How You Can Start a Career in Commercial Modeling

Asian Girl and Camera
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When most people think of models and the modeling profession, they think of high-fashion supermodels like Kate Moss, Gisele Bundchen, and Naomi Campbell appearing on the covers of Vogue, Elle, and Harper's Bazaar. These superstars go on to star in their own TV shows, become the face of brand-name cosmetic companies, and marry football stars. However, many people overlook a very lucrative (and down-to-earth) side of modeling: the commercial modeling industry. 

Commercial models are essentially models who look like everyday people and are employed to advertise products such as food and household items, pharmaceuticals, travel destinations, sporting equipment, and more. Unlike fashion models who must have specific measurements, such as height, weight, and dress size, commercial models can be any age, shape, size, and height. 

Do Commercial Models Need Special Training?

Commercial models do not need to attend modeling classes, but it is highly recommended that they have some basic acting skills and training. Attending a few acting classes or workshops that focus on auditioning skills and how to work on a set is always a good place to start. A great resource for learning about commercial modeling is the book "How to Become a Successful Commercial Model" by Aaron Marcus.

How Much Can Commercial Models Earn?

The income that a commercial model earns can vary depending on the type of job, the market in which the client or model is based, and the model’s level of experience. Another factor that can come into play is how the client intends to use the images or film in which the model is appearing. For example, is the ad appearing locally, nationally, or internationally? Global ads net more income. How long does the client wish to use the photos? Images that will appear indefinitely will net more income than photos or video appearing for just a few months.

It's a simple equation of the more usage the client wants, the more money the model is paid. In general, commercial models can expect to earn around $250 an hour for the amount of time they work. There are also buyout fees (for the full rights to the images in perpetuity) ranging from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

What Are the Best Markets for Commercial Models?

In the United States, the best markets for commercial models are New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, and Seattle. Secondary markets include Atlanta, Phoenix, Dallas, and Houston. Unlike fashion models who work primarily in big fashion cities like New York and Los Angeles (where the top modeling agencies are located), commercial models have many more options. 

Commercial models can also work overseas in Paris, Milan, and Asia, but agencies typically work with commercial models who live full-time in these markets. Commercial models do not usually travel overseas the way fashion models do.

What You Need to Become a Commercial Model

In order to work as a commercial model, you will need an agency to represent you. Therefore, you should start by sending some basic photographs to established modeling agents and scouts who can evaluate your particular look and determine if you will be the right fit for their market.

It is advisable not to invest in photo shoots or commercial headshots until you have a basic understanding of what agencies and clients are looking for and how the commercial market works. If you decide to buy Aaron Marcus' book, you'll find it's full of tips and advice on how to choose the right photographer, how to get great photos from a smartphone, and much more.

Unlike fashion models who, in the beginning, are evaluated solely on their physical attributes, commercial models need to put a little more effort into their photos, even if they are just casual snapshots. What you want to do is to show the agents and scouts your true potential by letting your unique personality shine through in your photos. Don't be afraid of being creative and showing different sides of your personality. You want your images to tell a story. In other words, if you're aspiring to be a fitness model, dress in activewear that will show off your toned figure.

How to Find an Agent

The key to any successful modeling career, commercial or otherwise, is finding a great agent, and the easiest way to do that is by submitting your photos to ModelScouts.com. There you’ll be exposed to as many agencies as possible and will be connected to the people who really matter—agents, scouts, casting directors, and established photographers.