Tips for Aspiring Models

(Updated: 13-Sep-2020)


Novice models should be sure to have the “Basics” as they start their portfolio – (1) Editorial Fashion shots, (2) Headshots and (3) Full Body shots in bikini or bra and panties. Here are my suggested Poses for a Beginning Portfolio and my Wardrobe Recommendations for Our First Shoot.

Comp Cards

A “Comp Card” (usually 8.5″ x 5.5″) should include two of each of the Basic shots and preferably not all captured on the same day as a variety of make-up and hair styles should be included. A combination of studio and location shots is also recommended. Often, a full page black and white head shot is on one side of the card with the remaining photos on the other side along with details such as measurements, sizes, etc.

Nude Images

A Model’s Portfolio should not contain artistic edits or nude images. Though these images may be beautiful, potential commercial clients are rarely interested in seeing them. Professionally air brushed beauty or glamor style edits are expected and should be the only ones included in your portfolio. There are exceptions. A few that come to mind are an unedited picture without make-up to forward to make-up artists you will be working with, nude photos required for working with publishers of adult content, works of nude art and often such images may be useful in a photographers portfolio for various reasons.


Be safe when shooting. Not every GWC (Guy with a Camera) is a pervert, and conversely, not every professional photographer with a studio and tons of equipment has strictly honorable intentions. You know the old saying, “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover”, so therefore you need to be vigilant with every photographer you work with.

To me it is important that a model feel safe and secure when shooting. If she is not comfortable, we’re both wasting time because it will show up in the pictures especially close-ups. As I tend to work with mostly novice models, I already have to deal with the natural anxiety of someone trying something outside their comfort zone because its a new experience. I don’t need this situation compounded by someone that also feels insecure about their safety.

Of course it’s nearly impossible to create quality images with someone you’re uncomfortable with, so my advice is to just relax and act professionally. Don’t be overtly flirty and at anytime you sense something inappropriate, stop. Say “time-out” or something and let the photographer know that you are not comfortable with whatever happened. If it happens again, cut your loses and leave as quickly as possible. One way to avoid this is to always take someone with you to each and every shoot, up until you get to know a photographer well. Usually models and photographers, unless they have a long term contractual relationship, never get to this point, so that means you should always take someone with you.

Ideally, from a photographer’s viewpoint, it’s helpful if this person is a trained and accomplished make-up artist. Another good strategy is to plan your shoot with another model. Either way, your “escort” can add “value” to the shoot for the photographer and a feeling of safety for the model.

However, in my experience a female model shooting with a male photographer, bringing a boyfriend; husband or partner of any gender category is a very poor choice. Some become controlling, jealous and in general – a major distraction. At the very least, just check references with other models that have worked with the Photographer.

At the end of the day, your dreams of becoming the next top model will more than likely remain a dream, but you do want to have fond memories of your times shooting, and not nightmares.


Don’t get scammed. Here are few quick rules that you should ALWAYS take into account:

1. If it looks too good to be true, IT IS! Turn and walk away.
2. NEVER give someone your social security number, a credit card number or any other personal information unless you are absolutely doubly sure of the situation.
3. If someone asks you to pay them for an opportunity where you will (seemingly) eventually be paid back, it’s a SCAM.

Squinting, Smizing, etc.

Former Super Model and ANTM Creator Tyra Banks introduced the term “Smizing”, which means smiling with your eyes only and not your mouth. I think most Photographers and others in the modeling industry would agree that some models can do this innately, while others never seem to develop this skill. At the novice level, what’s more important is to avoid squinting, especially when working outdoors with sunlight and reflectors.

One thing that may be helpful is to understand some very basic physiology about yourself. The reason you squint is a natural reflex to limit with your eye lids, the amount of bright light your eyes take in. But in reality your body is way ahead of you and your eye’s Iris, which is the colored part will widen. This reduces the size of the eye’s Pupil, which is the black center part that actually regulates light that enters the eye.

Conversely, when you are in a dark place the Iris narrows to let more light into the Pupil. If you’ve ever gone into a dark building directly from the bright sun, you notice it takes you a moment or two for your eyes to adjust to the sudden change in light. What’s really happening is your eye’s Iris takes a moment to adjust from wide to narrow. And of course, it will take a moment to adjust from narrow to wide when you first go outside.

So basically, squinting is overkill and not needed as the real job is being done by the Iris and squinting is really just a reflex and not helping the process at all. Your mind may naturally cause you to squint as a reflex reaction when you’re first introduced to the bright sun, but after a moment or so, continued squinting is just a bad habit that you’ve formed and serves no function other than to mess up good captures. It may also cause the premature development of crows feet and permanent bags under the eyes, so it really is a Bad habit you want to kick.

Agency Representation

There are modeling agencies and modeling agencies. It is doubtful you can be a top model unless you are ultimately signed with one of the Top Agencies. Fortunately, some local agencies have been known to feed talent to the big boys. This is a question you should ask when interviewing and before signing with any local agency.

You can also submit directly to one of the “big boys”. This list of the Top Agencies has links to their web sites as well as their social media pages. Even though most of the street addresses on this list shows NY City, some have offices as close as Miami. Good Luck!