Thought About Modeling?

As a well known senior portrait photographer, I get asked very often about how to break into modeling.

What girl hasn’t dreamed at some point about strutting the runway in a NY Fashion show or being on the cover of Sports Illustrated?  While that seems like a long shot, look at it this way, someone is going to walk that runway, and be on that cover… right?

There are lots of great articles on the web about how to break into modeling and how to get started, like this one from the Scouting Director for the Ford Agency.

Many top agencies now use social media to scout for new talent, so in some ways it’s easier than ever to get discovered. Here is a great article that describes how to get scouted by various agencies that may notice you.

But, being a photographer, the most common question I get asked is what kinds of photos to submit to break into modeling. So, I thought I’d write a blog post to answer those questions directly.

First, you really don’t need to spend money on professional photos when just starting out. In fact, most agencies will prefer that you NOT send professional photos. What ever you do, do NOT send your senior pictures, portraits taken at the mall, or mirror selfies, no matter how much you like them. Modeling images have a different look and style and submitting “portraits” will not get you taken seriously!

Initially, all you will need is what the industry refers to as “polaroids”. Real polaroids are a throwback to film days when they would actually use an instant film camera… nowadays everyone uses digital (and some agencies will call them that) . What they refer to is simple shots taken with a plain, light background that clearly show your face and body without any retouching, styling, or special effects. Do NOT use any filters or retouching software. 

Simple Modeling Polaroids

You can certainly take these yourself, or have a professional create them for you, but a couple of things are important. No, or very little makeup, no props, jewelry, or hats, scarves etc. Don’t wear a padded or push up bra or anything that is going to alter your actual figure. Find a spot with soft, even lighting so you can get a sharp, clear image without shadows, and pick a background that is plain and uncluttered. A plain white wall next to a window is a good choice.

Wear an outfit that shows your figure… a swimsuit or  workout clothes is a good choice. Don’t wear anything baggy. The exception is heels. Wear heels! Take a few full length  pictures front, side and back with a plain, relaxed expression. Then move in and take some closeup shots showing your face, both smiling and not. Stand straight, but not stiff. Relax your shoulders, take a deep breath in and let it out.. Shoot lots of pictures so you have a variety to pick from. You want to look comfortable and relaxed. If you don’t feel comfortable in front of a camera wearing a swimsuit or workout clothes, perhaps now would be a good time to rethink your desire to model!

If you’re not good at photography, don’t have anyone to shoot them for you, or want to make sure your pictures are a good enough quality, you can hire a professional photographer to take them for you. Since these don’t require a lot of time, creative energy, or retouching, they should be relatively inexpensive. At Dennis Kelly, we offer a modeling “Polaroid” shoot for under $75 that will give you everything you will need to start.

Many top agencies have online applications on their websites where you can fill out a form and upload your pictures, so you won’t really need to go to NY and knock on doors. Read through the instructions carefully and FOLLOW THEM. Don’t send 8 pictures if they ask for 3. Don’t send a professional headshot if they ask for polaroids. Don’t apply to their fashion division if they say minimum height is 5’8″ and you are 5’6″. You won’t impress them, except with the fact that you can’t follow instructions. Make a list of agencies in your market area and check their websites for specific information on what they require before you take your pictures. This way you can make sure you will have everything you need before you start to apply. Many agencies now have petite and fitness divisions that are not as restrictive as far as height and weight as fashion divisions typically are.  Some agencies may require a short video showing you talking. You can shoot this with your phone, just keep it short and to the point, and record it in a quiet room without noise in the background.

If you don’t hear back right away, don’t get discouraged. Wait a few weeks and try again, Sometimes you just need to get to the right person, or wait for a time when they may be looking specifically for someone with your look.

Once you start to get some exposure, you may be asked to send a headshot. This is where you will need some professional images.  Your headshot is very important, and it is a place where you will definitely want to hire a pro. A good quality headshot will show your face and some of your shoulders. It is not unusual to crop into the top of your head. This brings attention to your eyes and keeps them in the upper 1/3rd of the picture, where they belong.

This is called a “Hollywood Crop” and it is not a mistake. More common today is something called a “Cinematic” headshot, which is composed in a landscape format… like a movie would be. The subject is usually placed a little off center in the composition. This adds the the dynamic look of the composition and is often used in ads where they need to leave “negative space” for ad copy and things. Again, not a mistake! Remember, modeling and commercial shots have a very different look than traditional portraits. It is important you find a photographer who is versed in current styles. Most important is that your eyes sparkle and your facial features are plainly visible.

The next type of shot you may want to hire a professional for is a classic glamour or beauty headshot. These typically have a more dramatic lighting style, and are often done with bare shoulders to really bring attention to your face, eyes and hair. These are often done in black and white, but that’s not a necessity.

It’s always a good idea to talk with some agencies who might be interested in you to get their input on what kinds of photos they think you need to have in order to market yourself.

If they are very interested and think you are marketable, they may even offer to pay for your photographs. Don’t expect this unless you are signing an exclusive contract with them though. They aren’t going to invest money in you unless they think they will have a chance to earn it back!

Only after you have been scouted, should you think about building your “book”. Your portfolio should ideally be more a collection of actual work you have done, rather than photos you have commissioned yourself. It is always a work in progress.

An agency may suggest you have some different shots done to show some variety in your look, and may suggest you have some “comp cards” created. These are kind of like your business card that you will leave behind whenever you audition for a job. Typically, they will feature your headshot, and 3-4 other images that show your body type, as well as the range of looks you can portray. It will have your basic stats and contact info on it.

Like your headshots, your comp cards will need to be constantly updated to show your current look.

I’d be neglectful not to mention that there are unscrupulous, and potentially dangerous people who may attempt to take advantage of you if you are not careful. Especially when promoting yourself online, be wary of predators who will try and scam you for money, or worse. Use your head. Never agree to meet someone you do not know for a photoshoot, or to be scouted without checking their credentials first. Never go to a photoshoot or audition alone. Unless you are trying to get scouted by Playboy, no reputable agency will ever ask you to send nude photos. No reputable agency will ask you to pay money up front for them to represent you. Conversely, be wary of photographers who offer to shoot you “for free”. Ask yourself what motivation they would have to work for free?

There are a number of online modeling sites and these may be a good place to network, especially if you want to book jobs yourself and bypass an agency all together. Just be careful that there are also trolls who use these sites to find people to prey on. Use your head and if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Of course, if you need photos to get you started, or just want to see how you’d look being photographed by a real professional photographer who knows how to bring out your best… give us a call!  856-228-4399 We are always here to help!

Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

Decisions, Decisions

A common question we get asked is “I love my senior pictures so much, but what do I do with them now?” Let’s be clear, portraits only have value when you look at them. I’m sorry, but photographers who convince you that you want “all the pictures” on a disk or thumb drive are doing you a disservice. 

Why? Be honest. You know what’s going to happen to those pictures, right? You’re going to share a couple on Facebook, where your friends and relatives will “like” them and then they will disappear into the cyber abyss. The rest are going into a drawer where you plan to do “something” with them “someday”. 

Then one day, maybe 10 or 20 years from now, your kids or grand-kids will discover that disk or drive and either won’t have the technology to open it (remember floppy disks?) or will discover that the tiny magnetic charges that make up those images have degraded to the point that those images just aren’t “there” anymore. 

Social media? Do you think you are going to be able to locate images from 15 years ago on Facebook, if that’s even still a thing? Let’s face it, unless you have prints made from your important family portraits, they are going to be lost to future generations, and you are not going to fully enjoy them the way you should. 

We truly believe that artistic portraits of loved ones should be displayed prominently in your home, where they will quickly become the centerpiece of admiration.Our clients tell us often that their portraits, when properly printed and displayed, soon become some of their most treasured possessions.

The most popular products our client purchase to help them truly enjoy their treasured portrait are:·

Wall Portraits. Portraits 16” and larger are suitable for displaying on your walls. They can be hung individually, or in groupings, and can be printed on conventional photographic paper, canvas, metal, acrylic, and a number of other unique and artistic surfaces.·  

Multi-image Composites. Framed and matted wall pieces that feature multiple images are a popular option as well. Especially when you have a variety of images that you enjoy, placing images together that tell a story is a beautiful and fun way to display them.·  

Albums. Albums are a wonderful way to keep and display a larger number of images from your senior portrait session in an easy to view and store format. As your family grows, the images you display on your walls will no doubt change. Wedding pictures, then grandchildren, extended family portraits, on and on. But your senior’s album can be on your bookshelf or coffee table to be viewed and enjoyed often. Imagine the joy and pride (and nostalgia) you will feel looking through your daughter’s senior album the night before her wedding day. Have the tissues handy! 

Your photographer’s job shouldn’t be done when she or he takes the photograph. A real professional is there to guide you all the way through, including helping you with your selections, and deciding which products will give you the most enjoyment and value. You haven’t done this before. We have. Take advantage of our expertise. That’s why we’re here! 

236 S Black Horse Pike
Blackwood, NJ 08012, United States


I recently read a Facebook post from a highly respected fellow photographer and industry leader about the importance (and difficulty) of trying to remain creative and relevant while still running a business where one must make a profit to survive. In it he writes:

“One of the more difficult parts of being a creative professional is the balance between satisfying the client and not getting stale in the process. If you are good at what you do, really good, chances are you have a learned a lot about how to do things in a certain way. You loved it when you finally got all the parts to work together but eventually the shine began to dull.”

source: Jeff Lubin’s Portrait and Business Tip of the Day

Once at a class I was teaching, I opened my program with a slideshow of some of my work. At the conclusion, I received a (quite humbling) ovation from the attendees.

Then I surprised them when I announced that every image in the slideshow had one thing in common. They were NOT purchased by the client who I created them for. That’s right, an entire show of some of my best work, all rejected by the customer for some reason or another.

In the business of professional photography, this is simply not an unusual occurrence. As a photographer, when you strive to grow, learn new techniques, and stretch the limits of your abilities and vision, sometimes you encounter people who just don’t “get” what you may have to offer. That’s life.

They might be conditioned to expect the “big smile, look at the camera” image, even though the pensive look touches their heart. They reject an image that shows a facet of their personality in an artistic way, because “you can’t see her face”, or “there’s too much background” , or my favorite, “you cut the top of her head off!”. He continues:

“Over time, a lot of your work will begin to look similar except with different people in it. Finding something new that is actually better than what you have spent years learning to do is very challenging. This isn’t always because of the technical aspects of new creative efforts but because you are working with the public…”

Jeff Lubin’s Portrait and Business Tip of the Day

All of us in the photography field know the story. A new photographer comes on the scene and achieves a level of success, either by creating something “new” or by copying an existing style. Then that photographer settles into a habit of just cranking out the same images over and over, just with different people in them. Before long, they are just going through the motions and become a “picture taker” rather than an artist with a vision. You cannot grow in a vacuum. And the willingness to take the shot without the smile, to include the background and make the subject small, to shoot for the mood instead of the sure sale, even knowing that the client may well never purchase it, is actually important to your growth as an artist.

“It takes a highly motivated photographer to spend their free time looking for new creative efforts and finding the appropriate models to experiment with. However, if you can come up with new concepts that excite you and can create in reality what you see in your mind’s eye, you will breathe new life into your day to day studio work…

Jeff Lubin’s Portrait and Business Tip of the Day

This is the major reason I still participate in professional image competitions, gallery shows, and other artistic exhibitions. I have already earned my Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsman degrees, the “big two” awarded for excellence in photography and service to the profession. But I find that competition is an excellent way to keep the creative juices flowing and push yourself to learn new things and experiment. And yes, sometimes I will even agree to, or even solicit people to photograph for (gasp) FREE! (I feel the collective shudder running down the spines of my fellow pros…)

I recently learned that one of my creative collaborations is up for some very major awards. I’m nominated for a Grand Imaging Award in Portraiture by the Professional Photographers of America. This means my image was selected as one of the top 10 images in its category out of about 6,000 professional entries. It was also selected to be a part of “Team USA’s” submission to the Photography World Cup. That means it was selected as one of 3 portrait images in the US to compete against photographs from 40 other countries!

The image is a fine art black and white nude of a ballet dancer at a moment of peak action. “Balance of Power”, edited here to be work safe, illustrates the stunning beauty of the human body and its miraculous power and athletic ability.

Here’s the thing. This is an image that never would have been created as “customer work.”

Can you image a dancer coming to me and saying “I want you to photograph me nude in semi-silhouette so you can’t see my face, but instead highlights the lines of my body, my muscle tone and flexibility, and I want 2- 8×10’s and maybe some wallets? Never gonna happen!!

If I hadn’t taken the initiative to find a model willing to pose for me with the abilities I needed, convinced her of the artistic value of my vision, earned her trust, worked to put together the shoot, and pushed until I was satisfied with the final result, this image would simply never have happened.

“Fine portraits will always be appreciated and well accepted by your clients and this is a good thing since they will be willing to part with their hard-earned dollars to support your being a professional. It’s a bit of gamble to reinvent how you do things experimentally and still give a client what they expect after seeing a certain style of work in your website and on your studio walls… Change isn’t all that easy but if you don’t, the repetition will grind you down if you don’t occasionally challenge yourself to grow artistically. “

Jeff Lubin’s Portrait and Business Tip of the Day

I’d have to agree.

Can We Just Buy The Files?

We understand that some photographers these days have built a business model upon simply shooting and delivering digital files on a disk or memory stick.

At Dennis Kelly Photography, we have decided this is NOT the model we choose for our business. We have made the conscious choice to focus on printed art as our medium. We have made this decision for a number of reasons:

¨ The photography process involves more than taking a picture. If you went to a five star restaurant and they brought you a pile of ingredients and told you to “cook it yourself”, you could expect it wouldn’t be quite the same as if the chef prepared it for you. The same is true of photography. All the details that go into producing a final printed piece of art are lost when providing raw images on a disk. We choose to be a full service studio and offer the full range of our expertise to our clients.

¨ The printing process itself is an integral and very important part of the photographic process, and it can be done poorly. We want to insure that our clients receive the most beautiful and long lasting artwork possible from our studio. We deal only with professional labs that closely monitor color calibration, use only the best materials, and stand behind the quality and craftsmanship  of the products they sell. If we allowed our files to be printed just anywhere without our oversight, this would be a disservice to our clients who have chosen us for quality. It would also reflect very poorly on our reputation for producing only top notch photography.

¨ Photographs only have value when you view them! This seems obvious, but we all know people who have disks of images sitting in a drawer, probably never to be viewed again. Our belief is that our responsibility as a full service studio is to help our clients choose printed artwork that they will enjoy and treasure for many years.

¨ Prints offer longevity that digital files do not. Digital files consist of magnetic charges stored on a medium, and they ALL will eventually deteriorate and become unreadable. One day, future generation will try to view those images and will be unable to. Those family heirlooms will be gone forever! Prints may indeed fade slowly over time, but will not disappear in the blink of an eye. Future generations will have decades to  view them, and have them restored if needed.

The Vital Importance of the Print

The Vital Importance of the Print…

A big issue facing our children’s future is the lack of the printed image as a family legacy and heirloom. Years from now, your grandchildren will be going through the history of their parent’s (your children’s) past. Will they find round silver disks or ancient memory sticks containing all the image of their parent’s childhood, only to find they no longer have the technology to open and view them? Or, will all the photos from your child’s past be lost on discarded or non-functioning cell phones and computer drives?

Think about how hard it is even now to view or convert old movie film from your parent’s past. Fortunately for us, our parents made prints from our childhood. These prints last longer and are the easiest media to view. They are the best way to preserve our history and heritage. The will not become instantly un-viewable if a few disk sectors become corrupt. Even if they begin to fade or age, you will have years to have them them restored and reprinted. They will not become lost to history in the blink of an eye.

With photography playing a larger part in our lives today, some people may think that the immediacy of social media somehow will take the place of an album of family photos, or the family portrait on the wall. What they fail to realize is that it is highly unlikely today’s platforms will even be around 20 years from now. We will have moved onto something else, and all those images and memories stored in the cyber world of Facebook and Instagram will be long gone.

As we progress in our lives, our photos and other memories of our past play a more significant role than we realized in our youth. It’s important that you help your children to understand this, and encourage them to “make those memories” or they will be lost forever.

Portraits displayed in the home give a personalized warmth and character that no other decorating touch can give. Studies have shown that children gain a sense of belonging and connection when their parents display pictures of them in the home.

It’s astonishing that people will display a large painting of flowers or a landscape in their home, but not artwork featuring their greatest accomplishment, their family!

Don’t let a “photographer” convince you that you want a disc of your images from your family or child’s portrait session. Insist on high quality prints, from a reputable studio, with a guarantee! Otherwise, your family’s heritage may consist of some pretty silver disks hanging over your sofa.

Portraits decorating your home add a personal touch like nothing else can.
error: Content is protected !!