If you’re considering modelling as a career or just a fun hobby, it’s important to know what it all entails. Many people think modelling is just standing in front of a camera looking pretty (or manly) and having your photo taken, but to be a good model there’s so much more to it. Good models are worth more because there are simply so many people (especially girls) wanting to be models; so to be competitive you need to have better skills than anyone else. So what are these modelling skills? First of all there’s the range of poses you can do. You have to learn poses so that whenever you need another pose, there’s one in your head ready to get into. A lot of photographers will ask you to give them a different pose for each click of the camera. Sometimes they’ll guide you into a pose they want, generally by demonstrating it, so it still helps if you are aware of your physicality (how your body moves).
A good range of facial expressions linked to emotion keywords is also useful – for example despairing, sad, happy, elated, joyful, excited, coy or seductive. Posing for photos is a lot like stage acting – you often have to over-emphasis in order to convey all the expression of feeling or emotion you need for the shot, which lasts less than 1/100th of a second. As a rule of thumb, if it hurts or makes you feel like an idiot, it’s probably going to look great on camera. Lastly you may be asked for moving poses, so that a sense of movement can be recorded in the image. One of these is walking; not the Walking you do down the high street, but the sort of walk you’d do in a catwalk show. These moving poses are the most difficult to learn, but are a lot easier if you’ve had some dance training or do sports. Of which more later…
There’s all a point to this, and that is to create an image. What the image is trying to show depends upon the genre of the modelling job. In catwalk modelling, you’re showing the clothes, and it’s the clothes that are important, not the model. Photographically you’re either trying to show off clothes, or a catalogue product, or your hair, or facial beauty makeup, or an emotion or concept.
But modelling isn’t just about what happens in front of the camera or on the catwalk. As a model you’re a self-employed person running a business, and there are a whole load of skills you need to survive and thrive in business. Firstly you need to be able to find yourself work. That means making good contacts, networking, marketing, and above all good written & spoken communications. You need to actively market yourself, which means maintaining a strong, varied and up-to-date portfolio showing the full range of everything you can
do. But you have to get your portfolio seen, and that means getting a web site, maintaining profiles on social networking and modelling sites, and making sure the right people get to see them. Sitting back and waiting for people to come to you is never going to ensure success in a crowded market, so you have to be proactive, actively
seeking out people you want to work with and building professional relationships with them.
An agency can help by finding jobs for you that you wouldn’t be able to get by yourself. But equally you’ll be able to find work for yourself that the agency wouldn’t even be interested in looking for. It’s important to cast your net as widely as possible, so by all means seek agency representation but don’t expect that it’s the answer to everything. It’s also a matter of getting the right agency. There are of course charlatans, and lots of them. Some are after money, but some are much worse. The legitimate ones aren’t all good either – some of them charge you to join, which means they get their model directory/register paid for by wannabes who’ll end up as “filler”, just making up the numbers. The good ones generally don’t charge anything, but their entry requirements are strict. They tend to be specialists in one field or another; perhaps catwalk fashion models; or teenage models; or plus-size models; or glamour models. Don’t waste everyone’s time by applying to agencies where you’ll be unsuited to their specialism. As a photographer, when I’m selecting models for a job, I tend to go with models I’ve worked with before because they’re known and reliable, and I already have a good working relationship with them. Next in line are the ones who have been talking to me for a while, perhaps having written me a really well-worded introductory email. Models I don’t know come way down the list, whether or not they’re represented by an agency. So very often it’s not just what you look like, but how you communicate and the professional relationships you maintain. Some models are so good at this, they’re first in line whenever an opportunity comes up, they’ve keep in touch so frequently.
Other modelling skills wouldn’t be classed as skills by most people, but they’re really important nonetheless.
For example, looking after yourself – knowing how to eat properly, doing the appropriate exercise to keep yourself healthy… These are essential skills for the successful model. You only have one body, and your body and mind are the tools of your trade, so don’t mistreat them. Whatever your dress size, you need to be toned and physically fit.
Reliability deserves a mention all its own. It’s important to turn up for a shoot or show on time, properly prepared for work, and carrying everything you’ll need. Part of reliability is honesty. People tend
to talk to each other, and the truth tends to surface all to easily. We all understand if you can’t make it because of something bad that’s happened, but one girl seemed to have had five grandfathers, all of whom either died or were rushed to hospital on the day of one shoot or another. Another girl destroyed her entire reputation for
reliability by cancelling two shoots at the last minute with different photographers on consecutive days giving inconsistent excuses to do with college exams and then even having the audacity to turn up on MSN Messenger at the times she was supposedly unavailable. This brings me to what I consider the most important and valuable modelling skill of all: intelligence. There’s nothing more attractive in a person than a burning intelligence, even better if combined with creativity, and if great good looks are part of the package too then that’s fantastic.
So, if you thought modelling was just standing in front of a camera looking pretty, think again.