How to Become a Catalog Model

Natural beauty portrait of young blonde woman
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Catalog modeling isn’t what it used to be. Thanks to a little something called the Internet, catalog models are more valuable than ever. They’re in shoppers’ mailboxes of course (print catalogs aren’t going anywhere anytime soon), but they’re also taking over the digital world. Mobile, desktop and everything in between—wherever the shoppers are, catalog models are there too.

All of this increased exposure means catalog modeling is more exciting and lucrative than ever before.

But how do you go about landing a job as a catalog model? Here are a few things you’re probably wondering.

What Are Brands Looking for in Catalog Models?

Catalog models are considered to be commercial models, which means models need to look more like “real people” than editorial models. They do need to possess a few basic physical attributes, such as glowing skin, healthy hair, and a killer smile, but instead of falling into the physical requirements of fashion models, they instead have to have a look that appeals to the client’s target audience. Depending on the catalog, this could mean the client is looking for short, tall, young, old, thin or plus-size models of diverse ethnicities. There’s even a demand for models with disabilities. In other words, if you’re not suited to a particular catalog, don’t fret! There are plenty of other catalogs to try for. You just have to find one that suits your look (as opposed to changing your look to suit a certain catalog).

Another option to keep in mind is parts modeling. If you have an outstanding body part, such as your hands, legs, or feet, you may be able to enter the world of catalog modeling as a parts model.

How Much Do Catalog Models Get Paid?

How much you make as a catalog model depends on so many factors, such as the agency you’re signed with (different agencies deduct different fees, usually anywhere from 10% to 20%), your experience level, and the catalog you’re shooting for.

In general, you can expect to earn a few hundred dollars for a small-scale catalog shoot to ten thousand dollars or more for a popular international catalog. Established catalog models can earn a very good living from catalog work alone, given the sheer volume of photos that need to be taken and the fact that catalog shoots can take days, weeks, or even months to complete.

Don’t forget that in the United States, models are considered to be self-employed. That means you’ll need to set aside about a third of each paycheck to cover your income taxes.

Once a Catalog Model, Always a Catalog Model?

Not so. The great thing about the modeling industry today is that you don’t have to be defined by a particular style of modeling. Many catalog models are also runway or editorial models, and vice versa. As well, many models have used catalog work to jumpstart their careers. David Gandy spent years working as a catalog model, and even supermodel Karen Elson had a brief stint as a catalog model before she made it big. All of this crossing over of divisions gives catalogs a “cool factor” and makes them all the more appealing to the masses, which is something catalogs have come to depend on for their success.

Do Catalog Models Need to Be Signed to Agencies?

As a general rule, yes. Most of the major brands in the United States only work with company approved modeling agencies in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. Catalogs are expensive and time-consuming to shoot, and clients want to feel confident that they’re booking professional models who will show up on time and get the job done right. As a model, being signed to an agency means you’ll not only have access to more catalog modeling opportunities but also that the jobs you do book will be legitimate and that you’ll be paid what you deserve. It’s win-win!