Tips for Models

As a photographer, these are my views. I express them in order to potentially help those wishing to succeed in modelling. I would get a lot of satisfaction from working with & helping someone who then goes on to be a successful model.

In my experience, those wishing to become successful models, tend to look at things from an aspiring model's perspective. They tend to think about creating a portfolio, and hope to be noticed or to gain work based on that portfolio. I think a glimpse of things from a photographer's perspective will be helpful.

Attributes of a Model

To become a saleable model, someone who will be paid to model, you need several things:

  • A good personality
  • A good figure
  • A good face
  • Good physical fitness & flexibility
  • A great portfolio
  • To have learned the art of modelling


I often ask "what do you think is the most important feature of a model?". Few can give me the answer. For a photographer, the most important feature is personality.
Personality covers commitment, reliability, communication skills, intelligence and an ability to pose and create different expressions (emote).

In my experience most aspiring models fail due to a lack of commitment & reliability. From a photographer's perspective, which is better, the best most attractive model who doesn't show up, or a slightly less good/attractive model who does? And an unreliable model will get a bad reputation, and will tend to only be called as a last resort.

A Good Figure

This is what most people assume is the most important feature. Currently, a "good figure" is generally thought of as slim and curvy for a lady.
It's quite difficult to define what a good figure is. For example, what makes that really good leg shape?

A Good Face

A symmetrical face is thought of as more beautiful. If I look at someone and their reflection I can tell how symmetrical they are. If they look the same in the mirror, they are symmetrical.
You can take a picture of yourself and then flip it horizontally to see if you look very different.
For modelling, some faces are better for certain types of modelling. For example, a "strong look", one which makes you instantly recognisable, is best for some advertising campaigns or high fashion.
Makeup makes such a difference, I like to see models with no makeup, the "blank canvas", so I can create makeup ideas for them.

Good physical fitness & flexibility

A lot of the time I think I get more exercise than the person I'm photographing, with heavy cameras and equipment to lug around.
But, modelling does require physical fitness and flexibility.

A great portfolio

Notice I said "great", not "good". A portfolio of mediocre pictures says one thing to me. The model can't tell a good picture from a bad one. And I think models should be able to critique pictures and hence the work of photographers.
If you want to look like a professional model, a saleable model, make sure you look like one. One picture from each idea. Only the very best pictures. Only very high quality pictures. If it can't be printed at least 12x8" (2400x1600 pixels), it's not a professional picture. Only properly edited pictures.
Don't publish any picture of yourself looking less than amazing. Modelling is about your public image. So make sure your image is that of a professional model.

In my experience, most aspiring models do not know how to create a great portfolio. If you do a shoot with me, and if you are serious about modelling, I will explain how to approach this, and how to select the right sort of pictures for your portfolio.

To have learned the art of modelling

This one should be top of the list!
You can't just become a model. It is an art that has to be learnt. I often see aspiring models going from one photographer to another, presumably to get pictures for their portfolio and to gain experience with different photographers. The trouble is, I see them making the same mistakes in all their shoots. They don't seem to be learning much from their shoots.
When an aspiring model does a shoot with me, I like to give them tips, what to do and why, so they can improve. When an aspiring model does more than one shoot with me (which I much prefer), I can give them feedback between shoots, tips and things to practice.
The aim is to be able to do much shorter shoots yet create more great results, because the amount of time spent guiding the model drops, and the photographer and model work effortlessly as a team.
Only when an aspiring model reaches that level of ability can she be attractive for paid shoots.


This is one of the key qualities and abilities of a model. If a model uses the same expression in every picture, her pictures will become boring, and she will not make a successful career of modelling.
This example was created in my Rangiora studio with Britney who had never done a photo shoot before. The same simple setting in all the pictures, the same clothes, hair and makeup. The difference, what makes them interesting, is the emotion the model is expressing. This shows what I strive for when working with an aspiring model, to guide and encourage a model to create results like these.


  • Form good relationships with the best photographers. See below.
  • Practice between shoots. Learn different posing ideas and expressions.
  • Ask the photographer for feedback after a shoot. Ask what he thinks you should practice/learn.
  • Eat before a shoot, turn up on time, and at least bring water with you. If a beach shoot, think about things you'll need, like a towel!
  • Use sun cream. You don't want skin cancer, nor do you want red peeling skin or tan lines.
  • Form a good working relationship with the photographers you work with, you never know when they may have a job for you.
  • Be realistic. Modelling is extremely competitive, so you are best to have a realistic determination. At the very least, enjoy your shoots and make sure you end up with great pictures.

Form Good Relationships with the Best Photographers

If aspiring models appreciate the benefits of forming good relationships with the best photographers, they can benefit greatly.
Photographers sometimes want to test new ideas, and not on paying customers, and will offer the right model a free shoot. There are a number of arrangements, but all should be beneficial to both photographer and model.
One arrangement, which is very common is the Time For Pictures (TFP) model release form. Both photographer and model give their time free of charge. The model receives a set number of edited pictures from the photographer. The photographer has the agreement of the model to use the pictures in his portfolio.
I don't offer TFP shoots. I sometimes offer a different arrangement. With models I've already done a paid shoot for, I may offer a free shoot, and I will supply the pictures on the CD of the next paid shoot. I make no promises about editing the pictures. With my arrangement the model has an opportunity to learn more about modelling, to do things she's probably not done before (and may have never seen before), she will get lots of tips, and she will  get pictures out of it. Part of the agreement will include what types of pictures you are happy to have tagged (for example yes or no to lingerie pictures). If I edit pictures, it will be in order to promote my business, and part of that is tagging them on Facebook. If I edit pictures, I will tag the model, and part of the agreement is that the pictures are not untagged, so her friends can see the pictures.

When a photographer publishes a picture, he will usually credit the model. This is for her benefit. When a model publishes a picture, she should credit the photographer, for his benefit. This is a generally agreed mutually beneficial agreement. Unless a special contract is signed, the copyright of all pictures remains with the photographer.

Consider things from the photographer's perspective. Respect his time and effort, communicate well, and above all, be reliable. Don't say you hate a picture he's spent hours editing, you can be tactful :) Untagging a picture says "I don't like your work and don't appreciate the time you've spent editing my picture". As a model you've just risked the chance of losing the good will of the photographer, and chances are he'll not edit any more of your pictures for his portfolio. You may have just lost the chance to get free edited pictures, and probably reduced the chance of being offered a free shoot. Aspiring models should appreciate the relationships between models and photographers. Models can benefit from forming and keeping good model-photographer relationships.

Think about who employs models, and who works with them. Think about who might say "she'd be very good for that project", or "hmm, I don't really like working with her". Photographers are part of the aspiring model's gateway into paid work. There is a greater supply of models than a demand for them, so only some aspiring models will succeed. To have a chance of being one of them, you'll need determination, you'll have to work hard, and you'll have to use intelligence, and look at the bigger picture when you make decisions.

Who decides that a model's picture is good?

When a paying customer employs a photographer, the results are for them, and they get to decide what they like.
When a model employs a photographer, the results are for the model, and she gets to decide what she likes.
The situation is a little different when the model is not employing the photographer. If the model does a paid shoot, the customer gets to decide which pictures he wants to use. The model usually has no say, as long as the results aren't to the model's obvious detriment. Usually with TFP shoots, the photographer picks the best pictures. With my arrangement, I pick the best pictures. So unless the model is paying for the shoot, she should accept the opinion of the photographer, if he is someone she respects and wishes to maintain a good working relationship. The model may enquire tactfully "you know, I'm not that keen on that picture, why did you like it?". Remember, images are subjective, everyone has a different view, we each see ourselves differently to how others see us. Unlike personal pictures, the main issue is whether others like the picture of the model, the photographer, his customers, and others. As a model, one must accept some loss of control over the use of your images.

Watch out for scams

If approached by someone saying "you could be a model, would you like to come for an interview", ask the name of the company, go home and search for that name followed by the word "scam".
There are "photographers" masquerading as talent scouts. They often charge a lot, often using a devious high pressure sales technique, supply at best average results, and almost never deliver on their promises of paid work.

Here's a must read thread from the forum for those in New Zealand (found with a Google of "talent scouts scam"): Photographers masquerading as Talent Scouts about If you read the comments you'll be more aware of the dangers of scams. You must make up your own mind about the company mentioned.
This is a more general warning from Modeling agencies scams

A couple of videos well worth watching:

Fair Go on Talent Scouts

Miss World New Zealand 2012 Collette Lochore

I am a photographer, my aim is an enjoyable shoot and great results. I make no promises of paid work or success as a model. I will help as much as I can, in an open honest way. If you are approached by a company making great promises of modelling work, you are welcome to contact me to discuss things. The greater the promises, usually the greater the chance it is a scam.

A few simple tips:

1. Read the contract and get someone who knows about contracts to check it.
2. Don't pay any money.
3. Look at the quality of the pictures they publish. Are they really top quality pictures?
4. Check the website. Is it complete, or does it look like a half-finished job? Check who the registrant is with "whois" and the website name.
5. Search for the company name, or registrant name followed by "scam" or "ripoff" etc to see if anyone has posted complaints.

Model Release Forms

Your image should not be used to advertise a product or service without your consent. If it is, you have the right to ask for compensation or to have your image removed.
If you haven't signed a model release form, the photographer should not advertise his services using your image.