Models 101: How to Start Your Modeling Career

Want to become a model? Here’s everything you need to know.

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How to become a model

Over the past few months, our Models 101 column has given you the inside scoop on the modeling world, and a look at the faces that bring our favorite fashion collections to life. We’ve covered everything from the ad campaign faces to watch this spring, to plus size models, and even models that are challenging gender roles.

But the one aspect of modeling we haven’t covered yet is how to become a model – and by the looks of the comments and emails we’ve received, it seems like many of you are curious about entering the modeling world yourselves.

If people have always told you that you should be a model, and you’ve been looking at models in magazines and on billboards, with a voice in your head saying, “That should be me”, you may be wondering… what’s next?

Where do you start and how do you get your foot inside the door of the modeling world?

Here, I’ll lay out a few basic steps that every aspiring model should follow.

1. Choose a Market

Market types: catwalk, plus-size, commercial, and swimsuit/lingerie

In modeling, there are various different markets, and choosing the one that you are most suitable for will have a major effect on your success.

The main markets are for catwalk, plus-size, commercial, and swimsuit/lingerie models.

Catwalk models are generally at least 5’8″ and, as we all know, quite thin with very few curves.

Plus size models also tend to be about this same height but most wear over a size 10.

Commercial models, on the other hand, can be a little shorter and their body types can be more diverse – imagine the type of models you see in catalogs and television commercials here.

Lastly, swimsuit/lingerie models, often referred to as glamour models, often have larger chests with smaller waists.

Of course, these are just guidelines and there are always exceptions to every rule. So if your body type doesn’t seem to fit that of a catwalk model but you know you have an enviable strut or a unique look, don’t be discouraged!

Your first step should be to seek out an agency to help you look for jobs that will embrace your aesthetic.

2. Create a Portfolio

How to build a modeling portfolio | Model's book for beginners: tips advices What mistakes to avoid

A model’s portfolio is incredibly important, as it includes pictures and past work, and is the first thing casting agents, brands, or designers will look at, in order to determine if they want to work with you.

Of course, when you’re just starting out modeling, your portfolio, also known as a book, will be sparse. In time and with success, it will expand.

For now, though, ask a friend to take a few snapshots of you to give agencies an idea of your look. Your pictures might not be up to professional standards, but try to use a nice camera and make sure the lighting is flattering.

What the pictures should look like will depend on the market you’re targeting.

No matter what market you want to work in, your portfolio should include a few headshots, just of your face from various angles, but if you’re going for commercial modeling, make sure you include a decent amount of smiling shots, whereas any other type of model should have an equal or larger amount of straight-faced ones.

Then make sure to include some full-length shots; agencies usually like some of these to be swimsuit shots, but again, it depends on the market.

For glamour models, swimwear shots are clearly a must.

Once you have a good set of pictures, put them together in a portfolio and make sure to include a page with your stats in this book, too: this should list your height and all your other measurements, along with your hair color and eye color.

3. Submit to Agencies

Modeling Agency logos
Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4

With your completed portfolio all set, it’s time to get in touch with some modeling agencies.

First of all, do your research and make sure to find reputable agencies that cater to the market you’re interested in. Then, check out the agencies’ websites to find out how they prefer you to submit your book – some will have you mail it in, while others will let you fill out forms and upload pictures online.

Additionally, many agencies have open casting calls, which are a great opportunity for aspiring models. At an open call, models bring in their portfolios and meet with casting agents. The agents then take a look at the models up close, in order to decide which models are a good fit for the agency.

If given the opportunity, I would always suggest going to a casting call over just submitting a book. In real life, your personality can shine through and instantly enhance your look.

If you do go to one of these castings, be sure to bring a composite card that has your picture on it, along with your name, number and stats.

4. Keep Looking for Exposure and Experience

Model Cara Delevingne outside Dior show 2020
CRYSTAL / Avalon

Finding an agency can be a long process, so if it takes a while for someone to see your true potential, don’t be discouraged. In the meantime, look for other ways to get exposure and experience.

Some colleges, especially those in major cities, have modeling clubs where aspiring models share information about castings they’ve heard of and give each other tips on everything from how to photograph well to what to wear to a go-see.

While a club like this is great, be careful of other scams, though: there are so many “modeling schools” and faux “agencies” out there that promise to make you a star but really just want your money.

In general, if they ask for money up-front, you don’t want to work with them.

So always be skeptical and make sure to fully check out anyone you’re thinking of working with on your way to the top.

Thoughts?

Have you thought about modeling? Have any of you modeled in the past? If you have, do you have any tips to offer other College Fashion readers? Do these seem like the right steps to take? Let us know by leaving a comment!

92 thoughts on “Models 101: How to Start Your Modeling Career”

  1. Hi! I’ve always wanted to become a model and still do but I really want to move to New York and become a model there. Can someone tell me if New York is a good place to start a modeling career and if it’s not, what countries or places are the best to become a model at?

    Reply
  2. Hello ,I am a 19year old Swazi girl tall , with brown eyes and black hair a little bit lighter in complection,My wish is to become part of the modeling industry but I don’t know where to start or where to go can someone please help me Start please.

    Reply
  3. I think in getting the
    attention of an agents you should know how to make perfect modeling portfolio. As what my talent source – Explore Talent, told me “First impressions last forever”, and that’s what you want to happen when you auditions right? You have to impress them first with your best shots that showcase your different looks. So, to all aspiring models there..you should probably start now making your perfect modeling portfolio. Good luck!

    Reply
  4. Hi. I really enjoy ready the comments . I have always wanted to model,neaver have. Busy raising kids, now that I’m older, kids are raised & gone. I would love to give it a try. Have stranger telling me how pretty Iam & beauty white hair.it is natural. Please tell me what state should I go to?were & what I should do?

    Reply
  5. Hi, I truthfully don’t know how to get in touch with someone to do a portfolio of me. Alot of people I know tell me I could be a model because I am slim with some curves. I would really like to become a model. I am 16 years of age. Please contact me so I can become my dream

    Reply
  6. Hi! I’m Katelyn I am 21 years old and about to start attending a cosmetology school soon. My whole life I was always that tall girl in a very early age and I stopped near 5′ 9″ or 5′ 10″. I’ve also always been told I should model but just stuck with sports and working. Luckily, I have grown a passion to model, but also act even though I have always thought about them since I was a ltitle girl. So, of course the older I got the more passion I grew to go into those fields. My dilemma is I just have absolutely no idea how to even get started in those from the area I’m from. Any and all help is very much appreciated! Thank you! ☺

    Reply
  7. Im 19 and i’ve wanted to model my whole life, i’ve just been shy but i’ve broken out of my shell and ready for my dream to come true. SOS

    Reply
  8. Oh hie l’m Tina l’m 17 years old and l ‘m still in high school l have heard this strong passion for modeling but l dnt kno where to start l hve done modelling competions at different high schools and hve became the qeen twice. And now I dnt kno hw l can get into modeling at all and the other thing my mom doesn’t want me being a model but l have all it takes to be 1 .l realy feel this spirit when l’m catwalking in front of people that this is where l belong and also feel the music.

    Reply
  9. im 12 my uncle is a photographer and i have met several models several have told me i should model also strangers have told me that i should be a model i have already had a photoshoot with my friends i am very short and i dont have long legs and i am very skinny should i go for modeling or should i wait till i grow

    Reply
  10. I would love to be a model, everyone tells me that I should be a model. I would love to but I’m not really sure of how to do so. This article & reading a lot of the comments helped a lot with what is needed to start modeling. I really want to, it would make my dream come true!

    Reply
  11. Edie Sedgwick and Mia Farrow were both 5’4 when they were/are models. Twiggy was only about 5’5. Just get use to heels, improve your posture. Do some research you don’t have to be a skinny giant to model. It’s been proven.

    Reply
  12. I’m 5’9 wish I’m really thankful for because becoming a model is all I’ve ever wanted to be. Traveling, shooting, and becoming a part of the fashion world sounds like heaven unfortunately I have braces but as soon as I get them off I want to start and see where it leads.

    Reply
  13. I think that it is important to believe in yourself. I am 5’7″ and I just do not have the money to start if anyone has an affordable way to get into this industry help me please!

    Reply

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