Do I Need Professional Photos to Start Modeling?

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When you are first starting out as a new model you will inevitably need to decide when it's the right time to invest in professional modeling photos. Should you have professional photos before you meet with modeling agencies and scouts? Or, should you wait until after you meet with them?

If you are meeting with agents and scouts in person it is not necessary for you to have professional modeling photos.

All you need to do is show up. Modeling agents and scouts are trained to see the potential of a new model and are able to use their "eye" to determine whether or not you will be successful.

If you are unable to meet with agents and scouts in person then a few simple snapshots will do. You can then email or mail your snapshots, or you can create an online modeling portfolio where agents and scouts specifically look for new models.

Tips for Taking and Submitting Snapshots

  • Photos should be clear and in focus
  • Include at least one head shot and a full-length shot
  • Keep makeup to a minimum
  • Keep hairstyles simple and well groomed
  • Keep clothing simple and in good taste (simple jeans and a t-shirt are fine)
  • Keep your posing simple and in good taste (overtly sexual poses are a turn off to agents) 
  • Include a swimsuit photo if you are comfortable wearing a swimsuit
  • Never submit nude photos
  • Fancy clothing and makeup are unnecessary for kids. They should look like regular kids. 
  • Do not wear fur in your photos. It is offensive to some agents and clients, and it's just wrong.
  • You should be the only one in the photo (no friends, family or pets)
  • Remember that first impressions are important

An Agency Wants Me to Get Professional Photos

Whether you've met with an agency in person, sent in your snapshots, or were scouted online, your ultimate goal is to get represented by the agency and begin booking modeling jobs.

In order to start booking modeling jobs, you'll need to starting building your portfolio or "book." The agency will usually request that you do a "test." "Test" is one of the terms used in the modeling business to describe a photo shoot that is not a paid job, but rather a photo shoot done solely to help you build your book and start developing your particular look or image. 

Here's where things can get a little tricky and you'll need to ask yourself and the agency some important questions.

  1. Is the agency insisting that you only work with its in-house photographer? If so, this is a red flag and can mean that the agency is a photo mill and earns more selling photo shoots than getting you actual bookings. Watch out for this one. 
  2. Is the agency providing you with a list of reputable photographers that you can choose from? Reputable modeling agencies will often provide new models with a list of photographers whose work they are familiar with and who understand the look the agency is trying to achieve for you. 
  3. Is the agency willing to advance the cost of your first test or will you have to pay for it upfront? Whether or not an agency is willing to advance some of your start-up costs can depend on a few things such as a) the market you in, b) how much the agency wants you and whether or not they are competing with other agencies, and c) the size of the agency. If the agency is in a large market like New York, Los Angeles, Paris or Milan it may be willing to advance some of your initial start-up costs that you will have to pay back once you start working. Agencies in smaller markets, where most models actually get their start, don't often advance expenses and the model will be responsible for paying costs upfront. 
  1. What is the reputation of the agency? Before you even send out your snapshots or meet with an agency in person, it is always a good idea to check out the reputation of the agency beforehand. You can save yourself a lot of grief if you know who and what you are dealing with before you are asked to invest money or sign legally binding contracts. There are lots of ways to do your research such as going online, contacting the Better Business Bureau, talking to other models and so forth.