As a working photographer who constantly works with many models, I’ve been noticing a couple of trends over the past couple of years. There seems to be an awful lot of new, inexperienced models about these days, and a lot of them don’t really seem to know what they’re doing. So, if you think you’re interested in actually being a model, and you’re in the boat of not really knowing what it’s all about, I’ll go through some quick but highly valuable modeling tips for beginners in this article in order to help you on your way.
Due to the recent popularity of certain television shows, like America’s Next Top Model, for instance, I believe there’s a current boom taking place of young people (young women especially) who are becoming interested in trying their hand at modeling. The problem is, because of their skewed popular-culture exposure to it, what is really happening is that they’re becoming attracted not actually to being a model, but to the idea of being a model — if you catch my meaning.
Allow me to explain a little further: For going on two decades now, I’ve been advertising for models for photography projects and jobs through various means — word of mouth, classified ads in local papers, Internet ads, on my personal website, etc. Up until a few years ago, I would usually get responses from potentially interested models, I’d send them the details about what I was looking for and what the job would require and entail, and the model would either decline the job, or we’d set-up an audition or meeting, negotiate fees, etc., and move forward with the project. That’s usually how it worked.
A few years ago, though, I started noticing a change. I began receiving A LOT of responses to the ads and notices I was placing. Very often, the people responding would say something like “I’ve never modeled before. But I really want to get into modeling.” So, I would respond to the people who had expressed interest, the same way I always had in years prior, and eight or nine times out of ten, I’d never hear from the again.
What I think was/is happening is that people are seeing these television shows and sort of falling in love with the idea of being what they see on the screen. So, they come across one of my ads, and they’re motivated to take that first step and contact me. But, they’re in love with the fantasy of it — not the reality. When I respond to them and lay out the details of what the job entails, it starts becoming real to them, and they get cold feet. They can probably tell by the way I write, or speak, that I’m an experienced professional who has worked with countless very experienced models for many years, and they’re probably intimidated somewhat by that — knowing that they’re entirely inexperienced. They might be afraid that they’ll make a fool of themselves at the shoot, or something. Or, they get the idea that it just wasn’t what they were expecting.
If you’re interesting in perhaps doing modeling, then its better to not go in cold if you have no experience. There are a few valuable things you should know and keep in mind.
Modeling tips for beginners: Tip #1
So, here’s the first, and the most important of all the modeling tips for beginners: Make sure you’re serious about it! Even if you don’t have any designs on attempting to model for living, or to make it a career — even if you just want to do it for fun, here and there, in your spare time — you still need to approach every modeling job seriously and with a professional attitude. If you don’t, you’ll likely end up providing a poor product and wasting the time of the people you’re working with. And, that will not make for a good experience, at all. It’s perfectly fine if you just want to model for fun; maybe earn a few extra bucks here and there, and have no intentions toward turning it into a full-time career. That’s completely ok. But, you still shouldn’t half-ass any gigs you’re going for. If you wish to make yourself available for a modeling job or opportunity, make sure you’re serious about doing a good job for that job. If you’re not, then don’t bother wasting people’s time. Modeling is not for you. Find something else. You wont enjoy modeling anyway.
Modeling tips for beginners: Tip #2
Another of the all important modeling tips for beginners is this: In modeling, reputation is everything. Your modeling career will be cut VERY short, and it’ll be very, very, very difficult to recover it, if you gain a reputation as being a model who is unreliable. So, again, a professional attitude is all important. If you book a gig — be there when you say you’re going to be there. If you’ve committed to a shoot and something comes up that makes it difficult for you to make the shoot, do everything you can to move heaven and earth so you can make the shoot. If you do and you still can’t make the shoot give as much notice as you can, and apologize until you’re blue in the face. Do whatever you reasonably can to make whatever amends you can. If you’ve committed to a modeling job, then the job should come before almost anything else — save for legitimate emergencies, like an actual death in the family, or a personal medical issue, or some such thing. If you’re the type of person who will fail to show up for a modeling job you’ve committed to because, say, an old friend is in town for one night only and they’ve called you up and want to go out clubbing, or something. Then modeling is not for you. You will not last as a model. Do yourself and everyone else a favor and find something else. Don’t try to be a model. Reliability is thee most important attribute of a model. An unreliable model is like a chauffeur without a driver’s license. You’re just not going to be able to do the job.
People who are in the business of booking models, like photographers, usually network A LOT. They exist in professional communities. They know each other. They talk. They share colleagues. If you prove unreliable the word WILL get around. It ALWAYS does. And, if you manage to get that reputation — which can happen if you flake on a shoot even once, it can be almost impossible to shake. People just wont take note of the fact that you were rock-solid on a thousand other shoots. All they’ll hear is the story from the photographer that booked you and you just never showed up to the shoot, or were an hour late, or what have you, and he lost a lot of money. That’s just the way the business works. Black-marks are hard to shake. You’ve got to be willing to go way out of your way to avoid getting even one.
And, if you’re thinking about agency representation? Even further down the road, sometime? Forget it! No modeling agency will touch a model with a reputation for being unreliable. For an agency, reliability is of the absolute utmost importance. It’s number one — EVERYTHING else is secondary. An agency has to absolutely know that if a model is booked to be somewhere at a certain time, that model absolutely WILL be there. If there’s even a question about it, the agency will not handle that model. Because, if a model is unreliable, then the agency that handles that model will be seen as unreliable, and clients will go to a competing agency the next time they need to hire someone. If a model doesn’t show up for gig, or is late, people lose money. And, professionals simply will not tolerate that. The very reason pros go to an agency, instead of hiring an independent (which they can usually get much cheaper, as there’s no agency commission involved) is because they need to know, without question, that they’ll get someone who can absolutely do the job they need done exactly when they need it done. If there’s even the remotest question about an agency being able to provide that, the agency will go out of business in a hurry. Quality agencies wont risk it. Your professional reputation must be impeccable.
Modeling tips for beginners: Tip #3
Just because you’re pretty/handsome, have a great figure/physique, it doesn’t mean you’re cut out to be a model.
Modeling is a job. And, like all jobs, there are certain skills and attributes that are required. And, being good looking actually isn’t even really one of them. In fact, there are a number of models that are quite successful right now precisely because they’re pretty much the opposite of good looking. Really. ‘Character models’ are in demand.
But, here’s the problem: There’s no shortage of young, inexperienced models trying to come into the business just because people keep telling them “You should model!”. They’re usually quite pretty, or handsome, and/or are in good physical shape, and they keep getting compliments from people who are not professionals. So, they get it in their head that they’ve got the looks to just step into modeling — just like that. But, it’s not all about looks. Good looks are, obviously, a great asset to have. But, it takes more than that if you want to be a successful model.
Of course, modeling isn’t brain surgery, theoretical physics, or rocket-science. The skills and attributes required aren’t difficult to acquire. But, you will have to acquire them, nonetheless. You can’t expect to just stand round and look pretty and become a successful model. You will need to learn how to take direction, and take it well. You’ll need to work on posing to make your poses appear fluid and natural. You’ll need to work on expression to make your expressions appear unforced and genuine. You’ll need to learn what sorts of posture convey what sorts of moods, attitudes and feeling, etc.
Many times, when a photographer is working on a pro-gig, they’re working, often, with an art-director breathing down their neck who wants the project completed yesterday, and at beyond top-quality. The photographer is working under stressful conditions — under pressure to get things done right, and get them done quick. A good, experienced model can give a photographer exactly what they want with a minimum of explanation. If it’s a product shoot, and the photographer says “I need you to be excited about the product.” A good model’s body posture and expression will instantly give the photographer that look — and it will look natural and believable. If the photographer were to say, however, that he or she wanted the model to look ‘relieved’, instead of ‘excited’, that the model now had the product. The model would make subtle adjustments to express that sort of emotion instead, and it would look just as natural and convincing.
It might sound easy, but it’s really not. Most people don’t naturally have the ability to produce any given expression and make it look entirely natural on camera. If you try to look happy, it wont look like someone who is happy. It’ll look like someone who is trying to look happy. Making it look entirely genuine will take some practice for most people.
It has been said that a good model will know what the photographer wants before the photographer knows what the photographer wants. Just because you happen to be a pretty girl, or a handsome guy, it doesn’t mean you can do that. It doesn’t mean you have that ability. You’ll need to put in some time and effort to develop it.
Along with acquiring those sorts of skills, a successful model will need some business sense. They’ll need to be willing to work. They’ll need to be willing to network and to get out there and go to the auditions, go-sees, and casting calls. They’ll need to be willing and ready to pound a little pavement. A model needs to be willing to put in time, put forth effort, be committed and have patience.
Modeling isn’t the hardest or most taxing of jobs. Nor does it require any great intellect, or highly specialized ability. It’s not ditch-digging, or neurosurgery. But it’s not easy, either. Just because you might be blessed with a look that has turned a few heads, it doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily cut-out for modeling. There’s a lot more too it than that.
Modeling tips for beginners: Tip #4
As a model, you’re a salesman! And, you’re going to have to learn how to sell a product. That product is you.
But, you’re REALLY pretty, or handsome, right? People tell you how gorgeous you are all the time, right? Anyone looking for a model would jump at the chance to work with someone who has your looks, right? Big deal. I’ve got a whole line-up of jaw-droppingly gorgeous guys and girls I’ve worked with, or who are available to work, that I can book into the gig. That’s the business I’m in — I work with beautiful people. Lots of them. Chances are, you’re not all that big of a deal compared to everyone who is available to me. The odds are that at least a good few of them absolutely put you to shame in the looks department. That’s just the reality of the business. So, why should I pick you? What do you bring to the table the others don’t?
You’ve got to sell yourself. You’ve got to show style, uniqueness. You’ve got to convince me that you’re the right choice. I’ve got to believe that if I pick you I’ll get what I need, and the experience will be a pleasant one. You need to know how to make a good impression. You’ve got to be open, warm and friendly — even if you happen to be in a mood where you feel like a sack of dirt and you’re ready to claw anyone’s eyes out who looks at you the wrong way. You’ve got to know how to make people like you. You’ve got to make people feel as though working with you will be smooth and easy and wont present any hassles or headaches what so ever. You’ve got to MAKE people WANT to work with you.
Modeling tips for beginners: Tip #5
Maintain your health. Work at it. Eat well. Get exercise. Work out regularly. Keep yourself well hydrated — lots of water. Take care of your skin and your hair. Get in a good amount of rest and sufficient sleep. You and your physical body is the product you’re selling. You need to keep it in tip-top shape. If you don’t, it’ll become a substandard product that people don’t want. There’s a very, very small demand for models who look tired, worn-out, beat-up or sickly. People want a flashy, freshly washed and waxed and fully detailed Ferrari. That’s what they’ll pay for. They don’t want an old, rusted out, as-is, Datsun. You need to shine and glow.