How To Become A Model: The Comprehensive Guide 

by Morey Spellman, updated weekly *

So you want to become a model? Well, you're in the right place. In this step-by-step guide, I'll show you how to start your modeling career, things you might want to consider, different types of modeling, the best cities, agencies, and how to find work etc.

For the sake of you (and me) I'll break up this blog into a number of different posts sections and also update it now and then.  Continue to check back for industry tips and tricks. This post describes the different types of models. I'll add more resources and insight for each section with each post.

Even if you're not in the market to become the next Gigi Hadid, Rachel Cook, or Naomi Campbell, you can still have a career in modeling and get yourself in front of the camera 

First you should decide what it is you want to model or what type of modeling you want to do.
Get a bit more specific. After all, you want to start a new project or career path that makes you happy.  Here are a few different types of models.

Fashion Runway Model 

These models hit the runway and are often found in New York, Paris, Milan, and any major fashion capital.  They're probably what most people think of when it comes to modeling thanks to television and movies. 

The point of runway modeling is to model the clothes that designers and brands produce for well, the runway. 

They usually have a height requirement because they have to fit the sample size for clothing brands. Most runway models are between 5'8 to 6'0, although the fashion industry has been more open recently to models who don't always fit the "classic" runway example  

Fitness Model 

You love the gym. You also love your vegetables. You could be (or possibly are) a fitness model. These guys and gals are known for their workouts, healthy living habits, and dedication. 

Like all other types of models, but especially fitness, it's a lifestyle in and of itself.  The more you put into your fitness career, the more you'll likely get out of it. 

Plus Size Model

Plus sized models are a wonderful addition to the fashion industry in the last few decades. They show more realistic body types for women and men who may have become frustrated with false advertising and Adobe Photoshop. 

Plus size models are even more important now that social media has accelerated a picture perfect lifestyle with the click of a button.  In addition, brands have been embracing all body types and work harder to have sizes available for all shapes and sizes of both men and women.

Art Model

Since the Renaissance if not earlier, art models have held a place in society as muses or the inspiration of the art world. Often art models go above and beyond the ideas of painters, photographers, and artists to carry out a particular vision and delve into a concept.

Although typically revealing in nature, art models simply embody any concept that goes outside the norm of what society would deem as traditional forms of modeling. Art models have been around for a long time and their influence is seen around the world.

Instagram Model

A new term that was coined with the invention of Instagram and Social Media. Instagram models are famous for their influence on social media networks. This term is more of an umbrella term that can apply to different types of models including: influencers, art models, fitness models just to name a few.

Anyone with talent, time, or resources can become an Instagram model. When you experiment and shoot with other photographers, you’ll see what niche you enjoy.

Additionally, many models who got their start through Instagram have risen in ranks to become successful fashion, commercial, or fitness models. The platform provides a way for anyone to break through and acquire an audience and potential clients in the smart phone era.

Fashion Model

A sister or brother to runway models, fashion models might not do runway shoots as much, but are usually active with agencies, photographers, and brands in the fashion industry. Fashion models must be able to adapt more to changing conditions and act for the camera to entice a wider range of emotions and situations than say fitness or tattoo models. 

When starting out, fashion models typically spend a lot of time working on poses, finding representation, and shooting with photographers both for free and for paid work. Unlike runway, they have more leniency on height requirements.

How to Become A Model: Part 2

So you've decided what kind of model you want to be! Congrats because you're half way there.
Below are tips for where to go from here, things to consider and pitfalls you might face along the way. 

1. Grow Your Model Business through Instagram

Depending on your preference, Instagram is a great place to start if you want to expand your influence as a model. It's a great tool to find new photographers to shoot with, find new clients, and connect with other models or friends. 

 You can post your selfies, or your latest lunch! And keep your fans updated on your personality, thoughts, and almost everything else that goes on in your life. 

 I've known models that solely use Instagram as their point of contact, and it becomes the bread and butter of their connections with different brands, other models, and influences.

 If you're just starting out, make sure you cater your Instagram to your personality. Ultimately, it’s your choice on how much you want to update it or post, but it's an easy way to show your relevance in the industry and make a few connections.

 Keeping up-to-date with social media is tough at times and remember it isn't everything. If you don't feel like posting or doing much, that's totally fine too. 

 Since you're the one who everyone wants to look at (remember you're the star) keep your feed about you and your personality. Showcase parts of your life in a casual and fun way that's easy for your viewers to digest, and be open to questions or comments. 

 The more you engage and interact, the more you'll get out of Instagram. 

2. Get Comp Cards

When I talk to aspiring models, actors, or actresses, a common question is usually what is a comp card and where can I get one? Comp Cards are your handout. Otherwise known as composite cards, they entail usually 3, 4, or 5 images (4 is the most common for the modeling industry) that a prospective model can use for print promotion, castings, and overall self-promotion. 

Comp Cards usually include one large black and white head shot on the front for models (although this can vary), and then another four images on the back of the card as a way to show off different looks you can do. 

For instance if you're a model who shoots swim campaigns, model tests, and editorials, you'll have a little bit of each of those as images on the back of your card that you or your agent can hand out at the appropriate time.  

In terms of getting signed with an agency or working with an agent (which we'll talk about in a later blog), comp cards are a key resource to help you get signed, land jobs, and get your name out there. 

Having a great comp card will also allow you to apply for different modeling jobs that your agent or you find. 

I've included a few examples of comp cards below.

Since we talked about social media in the last section, it's also important to note that print only comp cards were more relevant before social media. These days, comp cards are digitized as a way to quickly and easily send over a model’s information and stats, along with potentially her book if the client or photographer is interested. 

Comp Cards should not be confused with the following however which also serve to show off your style.

3. Take Model Digitals 

Digitals are a method to show off your features in an easy-to-see, way, often with minimal hair, makeup, plain clothes, and simple lighting. 

You'll often see both lifestyle and swimwear digitals as an additional way of showing off your looks to clients and photographers. 

If you're starting out, presenting digitals is another good way of applying to agencies or jobs, but digitals are also usually one of the first things that an agency model will do once you’re signed. 

However, if you want to take your own model digitals, or have a friend take them for you, it can be a nice way to show that you’re serious about the industry and make a good first impression.

I've included examples for digitals below; digitals should be shot in plain clean window light with no hair or distractions in front of your face. You'll want your back to be near a door or entryway so it's easy to frame.  Avoid hard sunlight or distracting shadows that could warp your natural beauty and appearance. Take a few different angles, maybe a head shot, and you're good to go! 

It’s important to never Photoshop or distort the image of your body when you shoot digitals. Casting directors and model agencies want to see what you look like naturally and giving a false impression can hinder your chance for jobs.  

4.  Go to Castings 

Castings are how models attain freelance jobs. They are sort of an in-person job interview where you as the fresh, sassy, and fabulous model struts her looks for a potential brand or business. Usually when you're called in for a casting, the casting director has already got a glimpse of your book, or contacted your representation to find a potential good match for their service or product. 

In-person castings allow clients to see how you currently look, how tall you are, how your skin is, what your current look is, etc.. It's important to dress casually for castings as the casting director needs to also see you as your plain self.

A good wardrobe includes blue, gray, or black jeans, a white or black tank top, heels, and a positive attitude. 

If a casting director wants to see you without any sort of  meeting, this is called a direct casting. This is where the client or prospective business will want to see you without actually meeting you in-person. This will include looking at your comp cards, your book, and speaking with your agent or representative to learn a little more about you. 

I've included a few resources for LA Castings below. 

5. Shoot with a Photographer to Build Your Book

A photographer is a great resource for you as a model to, well, model! Get in front of the camera and learn more about poses, how you work on set, and do some practice runs. Since this is my photography website I might be a little bias, but I think shooting with a fashion photographer can be a great way to build exposure when you're first starting out. 

I can't end the post without plugging myself (yup shameless self-promotion at work), but I offer model portfolio shoots and head-shots if you're in the greater Los Angeles area and are looking to update your look, or just want some new pictures.

Most photographers (me included) charge a reasonable price for paid model tests, and will often provide a variety of looks, work closely with you for your specific need, and offer hair and makeup if necessary. If you want to make your book look good in a short amount of time, you can hire a specialized photographer (swim, fashion, lifestyle etc...) to update your portfolio. 

6. Look at Models  Who Live in Specific Cities

 Basically, size up the competition. Inspect agency websites, look at other models profiles and the industry trends in your geographic location. Is runway modeling your passion? It's probably best not to move to Florida or Chicago.

Knowing the types of models who already exist in Los Angeles or New York will help you get a better idea of what agents are looking for when scouting. If you're "look" doesn't vibe well with the market, you might consider moving between cities.

7. Find A Good Model Agency

While I can't tell you what agency is right for you, I have complied a list of agencies (at least in the Los Angles area).

Check it out if you want to see a little bit on what's out there in terms of agencies.

8. Know That You're The Product

 This one can hit a little close to home for many aspiring models but you should know that you're the product and that your agencies or agent will try to change your physical appearance to meet their demands (hence, you're a model in the very definition of the word). You're going to have a lot of challenging factors as modeling as a job isn't always a walk in the park. You might be subjected to cold. You might be on set for hours at a time. You might need to lose weight, gain height, or change your hair color. You might need to not see your family for months or move to a strange city where you don't know many people. It's important to be transparent with yourself about this process ahead of time physically, mentally, and emotionally.

9. Book A Headshot

Have a photographer or a friend book you a headshot! It's important when you shoot these that they're natural, have very little makeup, and represent your personality! The less glam and glitz the better, as agencies tend to book talent based on their natural looks and then what they can transform that look into.

Want to Learn More?

If you’re interested in learning more about a specific photography subject or idea, shoot me a message on Instagram or contact me via email I’m always happy to answer additional questions or comments.

Morey Spellman is a Los Angeles based fashion photographer. 
His work combines a love for beautiful light, authentic beauty, and natural scenery.