Starting Out with Modeling

Posted on July 14, 2014


One of the biggest things I can say to models is to know their limits prior to shooting.  As a photographer, I shoot from fully clothed fashion images to artistic nudes (not erotic nudes-that is a whole different genre).  Because of this, I am very flexible with models and their limits. I often tell models that if they are uncomfortable, they shouldn’t be doing it. But, there are some things that most models don’t realize when they start out. These include limits, types of poses, showing emotion, that you can walk out if you are uncomfortable or touched inappropriately, that you probably won’t make lots of money as a model, and modeling is work.

First, models who are starting out must be comfortable in bathing suit images in more provocative posing or solid lingerie that would cover as much as a bikini. Part of this is that sexuality sells. You have to be able to show your midriff, bare back, arms, legs, and thighs. If you are uncomfortable with this minimal level, then modeling isn’t for you. If you do runway, you should be comfortable showing down to a solid nude colour thong.  These are bare minimal industry standards. If you don’t believe me, go to a casting call with an agency and see what they shoot your “polaroids” wearing. Or, if you are a runway model, does that mean when there are men and women changing in back for the next outfit that you won’t change because of all the people around?  I don’t think so.

Second, the posing you do is up to you. That means that if you want to keep your legs together in some of these outfits, that is your choice. You will never be forced to do a pose unless this was part of the discussion prior to hiring you on as a model.

Third, expressions aren’t the easiest to emote and present, so always work hard to give different expressions. There is nothing worse than a deer caught in headlight look from a model or a blank look caused by thinking “is my hand pointed correctly, elbow out, feet in a T shape, with an S curve” going through the model’s mind. Work on expressions in a mirror prior to shooting and do this regularly.

Fourth, if you don’t like the way a shoot is going, walk out. Many models tell me that they go beyond their limits because the people they work make it seem like this is normal or they get really mean and upset with them, telling them they won’t ever work again. If you are uncomfortable, it isn’t normal. If they push you to do something beyond a bathing suit level showing and you didn’t agree to this prior to the shoot, it isn’t normal. Walk out and don’t look back. And, if they have touched you inappropriately, I will expect to hear that they were on the floor when you walked out.  This is also one reason why you won’t sign a release as an independant until you get ready to leave. This will make the shoot worthless to the photographer if you walk out.

Fifth, don’t expect to make LOTS of money being a model. Very few models actually make money. If you are lucky, you will make enough to live on. More often, it costs people to be a model when you factor in lost wages from a second job and all the maintenance you have to do as a model (nails, clothes, etc.). Also, know that your modeling must benefit both photographer and model. Payment means that one side benefits the other even more – usually as a photographer because you spend less time shooting and can capture what you set up in a shorter amount of time. This also doesn’t mean that a 2 hour session will give you 100+ edited images from the session. There is a balance of benefit – if there isn’t a benefit, then most won’t work with you as a model. If you don’t get a benefit, then you won’t work as a model. As another great photographer, Kimberly Meadows, said on a post with another really good model ranting about photographers giving the model a difficult time for not making her time available on a TFP shoot: “There comes a time in our careers both photog and model that payment is earned. If two professionals who have put in their dues decide to work together TF than that is an awesome thing…but like you said, it needs to benefit the BOTH of you. Stick to your guns, ignore the negative remarks and keep doing what you do. I wouldn’t even entertain those that complain, bash or pout…” This is for a model who has put in her dues, and deserves to be paid. When working with photographers, evaluate if you are benefiting the photographer or the photographer is benefiting from you. And just looking pretty isn’t benefitting the photographer leading to the next.

Finally, being a model is work. It isn’t easy. You must yield to others – set times and dates and make them, know posing and what makes you look your best, and know that you will be moving like a pretzel. The really good models know this. Modeling isn’t something you do just to say you are a “model” or where you dictate everything. Instead, modeling is giving everything you have to present yourself in a way for a project giving the best you have. And while you can just sit there and look pretty, know that those people who push you to bend and twist  will capture the best you have to offer. Because of this, I highly recommend to be taking yoga, martial arts, dance, or similar type of activity that has lots and lots of stretching.

The point of writing this post is that you aren’t going to change the industry and how it works – no one is that beautiful.  Everyone has to work. Both photographers and models.  This means that you have to accept the standard and be comfortable with that standard (ie solid full bikini bathing suit minimum), but the posing you do is your choice in those outfits. Emotions are the hardest thing to do when modeling – practice, practice, practice.  There also has to be a benefit for the photographer to shoot with you when you start out, as you will be learning how to be a model. Once you know how to be a model, then you need to weigh benefits to each other to see who gets paid or if TFP. As a model, you need to know these things.

Posted in: Modeling