“I want to get into modeling”
“My friend/daughter/girlfriend wants to get into modeling”
“How do I start?”
As a former professional, full-time freelance model turned makeup artist and photographer, I know about how the process of starting can be a daunting one, particularly if you are going the freelance route and not signing with an agency. Let me direct this blog post directly to the aspiring model needing guidance. Asking someone for help getting started should be something you feel free to do, but know that there will be your hard work, time invested, networking and research involved on your end. I am always more than happy to provide insight on where to start out and how to go about it. However, what you shouldn't ask a professional is for them to hand over their hard earned contacts and do all the work for you, or ask to get paid when you have little to no experience. This is a mistake too many girls make, and I'll give you some basic advice, but I'm not going to be your unpaid agent.
Modeling may seem like it is just standing in front of the camera looking pretty and then it's 'Yay, money!' It is more than that, especially when you are going without an agency. It's networking, preparation, practice, long hours of strenuous posing, traveling sometimes, dealing with creeps that think because you are posting your photos on the internet that you their sexual advances. It's weeding through photographers to decide who you should and shouldn't shoot with, not only who is safe to shoot with, but who will benefit your portfolio. It's dealing with negative stereotypes about being a model and possible issues in relationships. It's tons of investment in wardrobe, makeup, and hair.
It's shooting and getting no money until you have a real portfolio, it's working multiple jobs to finance this dream. It's negotiating rates, sometimes convincing people of why you're worth paying, what you have to offer. It's reinvesting into your makeup, hair, gym memberships, nails, wardrobe, gas, etc. It's researching, watching other models, practicing facial expressions and poses so you don't look the same in every shot. It's dieting and exercising, learning every flaw your body has and critiquing yourself and your photos, constantly trying to improve. It's always networking, posting on social media, trying to find the next gig, plan the next trip, and maybe try and fit in some normal life.
Not everyone will be supportive either, and you have to decide if you're willing to deal with the friction. For a long time, modeling cost me relationships with my family because they are incredibly conservative, it has interfered in some degree in every romantic relationship I've been in and it very much limited my social life. I think it is possible to find balance, but when I did it, it was a lifestyle, not just a job. So, if you still want to get into modeling and are willing to put in some work, then I applaud you. The payoffs can be fantastic and provide some very unique and exciting opportunities. At 24, I have traveled so much and experienced some things many never will, and I am grateful for that. Not everyone is cut out for modeling, and not everyone will want to model once they realize everything that goes into it. This may be something you decide is not for you, or just something you want to do for fun every few months. So, regardless of what you end up deciding, make sure you're doing it for yourself and because it makes you happy. Now, let's begin with what you need to do before you ever step in front of the camera.
The first step is getting some cell phone shots of what you look like. It's the easiest thing to do in this day and age, and they could be as basic as standing in front of a mirror, or having someone take some shots for you at different angles just in front of a wall. This is just to show what you look like. It's also an opportunity to begin learning how your body looks positioned in different ways, as well as exploring facial expressions.
Now that you have some basic shots, time to start networking. I started out on model mayhem and Facebook. Instagram has gotten far more popular since I began modeling, so I eventually branched out to that as well. There are a plethora of sites to display your photos or get gigs, but in this blog post, I will just be covering how to get into this and get the ball rolling. Make profiles on these sites, or if you have them already, I suggest making a separate account. Begin searching photographers in the area on Facebook and model mayhem and adding them. I did the same with designers, makeup artists, and other models to get in contact with others in the industry. From there, I was contacted by a few photographers that were willing to do trade shoots.
I didn't have anyone guiding me, so I was kind of stumbling in the darkness when I was figuring out who to shoot with and how to direct my portfolio in the right direction. Looking back, I wish I had just paid a professional photographer to give me some really fantastic photos for me to get started with. After a few shots, I did end up getting in with some great photographers that were willing to give me a shot and do a trade shoot. I could have gotten more guidance in my posing, and avoided having awful photos out there of me by being more selective, and had more help with what direction to go, had I just paid for a couple of shoots to get my portfolio going. It may sound like I'm just shamelessly plugging paying photographers since I'm writing for a photography blog. However, there are points I think everyone has to pay. Same goes for newbie photographers that think that they should get free shoots with very experienced models. Part of it being a trade shoot is everyone getting something they are happy with and benefit their portfolio. When you don't offer as much as the other party, then it's not beneficial for them to not charge you. Now, before I get into a whole other discussion about pay, let's return to the main subject.
Once you have your first shoot, you need to prep. Discuss what is being shot, and find some inspiration photos. Make sure you are back and forth with your photographer about ideas. Just showing up and hoping things work out well can work, but it's not always a good idea, especially if everyone involved is on the newer side. So, lay out outfits and plan where they will be shot. Make sure you are shooting what you are comfortable with. Whether you plan on doing lingerie or glamour modeling down the line, it's my recommendation to start out slow and start with some fashion.
Practice doing your own makeup, because there won't always be a makeup artist. Watch Youtube, or hire a makeup artist to do a class of the basics with you. Make sure you are working out and eating relatively well. I never have been a stick, but once I started modeling, I realized how much every flaw is amplified by the camera. Through the course of my career, my body and look changed greatly but I've never gotten skinny. Don't feel like you have to be that perfect ideal you have in your mind in order to shoot because it's not true. Not even models wake up looking like those flawless photos.
Make sure before you ever show up anywhere, that you feel totally comfortable with that photographer and know where it will be. Check references, meet up in person if need be, especially for your first shoot, and I'd recommend taking someone with you that will be quietly supportive and help with whatever needs to happen. Some photographers strongly discourage bringing an 'escort' or friend with you for comfort. I eventually went alone to shoots, but if it's your first shoot they should be understanding of you bringing someone along. Don't go anywhere you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. If you get there and feel that way, LEAVE.
Now that you've completed your first shoot, you'll be receiving images back. Assuming the photographer knew what he was doing, they are edited and possibly you got some feedback in which images were chosen. Post away! I recommend doing one at a time on every social media platform, spreading them out so you get the most use out of the photos. Tag the photographer and any makeup artist or designer involved, and not only is this what you are supposed to do as a decent human being giving credit to others, but it also helps because it connects you to other professionals in their networks, and helps build your following as well.
There is so much more I could talk about, and will be in future posts, but for now, I wish you luck on beginning your journey.
Here is a collage I posted on my 4 year anniversary of modeling to show the difference hard work and determination makes. Shots in top row were from my first shoot ever, which was a trade. I am choosing to leave the photographer's name as anonymous, for certain reasons. Shots in second row are by the photographers Shot by Barry, Girls on Glass, Black Z Eddie, and Phlash Photography.