So you’ve got what it takes to be model, and now you’re ready to get out there and build a career. After years of posing in front of your mirror, binging on America’s Next Top Model, and practicing your runway walk down grocery store aisles, it’s about time to take the next step. But what is that exactly?
I asked professional models I’ve worked with for advice they’d give to first time models like you, and they did not disappoint.
Straight from the pros, below are the six essential tips for first time models:
1. Define your brand
Branding isn’t just abstract marketing jargon used by major corporations – it’s a crucial element of building your modeling career. First time models especially need to carefully consider their brand because it’s the only way to stand out from the crowd.
You shouldn’t dive into the business without really being certain of your brand. Consider your voice, your message, your personality, whatever makes you YOU. How will that translate on camera? That’s what’s going to set you apart from the competition.
Remember, a model’s most valuable asset is her individuality. That’s why it’s pointless to compare yourself to others. Stand in your brand with confidence.
2. Learn your angles
Even with all the modeling you’ve done in front of your bedroom mirror, you might be surprised by how difficult it is when it comes to the real thing. Practicing in mirrors is absolutely a good way to learn, but make sure you’re focused on the specifics. What are the exact angles that look best? What are the angles to avoid? Are you certain you’ll be able to duplicate the pose when you replace the mirror with a camera?
Think about what your hands are doing. Watch the shape of your body. Make clear lines.
If you’re still unsure about your posing, there’s no harm in a little research! YouTube is an excellent resource. You could even consider taking a dance or improv class to really get to know how your body moves.
3. Get out there and network
For a first time model, it’s all about the three E’s: exposure, exposure, exposure. If your Instagram profile isn’t already filled with bomb photos of you, get on that now! Your social media is now professional media.
Look for scouting events in the area and go to as many as you can. Ask photographers if they’ll consider a TFP deal (“trade for photos,” or sometimes “time for prints”). You’ll give them your time, and in exchange, they’ll provide you with a limited license for the best prints from the shoot to bulk up your portfolio.
Speaking of which, create a website as soon as you can, even if you don’t have tons of content yet. Having an online portfolio is as crucial as a headshot or CV in this business.
4. Be professional
This one is pretty obvious and it applies to not only the modeling industry but basically any profession. Your reputation follows you everywhere. If you’re late to a shoot or disrespectful to one photographer, your agency and every other photographer and agency in the area will hear about it.
Be punctual. Be polite. Be a delight to work with. It goes a long way for a first time model.
5. Stay true to yourself
My friend and colleague Dane Halo has built her successful career as a model through years of experience. She has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of the industry, and she can say from hard-earned experience that you need a tough skin to be a model. You need to earn and demand respect.
First time models can be particularly vulnerable to some of the sketchy or even predatory corners of the industry. Because of that, make sure you never compromise your boundaries. If you cross the limits of your comfort zone in a shoot, it’s not just the photo that lasts forever.
6. BE SAFE.
Here’s the most important lesson you can learn from the pros: your intuition is your best friend.
Take it from professional model Dane Halo: “Don’t be afraid to say no. Your self-respect is more important, and your safety is paramount.”
As a first time model, you won’t have the same insider knowledge as the more seasoned professional models in your area. There are a lot of agencies, scouts, photographers, and other industry folks out there who will offer you jobs that seem too good to be true – and that’s often because they are. You may not know yet who you can trust and who might be known for taking advantage of models, financially… or otherwise.
Even if you’re just starting out and building your portfolio, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trust your gut. Don’t feel guilty about turning something down if you notice any red flags.
A lot of models recommend bringing a friend to shoots. You’ll feel a bit more safe, with the added benefit of encouragement and support.
If you’re worried your intuition won’t be enough to protect you, you can always reach out to other models through social media. Do plenty of research on the agency or the photographer. See if they show up in any chat groups or forums in case other models have posted any negative experiences. Be savvy. Watch out for fake agencies and skeevy photographers.
Now that you’re armed with all these pro tips, you’re ready to get out there and model! You have an exciting road ahead; don’t be afraid of a few bumps. You’ve got this.