How to Become a Fashion Model

© The Balance, 2018

The most common question that modeling agents and scouts receive from aspiring models is, "how do I become a fashion model?" There is so much information in books, on websites, and swirling around in modeling forums that it can seem very confusing and overwhelming to a new model who is just starting out. Here are five simple steps to help you get started.

Take Some Basic Snapshots

A woman's headshot
Cecile Lavabre/Getty Images

In the beginning, the only photos you need to present to modeling agents and scouts are some basic snapshots. They are looking for a nice face shot—both smiling and not smiling—left and right profiles of your face and body, a full-length shot, and a back shot. Wear form-fitting clothing like skinny jeans or leggings and a simple tank top or t-shirt. If you are comfortable wearing a swimsuit, include a few swimsuit shots as well; either a one-piece or two-piece swimsuit is fine. 

Male models need to show the agents their fitness level, so it is recommended that male models wear swim trunks or boxer shorts, or wear jeans without a shirt in at least one of their photos. 

Get Evaluated by a Professional Model Agent or Scout

A model in front of a judge examining headshot
Wendell Teodoro/Getty Images

Many new models start their quest because their family and friends told them they should model, or that they are the prettiest girl or guy in the school. Some people may have even won some local modeling competitions. Although that’s a great start, it doesn’t necessarily translate into what the agencies are looking for. It is essential that you get your modeling potential evaluated by an experienced model agent or scout before you invest too much time or money into your pursuit. This step can get a little tricky because it's hard to determine whether the agent or scout who is evaluating you has the experience and knowledge to help you.

Many new models find that they live in a smaller market where many of the agents are affiliated with a modeling school or photography studio, and as a result, they may not be getting an accurate evaluation because the agency is more interested in selling courses or photoshoots.

It doesn't mean that the agent isn't good or that the courses or photoshoots they are offering are bad; it just means that you need to think about what is motivating them to tell you whether or not you can be a model.

Get as Much Exposure as Possible

Modeling team looking at photos on a laptop
ImagesBazaar/Getty Images

Many agencies specialize in only one particular area. Some may only represent high fashion (editorial) models, and others may only represent commercial, plus-size, petite, or child models. If one agency is unable to represent you, don’t get discouraged; it’s important to get seen by as many agents as possible and on a routine basis.  

If you live in one of the major markets, you may be able to attend an open call or go-see at the agency. If you live outside one of the major markets, the best way to get exposure is to send your photos to as many agencies as possible.

Getting exposure can be a very time-consuming and expensive endeavor, especially if you are making copies of all your photos and mailing them. The cost of prints, envelopes, and stamps can quickly add up to over a thousand dollars. Another option is to email your photos, but with thousands of photos being emailed to model agencies every day, it is easy for them to get lost in the mix.

To increase your chances of being signed by an agency, work with people who have experience and direct connections to agencies in a variety of markets. ModelScouts.com is a great place to start and offers the most legitimate and cost-effective way for you to get the exposure you need to be seen by many agents around the world, and in the quickest way possible.

Know the Best Modeling Market for You

A picture of the Eiffel Tower at night
Jumper/Getty Images

The term “market” refers to the various geographical locations in which models work and earn a living. New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and Tokyo are examples of major modeling markets. A market can also refer to the category your particular look falls into, such as the fashion, commercial, plus, or petite.

While the supermodels you see in major magazines and walking the runways for top clients generally work in every market, many successful models only work in one or two markets. If you do not get represented by an agency in New York or Paris, you could very well be perfect for Tokyo, Singapore, or other Asian markets. An experienced agent can help guide you to the right market for your particular look.

Be Persistent

A man in a suit
PeopleImages/Getty Images

Becoming a professional model is a long process and rarely happens overnight. Even the models who say, “I was just walking down the street one day and the next I was on the cover of Vogue,” are exaggerating. Many of today’s top models didn’t get signed to an agency out of the gate. Supermodel Gisele Bundchen was turned down over 40 times before she was finally signed to an agency. Stay positive and remember that just because an agency wasn’t able to represent you today, it doesn’t mean they won’t be interested tomorrow.