Something we get asked again and again, is how to become a model. There is no hard and fast answer to this as it all depends on what style of model you want to be and what style of model agencies are looking for… Here’s a few things to think about:
Be honest with yourself before you start…
Are you really model material? Are you the sort of person that doesn’t take rejection very well? Are you thick skinned and confident? In reality, only a small number of wannabe models get to the stage where they earn a living from modelling. Castings and applications can be fun but also bear in mind that the casting might require a specific type of look, style, height, hair colour, eye colour or bone structure, which are things out of your control. If you are rejected (and all but a small handful will be) it won’t be because they didn’t find you attractive enough, more that they needed to cast a certain criteria which only a unique few could fill.
Most of the top models you see in magazines and in campaigns for designers have been ‘discovered’ by a model scout. This obviously involves a lot of luck, being in the right place at the right time (could be as random as walking down the street) and having the right frame and look that the scout is searching for. Model agencies receive sack loads of applications from wannabe models and you need to be something very special to stand out from this. They also require a certain height and frame, clear skin, etc.
Pin up and alternative modelling is a little different from this in that models have more of a unique image and stand out in their own right – you could be very retro looking, have piercings, tattoos or pink hair, be plus sized or have a totally striking look, say a massive beard, or look just totally wild. Those with this type of image aren’t usually scouted on the streets, but can be picked up if they are known performers or known on a certain scene to model brands associated with the scene (eg Viviene of Holloway use burlesque performers to model their products and some well known alternative brands use people who work for them – and sometimes customers – to model theirs). In this case, it might be worth applying directly to some brands in question, with a clear photograph of yourself (and preferable some knowledge of the products they sell!)
A good way to start modelling, which will also give you a taste of what it will be like (a lot of sitting around or holding poses to get lighting right, and sometimes being dressed and made-up into styles you would never choose for yourself – all part of the fun!) is to check out local businesses. Sometimes one-off small vintage shops, salons or boutiques need people to model their clothes for internet shops and campaigns in local media or for poster campaigns so check these out first. Also, photographers whose work you admire, particularly new photographers looking to build up their portfolio, might be on the look out for models. The benefit of this is that usually they will ‘pay’ you in photos (TFP – time for photos) which helps you to build up your modelling portfolio. Professional images that show how versatile you can be in front of the lens are what you’ll need when asked for pics.
(our Lilly Laudanum in the days of contact sheets and negatives! pic 1 copyright Nicola Walker, pic 2 Dave Goodchild and pic 5 Tina Korhonen)
Agencies – do your research
We mentioned a bit on agencies above in the being discovered section. It can be exceptionally hared to get work on your own if you represent yourself and agencies will often have a client list who are used to working with them and approach them for a certain style or look. If you are an Alt model, there are plenty of agencies you can apply to, for instance the Anti-Agency is a london-based modelling agency who scout Facebook for “those too cool to be a model” ie people in bands, artists, poets, performers, etc. http://www.antiagency.co.uk/ Ugly is another great one who have built up a reputation in the industry, not just for working with alt models from all walks of life (from carni and ‘freak show’ type backgrounds to performers, those who have body mods and tattoos, etc, and those who are of different shapes and ages) but they also supply extras and actors http://www.ugly.org/
There are plenty more agencies for ‘alternative’ models but always make sure that if you sign up, it is a bonafide agency, and not just a forum for something a bit more seedy. Do your research and ask others for their advice. Also, if an agency charges you a lot of money to join, beware.
Face for Camera
You really do have to have a face for camera. Some of the most attractive people find it hard to shine on camera and wouldn’t make good models, but on the other side of the coin, those who consider themselves not attractive can look very striking on camera. You must be prepared to ‘shine’ through the shutter. It’s hard to explain really, but kind of like turning a light on behind the eyes… Remember that when the shutter clicks, that is your special moment to shine and give the best you have got, especially if you are being paid for the shoot – you want to give exactly what you are being directed to do.
Never head off to the first photographer’s studio who promises you modelling work. Yes, photographers need models and bonafide photographers probably have a lot of contacts but make sure you get references from others who have worked with the photographer. Ask to see previous images and portfolio so you can see the kind of thing they do (if it’s not for you, don’t do it!), if you live near them, ask to meet for coffee (in a public place) so you can see their work and get to know them in a neutral atmosphere and take someone with you on the shoot if you need to. A genuine photographer wont mind you doing this. If anything feels uncomfortable, don’t do it and if you feel uneasy with any of the above, don’t go.
Know your style and your limits
Make sure you know the type of image you want to portray and stick to it, particularly if the images are going to end up online, for instance if you get asked to do glamour, semi nude or nude, ask yourself if it’s something you really want to get into. do you really want to be portrayed in this way? And are you comfortable that the images of yourself might be available online in years to come? If you set out to be a model with a vintage look but are now being offered a glamour shoot and are tempted as it’s the only way you will be getting work, ask yourself if you really want to do it, is it really you and if you would be comfortable with everyone seeing the images (as don’t forget the internet makes images available to everyone – even your nan!)… There is nothing wrong with glamour work, as long as the model knows what they are getting into, is comfortable with it and the photographer is trusted and respected in the industry.
Don’t be discouraged…
If you are not booked for work or are facing a lot of castings but not getting many bookings, it might just be you are not what the booker is looking for at that time.
If you have decided modelling isn’t quite for you, then there are other ways to trade in on your looks. For instance extras agencies are always looking for ‘background artists’ (anyone from ‘regular’ looking people to those with a specific look, style, age, ethnic background or skill) to appear on film. You can’t expect to be working every day in this type of industry (those who get regular work are usually those who look pretty regular – so can appear in many productions without being too recognised, with jobs that allow them to be available and flexible for often next day call times) and yes, there is a lot of hangingh around – sometimes hours – until you are needed on a set, but it can be rewarding, fun, a great way to meet new friends and the catering usually is quite good too (massive cheeseboard, anyone?) There’s loads of reputable agencies, such as MadDog, Ugly, 20/20 Casting and more. As above, do your research and never hand over large sums of money to join. Casting agencies usually take their fee out of your wages so there should be no fee and a promise of loads of work when you join…