The most important thing other than your measurements is your look. If you want to be a model, how you look is very important. You should consider which of your features are your best and which are your worst before you decide what kind of model you want to be. But confidence is the most important thing you can have.

For example, I mentioned I’m 5’11” and measure 33-25-34. That means I am freakishly tall and have a scrawny, boyish figure. My legs account for most of my height; I wear an inseam of 34″. Genetically, I hit the jackpot. I have long brunette hair, big blue eyes, and angular cheekbones. My weaknesses are my thin hips, tiny breasts, and short torso relative to my legs. Industry standard is 34-24-34. My left arm doesn’t straighten all the way due to a childhood injury, which limits the amount of poses I can do. That’s fine, because I love my body and I get lots of work anyways. I’ve also learned how to use my weaknesses to my advantage.

I don’t compare myself to strangers I see in public. I consider myself very lucky to have a very positive body image, and I do not restrict what I eat, outside from severe gluten and shellfish allergies. If you cannot accept how you look then you are not ready to be a model.

Fashion models are not the only types of models. There are pinup models, boudoir models, burlesque models, fine art models, and just about any other kind of model you can think of. This is the age of the internet and there is a niche for everything.

So once I learned to accept myself I went out seeking someone to take my picture. There are plenty of people who take pictures, and the ones who are worth collaborating with consider their photography to be a business. I do the same with my modeling. Every time I collaborate I treat it as a transaction. When you’re working with someone else, you have the power to waste their time. Don’t waste people’s time.

The first thing you’re going to have to do is reach out to photographers, HMUAs (hair and makeup artists), and other models via social media. Facebook and Instagram are both great for networking! There are lots of groups on Facebook for models, photographers, and HMUAs that will accept your requests to join as soon as you have a publicly visible portfolio. Finding someone decent to shoot your first session TFP (trade-for-print) is the ideal scenario. I was incredibly lucky when I first started to meet some really great photographers who were willing to help me build my portfolio.

It is important to work with HMUAs and photographers who shoot the genre you’re trying to get into. Lots of models come up with their own concepts that they would like to shoot TFP, and then show inspiration images to prospective photographers and HMUAs. Reaching out to potential collaborators is tricky because there is risk and vulnerability involved in making art. The most important thing you will do is LOOK AT THEIR PORTFOLIO!!!!!

If they have a website, go to their website and look at as many of their images as you can and only shoot with people who you know will be worth your time. If every photo is suggestive or has nudity and you aren’t comfortable with it, then don’t shoot with the person. A portfolio gives you a really good idea of what to expect from your collaboration. How many photos are available to look at will depend on how experienced the person is. No matter the experience, hair and makeup artists rarely work TFP, and if they do, they’ll usually charge a kit fee. If you get an HMUA to work with you TFP, make sure you nail it in the shoot and get your photographer to take your portrait in high definition because your HMUA probably needs it for their portfolio.

I mentioned reaching out to other models on social media. This is almost as important as looking at the portfolios of your prospective collaborators. Reaching out to other models is the best way to check the references of photographers. Ask models who have already worked with your prospect for their experience. It is important to consider the experience of those who have it. You can bring a friend or relative to the shoot as long as you ask the photographer first.

If all this sounds too daunting, you can pay basically any agency $500-$1000 for modeling classes, photo shoots, a portfolio, business cards, etc. However, agencies do not do background checks on photographers that they hire. So, you could be paying someone $500 to shoot you who has a bad reputation and you wouldn’t know unless you checked. Agencies vary in their reputation and again, the only way you can check these is by reaching out to other models and asking them to share their experiences. There are dozens of modelling agencies you can apply to online and they all have different requirements. If they believe they can make money off of you, they’ll sign you without charging you any money.

In addition to modelling agencies, there are advertising agencies, marketing agencies, and temp agencies who will hire brand ambassadors, spokespeople, and bloggers for their clients. Agencies often get big names to work with, but a lot of companies have their own marketing and advertising branches with representatives who seek out and respond to already-established independent contractors.

Starting your portfolio is the first step towards becoming an established model, blogger, or whatever it is you want to be. Don’t worry about how much money you’re making for the first few years, but do worry about the money you are spending. It can be worthwhile to pay an experienced photographer and HMUA for some quality head shots, but by no means is it necessary to succeed in the industry. Similarly, it can be worthwhile to pay agencies to get you exposure, but it is not necessary. If your start-up cost isn’t financial capital, it certainly will be social capital. How you decide to pay it is completely up to you.

Investing social capital into working relationships with photographers is essential whether you’re paying them with money or not. Investing social capital means showing someone an interest in them and their work. Start searching out people already in the industry and see if they’d like to collaborate with you. Come up with ideas for photo shoots that you could do, and see if anyone will shoot them. Be creative! Don’t be afraid to like, follow, and comment on the work you enjoy.

So how long until you’ve “become a model”? Your friends, family, and strangers will start using the terminology at their own pace. Everyone has a different idea of what a model is, and they will either deny you the terminology or embellish you with it, depending on their criteria. Where you go as a model depends on how you look, how you feel about yourself, and how well you can network. There’s no sign-up fees and no qualifications. Just go shoot!


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