The Business

There is a fairly common theme to most of the photo shoots that I have done with young models who are looking to get into “the business.” They almost always ask me, “what should I wear?”

In general, yes I can make some suggestions. Initially I suggest you read my other article entitled, Photo Shoot Preparation – Models.  Beyond that, the answer is almost always, “I don’t know.” I don’t know in most cases because you haven’t spelled out exactly what it is that you want to accomplish with the photo shoot, or, if you have, then you should know better than me what type of clothing, or lack there of would accomplish that goal.

Here is an example… Your goal is to be a runway model for Fashion Week in Milan. Great, that is a wonderful goal. So, you need to know what the modelling agencies are looking for when they are reviewing portfolios. In this example, to start you better be at least 5’10” tall and weigh no more than 102 pounds. For a photo shoot you will want to wear clothing that shows off your shape, from head to toe. That is it, just keep your clothing and makeup relatively modest and simple.

A second example… Your goal is to be a clothing model for Sears, JCPenney or Victoria Secret. This is also a great goal to have. Your height and weight will indicate where you fit within that industry as well, but there are quite a few more options for “normal size” models. Rule number one here is keep your clothes on in front of the camera. Most companies that are looking to hire models want models that will enhance the company image. You still want to wear clothes that will show off your shape, but you want to end up with pictures that you would be proud to share with your family and friends. Here again, you will want to keep everything relatively modest and simple.

I have worked with a number of models whose goal is to get into the business of fine art. Basically fine art photography involves images that include lavish decoration, location, nudity or other extraordinary look that someone would be willing to pay for. These models tend to worry about a theme for the photo shoot. For this type of shoot it is important to understand who is going to own the copyright to the photos and these generally should be paid shoots. If the model is looking for images to sell, then the model would pay the photographer for the copyrights. If the photographer intends to sell the images the photographer should pay the model and make it clear that the model will not be able to control the use of the photos, or be able to use the photos herself. Whoever is paying generally dictates every detail of the shoot, including clothing, hair and makeup.

Whatever your goal, you need to view your portfolio as a marketing tool. You need your portfolio to sell your services as a model. You need to decide what your portfolio should say about you. When you understand what it is about you that captures the attention of the people you want to hire you, you need to present that to them in the best way you can. To do that you need to decide what clothes and makeup to wear and what to do once you are in front of the camera. Once you have decided what you need to do to accomplish your goals, you can collaborate with the photographer to further your goals. That means making sure the photographer knows what you want to accomplish, taking direction on poses, or asking if there is anything you can do different.

Photographers often have their own goals. For new models finding a photographer that is willing to work within the confines of your goals may not be easy. Sometimes you may need to compromise. For example, a photographer may agree to take a series of head shots if you will agree to pose for a series of artistic photos. Those are the types of details that you should discuss before agreeing to a shoot.

In conclusion, whether modeling is something to do in your spare time or you are serious about making it to Milan, make sure your goals are clear to the photographer. If you haven’t decided what you want to do and you just want to see where this modeling thing takes you, that is okay too, just keep in mind that photos can’t be untaken.


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