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13 Tips for Submitting Modeling Photos to Agencies

Because most aspiring models don't live in major modeling markets like New York, Los Angeles, London etc. where they can attend an open call, they need to submit their photos by mail, email, or through an online model scouting company. Whether you're a new model just starting out, or even a model with experience who is looking to expand your representation to bigger markets, these 13 tips will help you get your photos right the first time and improve your chances of getting signed to an agency and getting booked for modeling jobs.

​​Tip # 01  Should I use a modeling agency’s photographer?

NO WAY! NEVER! If a modeling agency is asking you to shoot your portfolio with their photographer, they are probably just interested in your money. If you do some research, you will probably find out that their “photographer” is not a full-time professional and is probably being paid an hourly fee to take your photos. In other words, the pictures suck and the modeling agency will make a ton of money from your photo shoot. This is a very legal, but morally inappropriate modeling scam that some agencies take part in.

Tip # 02  Keep Makeup to a Minimum

Agents and scouts want to see the real you, so it is important to keep makeup to a minimum.  Think of your face as a template. A little foundation, concealer, blush, mascara and lip gloss is all you need.  Male models generally should not wear makeup, but a small amount of bronzer is alright as long as it's not noticeable.  If your face tends to get oily, then it's okay to wear some translucent powder to get rid of any sheen.  Also, have a few shots with NO makeup or retouching. This way they can see the real you.

Tip # 03  Keep Clothing Simple and In Good Taste

A simple pair of well-fitting jeans and a t-shirt are just fine for your photos.

Agents and scouts are looking at you and your body proportions, not the clothing you're wearing. Never dress up in evening or black-tie attire, prom dresses, or wedding attire. Never dress in clothing that would be considered too sexual or provocative, including extremely low-cut shirts and jeans that sit very low on the hip.

Tip # 04  Include a Headshot and Body Shots

Your portfolio needs a variety of shots, including headshots and full length photos, as well as three quarter length and full length images. You should have a good balance of shots done in the studio as well as shots done on location in natural lighting.

A strong headshot is crucial. You also need a good full-length body shot in your book. This can be a tasteful swimsuit or lingerie shot done in a non-provocative way.  If you prefer to not model swimwear or lingerie, your body shot could be a well-fitted pair of jeans and a tank top. The term “Body shot” doesn’t mean SKIN – it means a shot to show your figure – in other words, how you are built.

The rule of thumb is to pick your best photos that highlight your best features. Preferably, include some shots of you smiling and some shots of you in a neutral mood.  Be sure to include the left and right side of your face.  Also, you must send body profiles where you're not obscured by surrounding objects, even furniture or landscaping such as trees or boulders.

Tip # 05  Keep Hairstyles Simple

Agents and scouts want to see the length and condition of your hair, so it's important to keep your hairstyle simple and well-groomed. 

Make sure your hair is in good condition. If you need a haircut, color job, or trim, go to your hairstylist and colorist before you take your photos.  If you have long hair then take photos of your hair down and pulled back.

Tip # 06  Include a Swimsuit Shot

If you're comfortable wearing a swimsuit then it's always a good idea to include some shots of you wearing either a one-piece or bikini.  Keep posing to a minimum when wearing a swimsuit because your shots can quickly go from elegant to tacky with some unfortunate poses. 

Tip # 07  Never Submit Nude (or Suggestive) Photos

In a nutshell, agents and scouts do not want to see you naked, ever.  Even photos that suggest nudity are off the table.  If you have a fabulous photograph of yourself but there is so much midriff (and lower) showing, do not send that photo.  You are not required to model anything that is in conflict with your cultural or religious beliefs. It is not like the reality TV shows where they make all the models get naked. It is simply a matter of the more things that you are comfortable doing, the more opportunities that you may have. No legitimate modeling agency will ever demand that you work in these categories.  That being said, if you are avoiding these categories because you don’t think you are in the best of shape. . . you are just kidding yourself. All the clothing in the world won’t change your measurements and the reality that you need to get in shape. Models are healthy, attractive people who take care of their bodies and look their best at all times.

Tip # 08  Only You in the Photos

Be sure you're the only person in the photos you submit. Agents and scouts want to see you and only you. You need to be a clean slate that they can dress and portray to tell a story and sell a product or service.

You don't want your photos to tell a story. Never submit photos of you and your friends drinking at the bar, playing pool, or partying. Save those pics for your social media platforms. 

Tip # 09  Do Not Wear Fur (Unless needed for a certain style)

Please do not wear fur of any kind, anywhere, in your photos.  And that includes fake fur, which may be hard to distinguish from the real thing.  Many agents find the use of fur in the fashion industry offensive. Besides, there is nothing about a fur coat that says "young and fresh," which is the look that agents want in new models.  Even mature models need to look youthful and fresh for their age category.

Tip # 10  No Fancy Clothing or Makeup on Children

Fashion and commercial agencies in big markets want to see real kids.  They don't want Barbie dolls and photos from beauty pageants.

To ensure that kid shots look real, make sure the head shots show clean faces void of makeup, without frilly dresses or suits with bow ties, and without hair pieces.  Also, food covered faces are cute for grandparents but never for agents. 

Tip # 11  How many photos do I need in my modeling portfolio?

Between 6 to 20 photos is appropriate for a modeling portfolio. NEVER more than 20.

If you are a brand new model just starting out, I would encourage you to work with somewhere between 6 to 10 photographs. Less is better – regardless of the amount of experience you have.

If you have modeled before and you have tearsheets, only include them in your book if they make you look amazing. Don’t include them just to brag about work you have done. That’s what a resume is for.

Tip # 12  Include All of Your Contact Information & Stats

There have been many times that I've been interested in a model and had no way to contact them because they forgot to include their contact information.  If you're mailing your photos, be sure to include your full name, the city you live in, your email address, and day and evening phone numbers on the back of each and every photo. Photos can get separated from the envelopes they came in, so just attaching a note to your photos is not enough.  To save time and ensure scouts have all of your information print up some stickers at home with your contact information and apply one to each photo. 


Include Your Stats.  Your statistics are your key measurements and data.  Women should always include their age, height, bust, waist, and hip measurements. Men should include their age, height, chest and waist size, jacket size, and pant length. Also note any distinguishing features, such as freckles, moles, or visible tattoos.

Tip # 13  Do I need any special skills, like dancing or gymnastics?

Special skills are not a requirement, but if you have them, be sure to show them in your portfolio.  If I shoot a model who is a trained ballerina and can stand on pointe – I will definitely do a ballet photo of her standing on pointe. This is a way of showing that she has a skill that other people don’t usually have and it can make the difference in her being hired for a job that requires this skill.  Certainly you can tell people that you can do something, but talk is cheap – photographs not only prove that you can do it, but they show how well you can do it.

First Impressions Are Important

In the modeling industry, your photos are everything, and first impressions are equally as important.  Modeling agencies receive thousands of photos every week and agents will make their decision whether or not to represent you within a matter of seconds.  Therefore, it's important to always look your best (and appropriate) even in simple snapshots.  You also must include all the statistical information agents need in order to represent you.  Don't get passed over simply because you forgot to include your contact information and they had no way to reach you.

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