The steps on how to become a model can seem confusing at first. Where does one even start?

There is misinformation on how to become a model, so it is important that you do research. Your information should come from reliable sources who are familiar with how to start modeling. Otherwise you run the risk of being scammed.

As a fashion and model photographer, I have worked with beginner and professional models for over 14 years. These modeling agencies recommend and trust us to work with their models. So when their models come to us we have a team of hair stylists, make up artist and wardrobe stylist that help us capture new modeling photos that the models then use in their modeling portfolios to gain new clients.

Some of the modeling agencies we have worked with are top tier modeling agencies including IMG, Wilhelmina, FORD, DNA and L.A. Models and ELITE Models.

This Modeling 101 Guide will provide you with everything you need to know when looking to pursue a career as a model. This guide covers all type of modeling, including: fashion model; plus size model; teenage model; male model; or female model etc.

Where To Start When Becoming A Model

Best Cities for Modeling

The best U.S. cities to live in if you want to become a model are:

  • New York City
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Chicago

These major modeling cities offer the most work for all professional models due to the clients that are headquartered there or that frequently shoot campaigns, e-commerce and editorials there. If you want to become a model you have to live where the industry is thriving and where you can be exposed to the most modeling work and opportunities.

However that is not to say that you can’t “break into” modeling in mid-size markets or smaller. Other cities where you can become a model include Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle, and Las Vegas. Some of these cities have their own market where models can get started and make a decent living. For example in Dallas, TX you have numerous brands headquartered there that need models. These include Neiman Marcus, BELK and JC Penny.

These mid-size cities are a great place to develop your modeling portfolio, whether for plus size modeling, commercial modeling or for male models etc. They also allow you to get to know the ins-and-outs of the modeling industry before you (or your agents) decide to get you placed with another modeling agency in a major city.

Male and Female Modeling Agencies in Los Angeles

Modeling Requirements

  • Model requirements for women: 5’8 – 5’11 and ages 13 – 25
  • Model requirements for men: 5’11 – 6’2 and ages 15 – 28

Sometimes these requirements vary by modeling agency or the market you are in. For instance, smaller markets may be more flexible with their model requirements as the local clients have different needs.

Open Calls and Model Searches for Male and Female Models

What Are Open Calls For Models?

If you fit these requirements modeling agencies typically offer what is known as “open calls”. Which means they usually have 1-2 days during the week, at a specific time, where model hopefuls can show up and meet with the modeling agents.

The model agents will take your measurements and take “polaroids” of you (In the “old days” they were actual polaroids; nowadays they are taken with a digital camera). The photos they take are a full-length shot, a 3/4 shot, a close up photo of your face straight on and profile. They make take a photo of the woman in a swimsuit and a photo of the man in briefs (this is so they have a sense of your body type).

This is also a great time to show off your personality! Some of the most successful models also have contagious personalities that keep clients re-booking them on modeling jobs.

Sometimes attending open calls is all that’s needed for you to “get discovered” in modeling.

What Are Model Searches?

Some modeling agencies have annual “model searches”. A model search is where you can submit your photos online or physically show up to the search (assuming they are being held somewhere). During a model search you will be able to meet the agents, walk a runway and partake in whatever other activities they may offer.

One of the most notable model searches is the Kim Dawson Model Search. They have discovered men and women who have gone off to be highly successful models.

Both open calls and model searches are typically free. If you find that modeling agencies are making you pay to show up to an open call or model search, proceed with caution.

Do’s and Don’ts For Open Calls


When you show up to an open call you should wear:

  • fitted jeans (dark blue or black)
  • a simple tank top or spaghetti strap (black)
  • show up with absolutely NO make up on (only moisturizer and lip balm). modeling agents want to see your natural beauty.
  • your hair should be up in a simple pony tail.

If you attend a open call, make sure to show up wearing:

  • fitted pair of jeans (dark blue or black)
  • a simple crew neck (black)
  • arrive with a clean shaven face or lightly trimmed and make sure you moisturize and apply chapstick.

Modeling agencies want to see your natural beauty. So don’t cover yourself with make up. If you are looking to be a teenage model, pimples are expected. So don’t be shy or embarrassed about them. 

Do I Need Professional Modeling Photos?

No and yes. Let us explain.

If you attend an open call or model search, you do not need to show up with professional modeling photos. Modeling agents will know you’re new so they won’t expect you to have modeling photos with you. If the modeling agency decides to sign you on as a “new face” model, they will then refer you to their agency approved modeling photographer for professional modeling photos.

On the other hand, if you show up with modeling photos that are shot correctly by a professional modeling photographer, you may score brownie points. If you do end up getting signed to the modeling agency, they will more than likely use some of the photos you already have in your modeling portfolio to market you and add them to the agencies website.

Again, this is assuming that you worked with a professional modeling portfolio photographer that has experience with the type of photos that models need.

Read our detailed article on what types of photos a model needs in their modeling portfolio.

How Much Is A Photoshoot For Modeling?

You can expect a professional modeling photoshoot to cost anywhere from $600-$1000+ all in. This varies by city and the experience or “name” of the photographer you are working with. A photographer with more experience or a bigger name will typically command a higher rate, as will their team. 

A professional modeling photoshoot will include more than a photographer. There will also be a hair stylist, make up artist and wardrobe stylist. In order to get the best modeling portfolio, we recommend you budget for the entire team.

You may opt to bring your own wardrobe and do your own hair and make up, but the quality of modeling photos may not be the same.

Agency Preferred Modeling Photographer

If you get signed by a modeling agency, they will have you “test” with their preferred model photographer so that you get images for your modeling portfolio. These “agency approved photographers” have been vetted by that modeling agency. Meaning the agency has met with them in person to verify that they aren’t shady characters.

Additionally the photographer has shown that they can capture the exact photos needed by that modeling agency in order to start getting the model work or seen by clients. When you shoot with an agency preferred photographer, you will know that your money is well spent.

Modeling agencies typically work with model photographers that offer their own strong point. For example one photographer may capture the ideal swimwear photos, another fashion photos, or lifestyle photos. So in order to get a 100% “strong modeling portfolio”, you may have to test with a few different photographers.

This is why you can’t shoot modeling photos with a wedding or baby photographer. These photographers may not have the knowledge to capture modeling photos that work.

So if you decide to use another photographer that is less expensive or that the modeling agency does not recommend/work with you run the risk of capturing modeling images that will not work (and you’ll have to eventually pay to work with the preferred photographer anyway to capture the right photos).

TIP: The word “test” is industry lingo meaning a photoshoot for your modeling portfolio.

Using Social Media To Promote Yourself As A Model

Marketing Yourself As A Model: Social Media

As a model in todays society, it’s a must to be on social media. Modeling is no longer only about your looks. Clients are looking for models who have a social media presence and following.

Why is this?

When a client has the option to book one of two models, both of whom fit the bill for the project, they are usually going to go with the one with a stronger social media presence.

The model with a stronger social media presence will provide more eyeballs to that client and project, which could result in more sales. A model with a bigger social reach may also be able to command a bigger rate because of this added benefit.

Top models are no longer only sharing their modeling adventures on social media. They are also showing their unique personalities. From those who love to bake, exercise, sing, dance etc. It is all about standing out and sharing your point-of-view.

Those with privacy concerns who choose not to participate on social media may hinder their chances of getting signed to a modeling agency or getting booked by clients.

Dealing With Rejection in Modeling

Modeling agencies have certain looks they are looking for based on current trends and what they know how to market. Likewise there is only room for so many male or female models that have the similar features, eye color, hair types etc within that agency.

This is why you may have all the requirements needed to model, but you don’t get signed to a modeling agency. They may already have 10 people that look like you. So it does not make sense for them to sign a new model when they may be struggling to get jobs for their current models. 

So if this is happening to you try submitting to that same modeling agency again in 6 months. During that 6 month period some models may end up being dropped by the agency or quitting all together. Another route may be to submit to a different modeling agency in the city you live in, if that is an option.

Modeling Scams To Look Out For

Pay Money Upfront Modeling Scam

Be cautious if a modeling agency is requesting that you pay money upfront for classes or a school. 

Even if these model hopefuls don’t fit all the requirements, these “modeling agencies or schools” prey on individuals who are eager to model or act. They do this by building you up with talks of industry connections, classes and schools you “need” in order to succeed.

This is not true and most of these modeling scams have no clients. They thrive by having beginner models pay thousands of dollars directly to the company for schools and classes.

Google Fake Modeling Agencies Scam

If you are not feeling right about the modeling agency, do a thorough Google search. We recommend that you type the name of the company into Google followed by “scam” after it. This will usually provide a list of online complaints by other beginner models who may have been cheated by these modeling scams.

At the end of the day, trust your gut and ask questions. A professional modeling agency will not be irritated or put off by you being inquisitive about the industry.

Modeling Agencies Near Me

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How To Get Into Modeling

Whether searching how to become a male model (or female) it is important you do your research on modeling agencies. Below we break down the best modeling agencies in the United States.

Keep in mind some model measurements are pretty standard (for example, a fashion model) but depending on the local clients, these agencies may have slightly different rules they adhere by.

Modeling Agencies in NYC

  • New York Model Management
  • Wilhelmina Models
  • IMG Models
  • FORD Models
  • Elite Model Management
  • Red Model Management
  • NEXT Management
  • MUSE Model Management
  • VNY Models
  • DNA Model Management
  • Heroes Model Management
  • Major Model Management
  • Marilyn Models

Modeling Agencies in Chicago

  • Wilhelmina Models
  • Select Model Management
  • FORD Models
  • 10 MGMT
  • BMG Models

Modeling Agencies in Miami

  • MC2 Models
  • Elite Model Management
  • Wilhelmina Models
  • BMG Models
  • Front Model Management
  • Next Management

Modeling Agencies in Dallas

Modeling Agencies in Seattle

Modeling Agencies in Oklahoma

Modeling Agencies in Atlanta

  • The Salt Agency
  • Ei Model Management
  • Ursula Wiedmann Models

Modeling Agencies in San Francisco

  • Look Model Agency
  • Scout Model & Talent Agency
  • RAE Model & Talent Agency

Modeling Agencies in Portland

  • Muse Model Management
  • Option Model & Media
  • Reaction Models & Talent
  • Ryan Artists

Modeling Agencies in Phoenix

  • Signature Models & Talent
  • Southwest Model & Talent 
  • The Young Agency
  • Deborah Maddox Agency
  • FORD/Robert Black Agency

Modeling Terms To Know

There are numerous modeling terms and industry lingo that gets thrown around on set and on the web. This makes it very confusing (and embarrassing) for a beginner model who has no idea what they are being asked about or to do.

Below we break down some of the most common terminology in the modeling industry so that even a beginner model knows how to cheat the camera. 

  • Book – This is another way to one refers to your modeling portfolio.
  • Body Part Modeling – There are some models who get hired due to their perfectly shaped hands, feet or lushes hair, not their face.
  • Buyout – A buyout is an additional fee that is paid to the model due to the client wanting to use the photo(s) in perpetuity.
  • Comp Card – (used to be known as a zed card or composite sheet) is a printed card that typically has your beauty/face shot taking up one entire side. Meanwhile the back side is divided into 4 sections and shows 4 different photos. Typically one is full length, 3/4 and a mix of fashion, lifestyle or body photos. It will also list your name, measurements and the name of your modeling agency. Think of this as your business card.
  • Cheat Towards The Camera – This is when the model slightly turns their head towards the camera. You do this so that the photographer or client can see a little more of your face or body.
  • Editorial Photo –  An editorial shot tends to accompany an article text or inside a magazine.
  • A Fitting – This implies that the model shows up to the clients offices to try on clothes before a booking like runway show or photoshoot. This is to ensure that the clothes or product fit correctly.
  • Go-See – If a client has interest in booking you for a project, they will request a go-see. This is when you simply show up to be seen by the clients. Make sure to show off your personality, if you can, as this is your audition.
  • Request Go-See – When a client specifically requests a particular model to attend a go-see.
  • Model Form – This is filled out when you attend a go-see and includes the basic size measurements like height, waist size, etc
  • Model Release Form – When a client or photographer have you sign a model release, you are giving them legal rights to use the photos anywhere they see fit.
  • Print – Any photo used in a printed format such as in a magazine, ad etc
  • Tear Sheet – This is a physical copy or “tear” off a magazine where the model is featured.
  • Test Shot (or shoot) – This is typically a photoshoot or image specifically for a models portfolio and will not be used in any advertising or commercial use.
  • Usage – This breaks down how the photos will be used, in what format and the duration.
  • Model Voucher – After a model finishes a commercial job, they will have the client sign their model voucher. Think of this as a receipt or invoice. The client will get a copy, along with the agent and model. The model vouchers are provided by your modeling agency once you sign with them.
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Conclusion On Becoming A Model

While the modeling industry may seem confusing or intimidating, it is also a fun creative industry filled professional photographers, hair stylist, make up artist and wardrobe stylist.

At the end of the day, we all want to work with professional models and to create great fashion and editorial photography.

Most of the modeling scams you hear about are due to the individuals not doing enough research or asking enough questions.

Ready To Start Modeling?

The top modeling agencies are always going to be in the major fashion cities. This is where media and commerce thrive. If you don’t live in LA or NYC, then the best modeling agencies are going to be those closest to you. There you will get your feet wet and if the modeling agency is legit, they will be able to place you with a bigger modeling agency in one of the bigger cities.

Ready to start a modeling career? Read How To Make A Modeling Portfolio

Fashion Photographers Near Me

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