Recently I’ve been hearing some horror stories from new models who have been taken advantage of by various “agencies” and it got me thinking.
Considering fashion is one of the most competitive industries to get into and is the host to lots of people’s dream jobs there ought to be some helpful guidelines for inexperienced people who are looking to make it their career.
After about 2 mins googling I found a huge list of various sites which are extremely helpful for models who are starting out. There are pages and pages of well written resources! Not to mention the vast collection of facebook groups where models can ask each other for advice, and post warnings about scam agencies and other industry professionals who are aiming to take advantage. ( I will post links at the bottom of the page if any of you are interested in checking them out)
Anyway, here is a couple of points that I think are important considerations for those looking to approach agencies or photographers.
1. Don’t pay anything!
If your agency says that they would like to sign you up but that you’ll have to pay for an assessment shoot or to have your portfolio made then consider your position carefully!
A well regarded agency will not charge you for your portfolio shoots.
You would be added to their books as a new face and listed as “available for testing”
Essentially you will be available to work with photographers on test shoots in exchange for the experience and the shots that will then go on to become part of your portfolio. Getting real experience on shoots, working with teams and learning how you are expected to work without the pressure of a paying client is invaluable and beneficial to you and to the photographer.
And although you wont be paid, you will most likely still receive your travel costs and food if the shoot is over 4 hours.
Occasionally an agency may arrange shoots for you to build your portfolio quicker. They may use an in house photographer or a freelancer and these do cost money. But here is the important bit. You will not be asked to pay for them. Instead the agency may take a higher percentage from your first paid shoots to recover their costs.
This will be written in part of your agreement so be sure to check what they do.
2. You are important to the agency.
A proper agency knows that they only make money once you have enough experience and a strong enough portfolio to sell to clients.
They will take a percentage of your fee from these paying shoots so it is in their interest to make sure their models are well represented, constantly updating their work, and working with the right people to build their confidence and their craft.
Like any other job, you as the model, will be expected to give 100% on each shoot. The agencies may ask for feedback on you from the photographers you work with and likely will call or bring you in to discuss ways you can improve. If you are enthusiastic, sociable, fun to work with, and put in the extra effort to make the shoots as productive as possible then chances are that the photographers will give good reviews and in all likelihood ask to work with you again.
Make sure you know who your contact for each shoot is. Read your call sheet and know your times and places. And if you need to cancel the shoot due to illness or change of circumstance make sure you know how much notice you are required to give to your client. Most agencies will take care of sourcing another model for the client but as a general rule give 48hours notice if you are going to be unable to make it. Otherwise you could leave the team out of pocket after having paid for a location or equipment rental and it is unlikely you agency will be really happy if you just drop shoots because you’re a bit tired.
3. The legal bits.
Good agencies will manage all your release forms and such to start with. They will explain your responsibilities, your rights and what support you can get from them. As before, it is in their interest to make sure their models are happy and well looked after as well as creating great images!
Check your contracts. Are you being signed as exclusive or none exclusive? Can you take on personal work or does everything have to run through your agency?
If you are under the age of 18 your agency must get your legal guardian to countersign all the important releases and give them permission to send you for shoots etc. Also they may arrange for a chaperone to accompany you on shoots. This is normal practice and even models over 18 can request someone to accompany them if they’re working with a new photographer or for shoots such as art nudes, lingerie and so on.
If a photographer says you cannot be accompanied think twice.
Do they have a valid reason? Will it be just the two of you on the shoot or will their be a MUA and stylist too? If in doubt, politely decline and don’t take the risk. There will always be other shoots.
Often if working on a shoot that is to be published, the magazine will ask for image exclusivity which means that none of the images or spoilers of the shoot can be published before the magazine goes to print.
Most are fairly relaxed about taking a selfie in your outfits or during make up and whatever. But it is always worth checking what you can and can’t publish since on the odd occasion a poorly timed instagram or twitter picture of you guys on location could make the magazine decide to drop the shoot….And that is unlikely to make you popular!
4. Use the community.
As I mentioned before, there are lots of facebook groups and forums where models can ask for reviews on agencies, photographers, companies and just about anyone involved in the industry.
Most of these are not regulated by an agency and therefore should be unbiased.
Use them, learn from other models experiences, look out for people who other models are saying were great to work with and network with people who are heading in the same direction as you. These groups are not just a safety net but they’re also a valuable resource for seeing what kind of shoots are going on, what people are being paid and what looks are getting the most attention.
Think of it as market research. Stay safe and learn what you can. Always if in doubt get a friend to go with you or do whatever you feel is necessary to be safe.
5. Checking agencies.
When getting involved with an agency for the first time it can feel like they’re the ones in the powerful position, giving you your chance for your big break.
But the reality is that it’s a two way street and no matter what you can always back away. Take time to research the agency. Who are their clients, What do other models think of them? (an easy way to do this is find a model who works with them from their website and then contact them over social media. If the agency is good then the model will likely have no problems assuring you) How long have they been established? How many models do they currently represent? And probably the most important bit; read anything you are asked to sign. Google any phrase you don’t understand and make sure you know exactly what is expected of you and what rights you retain with regards to your image and payment.
Because it’s a two way thing you should not expect to just sit back and wait for the work! Keep in touch with your booker and always ask about what work is going. Keep up on social media, if you see shoots advertised then contact the advertiser and leave your name and your agency so that they can request you.
You may be the most beautiful model around but if no one hears from you at the agency or in the real world you will likely slip their minds. They are managing lots of people after all!
(model Melissa Donaldson – http://melissadonaldson.wix.com/modelling)
I realise this is a long list but essentially this is the point.
Take control, research, learn, and know your rights and the law.
Modeling is a dream job for so many people and there is no shortage of people willing to exploit this. So stay safe, enjoy it, and make your passion shine through in your work!
I would also recommend on fb typing in “Models (insert city name)” and looking for local groups who can review people in your area.
Sites like Model Mayhem, PurplePort and other forum based profile sites will often have an articles page with useful info on safe practices for their site and helpful tips.
Also, the UK governments website has a few pages dedicate to the legislation that agencies and freelancers have to abide by.