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There is more to the modeling world than the media lets on. If you want to find out what it really takes and how to manage your modeling career, then you've come to the right place! This blog is dedicated to the aspiring and already established models who live to defy the standards and stereotypes in order to make a place for themselves in this crazy industry.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Deal with Agencies & Test Shoots for Portfolio Building


When you sign with an agency you’re well on your way towards a bright and promising modeling career. The first step is to do your first photoshoot for the purpose of building not only your portfolio but your comp card as well.

In this day and age of the Internet, many modeling agencies post their models’ portfolios online as well as the print version of the portfolio, which is commonly referred to as a model’s “book.” Of course all this costs money but whose supposed to cover those costs? Should anyone have to pay at all? What about test shoots?

This is a topic that needs to be clarified because I know too many people who have misconceptions and their own idea of what the right answer is. I’ve seen veins bulge out of people’s foreheads while arguing adamantly about what they believe is supposed to be true about this subject (or typing in all caps online screaming their beliefs). Hopefully I can set the record straight.

Once you sign with an agency it is up to the agency and only the agency about how to handle your portfolio shoot. There are three options they can choose from:

1. They will arrange a test shoot, which means you won’t have to pay a dime and neither will the agency. Or they may allow you to find your own photographer to shoot with and give you a deadline for when to have the images turned in by.

2. You’ll have to cover the costs. It isn’t uncommon for a model to pay for the cost of his/her portfolio shoot, which often includes the cost of printing.

3. The agency will pay for your portfolio shoot and the printing costs, which they will later take out of your earnings for reimbursement once you start booking work.

Again, the agency will decide what course to take. Many believe that if an agency does not pay for your portfolio then they are a scam or not a real agency. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The only time this would apply would be if a so-called “agency” was trying to charge you upfront fees to pay for putting together a portfolio before offering you a contract. That’s a no-no. However, if you’re already signed, then they are within their rights to request that you pay.

Agencies each have their own reasons for deciding whether a model should cover the costs or not. Smaller agencies in smaller markets often don’t have the budgets needed to cover model portfolio expenses, but larger and well-known agencies have models pay for their portfolios all the time. Fashion agencies tend to be more welcoming to covering the costs, while many commercial/print agencies have their models handle it.

Some agencies simply don’t want to risk losing out on money. For example, say an agency pays for a new model’s portfolio and other expenses but she gets little to no work afterwards. The agency loses out. This is the business side of it. Any business will do what’s necessary to protect itself financially.

Models typically don’t mind paying for this expense because it really is a small investment into their career that is quickly made back once they start working. If there is anytime I say it’s okay to pay for something in your modeling career, it would be this. But only if you already have a contract signed…not before.

The actual cost of the shoot can range anywhere from $200-600, maybe more but that’s the general range. Remember, you’re paying for more than just images. You have a whole crew devoted to you and the cost often includes printing fees for hard copies for your book and putting together your comp/zed card.

So before you think an agency that makes their models pay for a portfolio is crappy, think again. I paid $400 for my portfolio shoot for Ford Models in San Francisco, which got me one of SF’s best photographers, my own hair and makeup artist and a wardrobe stylist who actually went shopping with me to pick my outfits. If you’re a model who got your portfolio expenses covered, kudos to you, but if you aren’t, don’t feel like you’re less of a model or that your career and agency are any less legit than the next.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow. That answered so many questions. I'm very new here but loving the ride=) Thanks for the clarification.

GlitzyStar10 said...

Theres this agency called MMG Models and i send them some snapshots.They send me an email letting me know that they wanted to meet with me and my parents since am underage (16). I went to the meeting with my mom and she was talking about the process and in which catergy i would fall into (teens). And the woman said that since i was just beginning and didn't have any pictures i have to built my profolio and that she had 2 Photographers that each cost more than $1,000 she said i could pick between those two but she never gave me a contract to sign. I told her we would think about it and at the end i told her no. Do you think i made a mistake or was that agency a scam ?!

Dania Denise said...

Hi, GlitzyStar10! You'll find the answer to your questions in its own post, titled "Answering a Reader Question #647," which can be found on my new blog: "Modeling 101 - Answering Readers Questions."

Please visit this link: http://amodelsdiary-readerquestions.blogspot.com/ and you can view your post there. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dania,

I recently submitted my photos to a IPM model management in NY. I was contacted back asked to send for photos which i did. I was offered a 2 year contract and told that I need to pay for a shoot, for high quality anywhere from $700-$1200. I was nervous about this because i read that the agency should be investing in you. After i read you post i feel a little better. However they also mentioned a $300 a year fee for the agency to maintain you profile on their website. This seems steep to me. I also feel like 2 years is a long time. What if I don't get sent out enough? I am just nervous about all of it and worried about being taken advantage of. What is your advice or 2 cents on the matter ?

Dania Denise said...

Hi, Anonymous! You'll find the answer to your questions in its own post, titled "Answering a Reader Question #845," which can be found on my other blog: "Modeling 101 - Answering Readers Questions."

Please visit this link: http://amodelsdiary-readerquestions.blogspot.com/ and you can view your post there. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dania,

I have been selected by First Models and Houston agency. They have asked me to pay 490 USD for my portfolio. I am really scared whether am I doing right or not as they asked to pay 390 USD as a cash. They will take my pics for 6 changes. Can you please help me with this.

Dania Denise said...

Hi, Anonymous! You'll find the answer to your questions in its own post, titled "Answering a Reader Question #858," which can be found on my other blog: "Modeling 101 - Answering Readers Questions."

Please visit this link: http://amodelsdiary-readerquestions.blogspot.com/ and you can view your post there. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dania,
I recently responded to a craigslist post about Modeling. They contacted me within a week and scheduled a photoshoot with me! I found out though, that the cost is 995$ and no contract was offered. It sounds scretchy! What are your opinions?

Dania Denise said...

Hi, Anonymous! You'll find the answer to your questions in its own post, titled "Answering a Reader Question #917," which can be found on my other blog: "Modeling 101 - Answering Readers Questions."

Please visit this link: http://amodelsdiary-readerquestions.blogspot.com/ and you can view your post there. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Dear Dania,
You are the best, thanks so much for your advice!!
I have a question though: I got accepted to a small but reputable model agency. However, they said that before signing the contract with me they would need me to get a test shoot done. They sent me a list of some pretty famous photographers and said I can either have a shoot with one of them or find any other photographer myself if I want. The prices for the test shoots on the list they sent me were 50£ (64$) on average, which is not too much, and the photographers are really famous and worked all over the globe. But do you think it's ok that they will sign a contract with me after I get the test shoot done? I don't know why but that makes me a bit nervous haha
Thanks in advance for you reply!!! <3

Dania Denise said...

Hi, Anonymous! You'll find the answer to your questions in its own post, titled "Answering a Reader Question #937," which can be found on my other blog: "Modeling 101 - Answering Readers Questions."

Please visit this link: http://amodelsdiary-readerquestions.blogspot.com/ and you can view your post there. Thanks for reading!