How to Apply to a Modeling Agency
Most agencies have a ďChristmas FileĒ. Thatís a
private file kept by one of the bookers that they put the truly awful pictures
into. Pictures that are sent by people who want to be accepted by them as
models. Some are so bad that they are good for a chuckle, or even a hearty
belly laugh, and what better time to break them out than the holidays.
Then there is the ďround fileĒ: the trash can.
The great majority of all model submissions end up there. A lot of
people, quite honestly, would be consigned to the trash no matter what they
did, but some of them donít have to be. At least itís possible to give
yourself a fighting chance.
If you donít want to end up in one of those files, pay
attention. Hereís what people do wrong, and what you should do right.
1. What Should be in the Application:
a. Keep it simple.
The agency wants to know what you look like, what your height and stats (for
women, bust/waist/hips, for men, suit jacket and waist size) and location are.
They also want to know your age. You should include eye color, hair
color, dress and shoe size as well, since they may help. If you are
currently represented by a real, booking agency somewhere, say so.
They do NOT want to know that you have dreamed of being a model your whole life,
that you were third runner up in a local beauty pageant, or which high school
plays you were in. They arenít interested in how many callbacks you
received at some model convention. Do not tell them you are a graduate of
modeling school. They also donít want to know about all the websites you
appear on, and donít care that some ďmodel exposureĒ site showcased a picture
If you have extensive professional modeling or acting experience, say so.
If the basics interest them, they may want to know a lot more about you.
But they will ask. Donít force it on them at the beginning. It
simply wastes their time and yours, and you may include things that will hurt
you, not help.
b. Include contact information. At a minimum,
your telephone number. If you want to include your address and email
address you can, but you must have your telephone number.
c. Donít ask them to contact someone else about you. They
want to talk to you (or, if you are a minor, your parents). The worst
thing you can do is say ďfor further information please call my other agent at
. . . .Ē
d. If you are not a citizen of the country you are calling, explain what
your visa status will be. At some point you will have to have the legal
right to work, and the agency needs to know if you do then, or if itís a
problem that needs to be taken care of.
e. If you donít live near where the agency is, explain what your
plan is. Briefly. Sooner or later you are going to have to go see
them. Tell them about that. If you donít plan to move, donít bother
sending an application.
f. Include the right kind of pictures.
(1) †Nobody wants
to see pictures you happened to have lying around of your vacation, your prom,
or snapshots taken of you and your friends at a bar. Get something specifically tailored for this
purpose. If that means getting a disposable camera and taking a trip to
the drug store, do it. At least it will look like you tried.
(2) †No matter how
much they say it isnít so, the best possible pictures to send are shots of you
appearing in prestigious, paid modeling work of the kind the agency does.
Shots from Vogue or a national ad campaign beat snapshots every time.
(3)† But most of
you wonít have those. If you donít, call and ask the agency what they
prefer. Some (mostly fashion agencies) will want only simple Polaroid-style
snapshots. Others (primarily commercial agencies) would prefer
well-developed composite cards or similar professional pictures. It all
depends on the culture of the agency. Still, paying lots of money for
those professional pictures may not be a good investment. Itís wise to
try an inexpensive approach first. Only after that hasnít worked, and you
are still determined to pursue modeling, should you make an investment in
g.† If you do get pro shots done:
(1)† Make sure
they are in the style the agency wants to see. Unless the agency
specializes in glamour, glamour-style shots are usually a bad idea. If
itís an editorial fashion agency, lifestyle/commercial/Ēreal peopleĒ shots are
a bad idea. If itís a commercial print agency, high fashion, editorial
style shots are a bad idea. Know who you are submitting to and what they
want to see. If they have a website, use it as a guide to what you need.
(2)† The shots
need to minimize what the agency will see as your weak points.† It isnít
enough that they be ďgood picturesĒ in the style the agency uses.† They have to
be pictures that are good at marketing you.† That could be very
different from the typical pictures a test photographer takes.† For example, if
you are 22 years old and applying to an editorial fashion agency, you shouldnít
have pictures that make you look more sophisticated.† Go for a youthful look.†
If you are shorter than the preferred height, get shots that make you look
taller, or thinner, or whatever overcomes the natural inclination of the agency
to see you.
†The most common
problem for fashion models is that they donít look ďeditorialĒ Ė the term ďtoo
commercialĒ is applied to pretty girls that donít have distinctive, edgy
looks.† If professional pictures are used, they have to overcome that ďtoo
commercialĒ natural impression.† Thatís not easy to do, and for many pretty
girls, cannot be done.
(3)† If you are having
shots done to take to an agency, quality, style and type must be correct
for the agency. "Good pictures" isn't enough. The best way to select a photographer
is to use photographers recommended by the agency you are submitting to, or by another
similar agency in the same market. Particularly for commercial models, the chance
of getting free pictures that are of the correct type, style and quality is near zero.
Relatively few people know how to shoot them, and almost none are willing to do it
for free. Don't waste your time on "TFP/TFCD" shoots unless you are certain the
photographer is very well qualified to produce commercial test pictures.
2. How to Submit Your Application:
Every agency has a preference on how you should submit to
them. Some have open calls (the best way). Many do not. Some
take email submissions, others do not. Some are happy to make
appointments, most will not until they have seen something from you they
like. The first thing is to find out what a particular agency prefers,
and give them that. Virtually all agencies will take regular postal
Go see them:
If the agency has open calls, or allows models to personally
drop off pictures, do that if possible. Pictures are good, but seeing you
in person is better. There are lots of examples of people who would have
been turned down from their pictures, but who were accepted when somebody
actually laid eyes on them in person.
On the other hand, if the agency does not have open calls or
accept walk-ins, donít do it. Itís just annoying, and nobody wants to start
off that way.
Send them a mail application:
If you donít live where they are, or they wonít accept
walk-ins, the best thing to do is sent them a postal mail application. It
should include pictures and the information described above. If you want
to get the pictures back, include a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Make sure
you write your name, contact information and stats on the back of every picture
so if it gets separated from the cover letter they can still tell who you are.
Before you send an agency email, check with them by phone,
or on their website, to see if they will accept it. Some will not.
Very few agencies prefer email, although these days many
will accept it. Most would rather get pictures and stats in regular
postal mail. Hereís why:
a. Many models donít know
how to send an effective email. They send pictures in formats the
agency canít read, they send pictures that are so large they clog the system
and wonít fit on the screen. They send pictures so small nobody could
tell what the model looks like. They send pictures only, with no contact information
except a return email address. (Yes, thatís a problem. Agencies
want to know where you are.) They send emails with no pictures and
request the agency email for them if interested (fat chance!).
People with AOL send pictures as
attachments. AOL wonít let you send pictures to non-AOL subscribers as
attachments, so the email arrives with text only.
Or they do things like say, ďIíve been hearing wonderful things about your
agency and would love to work with you.Ē Then the message header shows
that it was sent to 47 agencies around the world, including four well-known
Or they have the message enclosed in another message, sometimes three or four
layers deep. After clicking on all those other emails to get to the
message, the pictures damned well better be wonderful.
Or they ask the agency to go to some goofy site with six popup ads per page,
and the agent has to wade through pages of pictures of the modelís boyfriend,
puppy and prom night, plus read all about her favorite foods, her best friends
and the poetry she likes to write. Somewhere on the site there might
actually be pictures of the model and her stats, but it takes time to find
it. Long before that happens the agent is on to the next email.
b. Agencies get lots of spam and viruses. Publicly
accessible agency email addresses are harvested by the spammers, and show up in
lots of peopleís computers, so itís not unusual for an agency to get hundreds
of spam messages, and several to hundreds of viruses every day in their
email. They donít want to pay someone to go through all that, so they use
automated virus and spam filters to get rid of most of their email.
Lots of model submissions look like spam, and are deleted before they are ever
read. Some of them with attachments are treated as viruses. Nobody
wants to open attachments from someone they donít know.
c. Email inboxes get clogged. Itís very common for agencies
to get so many submissions (and spam, and viruses) that their inbox gets full,
and they never see your email.
d. Itís harder to file your submission and show it to other people.
No, itís not impossible, of course. Emails can be forwarded (but see
above . . .), or put in a different directory that is accessible to others for
review. But pieces of paper are easier to deal with. They fit in
file folders that can be passed around. Yellow stickies can be added to
them. For all the talk of the ďpaperless officeĒ, for most people paper
is still easier to deal with. You donít want to make it harder.
Except when time is critical and somebody at the agency is
expecting something from you, it is almost never a good idea to send
email. Use the post office.
If you absolutely have to use email, do it right:
a. Include pictures embedded in the body of the message, or by link to
the pictures. The link should be to the pictures themselves, not to
some website that the pictures are on.
b. Make sure the
pictures are the right size and format. They should be 450-600 pixels
high, and in JPEG format only. Do not ZIP or STUFF anything.
Do not embed it in some other document like a word processing document or .pdf
file. If you donít know what any of this means, or how to do it, find
someone who does, or donít send email!
c. Send an email to each agency individually. Itís not that hard,
and it matters. Nobody likes to get an email submission that is sent to
everyone else he knows and some he doesnít want to know.
d. If you feel you absolutely have to send the agency a link to your
website, make sure it is the same as what your submission should be:
simple and to the point. Donít make anyone wade through extraneous information
or click on lots of pages to find what they need. Put it on the first
page. Put nothing else on that page.
For the most part, the telephone is for
asking questions. You can use it to find out if the agency has open
calls, how to send submissions, what they want to see, what their requirements
are. You might be able to make an appointment to come in to see them, but
at most agencies you wonít be able to.
Call during business hours. Every agency gets
calls from ďaspiring modelsĒ who leave messages at odd times of the night,
usually asking for a return call. They get ignored. If you canít
call the agency when it is open for business, you canít be a model.
Call for yourself! (Or, if you are very young,
have your parents call for you.) If you have your cousin, some ďmanagerĒ
nobody has ever heard of or, worse, your boyfriend call for you, you are
already at a serious disadvantage. The agency then wants to know why you
arenít calling for yourself (are you not able to? Are you not interested
enough?) and if they have to deal with some meddlesome intermediary in working
with you. Donít give them that impression.
3. What Happens Next:
At most agencies, nobody will contact you unless they are
interested in you. In fact, within minutes after they look at your submission
they will have forgotten it, unless they are interested, or if it goes into the
Usually if you call and ask if they have gotten it, or what
they plan to do with it, they wonít know. Nobody logs and tracks those things.
There are too many of them to remember or keep track of.
If you donít get a response in a reasonable time (a couple
of weeks), you probably arenít going to. At that point you can think
about trying again, but by doing something differently: get different
pictures or go see them instead of just making a mail submission.
If after all that you still arenít getting a response, itís
probably time to forget that agency.
Want to learn more?
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