A guide for models starting out
I’m no expert, I literally know enough to get my by, but I’ve been very fortunate to work with some great models, agencies, and influencers in the last few years, and this is the most common question I get asked.
How do I get signed?
Truthfully, Australia’s market is really small, like it’s tiny, lots of great models, struggle to get regular work, or agencies can’t find money for their look, etc etc etc. There are so many factors that go into this.
So you’ve probably got to do a lot of the ground work yourself.
If you’re 16, get signed, if you’re 17, maybe just maybe think about start testing, but generally, I’d say again get signed. For me it’s about duty of care, it’s about knowing your boundaries, it’s about not being taken advantage of, if you are younger, you need a parent, guardian, big brother/sister backing you up, because of awful cases like this.
So I’ve written this as a quick, guide on what I would do, based on what I know from models who have had some career success, after being knocked back, or being told they’re too short, don’t fit in.
I want to also make it clear, it’s ok to be new, it’s ok to be inexperienced, it’s ok to not know stuff. The hardest part for me is when someone won’t admit their lack of experience, I tend to shorten shoots when this happens, just because there’s not much I can do to get more creative and help.
Firstly, let’s start with the most basic of basics.
You’ve got to get your head around how to pose.
That doesn’t mean only having one look, or being stiff, or not knowing your body.
This is my favourite short video on posing.
Notice that Kate makes it look effortless, she looks around, but she doesn’t need to move her shoulders too much, she’s not too stiff, and she’s changing poses pretty regularly.
For boys this guy rants a lot, but he gets there (it’s pretty cheesy, but Daniel has some good basic tips):
Different photographers will ask different things, but feeling at ease, knowing to look away, and back, and having good movement is important, it really helps.
The second thing I can say is equally as important.
It’s to test with photographers, a test is any unpaid shoot, a collaboration of sorts, where you get images, and they get your time and look.
Now, I’ve got rates for that, I do test, but generally I know what I’m looking for, but if someone’s a good fit, I’ll usually say yes, if they’re polite, keen, and easy to work with.
The reason I think it’s so important to test is that it’s how you build a good book, it’s how you get comfortable, but it can also be a disservice or create bad habits if you test with the wrong photographers.
It’s based on your look, how old you are, what your experience is, and what suits your book.
I’m not saying you can’t break out of that mould either, but if you are going to, be particular about it, know what sort of shots you want, where you’re taking yourself, and what that looks like.
Mood boards are extremely important with this, if you need help with how to board, here’s a quick one for fashion photographers that I think is relevant. If someone presents a board that doesn’t fit with where you want to take things, don’t do the shoot. It’s ok to be like “thanks, but I’m not interested in those sorts of shots”.
On that front as well, if someone asks you to do work that makes you uncomfortable, walk away, you don’t owe any photographer anything, if they push for something that you didn’t agree with, or try to coerce get you to drink, start sending inappropriate messages. Flag them, unfortunately there are a few bad eggs out there, and here’s a list of some of them. You’ll notice some of these names are big Australian shooters, honestly, some of these people on this list, I called colleagues, it sucks, but they are out there, so please be aware, if you are unsure, check with other models who have worked with them.
But back onto boards and a brighter note, if you are doing this for yourself unrepresented, which many models do, you need to get sure on what sort of photos you want, and also what sells you commercially, and when I say what sells you, it’s what makes you unique, what would draw a casting agent, or a creative director, or a booker to use you over another model.
That doesn’t mean you need to get naked, or push something super sexual (if that’s who you are, and you ooze sexuality, go for it, but don’t force this stuff). It means look at what makes you unique.
This involves styling yourself, buying clothes that suit you as a person, maybe cutting your hair, working with stylists, going hunting for great vintage items, picking an aesthetic you love and that you feel comfortable in.
Finally, take care of yourself, your mental health, and stick at it if you enjoy it, if you don’t, no big deal, some people love modelling, others like myself would hate to do it, and would rather be behind the camera.
If you’re keen on starting out, what I’d recommend doing.
Getting a friend to take polaroids/digitals (a quick article if you don’t know what those are here)
Find some photographers to test with (You can find them through Instagram Explore/checking models tagged shots on IG/FB groups/asking other models)
Build out a book that suits you, your style and allows you to express yourself.
Aim to shoot often.
Apply to agencies. (If you hear nothing, don’t sweat it, just keep at it)
Rinse and repeat.
Also finally all the agencies I know of in Sydney (in alphabetical order there’s no preference here) that I believe book models work — there are a bunch more, but many of them I would not recommend.
Also if you are in contact with an agency please always check the persons credentials i.e. their email address is legitimate, that their account isn’t fake, etc. If you’re ever in doubt, I always ask models signed with that agency.