This week, Kwabena Gyane discusses how novice models can get signed to a modelling agency.

Runways, catwalks, photoshoots; these are among the few activities laypeople list when asked about the modelling profession. Most people do not know what models do; they have an idea of what they do.

The modelling industry is a multifaceted machine, with numerous niches, several styles, and a multitude of modelling types.

If this topic has caught your attention, chances are you are either a novice model, someone who has just recently dipped their toes into the pools of photographed poses, or you have started to take an interest in the industry, its workings and how to step into it. This could be whether someone said you should take up modelling or you recently looked into the mirror and realised your face had a place in the business.

The first and one of the most vital steps one takes when getting into modelling is the portfolio. Before you even dream about bookings, a portfolio needs to exist. Portfolios should have a variety of pictures, with the two essential images being your headshot and body shot, this applies to every model’s portfolio no matter their level of experience.

Unlike the numerous professions out there, modelling is a visual-based vocation, your curriculum vitae is your portfolio. It is what agencies usually look through before you get called in for a casting (an interview), it is what they send over to brands, designers, and stylists to get you bookings – so they must always work in your favour. For new models a portfolio does not necessarily need professional pictures in it. The images do, however, have to be of good quality, although professional shots can increase one’s chances in getting signed.

Your portfolio creates your narrative, how you present yourself in your images can elevate how you present yourself in-person, so make sure it does it well.

Have certain unique features? Flaunt these in the shots you have in your portfolio, use everything to your advantage. Agencies want models they can book: show them that you are one of those models.

Once you have a portfolio, you must continuously update it, for the sole reason of change. You will change in terms of appearance, modelling style, confidence level, and experience. Your portfolio should always reflect who you are and the changes that come along with being you.

Your modelling style should also be an aspect you should have thought about. What type of modelling are you planning to get into? Are you into fitness and have the physique? You can pursue fitness modelling. See yourself advertising products, events, and clothes that are affordable? Consider catalogue (also known as commercial) modelling. There are a variety of niches that you can investigate and several you can inhabit as a model, who says you cannot do fitness and high fashion, or glamour and editorial? If you meet the requirements, you can step into these niches and succeed.

The word ‘agency’ has been used in prior paragraphs and is the core topic, but what is an agency? An agency and specifically a modelling agency is a business that represents models, providing brands, photographers, stylists, and several other professionals in the industry with models that meet their specific requirements. Agencies can also get models work not limited to the fashion world, it can be in various other industries.

Before we continue, it is important to note that you should never pay any modelling agency a membership or joining fee. No legitimate agency will ever ask you to do so, this is not how they operate. An agency runs on a commission basis, they take a percentage of the model’s earnings once they have secured work and have been paid. Agencies aid in your contracts, your payment, and several other details, making your modelling career behind the scenes as easy as possible.

Is it possible to get into modelling without an agency? It is, however going freelance especially as a novice is disadvantageous, agencies have the knowledge to secure bookings and know professionals in the industry and are trusted by them. Representing yourself can be exhausting and time-consuming, it should not be a road you need to take if being signed to an agency is an option.

You can either get scouted by an agency scouter (who will approach you about modelling and with social media being such an effective tool, people can also be scouted online) or you can apply to an agency. A casting is then set and attended, to allow the agencies to see you in-person and assess whether they should sign you.

When going to a casting, make sure to wear clothes that flatter your figure, a simple white t-shirt and fitted jeans are enough. Underwear should at best be nude as they may ask you to try on clothes they provide. If they are required of you at some point, have heels with you and make sure you can do a catwalk before you get to your casting, the agencies will ask you to show them your walk.

There are several modelling agencies out there especially in London, from top agencies like Elite London and MiLK Model Management to smaller agencies such as Array Model Management. With this much choice, researching an agency before sending in an application is a requirement to ensure you are signed with one that meets your requirements and holds similar values as you.

Going through an agency’s website is one of the surest ways to decide which ones suit you, depending on your age, ethnicity, gender, height, weight, body art and modelling style; look through their models or talent page. If most of the models share similar traits, chances are this agency may not be for you if you do not match these tacit standards.

Most agencies like PRM have strict height requirements, with males being at minimum 6’0 and females at minimum 5’8. If you don’t meet this first requirement, they are unlikely to sign you when you go for an open call (which they do on Wednesdays from 2pm to 4pm). Nevs is a top agency which represents a diverse range of models in terms of age and ethnicity, their open castings are on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 10am to 12pm.

Always check to see the open calls of agencies you are interested in; it is an opportunity for agencies to see fresh faces and an opportunity for you to get a direct answer from them about being signed instead of waiting to hear back from them if you have applied. Having a modelling composite card or comp card (a model’s business card) at the ready when you enter open calls can also help with agents remembering who you are, and that is important in modelling.

Check how often models in the agencies you choose get bookings, what percentage is the agency’s commission fee and read their reviews. If you can, reach out to models who are represented or were represented by the agencies and ask about their experience. This can help you get unfiltered opinions that you may not acquire anywhere else. It is important to note that you should have more than two agencies in mind when applying, treat this as if it were a job search (it is), applying to more places can increase your chances of you getting a casting and being signed.

After your casting, you may hear back from the agencies as to whether you were successful and have been signed or the dreaded rejection (if you are lucky, as some do not even send emails at all, and their silence is the rejection). However, if you do not hear back from an agency, it does not hurt to send a follow-up email. You could ask for an update on your application or for feedback on how you can improve at your next casting.

Rejection is common when trying to find an agency to represent you but that should not discourage anyone trying to get into the industry. If an agency says ‘No’ another agency could say ‘Yes’ and if you reapply a few months later, the agency could sign you this time around.

Confidence and preparedness are key to making sure you ace your casting when an agency calls you in. Be yourself, agencies want to see you for who you are, flaws and all.

Always read the contract before you sign anything including the fine print to ensure that you understand the terms of conditions you are agreeing to.

Once signed by an agency, you are officially represented and depending on your career goals you may want to be signed by different agencies in different countries to increase your exposure. If your contract has a nonexclusive agreement, you can sign with other agencies, if not then you cannot. If you can sign with others, it is best to inform your home agency about this as a form of formality so they are aware; not doing so can sometimes lead to models being dropped.

Getting signed is not always easy, some can get signed quickly while others get this opportunity after months of applying. You should always remember that it is not a sprint, but a marathon and that comparison is the thief of joy. Your modelling journey is unique to you and you alone, and as with every journey, it will always move forward.

You can read more of Kwabena’s work at, and @whereifoundmyeyes on Instagram.

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