Why do agencies only want tall, skinny people?
One of the biggest misconceptions about modelling agencies is that they are responsible for ruining society's self-esteem. It is very important to understand that agencies are at the whims of those clients that book the models. If a client wants a tall, thin girl to show off their clothes, it's very important that agencies (if they want to be successful) have the type of model that clients demand. If clients only wanted people of average height and weight, agencies would more than happily oblige. Some models, believe it or not, are too tall or too thin.
Although this site isn't about the designers, we feel a need to explain why they then to choose models of a certain body-type, if for no other reason than to try to shed some light. When a top designer - a Tom Ford or Roberto Cavalli - sets out to design their new line of clothes, they must decide two things: the image they are trying to create, and the type of person that best fits that image. Most of these designers feel long legs, a thin torso, proportional measurements, a long neck, a symmetrical face, and long, smooth muscles are the female features on which their clothes are best displayed.
Equally important to note is that half, if not most of bookings involve commercial model, fitness models, child models, character models, parts models and plus-size models - models that aren't necessarily tall or skinny. Some of the most successful agencies supply models that specialize in providing personality or a unique look.
Can I just do photography if I'm not tall enough for runway?
Depending on the type of modelling you are hoping to do, you may be able to do just commercial print work. Most major designers will still opt for tall models for their print work because the sample size is created before the model is selected. If the model doesn't fit the garment, a new model is selected. Often the creations debut on the runway, and then are shipped straight to magazines or photographers to be given new life.
For things such as swimwear, where curves and shorter torsos are often the better way to show off the bikini, shorter models have a better chance of success.
How do agencies operate?
An agency's most basic mandate is to promote the models it represents, either to clients, other agencies or both.
An agency that promotes to clients does so in exchange for a commission received in exchange for the model's time and image. The amount of commission varies depending on the agency and the market. Most Milan agencies take 50% commission, while most North American and Australian agencies take around 20%. Greece is 35% and most Asian agencies take between 20% and 35% depending on such factors as whether the model takes their share before of after the client pays the agency. It can get complex.
An agency that promotes to other agencies is called a "mother agent." A mother agent will often negotiate placements with foreign agencies, or agencies in other large markets. This is done so the model has someone working to promote them in markets outside their own.
The mother agency is responsible for ensuring the model is paid by the other agency at the completion of any bookings. A mother agent is then paid a commission of what their model earns in the foreign market. Usually the mother agent receives between five and ten per cent of the model's gross income. The sponsoring agency that has found work for the model will still receive the amount (commission) their market demands.
How does my agency collect the money?
From clients within the same market, collection is usually pretty reliable. It may take as long as three months for clients to get paid, but usually a few calls will get the job done. It is in your agency's best interest to follow-up on such things. After all, they don't get paid unless you get paid.
Where things can get more complicated is in overseas bookings. Once you have left the market in which you have been working, your contract will usually state the timeframe in which you will be paid. In most markets, you don't get paid until the agency gets paid. This is why it is very important to stay in contact with your mother agent and let them in on all the details of the bookings. They can follow-up and make sure the agency representing you in the foreign market is harassing their clients to get all the money you deserve.
Sometimes foreign agencies do neglect the mother agencies and choose not to honour their contracts. The only recourse your mother agent has in this case is threats. It is not hard to tarnish the reputation of agencies that don't pay their commissions.
The best way for a mother agency to prevent this from happening in the first place is to stay in contact with the model and the agency throughout the model's term, to demonstrate their ability to provide more models to that agency (or its competitors) in the future, and to stay well-connected within the industry as a whole.
That having been said, most agencies are really good about paying their commissions.
Why does it take so long to get paid?
When a model is booked for an assignment, there are often many people involved in the process. It may be that the agency was contacted by a photographer to do a series of ads. That photographer may have been hired by an advertising firm. The ad firm may have been contracted by the advertising department of a client for whom the ad is being produced. In this case the advertising department needs to requisition funds from their accounting department, then pay the advertising firm. The firm then pays the photographer who then pays the agency. Finally the money gets to the model. Unfortunately no want wants to pay the next person until they have been paid themselves, and the model is always last in line.
I was told that if an agency really wants me, they should pay for me to get started.
That's nice. Not true, but nice.
Agencies work for the models, not the other way around. Sometimes if an agency really wants you to come to their market they will advance your airfare, accommodations, some spending money and even the cost of a photoshoot upon your arrival. This is most common in parts of Asia, but can also happen in New York, Milan, London or Paris.
Usually, if an agency really wants a model to come to their market they will make some concessions. They might forward the rent, but expect the model to pay for the airfare and have their own spending money. This is to ensure the model does not treat the experience as a paid vacation at the agency's expense. Generally if the model wants to recover the money associated with going to a foreign market, they should be prepared to work hard.
Should I have a portfolio done before I try to find an agent?
Nope. Agencies want to see your potential, and often snapshots are enough.
Test shoots can be extremely expensive, and are often useless if the photographer doesn't have a good understanding of fashion (which few photographers really do).
Even if agencies want more than just snapshots, they should be able to recommend photographers with whom you can do a test shoot.
Unless you know a photographer that is proven to be successful shooting fashion, it is almost never worth the cost of doing a shoot.
Will my agency pay for my test shots, and get repaid from my bookings
Not unless your agency is run by wealthy, kindhearted financiers. Many agencies have fronted the cost for models they have trusted, only to get stiffed by the very same models they tried to help.
The professional relationship between a model and her/his agent should be kept professional. Agencies are not banks and therefore should not be expected to loan money to models. If a model is serious about being a model they should find a way to get the money together for photos and other materials (comp cards, portfolios) necessary to be successful.
Do reputable agencies have their own photographers?
That's a tough one. In most cases, no. Sometimes though, good agencies align themselves with good photographers and the two work mutually.
No reputable agency should suggest they will not represent you if you don't use their photographer. If the photo studio is located right within the agency, you should be wary. A good agency should be more interested in making money from your bookings than your photoshoots. Where there might be an exception is when the photographs are provided AT COST. In other words, you are provided with the receipts for the purchase of the film, the processing and the blowups.
Why do I need professional photos?
Sometimes you don't. Depending on what you are trying to attempt, you may be able to start with just Polaroids or snapshots. Often agencies looking for the next big thing will be more interested in seeing a model's potential and true features. A photographer, especially one that does not understand current fashion trends, can end up making a model look really amateurish. It is common for these photographers to be among the most expensive.
Generally though, you will need professional photos before meeting with most clients. If you are looking to find an agency it is best to find an agency you trust, that can recommend photographers that understand what is necessary to build your portfolio.
What happens after the photoshoot?
Generally the photographer will expect payment immediately following the shoot.
The images (either digital or on contact sheets) will either be given to your agency or you will be requested to pick them up. At this time you should sit down with your agent/booker and select the photos you will use in your portfolio.
If you end up with two or three really strong pictures from each look, that's a successful photoshoot. It does not matter how many mediocre or lousy shots you have. All that matter are the really good ones.
Once you have selected the photos, you will order them from the photographer. IT IS VERY RARE for the photographer to release all the images to you or your agent. They tend to be rather protective of their work and in most countries the rights belong to them.
Again, you will be required to pay the photographer for every print you order.
What are guarantees?
If an agency REALLY wants a model to come to their market, they may offer a guarantee. Japan is best known for doing this. Guarantees are usually in US dollars despite the origin of the model or their mother agent, and usually start at about US$12,000 for a two-month stint.
The guarantee is a model's assurance he/she will make a certain amount of money during their term in the foreign market. The higher their guarantee, the more incentive the agency has to promote the model.
If for instance, a model is given a guarantee of $20,000, but only earns $15,000 at the end of their term, the agency is responsible for paying the $5,000 (the difference between the two figures) out of their own revenues.
How do I spot a scam?
You're off to a good start. The best way to spot a scam is to educate yourself thoroughly, prior to spending money.
The next best thing to do is interview as many agencies as you can before deciding on one. Talk to their models and the parents of their models. Talk to photographers in the area that work with agencies.
Once you have a good agency, they will help you avoid other scams in the industry.
Why does Modelresource endorse modelling schools?
Many people feel modelling schools are scams. We neither endorse, nor disapprove of modelling schools.
We have known many models that went through modelling schools that were very successful in places like Asia because they were shown how to pose for catalogue shoots, and were given hints to make them more professional in the eyes of clients. We have also known MANY people that have been outright ripped-off.
In edgier markets they may opt for a more "unrefined" type of model, but we are not going to say that modelling schools are good or bad. Instead we will point back to our earlier comment - educate yourself thoroughly prior to spending money. Learn as much as you can about the school, instructors, successes and costs before you commit to anything. Follow up on their claims by investigating any names they drop.
How do taxes work?
In most countries, the model is considered self-employed and the agencies work on their behalf. This is definitely the case in Canada. To be more plain, the agencies work for the models. The model is usually required to pay their own taxes in their own country.
It is extremely important to keep track of your expenses and income. How honest you are is entirely up to you. We do though, recommend you at least make an effort to understand Canada's taxes as they relate to modelling. If it is too confusing, find someone trustworthy to help you with such matters.
If I have a portfolio already, why do I need a comp card?
The comp card is the model's most basic promotional tool. If you want your agent to find you jobs they need a practical medium in which to show you off. Comp cards are lightweight, inexpensive and easy to send out in a package. If a client is still interested in you after having seen your comp, it a very good sign that you are being strongly considered for a campaign.
How do I find a good children's agency?
Most agencies receive piles of inquiries about getting children into modelling. There are so many things to consider before getting your child involved in modelling.
1. Very little of the work done involves children.
2. Because there are so many cute kids, there is a lot of competition for the few jobs that do exist.
3. A lot of advertisers will use a friend's kid for a commercial or an advertisement. It's easier and less expensive than going through an agency.
4. Having a portfolio done for your child can be very expensive since your child is constantly changing.
5. A lot of other kids' parents can be very difficult to deal with. Even if you just want to see your child in a fashion show at the local mall, you can expect to see a lot of "stage moms" pushing reluctant kids into situations that make the whole experience difficult for everyone.
If you are still certain you want to find an agency for your child, please do it because your child wants to do it - not because you want your child to do it.
Finding a good children's agency can be a difficult experience. Some larger agencies (Ford, Sutherland) have separate kids divisions. Other agencies are devoted solely to promoting children (Minor Details, Bébézone). Know as much as you can about the agency and its focus before proceeding.
Like anything involving your child, you should do A LOT of investigating. Ask a lot of questions before signing anything. Ask to see examples of work they have arranged for other kids. Talk to parents of other children they represent. Find out what costs are involved before they start actively promoting your child.
Once you have found an agency you AND YOUR CHILD feel comfortable with, it is important to remember that nothing may ever come of it. Reassure your child that their success (or lack of success) is not a reflection of how attractive or likable they are - it's just luck. There is not usually a lot to be gained from a child being involved in modelling, so if it ever stops being fun don't be afraid to get out and wait until your child is older before exploring it again.