This entry is being written because I receive so many questions from parents and models who want their children to be child models. I don’t deal with commercial child models except if one of my clients locally ask specifically for them. Beyond this, I don’t have much experience. With this being said, let us dive into the subject.
The first part of this is that you, as a parent, will have to take responsibility for your child being a model. This means accompanying them to everything they do, and making sure they can meet the schedule of being a model. Yes, you can let them be dropped off and shot by anyone, but as a parent, you won’t know what occurred at the shoot. If the photographer is like me, anyone under the age of 18 must have a parent or escort over 21 with written authorization to work with their child each time I work with the child model. As much as I say this to parents who I have talked, this is the hardest part of having your child be a model. Sometimes kids get sick or the parents, or something similar, but most people don’t want to work with unreliable models. It is easy to build a reputation for being late or not showing up for scheduled appointment, so you have to understand this commitment up front with your time as well. Managing and taking care of your child will be your job.
Second, it isn’t just one type or style of child is needed for modeling. Child modeling is more like commercial modeling in that there are requests for being someone or something when they are cast. It really doesn’t matter their look, size, shape, color, or anything else unless it deals with the role they will be playing. Most any child can be a child model. Something that has occurred with some child models is that they change looks and are in less demand when they hit puberty, and it makes those years harder for them. Because of this, it is important that your child be well balanced and know that demand can change for them as a model. Frequently, they want so bad to be back doing modeling that they do any type of modeling when they turn 18 years old. Be aware of this, and that it does happen. Really, the only single requirement is that they can work with photographers and get good images. The rest is flexible and just about any child can do the modeling.
Third, the reason why I don’t have much experience, is that child modeling occurs in a few major cities: New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. If you don’t live near one of them, the chances of going anywhere as a child model is slim other than the few local modeling opportunities. Most of the local opportunities will be shows at malls, sometimes advertising or editorial work, and rarely much else. None really pay anything, and is more “fun” than anything else. If you do make it to one of these few major cities and live there, you will want to look for an agency that specializes in child modeling. It is tougher getting into one of the child modeling agencies than the adult equivalents because there are so few of them, and competition is very high. Of the agencies I have talked, most want three images prior to being scheduled for an appointment to be evaluated as a child model: a head shot, full length shot, and an image doing something in modeling. From those images, they determine if you should see them for their evaluation. The evaluation will be a few months out, and frequently you will be requested to send in new images to them every 2 or 3 weeks until the appointment. If at any time you don’t make the deadline or do this, your child is out of the running. This process will usually eliminate many candidates – only about half of 1% make it to the interview.
If you want your child to be a child model, it will be your job. It will take a solid commitment from you as the parent. You will have to manage ever day of your child’s day and schedule. While it is great to think about seeing your child on a magazine cover, the reality is slim that this will happen without moving to a major city and getting in with an agency. I can’t stress that you will be giving all of your time to taking your child to meet with people, photographer’s sessions, and everything that your child needs. It is a big commitment. If you can and do make this commitment, then your child has a good chance of being a child model.
Edit: Something that isn’t clear above and has been discussed at length with a few photographers who have read this post is that there are typically two types of teen models: those who have a career and those who won’t. The difference is that those who won’t have a career typically won’t make the height requirements of five foot nine inches tall, but are great models otherwise until they turn 18 years of age. You will want to find out which you are as soon as possible.
Edit: All agencies or photographers who are on the up and up will have something posted showing the types of poses that are acceptable, and should also say they won’t shoot teens in bathing suits, lingerie, underwear, or have posing that isn’t age appropriate to the teen with or without parental permission and supervision. If they don’t, you will want to beware of them and know that they will probably push the acceptable limits allowed with teens. Some of the things that are considered inappropriate include spread legs, pushing a rear out too much, pushing a chest out inappropriately. There are also certain inappropriate expressions. Remember that these images are to be professional and will represent who you are to others. Remember that agencies don’t want to see you being sexy or provocative, they want to see you being the beautiful person who you are.
Edit: A few of the modeling and talent sites have started making it a requirement that a parent or guardian be present at all photo shoots with models under the age of 18 years of age. This is a requirement in the contract that you the model sign and that the photographer agrees by using the modeling site.
Edit: Here is an interview with Patti Fleischer of Generation Model Management on another bloggers post.