Model on runway

Getting started in the modeling world can feel like a daunting task. You’ve probably got all sorts of questions, like “Do I have what it takes?” “How do I get an agent?” “What are the pros and cons of becoming a model?” If you’re looking for help when if comes to getting into modeling, this article will help to answer some of your questions on how to break into the industry and guide you towards becoming a successful model.

Do I Have What it Takes?

Model getting makeup done

Do you have the look? Being a model isn’t just about being “good looking” or “pretty.” There are a lot of beautiful people in the world. If you’re serious about getting into modeling, it’s important to have “a look.” There should be something unique about the way you look or the way you’re built. It could be a beauty mark (a la Cindy Crawford,) the way your dimples look when you smile, something about the shape of your chin or your nose that adds dimension to your face, or another unique quality. Embrace this. It will be what sets you apart from other models in the industry.

As far as common characteristics that are important for anyone looking to get into modeling, height is probably the single most important physical attribute for most models, with 5’7’’ generally considered a minimum. Of course there are exceptions to this rule (take Kate Moss, for example), but this is a good place to start in order to determine if you are meant for the modeling industry. Runway models should be at least 5’8” as a female and 6’0” as a male. For editorial modeling, having the right look is more important than height or slender frame alone. For convention/promotional models, it’s more about having an engaging personality and the ability to act as a product spokesperson. Different types of modeling have certain requirements, but before you get into modeling you should understand what type of modeling work you will be pursuing. Will you be on the runway? Do you want to be in magazines or be a part of private events?

In recent years, for example, there has been a move towards more plus-sized models in the business, along with growth in other niche areas like tattooed models. Your look can help to determine what area of modeling you will fit best into, as there are numerous subdivisions under the larger modeling umbrella. Remember, getting into modeling doesn’t just mean being tall and thin with perfect posture. It means identifying and playing to your own strengths, looking for the type of work that’s right for you. 

What are the Different Types of Modeling?

Different types of modeling

Many models brand-new to the industry express surprise at just how many different genres are available for them to find work.

Here is a list of the most well-known genres:

  • Runway (cat-walk) modeling – High-end models typically shooting for editorials, high-end designers, runway and fashion campaigns. Fashion models have very particular age, height, and measurement standards. The typical age is 16-21. Models can be younger than this, but many agencies will require models to be at least 16. Likewise, models can be older but agencies and clients tend to like their models looking younger and more youthful. Height is typically between 5’9″-6″, bust is between 32″-36″, waist is between 22″-26″, and hips should be between 33″-35″. Of course most woman don’t meet these standards and that is why fashion models generally get paid the most and work the most. If you do not meet these requirements, don’t worry, most women don’t and that doesn’t mean agencies don’t make exceptions and you can’t walk the runway.
  • Print (catalog, editorial) modeling – Another lucrative modeling genre that is slightly less restrictive than fashion modeling. Height is generally between 5’8″ and 5’11” and typical measurements are as follows: Bust 32″-35″, hips 33″-35″, and waist 22″-26″. Catalog and fashion are the two most specific modeling genres. That is why they are the most profitable.
  • Lingerie/swimsuit modeling – Models also tend to have specific measurement requirements. Typical lingerie measurements are: height 5’7″-6′, bust 32″-35″ C cup,waist 22″-26″, and hips 33″-35″. A bikini model will be similar to a lingerie model but with a slightly larger bust size.
  • Other types of modeling include television commercial, live product/brand, live showroom, web, and niche modeling (tattoo’s, piercings, petite, plus-size, mature, body part, fitness/body building, without clothes et al). Measurements will always vary depending on type of modeling and industry you’re working in. 

Are there areas of modeling listed above that you aren’t familiar with? You’re probably not alone.  So which genre is right for you? Well, models with a girl-next-door look are often a great fit for commercial and catalog modeling to sell beauty products, clothes, and accessories in magazines and advertisements. If fitness is your passion, a major growing area of modeling is fitness modeling for girls who are in great shape and can help promote athletic wear and fitness companies. Knowing what type of model you best embody will allow you to be more successful because you can focus on that area. There are a lot of opportunities in the entertainment industry.This will help you avoid frustration as you try to get started in modeling, and will allow agencies and casting directors to see you more clearly fitting into their roster or filling their needs for a certain job.

If you’re just now getting into modeling, you may want to know if there are training classes specifically for modeling. It is important to be cautious if you believe you’ve found a modeling class because it could be a scam. It is generally safer and more beneficial to take other types of classes, like a dance class to improve your movement quality and body awareness, an acting class to help you feel more comfortable speaking and taking on commercial jobs, or a fitness class to help keep your body in shape. It is also hugely beneficial to spend time with a professional photographer since they can give you real-world advice on exactly what other photographers and directors are looking for from their subjects.

How Do I Get Started?

Photographer with model looking at photos

So you’ve decided you want to give the model life a shot. The first step to a successful career is to find a qualified, experienced agent. As with the “modeling classes” mentioned above, some modeling agencies are actually scams. It is extremely important to make sure the agencies you are considering working with are legitimate. Do your research! Checking out the websites of agencies you are interested in will help you get a sense of what types of models they look for, the jobs that their clients have booked and their overall professionalism. Model management is very important, it’s best to do your research before signing up with companies. 

There are often references or recommendations online that can help lead you in the right direction. One of the biggest red flags is if an agency asks for money from a new client upfront, whether this is for a photo/portfolio package or for any other reason. Reputable agencies will never have a cost. They make money if you book a job, and only if you book a job. If you see signs that they are trying to earn their money in any other way, run – don’t walk, run – away.

Building a Portfolio

Photographer looking at modeling photos

Once you have compiled a list of reputable agencies that represent the type of model that you would like to be, it’s time to send them your “book.” This will include your “stats” (your basic measurements, height and weight,) and a portfolio of pictures. The most essential photos for you to have are simple digitals. Try to get pictures of yourself with little or no makeup, a very basic outfit with minimal accessories, and shot using natural lighting. It is important for the agency to see both your face and body so make sure to include a wide angle shot that shows your body and a closer in shot of your face. Wear fitted clothes to allow the agency to see the basic shape of your body. If you are hoping to land swimsuit or lingerie gigs, you should include those photos as well. Play around with angles and poses to find your most flattering look to send to agencies. Plan on a similar approach when attending open modeling calls; your clothes should be well-fitted and hair and makeup should be minimal.

If you have prior modeling experience and have professional pictures from past jobs, those are great to include as well. However, if you are just getting started, it will probably be well worth the investment to spend the money on a professional photographer for the purpose of getting high-quality photos to submit to agencies. From there, if you can afford to invest in quality, up-to-date photos each year it will be a huge benefit for you.

Pros and Cons

Model getting picture taken on red carpet

There is more to modeling than just looking pretty in front of the camera. It is a business first and foremost, so it is critical that aspiring models treat it as such and approach it as they would any other job, with professionalism, grace and resilience. There are many great benefits to being a model. You get the chance to help bring others’ visions to life. It can truly be an amazing opportunity to do what you love, meet really great people – whether they are photographers, designers or fellow models – and explore cities all over the globe.

However, the industry is certainly not all about the glitz and glamor as it may appear from an outsider’s perspective. Unless you are a supermodel doing major campaigns, you typically won’t make a lot of money (at least not consistently.) Modeling can be physically, mentally and emotionally taxing. There can be a lot of competition between models since there are often a number of models all vying for the same, small pool of jobs. This inevitably means a lot of rejection, which can be emotionally draining.

It is important to develop a thick skin to protect yourself from the rejection you will face. Try not to take the rejections personally. They will happen. Companies hiring models for shoots and casting for shows have specific needs, and you may not fit what they are looking for on that particular day. If you are able to embrace the realities of the business and stay persistent, it will not only benefit your career but also make you a stronger person.

A Few Tips for Every Model

  • Be on time! Communication is key
  • Show commitment
  • Be persistent and stay positive
  • You will hear “no” more times than you’ll hear “yes”. Don’t let it affect your confidence. Don’t let it affect your life.
  • Take care of yourself, your body, your lifestyle.
  • Be careful of who you are working with and what you’re willing to do.
  • Have a plan B. There may not be enough work for you to make a living
  • Make sure you have a real relationship with your agent. Be willing to give and take. Help them out and they will help you out.
  • Always be expanding your talents. If you want to book new types of work, gain new skills.

Don’t Give Up

Frustrated model

A person with a thick skin and strong sense of self-worth is in a good position mentally and emotionally to take on the modeling world. But what about financially? Jobs early on in your career may be sparse and not pay you enough to help cover your rent, especially if you live in a major market. These major cities may offer the most in the way of job opportunities, but they can also be extremely expensive to live in. As you get into modeling, you should plan on picking up another job in order to pay the bills. A job in hospitality, for example, can be a good option for a model since it will offer flexible hours and still allow you to earn decent money in limited time. Plan ahead for this.

It is important to be both patient and determined when pursuing a career in modeling. Opportunities may not come right away. It will take time to develop relationships with influential people in the industry. The modeling and fashion industries are always changing and moving so you never know who you might meet and how they may be able to help you in the future. Be adaptable and you will be able to keep up with the ever-changing climate of the business and continue to find success as a professional model!

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