How to Work with Modeling Agencies - A Photographer's Guide

Contacting Modeling Agencies 

Contacting modeling agencies can be intimidating if it’s your first time, but it doesn’t have to be! I’ll share a few simple tips and tricks on how to break into the industry and build a relationship with the agency to have paid work in the future!  

 Keep the tones simple but still 'you!'

Keep the tones simple but still 'you!'

Create a Website 

This is the first thing that agencies will look at (past the two photos you attach on your email which I’ll talk about soon!), so you need to make sure your work looks presentable, and tells who you are. You can create a free website on Wix or Wordpress and just put you best work forward! I personally use Squarespace because I love the interface and how easy it is to change the look of your website (not #spon but I wish!).

 

Emailing the Agency

 

Contact smaller agencies local to you, (If you are new to this, I recommend to not contact a Ford or Wilhelmina –save those for when you have more experience!) Keep your email to the agency short and sweet. They receive a lot of inquiries from potential clients, other agencies and other photographers looking to take photos of their models, so make sure yours stands out. 

Attach two pictures that you feel shows your best work and are different from each other* and under 5MB! You don’t want to send an email that will crash their server because of your file size! I usually include a studio shot of a model and an outdoor shot to show versatility.

*If you’ve never photographed a model before, start building up your website with unsigned models that have a ‘fresh face.’ Agencies love to see how your work looks without a ton of touching or crazy colors. Sorry #moodyports

 Outdoor. Found a door that matched her eyes by exploring the area.

Outdoor. Found a door that matched her eyes by exploring the area.

 Clean Studio Shot

Clean Studio Shot

 

Testing, Testing 123

When you email an agency, also mention that you are looking to test their new faces. A test is when you trade services - - the models time and talent for your time and talent. This is for portfolio and relationship building; no one is getting paid at this stage. 

The Package + Moodboard 

 A package can contain 2 or even 20+ available models

A package can contain 2 or even 20+ available models

When, and if the agency emails you back, they will ask you for a mood board, or directly send you a package. A package is a tailored group of models that are available and fit your mood board. If you didn’t create a mood board, they’ll usually just send you a package of non-specific models who are available at the time.

Let me know if you want me to talk about how to create a mood board that agencies will love in the comment section below! 

The Call Sheet 

Once you’ve selected your model and created the mood board, the agency will ask for a call sheet. A call sheet is a description of the shoot i.e. what the model should bring/ wear, where the shoot will be, and if applicable, who will be on the team for the shoot.

The Day of The Shoot 

Arrive early to the shoot location as signed models usually get to their assigned shoots on time. Introduce yourself to the model and make sure they are comfortable. Create a light and fun environment so that the shoot flows smoothly. Some of the best shoots I had were when I could talk to the model about things other their modeling career. Be professional, and don’t go over the time that you agreed upon and the shoot should go great! Bonus points if you bring them water or a granola bar for a long shoot. 

 Don’t have a stylist? Have the model bring their own clothes

Don’t have a stylist? Have the model bring their own clothes

 Keep the clothes simple and flattering for their figures!

Keep the clothes simple and flattering for their figures!

After the Shoot

Edit your photos as quickly and professionally as possible. If you can, edit the photos within the week of the shoot. Try not to delay edits. Agencies like to see a quick turn around rate. Also, don’t over edit their models or they can’t use your work in their model’s books/portfolios. That means no heavy retouching or crazy colors like over saturated blues or oranges. Keep it clean, simple, but in your own style! 

 Don’t take only portraits. Take full body shots too!

Don’t take only portraits. Take full body shots too!

 Test for a male model portfolio

Test for a male model portfolio

Follow Up 

You can send the agency your work through WeTransfer, DropBox, Pixiset etc. With this, send them a thank you to them and the model (they usually don’t give out the model’s personal information). You want to be able to build a positive relationship with them so that when they are looking to pay a photographer to capture their new faces, you are on the top of their brain!

Paid opportunities with the agency won’t come right away, so be patient!

Etiquette After 

When you post your work on social media, make sure to credit the model AND the agency. Also, don’t use tests as an excuse to get free models to sell your products. You can get in a lot of trouble for that. Signed models get PAID to model just like you get paid to take photos normally. This is a test shoot so don’t abuse it. 

 

If you’ve gotten this far comment “🤗”. Also, comment below if you have any questions about any of this. I’m happy to help out! 

Thanks for tuning in. Until next time!

~Genét Jean-Pierre