How do I get started in Modeling? – PART 5

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Make-up is an art. I took my make-up classes from a lady who assisted on the movie Little Big Man. In that movie they took Dustin Hoffman from being a young teenager to a 100-year-old man. What she could do with make-up was amazing. If a shoot has a budget for a make-up artist and a good one is available then we just sit back and let him do his magic. But on a shoot without a budget for a make-up artist or in some smaller towns where one is not available, it may well fall upon the model to do her own make-up. Even when you have a make-up artist it is necessary that you know of any corrective make-up you may need.

For learning make-up there are some great books available. You may also find theatrical make-up classes taught at some community college. The cosmetologist at the local department store may be fine giving some pointers for your street make-up, but make-up for photography can be quite different. This is especially true for B&W photos. A big part of learning make-up is just trying it in front of a mirror. Study something in a book or magazine then try it in front of a mirror. Eventually, you have to get in front of the camera with your make up on and see how it looks.
Make-up for black and white photography gets weird. Color no longer matters. It is only the lightness and darkness that matters. I guess it is a kind of a gothic thing. It takes some getting used to. You must ignore the color and only see the make-up in terms of black, white and grays.

Hair Styling

Being able to do things with your hair can be a great help when photographing. Of course it is great when you have a professional hair stylist who can do some fabulous looks and keep every hair in place, but there may not be a budget for a hair stylist. So again it may fall to the model to be able to do her own hair. I have always thought shoulder length hair was the most versatile. You can put it up, pull it back, comb it to one side, fluff it, curl it, or just leave it natural. Short hair locks you into one look, end of story. Long hair can be fun to work with but not quite as flexible. Being able to restyle your hair can be very helpful on a shoot. You can check various magazines to see what they are doing and practice in a mirror. For most modeling purposes you don’t need to be incredibly creative with your hair – just so you can redo it to offer several different looks.


In a secondary market, on a lower budget shoot, for your own composite and portfolio you will need a basic working wardrobe. When I was starting in photography the modeling books would list the basic wardrobe a model should have. This, of course, was where the simple black dress came from. I am not sure what should be in one’s closet today, but a range of basics would be good. You must have a business suit for interviews, cold calls, and modeling. I am always grateful when a model has a formal dress. The formal is best for the super dress-up shot. You may have to wait till you get going and call on a few photographers to see what you might want in a basic wardrobe.
As part of wardrobe and clothing I would also encourage learning about fashion. Thirty years ago most women had some experience in sewing. From that experience they had an understanding of what different fabrics were like, what standard cuts of skirts were, different types of collars, different types of pockets, and many more variations that could make up a garment. All of this is still important today when modeling clothes. It helps to know how a fabric will drape or move when you are modeling it. It helps to know if a pocket is deep cut or shallow cut so you can show that. It is very important to know what the lines are of a garment so you can accentuate them and not break the line of movement. Fashion history and how the fashion industry works may be fun to learn, also, but I think it is more important to understand the garment itself.

Scams, Rip Offs and Bad Business

These days there seems to be a whole industry that has developed to take advantage of those who would like to become models. They are far removed from the world of actual professional modeling. This modeling scam and rip-off industry makes its money by alluding to or promising great careers in modeling, but first you have to pay them up front. Of course your modeling career never comes about and your money is long gone. These enterprises pray upon an individual’s desire to be a star and their lack of knowledge of how the modeling industry really works. And this leach industry seems to be getting bigger everyday.

I view these enterprises as falling into three categories: the scam, the rip-off, and just bad business. All cost a wannabe model and give little or nothing in return.

The scam is a fraudulent and illegal activity. This type of enterprise has no intention of delivering on what it promises – and it usually makes big promises and guarantees. It normally asks for a substantial sum of money up front and vanishes in the night with it.

A rip-off is not illegal. It tends to make vague promises or have one or two out of thousands that actual do get careers. It tends to work with anyone who has the money to pay up front no matter whether they have talent or not. Of course, it tells everyone they have some type of talent. This is a big category. It can include modeling agencies that charge up front for signing fees; photo shoots, or require you take their class before they will work with you. These can include some of the modeling conventions, searches, and competitions. There are lots of virtual modeling sites that are springing up all over the web. It seems there are new rip-off enterprises starting every day.

In the case of bad businesses, these enterprises may be trying but they just don’t know what they are doing. They are trying to be legitimate businesses but do not have the knowledge of the industry they need or they are located in the wrong place. This might be someone who sets up a modeling agency in a market that is too small to handle one, a photographer offering to shoot a professional modeling portfolio but does not have the skill level to carry it off, or a modeling school that should be called a finishing school (that offers classes in image enhancements or is using teaching materials that are 30 years old). I think these businesses mean well but still cost the model money for classes or photos that are useless.

If your goal is to become a professional model, then all of the scams, rip-offs, and bad businesses that promise to take you to that goal, in fact, stand as barriers to it.

Warning Signs

Warning signs of a scam or a less then legitimate or poorly run modeling agency. If you see any of these warning signs it does not mean the business is for sure a scam operations but be sure to ask lots of questions, be sure the agency has lots of good answers and always check references. New York City of course is the exception to many of these warning signs.

1) Newspaper classified ad or display ad looking for any kind of model or talent other than nude glamour modeling (models for the adult entertainment industry). Modeling agencies have plenty of wannabe’s coming to them so they don’t have to advertise for models. If they are short of talent they will send their scouts out to public places to look for potential talent.

2) Pictures of famous New York supermodels on the walls or their comp cards on a wall rack. I don’t think Cindy Crawford needs a modeling agency in small town USA. Get real people!

3) Any up front fees. This might be signing fees, new account fees, evaluation fees, etc. If an agency has to charge money at the front end it means that there is not enough money at the back end. This means the agency does not have enough modeling work for the agency to survive on commissions and not enough work for a model to survive.

4) “We are interested in you but you need to test shoot with our photographer and it’s going to cost you”. Legitimate agencies will provide you with a list of photographers that you may go to. Many will have a place by the front door for photographer’s business cards that you can take on your way out. You should be free to go to any photographer you want to. If the agency tells you that you must use their photographer, watch out. A new twist on this same theme is where the agency does not charge for the photo session but you have to pay a high fee (an example $700) for a “professional make up artist.” You will need photos at some point but you should be free to shop around and find you own photographer and make up artist.

5) “We are interested in you but you need to go through our classes first and it is going to cost you”. Again money at the front end = not enough modeling work at the back end. Combination School/Modeling agency has a conflict of interest and SAG (Screen Actors Guild) member agencies can not offer both.

6) “We guarantee you work”. Modeling agencies are not employers. They represent you to try and get you work. Most of the time they don’t know for sure what type of jobs will come in or what look may be needed, thus there is no way a legitimate agency can guarantee you work. The best they can do is give you an idea of their track record on placements. But, just like a warning with mutual funds, past performance is no guarantee of future performance.

7) “As it said in our ad in our local small town newspaper we guarantee you work, just like the famous models on our walls, just as soon as you go through our modeling classes, shoot with our photographer, and pay our agency fees”. RUN do not walk to the nearest exit.

A Modeling Scam

This past week we had a newscast on a modeling scam. It was a Los Angeles operation that was targeting small towns in Oregon. They ran ads in the local newspaper saying they were looking for models for TV commercials. You were to send in some info on yourself and a couple of snap shots. After you sent in your info they would contact you and tell you that you had the look they needed. They then signed you up for a commercial paying the big bucks. They did need to do a test shoot before the actual commercial, but all of it was paid for except the makeup artist. They sent contracts, airline vouchers, and lots of official looking paper work. The catch was that the model had to pay for her own make-up artist and that they needed $500 up front. The small town wannabes, not knowing how the industry worked and having a contract in hand, sent in the $500. Of course once the check was cashed the scam artist vanished and the commercial, contracts, airline vouchers and the guarantees were all bogus. It is easy to con someone when they are not educated in an industry and, as the song says, “The lure of easy money has a very strong appeal.”

Classic Rip-off

The following was emailed to Modeling Advice. She agreed to let me share this with others. This is not uncommon and shows what can happen if one gets caught up in one’s hope for a career and is not ready for shysters that are out there. This young lady ran into one of the classic rip-off agencies. It began with a newspaper ad, and then having to pay for photos. They promised immediate work without even photo testing or much of an interview. This is not an illegal operation, just a rip-off.

She writes:
Hello. I read your section on modeling scams. I know this e-mail may be long, but please hear me out. I really need your advice on this one. I feel really stupid now. I went to a modeling/talent agency so that I could get my singing career started. I found this agency in the newspaper (one thing you wrote about). I didn’t even go there for modeling I went there for the agent to listen to a demo tape I had done. He told me he could not do much for me in that field, but asked if I would consider modeling or doing commercials, etc. He told me I would have to take pictures and gave me a chart to look at. Three pictures cost $475.00. I had taken a friend with me who advised me to do it, because through this I could always meet people and start my singing career. There were many other people in the office – for example, teenagers and babies. He asked me how I would feel about doing a fashion show this weekend and also said he got called for a video. Now, anyone who has met me knows that I am a bit shy and have low self-esteem, so why would you want me for this job? He even told my friend that I had to break out of that and be more aggressive.

Of course it was after I paid him that these questions ran through my head. I had never done anything so stupid and rash in my whole life. I think it was the rush of thinking I might finally go out there and sing. He didn’t tell me that I needed to change anything about myself, which I personally thought was odd. He had the secretary come in and take one of the photos I brought in to FedEx it to the people making the video. Personally I think it was all a big act. He also said it was good that I lived in a particular area. He took pictures of me (I don’t even know if there was film in the camera) and said I could come back in another day to take the other pictures. I was going back today, but got stuck on the highway and did not make it on time. I called and said I would be there in 10 minutes and the secretary told me that I would have to reschedule because the agent was going to a meeting, so I rescheduled for Thursday. When I had called to cancel the initial appointment she jumped down my throat saying that they are a professional agency and that she didn’t think I was serious about this. But this time she most easily rescheduled, after they got my money. The contract he gave me said that they would get 10% of what I make. I paid with a credit card and called the company and froze my account, but it will probably go through anyway. I’m not sure if they are for real or not, because I just did this on Saturday, 4/1/00. I probably won’t be able to do anything about it now, but I still want people to know about this and to be more aware. What can I do as far as that goes? Maybe you can let the people know since you have a web site. What can I do to protect myself as far as this matter goes? I was also thinking about the fact that if he is not legitimate and he does have pictures of me would he use them for other purposes? I also called the Better Business Bureau and they said that this company has been around since 1993 and they have had 14 complaints in the last 36 months and they had responded to all of these complaints. Please e-mail me and let me know how much of a scam this sounds like if it is. I appreciate your time. Thank you.

Other Site with Info on Scams provides a scam watch page for reporting modeling scams.
Modeling Scams – This site contains assorted information about scams, rip offs and bad business practices. – You can check to see what folks are reporting about different business. Reports on modeling agencies and modeling schools.

Please be aware that some of the material on these sites is from proper news organization and has a degree of credibility. Please also be aware that there is a lot of material that is people blowing off steam, stating there opinions or personal views and unidentified (questionable) sources. To be an informed consumer please research both sides of an issues.

KRON a Bay Area Station’s report on Options Talent

Also check out Options Talent website or Trans Continental Talent and see what they have to say. Also find out more at As with all aspects of modeling try to learn as much as possible before investing your time or money. If you are looking for online paid hosting of your model portfolio there are hundreds of sites offering this service. Do a search at to find them. One site that is a paid and free site that seems to be popular with models and photographers is One Model Place . Two of the oldest paid sites are and Model Net For free Internet model listing sites check out the Free Model Listing page

Still have a Question?

If you have read through Modeling Advice site and are confused on some point or just can’t find the answer to your question, you can email. I don’t have all of the answers but I am happy to pass on what info I do have. I love intelligent, well thought out questions so please think before emailing.

Learn the secrets of to become a successful model.

Deciding to become a fashion model is the same as deciding to be a writer or a singer. Either you have the talent or you do not. But, talent is not the only attribute you will need to go after your dream career. Besides, talent, you will need plenty of luck, and more!
First, you must figure out if you have the standards of the industry. If you are a woman, are you at least sixty-eight inches tall? (Men should be at least seventy-one inches tall.) Is your hair healthy and shiny, and kept in one of the latest styles? Are your teeth straight and white? Is your body toned and attractive? The next step is to measure and write down your height, weight, chest size, waist size, hip size, dress size, shoe size, hair color, and eye color. You will need to have an attractive figure in order to be a model.

Now that you have the physical attributes out of the way, it is time to take a look at your personality as well as your personal care habits. Are you outgoing? Are you a self-starter? Are you a goal setter? Are you energetic? Modeling usually requires a grueling schedule. You can expect to be on your feet for several hours at a time until the shoot is done. Do you eat right and exercise regularly? Eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep is imperative to having and keeping a healthy body. Can you handle rejection? Modeling is like writing or singing in that you can expect to get your share of rejections. Every model cannot be right for every photo, so start yourself off right by expecting to hear the word “No” many times.
The next step is to either hire a professional photographer or, save lots of money and ask a talented friend to take several shots of you in a bathing suit, shorts and a top, or other suitable apparel. The finished pictures should be at least eight by ten. Pick out the best half dozen or so shots and place them in a portfolio. If you want to send more than one portfolio around, then you will need extra sets. Now, check the telephone book for modeling agencies. If there are none listed in the town where you live, then check in the bigger cities around you. Write down a list of the ones that look appealing to you. Next, you will have to call each one and find out if they are looking for models right now. Tell them that you have a portfolio and that you would like to set-up an interview. If they are not receptive to you, you might want to go ahead and send or drop off a portfolio of you and then check back in a week or so to see what they think. Remember–a picture speaks a thousand words, especially in modeling.

Keep showing your portfolio and talking to as many people as you can that are in the business. During this time, keep a look out for modeling contests that you can enter. Be persistent and don’t give up!

NOTE: all material provided on the segments (How do I get started in Modeling?) has been contributed by my dear friends in the business: Madeline Cole, Jessica Marie Jones


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