I have been asked by a few models who read my blog who are independents why getting experience would be bad for models. This entry will hopefully explain some of this.
The biggest part of having a lot of experience is that no one knows what you have done and if you were to represent a brand, something you do when you are a model with a contract, they don’t want that to come back and damage that brand. This is one reason most major brands and agencies will require a background check. They look for images you may have done and hidden that might damage the brand or agency once you represent them. Something you can do is Google your name and any modeling name that you have used – see what shows up. If you have a lot of images showing up and those are unpublished, it sort of acts like a red flag. Another check is on amateur modeling sites: Model Mayhem, One Model Place, Model Brigade, etc. are such sites. If they see a lot of activity or a lot of images (either in your profile or others), this is again another red flag. Why? It is simply that it is difficult to establish value for someone who has been out there for a while on many of these sites. Add to this that there is still that unknown factor, but more likely there is something out there that will hurt the brand or agency if you have a lot of images out there. They don’t want a recognizable face, usually, and if you are recognizable, you need to be a celebrity that conveys something to the brand (meaning actress or sports figure). If you have a lot of shoots with many people, you will have learned a lot of bad habits, too, because they weren’t commercial shoots. This leads into the “promo” agency where you have lots of fliers published wearing skimpy lingerie where you “host” events or are the main entertainment at those events — something that will get you dropped quickly from consideration. The reason is that most brands don’t want to be associated with this type of behavior. This also applies to fetish work that doesn’t have an erotic component to it. A local internationally known photographer frequently says, “No picture is better than any bad ones” and “It only takes one bad image to ruin your reputation as a model.” You can now understand why it hurts to be on too many hobbyist photographer web sites and web portfolios. This means that images from shoot outs (meet and greet events) and workshops tend to be more damaging to you as a model than helpful, so seriously consider who you work with and your goals before working with photographers at one of these events. It doesn’t even matter if you are being paid for the work you do at the events.
Another thing to watch out for are the photographers who charge you lots of money for taking images for you and promise you that their images will get you noticed. If they aren’t in a tear sheet, it won’t get you noticed as well as minimal makeup images showing who the real you. This means the harsh lighted images, the stunning glamour images, and those with lots of makeup won’t do you much good. Why? They really don’t show the real you. As I have indicated before, if the photographer is an unknown artist, there is little or no credibility in this day and age that it hasn’t been majorly changed though editing. If there are lots of shadows in high contrast images, the person looking at them will wonder “why is that hidden and is it to hide something from them?”
This pretty much means those artistic images should be left out. Dramatic and harshly lit images should be left out. High fashion shots, too, unless they are in a tear sheet where they have been published. Any image that has a logo on it of a photographer that is an unknown. When you are in casting, the people evaluating you only want to see you. They don’t want to see your wigs, makeup, pretty location being shot, other models that you have worked. They only want to see professionally looking images of just you.
I also need to emphasize this: there is nothing that will kill a modeling career faster than nude images or many of the “implied” nude images being taken today. I frequently hear from models about how the photographers are telling them that they have to do nudes to get into the industry and get established. Sex sells. In reality, if you have shot any kind of nudity with a photographer outside of an agency, it will kill any hope of signing with an agency or getting a contract with brand where money is really made. The only exception here is if you are trying to get started in the adult modeling business, and then it is a positive. Remember that most clients who want models to represent a brand are very conservative – they have to be the least common denominator that isn’t offensive. In the US, that means no nudity. What about the topless stuff you see in European fashion magazines? I think you just answered your own question – it is in Europe where the standards are different. But what about appearing in something like Maxim or Playboy? Won’t that help me be a model? No, it will be harmful to your modeling career. Even those “hometown” type contests that they run are harmful to you. Even a perfectly good image of you with one of their logos on it is bad. Then why do modeling agencies let models do nudes? Because the type of work they mostly do is under strict conditions and very controlled contracts. As an independent, the releases are usually full releases and as a model you won’t have any control over the images once taken. Hopefully, you can see the difference between the two types of shoots.
I hope this helps you understand a little more about working with a brand and agency and what goes on with eliminating people from being used in this type of work.