How to Become a Teenage Model

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Photo Source: Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

For teens, modeling can be a great way to build their skill set, craft a portfolio, and instill confidence. Whether you’re a teen looking to break into modeling, or a parent/guardian with a teen who’s interested in modeling, here’s a step-by-step guide to becoming a teenage model.


What is a teen model?

Teen model


Teen models are between the ages of 12 and 17. They work in a professional capacity to promote and advertise products, concepts, and services—often by posing for photographs, participating in commercials, or even walking the runway.

Teen modeling can be a stepping stone to break into adult modeling and get to know modeling professionals, all before they’re even 18. Some teen models even progress into acting, such as former teen models Charlize Theron and Robert Pattinson.


Steps to become a teen model

Teen models

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1. Do some general research

Get to know the modeling industry by doing some research on types of modeling, such as runway, commercial, print, and fitness. Modeling can be an intense and difficult profession, so focusing on the type of modeling you’re interested in can help you narrow down what you may need to work on, what modeling agencies to look into, or what type of photography you might need.

Parents/guardians should also get to know the modeling industry themselves and have an idea of how the modeling world works. Even adults can get scammed, so the more knowledge everyone has, the more likely there will be a positive outcome.

2. Have a discussion

As an industry laser-focused on looks, modeling can be fraught with issues, especially when models start at younger, more impressionable ages. Before seeking out that first gig, teens and parents/guardians should discuss the pros and cons of the industry and the amount of time and dedication necessary to succeed. Parents/guardians are often the first line of defense against scams, mental and physical stress, and other problems that may arise, so they should be prepared to help teens navigate potential issues.

3. Create a modeling portfolio

Start with at least a headshot and full-body shot that represents the teen’s unique look and personality. While a professional photographer is usually the best bet, you can also try cheaper options, such as a photography student or even just using your phone camera to take headshots. It’s important that parents/guardians or other trusted adults accompany teens to photo shoots to ensure needs are being met and to provide safety and support.

4. Practice

Play with different poses, styles, and facial expressions, and set up several test shoots to see how the teen feels in front of the camera. 

5. Attend casting calls

Sign up for our model casting platform with the teen’s age range and general look. 

6. Build a social media presence

As with adult models, social media can be a great way to garner a following—and many teen models got their start posting selfies on Instagram. 

  • Showcase the teen’s unique personality: Social media pages should create a clear idea of the teen’s modeling capacity and personality.
  • Use hashtags: Scouts will often search for hashtags related to modeling to find their next star, so use hashtags like #teenmodel, #instagrammodel, #model, #instafashion, and #modelsearch with each post.
  • Be safe: Parents/guardians must be acutely aware of the harm that can be caused by teen social media use—especially the dangers of having a public profile. They should speak with teens extensively about those dangers as well as preventative safety measures. For example, teens should never post their specific location or uniquely identifying information, and should exercise great caution when interacting with followers.

7. Seek agency representation

Once the teen has an idea of what type of modeling they’d like to work on, spend time researching agencies. Many agencies specialize in specific types of modeling, and some even specialize in teen modeling. Be on the lookout for agencies with:

  • A good reputation: Ensure the agency is licensed and has a professional website. It should have many positive reviews on aggregate sites and a good reputation for working with teens.
  • Ethical practices: The agency should have its teen models’ best interests at heart. It should have clearly posted guidelines demonstrating it abides by minor labor and modeling-specific laws, and should never ask that a teen drastically change their appearance. 
  • Industry connections: The best agencies for teen models will have solid connections to commercial, fashion, and editorial clients; photographers; and other industry professionals. 
  • No fees: If an agency asks you to pay them for photos or training courses, it’s a scam. No reputable agency will ask you to pay upfront. 

If an aspiring teen model is just starting, they may not land an agency right away, but it’s good to have goals and work toward landing an agency. Smaller, local modeling agencies might be a great way to get started. If they have a specific focus on teen models, even better! As with any agency, be careful and do thorough research.

8. Start small and grow into bigger modeling jobs

It’s nice to think that once a teen sets their sights on modeling, everything will fall into place and they’ll soon be strutting the runway like Bella Hadid. It can happen, but generally, most teen models should start small, focusing on building a portfolio, learning basics, and gaining confidence.

Can minors legally work as models?

Teen modeling

Halay Alex/Shutterstock

Yes, with varying regulations. While states have different laws about minor employment, many require that minors obtain a work permit before beginning employment, particularly during school hours. There are also laws regarding the work itself, including how many hours a day a minor can work and mandatory requirements (education, supervision, breaks, and meals). 

For information on minor labor laws in your state, check out Homebase. When in doubt, seek legal counsel from a professional.

How do modeling contracts work with teens?

Teen model contract



Because they are minors and thus are assumed to have insufficient understanding of the law, teens usually do not have the legal capacity to contract. When they can enter into a contract, they can also legally end it or disaffirm it at any time. To protect them from potential harm, the government recognizes that a minor should be able to end a contract at any time while still a minor or when reaching the age of 18. 

Alternatively, parents/guardians can approve the contract prior to signing, though this doesn’t necessarily nullify a minor’s right to end a contract. 

As with all legalities, be sure to check local state laws. In certain states, contracts can get judicial approval, which would make them legally binding and treat the minor as a legal adult. It’s best to seek legal counsel before having parents/guardians or teens sign a modeling contract.

Payments and Coogan Accounts

Parents/guardians often manage teen model payments. In some cases, agencies may recommend using entertainment financial professionals. Parents/guardians should discuss money matters with teens and help guide them toward smart financial habits, such as saving, investing, and income distribution.

California’s Coogan Law requires that 15% of a minor performer’s income be placed in a trust for them until they turn 18. Other states, including Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee also have minor performer earnings laws.

Because finances and the law can be quite confusing, it is always best to find a professional who can help make sense of the minor details.

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