The very first thing you should know about modeling is that extremely little of it has to do with fashion or glamour.

I’m not talking metaphorically.

I’m referring to the fact that all fashion, glamour, editorial, and runway modeling combined adds up to a relatively small portion of the overall modeling employment available to young performers.

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Most modeling work, especially for children and teens, is something called “commercial print”.

This refers to most of those hundreds of informal catalogues and brochures you receive in the mail, or see on the Internet, and it also refers to most newspaper ads.

Commercial print modeling has far less stringent physical requirements than fashion modeling. People of virtually every “look”, every height, every weight, and every age can find at least some employment in commercial print.

Although it is a good learning experience, and often fun, it usually doesn’t pay very much.

In fact, extremely few people make a living doing it exclusively, and NONE have ever become wealthy.

What this means is that the percentage of commercial print income, (usually ten to twenty per cent) that goes to an agency in the form of commissions, is so negligible that pretty much the only times major talent agencies send their clients on such jobs are when acting jobs are scarce.

It goes without saying that the people who hire commercial print models rarely need to see portfolios or extensive collections of pictures or tear sheets before hiring someone.

Why? Because it’s not primarily about the person’s looks!

I have hired numerous commercial print photographers over the past two decades for various projects. When I first questioned them about what they were looking for in a model, I fully expected to hear things about “height”, “cheek bones”, “eyes”, things like that.

Not so.

Every one of them stressed the importance of personality and confidence, the ability of the model to relax, open up, and project who she or he was, and the ability to understand and follow directions.

The point?

NONE of these personality traits are apparent in a picture or portfolio!

This is true no matter how skillfully the model is posed or dressed or made-up. Paying for such pictures and portfolios for the purpose of getting into commercial print modeling is therefore pointless at best.

A simple color Polaroid-style home snapshot, either hand-delivered or scanned via the Internet, will provide most commercial print bookers and photographers with what they need to know about your looks.

Moreover, even the largest fashion model agencies who may indeed require certain pictures or portfolios, will more often than not arrange for a talented newcomer to have these taken on a complimentary or low-cost basis in the form of “test shots” by photographers who are looking to build their own portfolios and establish a rapport with the agencies.

Modeling Classes...

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Paying for modeling “classes” is another dubious endeavor.

One of the more popular classes at most of the nationally-known, high-profile modeling schools entails learning how to do your hair/make-up, and nails.

Have you ever heard the phrase: “We have people for that?”

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It is NOT a good idea to arrive on a set, whether for a commercial or fashion shoot, with your hair, make-up, and nails all perfectly stylized the way you believe you look best.

You are probably creating more work for the creative people, and costing the production company more time.

In terms of runway modeling classes, it is doubtful you will earn enough money doing runway modeling as you will spend learning how to do it.

This is even more likely in regard to classes in fashion or glamour modeling.

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To add insult to injury, most modeling classes offered by the large national chains are NOT taught by experienced professionals. They are taught by young people whose primary credential is that they recently graduated from the school themselves. Don’t believe me? Ask: "What are the professional credentials and work experience of the person(s) teaching me/my child?"

In conclusion, the term “modeling agency” is often a misnomer in that the company’s REAL income usually has little to do with commissions from bookings. Most of these operations should rightfully call themselves "modeling stores," since they devote far more time and energy, and derive far more income, selling classes and other dubious services to prospective models than to securing employment for them.

SAG (Screen Actors Guild)

The above is underscored by the fact that most modeling “agencies” are usually non-union, which usually means bad news for any aspiring performer. In fact, you should ALWAYS determine that any sort of talent agency, whether modeling or otherwise, is SAG-franchised before approaching them. If you have any doubt, call the nearest SAG office and ask: “Is such-and-such agency in such-and-such town franchised?”

Peter Sklar Scam Fighter SAG

Why? Because SAG has very strict rules regarding what franchised agencies can charge performers for various services, and especially whether or not they can offer such services. Also, most major work in this business is under SAG jurisdiction, which means that a non-union agency cannot offer you auditions for many major film and television jobs. Since most of these lucrative sources of commissions are legally denied most non-union agencies, these "agencies" are virtually forced to charge for such dubious services as modeling classes and portfolios, just to make ends meet and to ensure their survival.

Simply put, this means that the priority of nearly all non-union agencies is NOT getting you work; their priority is selling things. This belies the very definition of “talent agency,” which literally means employment agency for talent.

One additional thought…

I am reminded here of the many advertisements I have seen in newspapers, television, on the radio, and on the Internet that claim to be "seeking models and talent."

Read this carefully and remember it:

NOBODY who can offer you a legitimate modeling or acting job in this business, EVER needs to advertise to find talent. (Please see
talent searches.)