I get asked this question quite often, so I thought it might be time to write a little blog post. Hope it helps!
If you get no further than this first sentence, then at least you’ve learned the most important truth about modeling agencies: You should never have to pay to sign on with an agency. If you are being asked to pay a large fee for classes, head shots, or for anything … walk away from that agency. Period. I won’t name any names, but there are agencies out there that are famous for holding open casting calls in malls and hotels and really, the point of their “model search” is to recruit people for modeling classes. And yes, you have to pay for those classes. Before responding to any adds, google the name of the company and see what people have to say about them.
Be careful.There are a lot of scams out there. Never sign anything immediately. If you meet with an agency and are offered a contract, take it home, read it over, and consult the BBB.
When offering a client a contract, some agencies will say that they want you to work with their photographer for professional headshots. While it may be true that they have a great photographer on staff (and you may, in fact, end up having a great experience with him), if the agency won’t work with you unless you use their photographer, that may be a strong indication that they are making more money off of headshots rather than landing their clients actual modeling jobs. Reputable agencies love having fabulous portfolio headshots of their clients. They don’t care where they come from.
What smart steps can you take when submitting to an agency?
1. Research agencies in your area and find out what they require for an application. If you live in Delaware or the tri-state area, there are many agencies in Philadelphia and New York. Keep in mind that if you sign on with an agency in New York, you may end up making frequent trips to the city to meet with casting agents and for shoots. This can result in long, hard days with maybe minimal pay … especially in the beginning. If you don’t have the schedule that would allow for traveling, you may want to look for an agency that is closer to home …even if it is smaller and less known than those in New York City.
2. Do your research on the agency. Once you decide it’s a legitimate operation, carefully consider their requirements for submission. As mentioned above, most legitimate agencies only require snapshots. (Once you sign on with them, you may need to have professional portraits taken.) But it’s important that you follow the directions carefully. Some agencies, for example, may prefer digital submissions while others may prefer printed images submitted by mail. Thousands of people submit images every single day. The only way to increase the odds that your pictures will be seen is to submit them in the manner requested by the agency.
3. Do a good job on your snapshots. For children under the age of 4, you definitely don’t need to hire a photographer to shoot headshots for your initial submissions. Your child is changing way too frequently for this to be cost effective. Agencies want to see clear pictures of your child with minimal visual distractions. As much as you love that shot you took of your little girl in her pink tutu with pink flowers in her hair, that picture is NOT the one you should send in. Avoid hair bows or loud clothing. Try shooting your child in front of a plain white wall. If you have a portrait option on your camera, use it. If you’re familiar with shooting in manual mode, shoot with a wide aperture so the background is very soft and blurred and the focus on your child’s features. And it goes without saying that a clean nose and face are always important. If your child has a bad runny nose or cuts or scrapes on her face and you don’t know how to use Photoshop, wait until these issues are resolved before taking the picture. Include a variety of full body shots and head shots. Unless you are a skilled photo retoucher, do not run photo actions or filters on your images. Changing your child’s appearance is counterproductive. The agency needs to see what he or she actually looks like.
After the age of 4 when development starts slowing down a bit, you might consider working with a photographer for headshots just to make sure the images you sending in stand out from the crowd. In all honesty, this is still not a necessity. Snap shots are still perfectly fine. If you are planning on having pictures done with a photographer for your personal use anyway, you might consider working some headshots into the session, too.
4. Don’t forget to include your child’s name, age, height and your contact information along with the images!
5. Submit to numerous agencies at the same time (unless the agency indicates that it will not accept multiple submissions). If you don’t hear back from any of the agencies, don’t be disappointed. The market changes quickly and today’s needs will be vastly different from those of tomorrow. Try again. Persistence is almost always needed.
Here’s what some experts have to say:
Marlene Wallach, author of the “Just Ask Marlene” series, talks about how to get your child started in the industry.
Parenting Magazine photo editor Miriam Hsia talks about what it takes for a baby to become a cover model.