January 25, 2010

"So you want to be a model ?", by GW Burns

Young or experienced photographers and art models, I'm sure you'll appreciate the essential advices of a famous photographer who works since a long time with the most beautiful art models of our small world.

Do you remember all our articles about the difficult art of modeling ? Marcus J Ranum gave us his clear and detailed opinions about (here : Models and Reality), and Terrell Neasley who likes to work with non pro models, even if it seems to be more difficult (here : Models vs Non Models), article commented by Iris Dassault who made a perfect resume of the situation. Yes ?

Here is another aspect of the art of modeling by GW Burns :

How to prepare to become a good Art Model ?

"Emotion in Motion"

"With the grace of a ballet dancer she moved through my heart."

So you want to be a model ?

In the glamorous world of modeling, it is often thought that being a model is about just being pretty. Put on some lipstick and smile in front of the camera and at the end of the shoot pick up a check for being heavenly blessed with great genes. In actuality, to succeed in the increasing competitive world of modeling it takes a commitment and resolve that few professions entail.

Because of the internet, more girls are looking to make their mark on the modeling profession then at any other time. This saturation of neophyte models has produced more then a competitive field for all to wrestle with. It has created a market whereas girls will do anything to get ahead, including work for free in an effort to get a tearsheet.


Gone are the days of million dollar contracts and six figure gigs for commercial clients. More and more magazines and designers are looking for the next fresh face and realize you can get her on the cheap. If they want instant credibility, they look for the celebrity who has the exposure on Entertainment Tonight who can reach the masses. In an effort to cut their overhead they realize that saving money on the models shown within their tabloid is an efficient way of reallocating funds to other areas of value. Additionally, more and more magazines are turning to online magazine outlets. Consequently the realization is that the cost in producing such media for the public is far cheaper and quicker then any printed material and hence the attraction.

In essence the combination of a greater supply (models) and less demand (printed material) results in a career that is tenuous at best. If a girl wants to enhance her chances of success an understanding of the commitment necessary is a prerequisite in today’s demanding field.

"Dazed and Confused"

"The Day After"
 Art Model Onikaa

1) Building a portfolio.

"Sands of time"

This is a business of who you work with.

As a photographer I provide a product (images) for models to build a portfolio in an effort to attract potential clients. Models provide a service. A service that enables the creation of images. As I mention to models many times, photographers are not relegated to shooting gorgeous people for their profession. Animals, landscapes, and products are all lucrative subjects that they can turn to. While models have the opportunity for live promotional events, the sad truth is without a photographer they (models) wouldn’t exist.

Therefore, the scales are tilted heavily towards the photographers in the balance of the relationship between the two.

"Back to her roots"

Additionally the average modeling career is less then 4 years compared to the tenure of being a professional photographer that can span 10-30 years. Due to this, the odds are far greater that a photographer has built up a client base and reputation over the years that can benefit all those who shoot with him.

In essence, in this business you are who you work with and photographers have far more leverage in that end of the equation. Wise new models realize this and target those photographers who can increase their exposure as well as produce the best product (images) for their portfolios. Even if they have to pay those photographers to work with them in the long run this investment in their career will payoff.

"That face"

"Deadliest Catch..."
Art Model Sarah Richling
MUA Sidory

2) Practice makes perfect.

"Polar Princess"

Professional athletes spend a lifetime perfecting form and technique for the opportunity of game day. They watch video, memorize plays, and go over scouting reports of the opposition before they ever take the field.

Truth is they spend far more time in preparation of the event then they ever do during the event. My question to models often is how often do you practice ?

When they look at me with puzzled expressions, I explain simply, how often do you practice your posing ?

A professional model is a choreographed joy to watch. Moving from one pose to the next with the fluidity of any ballet star. They understand their best features and the element of lighting and pose accordingly. You could of course develop this over time but that makes as much sense as Barry Bonds waiting for the actual game to take batting practice.

You must be prepared for the big event when it calls. Create a pose file of images you can reference and practice everyday of making the transition of one pose to the next while observing yourself in the mirror. Research makeup techniques and fashion trends. Try and build a wardrobe of clothing that you can bring with you in the event that you need them for any shoot. Of course you can spend a fortune on clothes but smart models find them within a budget at second hand stores and Ebay.

" It's all white now"

3) Toto we’re not in Kansas anymore !

"Tonights the night"

If you don’t like to travel this is the wrong profession for you. Even if you live in a thriving metropolis like New York or Paris, you will still have to travel. If you live in a state that has more cows then people then you will be on the road all the time. Dealing with airports, subways, taxis and finding studios in towns you have never been to is very common place. A GPS is perhaps the wisest investment you can ever procure unless you have a merit badge in map reading.

If you are on a budget, and who isn’t these days, learning to network and finding people within the industry who will allow you to stay with them is the only way to make ends meat. Which means unless you have an uncle in every town, it is a wise idea to get on the internet and network the heck out of developing contacts. I often joke that the biggest advantage to my height is I can sleep very comfortably on a couch ! Not exactly the glamorous lifestyle it seems is it ?

"Life in a Fishbowl"

4) Being Realistic.


I often hear height challenged models complain that the industry isn’t fair in allowing them the chance to be on the cover of Vogue.

I like this to the 5 foot 7 150 pound guy who complains to the coach that he really wants to play middle linebacker and has the desire and ability to do so. He further quips, that it isn’t fair that he is short and prejudiced against for certain positions. The good news is he can still be a part of the team if he is fast or can kick the ball a mile.

So to is it with girls who are not 5’10 and 120 pounds. There are plenty of paying jobs for girls with other attributes. If high fashion is not your forte’ that is ok because there are always needs for print and glamour models. The truth is however that for girls under 5’7 the print opportunities are few and far between and quite honestly do not pay all that well.

The girls who have any amount of success who are vertically challenged all have found success in the glamour and/or fetish fields. Catalogue and print paying gigs are seasonal and poorly compensated. Most of those gigs pay less then a thousand dollars and who could live off of that if you averaged one a month ?

"Circus girl"
Art Model Kimberley Rogers

5) Screw Father Time.

In the end he catches up with all of us. Models know that everyday a new girl turns 18 and that is tomorrow’s cover girl. Diet and exercise can prolong ones career but how many jobs entail 24-7 maintenance ?

I have seen models spend over an hour just getting ready for bed. What with this moisturizer, and that mask, and these vitamins, it is a ritual that is almost comedic. Heck a bikini wax alone is something that even the Spanish Inquisition would deem cruel and unusual punishment. It is not unusual to see a model spend the entire day at the gym, tanning salon, manicurist, stylist, and health food store just to be the best they can be.

"Subtle Seduction"

In the end, being a model isn’t all it is cracked up to be. It takes a special breed of person and a dedication that few appreciate. It takes a brave soul to put her looks on the line for everyone to critique and ridicule.

"Fight Club"

So the next time you see a model type walking down the street, thank your lucky stars that your mom and father looked like Fred and Ethel Mertz, lol !

1 comment:

TLNeasley said...

Chris, this is why I hope you are always doing what you do. I love the way you present an issue or idea by providing all the angles. There's no bias one way or the other which begs the question...so what's your take on all this? At some point, I need to cross the waters and shake your hand. I love it.