How to Become a Print Model

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My, you’re looking photogenic today. Have you considered a career modeling products in print? If you can assemble a portfolio of high-quality photographs and have the stamina it takes to become a model, you could very well make fabulous (and lucrative) appearances in newspapers, magazines, catalogs, and more.

The commercial print industry is constantly looking for talent—both actors and models—to grace the covers and pages of publications advertising goods and services. Unlike fashion or runway modeling, print does not adhere to a strict set of physical requirements. Instead, agencies and brands are simply seeking the right look. Depending on your appearance, special skills, and commitment and perseverance, you could have that look.

Cheyenne Brink is a print agent at Bella Agency, a boutique Los Angeles-based modeling agency that sends out their roster of models to “provide the casting director with the best options for their clients.” Those include Walgreens and Walmart, Brink says, the kinds of large companies that regularly need fresh faces to advertise their products. “We’re also in the realm of hospitality, hotels, resorts, casinos, and cruise lines.”

To sign with Bella, aspiring models can reach out through the company’s website or by phone. But unlike other agencies, explains Brink, their job is not to develop or groom talent; when submitting themselves, models should already be prepared. “Having top-of-the-line images is the biggest factor for me. I’m the most impressed when someone is the most prepared, when they’re asking questions in a meeting versus sitting there staring at me.”

A print model’s first priority should be photographs. Joe Thompson, a fashion and commercial print agent at Abrams Artists Agency, underlines the importance of one “really strong, accurate headshot.” Specifically for actors branching into modeling, he adds, that first shot capturing your look and your personality is a place to start. “I recommend just getting that one really good headshot, as clients don’t necessarily open up each portfolio.”

“It’s a good idea to have your photos in some kind of dropbox or online portfolio to be able to send out at the drop of a hat,” says Brink. “And it’s important to have a diverse range of images, different kinds of looks.” If you’re hoping to model athletic products and can play specific sports, fill your portfolio with shots of you playing those sports. “Here in L.A. there’s a big health and fitness scene, lots of lifestyle, so images should be geared towards that.”

For any photograph in a model’s repertoire, Thompson says, “a good shot is going to best capture you in a natural state. There are many images we see that are extremely posed.” Other submissions are unfocused or blurry, he adds, or lack direct, intentional connection in the person’s eyes. Amateur models’ photos tend to look like they’re “not connecting with something—like someone said, ‘Stop, don’t move,’ and took the picture. As opposed to, that person is looking directly to you.”

Both agents agree that aspiring print models should do as much research as they can, know which magazine and newspaper advertisements capture their attention, and ask themselves where they might fit in. “You have to know the market,” advises Brink. “Are you in the right market, submitting yourself to the right stuff? How is a company going to envision you in their ads?”

Once you’ve gotten a sense of which brands or genres might fit your talents best, it’s time to use Backstage as a career-launching resource. Read up on advice from industry professionals, find agencies that are hiring in Backstage’s Call Sheet, browse our casting listings for modeling gigs, and look for different jobs by searching and saving searches.

One last pro tip: network via Instagram. “Instagram is such a huge factor now,” says Brink. “It’s an extension of your portfolio.” Models just starting out even use the app to meet new and emerging photographers. “It might be good for them to start together. No one has to pay anything, [so it is] beneficial to both parties. Just keep taking photos and keep meeting people and getting feedback.”

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