Model Dreams Featured Model Interviews Tips for Models

Advice on becoming a model

Tips for models

I often shoot portfolio photos of aspiring models in my Dayton, Ohio studio.  The information presented here is primarily for their benefit, although it may provide some insights to my portrait clients.  Note:  This page has a white background (yeah, ugly) to make it easier on the eyes since there is so much text.


When you're modeling, you're playing a character, acting out an emotion or situation.  Go with it.  Find something from your personal life that you can use to portray your prompt.  For instance, if you're supposed to be sad, think of something that made you sad.  How did you feel when it happened. Let that feeling wash over you.  If you can re-enact that situation, your performance will be much more effective.


Models are used to sell a product.  Commercial models sell products they are somehow endorsing.  Editorial shots illustrate a concept.  Fashion models are there only to show the clothing at its best.  Models do not get paid because they're pretty.  They get paid when they can help sell something. 


The photographer might have lots of ideas for the shoot (and an art director may have even more), but as a model your ideas count also.  If you have ideas on how to make a shoot work better, offer those ideas.  They may be on the mark, or they might not, but you never know when they'll spark a synergistic concept which never would've come into being without a free flowing of ideas.


Being on time is a great thing and is one of the marks of a professional.  If you are going to be late, you should call and let the photographer know as soon as possible.  It might not be a big deal (depends on how many people are waiting for you).  If you're a no-show/no-call, don't expect to work with that photographer again.

DON'T WEAR LOGOS (unless you're being paid to wear logos!)

If you have logos in your shots, it's basically saying "I was in this company's ad" or "I could have been in this company's ad".  If you weren't being paid to wear someone's logo, don't wear it!  Wearing logos or any type of branding is bad for a number of reasons.  It will date the photos since fads and fashions hardly ever last more than two years.  It distracts from the main subject of the photo--you!  If a competitor (let's say Nike) sees you in a great shot decked out in a competitor's clothing (let's say Reebok), then they're not going to hire you for a job because they'll think that you've already worked for the competition.  Also, if your photos are considered for being used to illustrate "exercise" in a fitness magazine, and you're decked out head-to-toe in Nike clothes, then they won't use your photos because they don't want to be advertising for Nike.


For men, my suggestion is to not put makeup on, just make sure that you're clean shaven and that the shine on your face is minimal (a shower before coming over usually suffices). As far as blemishes, don't worry about them, because I'll take care of that during processing. For women, just do what you normally do. Don't go overboard.

The people who you're showing your pictures to are going to want to know what you look like, not how good a makeup artist was. They want to know what the raw material looks like.

Just make sure your hair is the way you want it, and bring a few different shirts/outfits--solid colors, no logos, and make sure they fit-- not too big or too tight.

Feel free to bring brushes, gel, hair spray, makeup, whatever you normally use. If you eat lunch before, bring a toothbrush, since I never enjoy removing pieces of food from in between teeth. You'd be surprised how often I have to do that.




Being nervous is normal.  The best way to get beyond being camera-shy is to take lots of photos.  See what works and what doesn't.  Like everything else in life, the more experience you have, the better things will go for you. It will be OK.  Trust your photographer.  They'll make you look great!


When you're given instruction from the photographer, feel free to give several different variations of the same look.  For instance, "happy" can be a smile, a smile with raised eyebrows, a smile with only one eyebrow up, a smile with the head tilted, a smile with no teeth showing, a smile with lots of teeth showing, a smile with the mouth open like you're laughing, etc.


You have joints in your body, elbows, knees, wrists, etc.  By bending them, you change the way the eye moves around the photo.  If the arms are straight, the eye will travel quickly and go away from the person.  If they're bent in a way where the eye is allowed to travel around the body, the interest is held longer and its a more successful photo.


I'm sure that anyone reading this page has seen television shows such as "America's Next Top Model" where they're constantly trying to get the models to look "fierce".  Fierce may be good and it might work sometimes, but NOT ALL THE TIME.  A huge problem with some models is that they always have the same look.  They are intense or disinterested, and that's about it.  To be a good model, you should really be able to pull off a variety of emotions and show them not only with your face, but with your gestures.  Some models, when you look through their portfolios, might have ten outfits and background combinations, but their face is always the same.  When people look at your book to hire you, they will want to see a range of expressions.  Focus on showing that to them.



Makeup is usually best when it's subtle.  When the makeup is caked on or is distracting (like no one sees your face, only your makeup), it's too much!  If you're shooting for a client and that's what they want, fine, but if it's for your portfolio, anyone who might hire you is going to want to know what you can look like, not what the makeup artist did.



I cannot emphasize being well rested enough.  It not only impacts appearance, dark circles only work for some types of photography, fatigue also impacts the way in which a model interacts with a photographer.  Movement and poses are not sharp, instructions are misunderstood, facial expressions can look weary, tempers are on edge, none of which enhance the job at hand.  
Also, a model should know the photographer's style.  If she's doing her own wardrobe and/or hair and makeup, knowing what the photographer expects is key.  A model should not impose his or her style, they are being hired to provide a look.
When dealing with a professional photographer, remember that photographer is a professional.  If you feel you need to bring a friend in order to feel comfortable with any given photographer, a reassessment of that job may be in order.  A boyfriend or husband [
or mom--if you're over 18] should never be brought to a job.  If the boyfriend or husband insists on his inclusion, a reassessment of that relationship may be in order.

--Skip, photographer,


Note:  Some of Rachel's input is geared towards info available on Model Mayhem (MM)

Read  Twice, and then again the next day.  It's like the bible for modeling... learn it, live it, love it. 

Make sure your measurements, height and weight are correct.  Also, make sure your location is as accurate as possible.  

If you have to ask, it's a scam.  For more info on scams, go 
here to start.  Also, if your email is in your profile here on MM, remove it to reduce the chances of you getting scam and spam in your inbox. 

Here's some very helpful information about MM, your profile, and your portfolio: 
CLT's MM Forums Survival Guide 
PYPI's MM Help Blog 
PYPI's FAQ's Blog 
PYPI's TF* Checklist 
All About Headshots 
My Blog in which I often talk about modeling and give tips, tricks, etc.  Check out the Bring It lists! 

Read these two posts about doing your research before shooting with just anyone: 
Safety & Due Diligence by SLE Photography 
What is Due Diligence in a Model/Photographer Environment? by Curt Burgess

--Contributed by Rachel Jay at




1. Know the market you are in. Is it a Fashion Market, or is it a Commercial Market? This is very important in deciding what type of photos you need to better market yourself. With the wrong photos, you will only put yourself at a disadvantage.

2. When applying for Agency representation (for Commercial Markets), do not submit risque, sexual, or nude photos. Instead, submit photos that show you to be wholesome and natural (smiling, laughing, looking into the camera). Do not submit camera phone photos or photos with your friends. The focus needs to be on YOU.

3. Do not bring friends to a booking. If you are a child model, then you should only bring 1 parent with you to a booking.

4. Do not talk about your rate with the client or other Talent on set. Your rate may be different than other Talent due to the Agency and client negotiations.

5. Be respectful of everyone on set...even the janitor. You never know who is watching and taking notes on your behavior. And, getting repeat business from a client is what you should always aim for.

--Contributed by Thomas McClure, Heyman Talent Agency of Columbus, Ohio


The one thing I would add on the models page is to be sure they find a reputable modeling agency. Never pay any money upfront “to become a model” or to “have photos taken” for your portfolio. Most modeling agencies, in this area anyway, will interview prospective talent and ask them to bring a variety of regular snapshots which just show the person in everyday life in natural poses. As a writer/producer, I would rather see that anyway rather than some overly made-up head shot with the typical “Hi, I am a model” pose! I want to see how a person looks in jeans...playing with kids...around dogs..outside...inside...hugging as mom/dad, boyfriend, a sporting an evening gown at some local soiree...studying, etc. I think you know what I mean...I want to see the real person. The portfolio stuff comes later after a model has had several photo shoots for clients and builds a portfolio that way.

--Contributed by John F. Neal, Senior Copywriter, Penny/Ohlmann/Neiman Advertising, Inc, Dayton,


Input from a model is great - but don't overdo it so much to the point that you aren't doing what the photographer wants anymore.

Relax your face.  "Not smiling" doesn't mean "serious" or "mean" or "angry".

No thin stripes.


--Joe Federer, photographer,


Long-term, think twice about visible tattoos, they may limit your modeling options.
Don't stay out late the night before, red eyes do not look good!
Make sure your teeth are white, whitening kits are cheap these days!
Positive attitude helps- a happy model makes everyone's job easier and produces better results.
Always strive for comfort and safety- agree beforehand on chaperons, watch for cords, liquids, heat and other hazards during the shoot, and voice concerns- you'll be more comfortable and happier (see above.)
If you're providing your own outfits, bring a neutral and bold color choice, and a few accessories, especially things which go with your eyes or outfits.

--Paul Robertson, photographer,


1. Don't show up for a shoot looking exhausted. Be well rested prior to the shoot.

2. Don't do major changes from your hired-for appearance before a shoot (haircut, tattoo, hair dying, etc).


4. Speak up if you have an idea. Photographers are dealing with so many facets of a shoot, they often love getting a creative model.

5. Sexy does not mean professional, or the reverse. Listen to what you are being asked for, and aim for it. Ask if they would like some add in expressions. But don't just go for it.

--Contributed by Rob at