So you want to be a model...and other forms of etiquette in 2017.
I have my coffee, dark side of the moon is spinning on the record player(one of the more brain expanding albums IMO) and I'm ready to write a centered non vindictive blog post about a topic that is very near and dear to me, modeling. It's a term that grossly encompasses way too many people, actions and statuses in this social media, narcissistic world. I'm going to try to keep some of my more base emotions about modeling in check as I write this. What in the hell could that mean Mike? Well, let's get some of my bullshit out of the way first because I truly really do want to help people understand what it means to model. I hesitate to say "be a model" because that means SO many things.
Okay, let me sort out some of my choice feelings first so that I can have a clear, helpful guide to those who actively want to pursue this trade. I'm pretty sure a lot of "what it takes" to be a model falls in line with most successful jobs but everyone needs a refresher. More on this later.
Okay bullshit time.
I don't even like the term model. It's like talking about amateur photographers and pro photographers. Does one have a different connotation than the other? Sure it does! It's the same thing with pro models and amateur models. Social media has driven all of us insane. Technology has driven us all insane. Let me explain. If you're "attractive" people always say that you should model. Quite a true falsehood as many attractive people can make pretty shitty models. Modeling is more of a subset of important actions that attractiveness can only help so much. So in this social media driven world that is guided largely by how you look, folks are being told they should be doing certain things they may not be cut out for. Coupled with technology this becomes downright scary. Let me tell you, digital cameras have gotten AMAZING. I'm thinking about just buying canon's entry level slr and shooting with that and saving tons of money but seriously, blokes who have picked up a camera in the past 1 month are taking "decent" images of people. Like, it's getting exceptionally hard to take crappy photos. Seriously, I will give my slr with nice lens to my cousin who is 6, put it on auto, and have them take pictures of what they like and they are BEAUTIFUL.
Okay, I'm starting to get tangential, the point is, this community of people with access to good technology and "attractive" people have bred a pool of amateur models and photographers that just continue the cycle of mediocrity. Are there amazing photographers and models that come out of this? Sure, definitely, nobody is saying that you can't amount to anything if you start out this route but I feel a lot of people would agree, those individuals would have pursued their trades regardless. I mean this guy didn't go to a photography school. Totally not tooting my own horn. I feel I'm okay at what I do but I try, really hard, like engrossing my life in all aspects of photography, hourly.
Anyway, my point to this garbled mess is that there is a lot of noise. I speak of this noise a lot in photography. It just so happens with modeling as well. So I tend to have a little bit of a pulmonary embolism explode when I see people throwing up their picture and saying "I have never modeled, I want to shoot boudoir, can photographers take pictures of me?" Excuse me, I need to clean up the pool of blood at my desk that has escaped from my brain.
So that's my bias. People know, I try very hard to not work with new folks. I generally end up having a bad experience, why? They are in it for the wrong reasons or they aren't in it for enough of a reason. I'm so dedicated to what I do and I guess it could be unfair but I expect people to be as dedicated to what they do as well. My time is so important, so important. I would hope they thought their time be important too.
I want to deter the wrong people from coming aboard. I want to cultivate the people that really want to work hard. This work ethic kinda makes me think of my high school choir teacher, Mr. Ed Dalton. He scared the shit out of a lot of people, made them cry, possibly made not so PC remarks to the class at times but his expectation weeded out people that weren't in it for the right reasons. We had a smaller, sleeker, more musically focused choir because of it. Now I don't want to go scaring people but I want to let them know that there is work ahead and the best models work so hard at what they do.
If you want instagram followers, stop reading right now. So here it is, a small list of things that you can do to start modelling or be better at modelling. A note before I start, this is for someone who really wants to be doing this at 50% or more of the time in their life. It may not matter to the para legal that does liquor events on the weekend or the figure nude model that's also in school. Don't yell at me too much.
1) Check your emotions and reasoning as to why you want to pursue this. Are you a narcissist? Do you just like having your picture taken? What do you have to give to the industry? This is a funny question but it's true! Do you have a marketable look? Regardless of what you think of the industry's take on sizes of people(IT COMPLETELY FUCKING SUCKS) there are a host of opportunities for print and commercial models. A word on the industry, it's slowly changing with lots of ear pulling so please never feel distraught if you aren't a size 0. Are you in a large or small market? What kind of jobs are out there? Agencies? This takes a lot of research, get to it!
2) Photographers aren't your client. Look, there are some amazing art models out there that tour and get paid by photographers and other artists alike but they are few and more far between than you think. If you can point to a majority of them charging photographers and making upwards of 60k a year I'll shut up right now. A lot of people end up in this rut of charging baseless rates for clothing/nude/hourly to others that will pay them. Your clients are the companies that book you for jobs. Some people even get into a bad situation where people start just charging them to take their clothes off. Photographers are not your end client.
3) Your body is a temple and so is your face, take care of it. Like I said, a pretty or handsome face doesn't work well if you're sleep deprived, hungover or eat like trash most of the time. Your whole self is marketable. Sounds incredibly toddler like but things like, getting sleep, drinking water, regular exercise, taking care of your hands and feet, regular grooming habits make everything go so much better. Think if you didn't take your body seriously and you looked like hell on a job, now you've made the photographer, makeup artist and retoucher work harder. What happens if you show up to a job with awful tan lines and you have to wear shorts or backless dress? Yes these are minor things but when your face and body are your job you always have to be thinking about them. Invest in yourself always.
4) Punctuality and the art of caring. I don't know why this is number 4, it should be number 1 for life and in all jobs. Paid or unpaid, showing up to a job, creative endeavor, on time is a testament to caring. I always say, treat it like you are going to a job that is paying you 2000 dollars a day no matter what. If your stomach was hurting would you still show up to the job if that's what you were being paid? I sure know you would so take that mindset to all jobs, big or small. Not feeling well, fights with significant others or sleeping too late are all kinda unacceptable in any career when calling out sick so don't do it as a model. Use your phone like a phone, call and confirm with the job or client when you'll be there. Ask them how long you will be needed for, remember your time is worth it too.
5) Establish a model kit to take to gigs. Make sure you always have water/snacks/moisturizer/basic makeup/socks/extra underwear/tweezers/mirror with you at all times. A little pack like that goes a long way.
6) If seeking agency representation, you definitely do not need to work with 100 photographers "to get a strong port." This is some sort of lie. I've worked with agency models who were just signed and generally they need a head shot and to see you in person. I see so many photographers saying that they want to help build some port for "up and coming" models. It don't work that way pal.
7) Always continue educating yourself. Every week I set aside 3 hours to learn something new. Whether it be retouching or a new way to light someone I always want to build upon my own base. It's no different for modeling. Study posing, your best friend will be the mirror. Learn to understand how your body looks in different positions, flexed, unflexed. Muscle memory is key to some poses and I always know a model doesn't know what they are doing when they are put in a pose but their face says, "what the hell!?" Work with people better than you, more experienced and enjoy helping others. You sometimes get a lot of feedback and tend to grow when thrown into situations that cause you to be out of your comfort zone.
8) Demand respect. Oye, I could write a book on what has historically been not the nicest industry. You are a human and you are amazing don't let anyone disrespect your body, your time or your self worth. No job is worth any sort of sexual/verbal assault. No job. It is not okay for anyone to touch you, ever, unless it's an assistant who asks for consent and it directly has to do with clothing/hair/makeup. Reference check who you are working with. They should be able to provide you with accurate references.
9) Learn the art of patience. Modeling is a business and you're the owner. I believe I stole that. I'm sorry model management. It takes so much time and commitment, things don't happen overnight. Also, learn actual day to day, mindful patience. You will be on jobs that are long, arduous, boring and the most seasoned models won't bat an eye. I'm looking at you Lyndsie!
10) The act of modeling isn't always glamorous. Some of the most wonderful models are pretty mundane looking people but they come to life when they are in front of the camera. Nobody shows up, looks pretty, goes home. If you feel that is what you're going to get, well, refer back to guideline number 1.
There are so many other things to list here but I feel like those are the most basic things people can follow. Will you be successful if you do all of these things? Hell no but I believe it's your best bet at success. It's a hard, unfair business that too many people choose lightly. If people knew what it really took to being your own photography business well, you wouldn't wish it on most, the same with modeling. I want people to succeed for all the right reasons. So think deeply about the decisions you make and the time you take of others. If it's still in you to try for this life let me know, because I love working with people who really care about what they are doing. Questions? Comments, I'd love to hear your ideas and criticisms. Leave them below.
Shout out to some of my favorite reliable newbies below.