Modeling 101 Workshop
notes, tips & resources


From Abby, Abigail and the rest of the team at Apparatus, we wanted to thank you so much for attending this workshop! Below we've compiled the notes from the presentation, as well as many of the resources that were mentioned. 

You are welcome to come back to this page at any time to review information.


When you choose your path, consider your goals - why do you want to model? And what kind of modeling do you want to do? There is no harm in building a portfolio that shows versatility - but it's important to focus on your strengths and what you enjoy most, ie: don't keep doing fashion editorial shoots if you're trying to be a commercial model and vice-versa.

There are many forms of modeling, as well as specific niches in each category. Keep in mind that categories can often overlap, and that this is not an exhaustive list of options.




Self-explanatory. You rock the catwalk. You sometimes wear crazy, expensive clothes. You'll often spend 8+ hours getting hair & makeup done. Despite being one of the most physically demanding & restrictive forms of modeling, it's not often the best paying. It is instead more of an opportunity to gain status, and build a relationship with an agency, company or designer. While often exhausting, it can be an exciting experience and sometimes provide the opportunity to meet and network with elite members of the industry in a high profile setting.

• At least 5'8" tall
• Generally slender & fit, sizes (0-2)
• Good walk and control over body
• No tattoos or body piercings (besides ears)
• Facial features typically don't matter




Commercial modeling usually means that you're selling a product - but more often than not, what you're actually selling is a lifestyle. This is by far the most diverse and common form of modeling that we see in everyday life, from ads, to websites & catalogs. Nearly anyone can break into this industry, and it is the most reliable as a high-paying modeling career. As such, it can be highly competitive. Having a unique look, or special skills and abilities will greatly help you with landing gigs. Many commercial models will also choose to take up acting.

• Any height, size or age
• Easy to break into, especially if you have a niche (athletic, unique look, or special skills)
• Great smile and personality is a huge plus
• Able to model comfortably with others
• Able to act on camera is a huge benefit, and may get you acting gigs, which often pay more

If you really want to focus on a specific niche, or have a particular strength in a certain area, you can choose to build a portfolio centered around that. Here is a breakdown of some common commercial subcategories:

  • Athletic
    • Well-toned or muscular with apparent athletic ability
  • Lingerie / Bikini
    • Should be physically fit and very comfortable with exposed skin
  • Beauty / Glamour
    • Smooth & unblemished skin, soft facial features. You will often be modeling for beauty products, so nice hair, hands & nails are desirable
  • Lifestyle
    • Great smile & laugh, and comfortable with doing it often on cue. Skilled at acting a variety of scenes & situations. You may travel often, or partake in a variety of activities

Fashion / Editorial



By definition, an editorial is a shoot that's for a publication, either to emphasize the written content, or tell a story on its own. This can include a vast variety of genres, so any type of shoot can technically be an editorial, however, an editorial style shoot is typically fashion focused - think Vogue, Elle or Bazaar Magazine. There is often a lot of room for creative freedom, it typically includes edgy looks and focuses more on portraying a specific mood or concept rather than trying to sell something.

• Strong or unique facial features are desirable
• Generally slender or angular build
• Height is a strong asset, but not as important as body proportions (if fashion focused)
• Fluid movement, lots of experience with posing & different facial expressions
• Open to quirky concepts




Many forms of modeling have physical restrictions and generally hold many bodily characteristics as taboo - alternative modeling is the response to that. Alternative models can be any height or size, and often have tattoos, piercings, funky hair, or other prominent features that don't fit conventional beauty standards. Alt modeling is niche-specific with a variety of subcultures and often involves unorthodox themes, such as cosplay, roleplaying, fetishism or experimental art. Alternative models are typically freelance.

• Anyone can be an alternative model
• Generally shooting unconventional concepts, but not always - alternative brands may need alternative models for commercial shoots!
• Usually have body modifications or funky, edgy looks
• Niche-specific, the more unique the better
• Ability to be your own agent, and some business savviness is helpful!

Building your portfolio


Starting out, you will want to build your portfolio and gain as much experience as possible. Keep your goals in mind during this process, and try to use images that highlight your strengths and the type of modeling you're hoping to pursue. If you don't quite know what you want to focus on, this is a perfect time to try different types of looks and genres to get a feel for what you like best.

Gaining experience, practicing poses

The hardest or most nerve-wracking part of modeling for beginners is knowing what to actually do in front of the camera. This is not something you will magically know how to do right away. Just like any other skill, it takes a lot of practice, and the more you do it, the more comfortable you'll be with it. That's why doing test shoots and getting this early practice in, even with amateur photographers, is the best way to start.

Once you begin to feel more confident and fluid in front of the camera, reviewing the images from shoots will help you learn which angles, poses and expressions work best for you. Sometimes certain poses may feel awkward, but look amazing on camera - conversely, you might feel really confident about a facial expression, but on camera it might not translate well. Working in front of a mirror or a tethered monitor is a great way to help with this!

photography & TFP

As a model, there is a huge benefit to learning a little bit about photography, lighting and composition. Having a good taste in photography will give you a better eye when working with new photographers and will provide you with a stronger portfolio.

Many photographers are willing to work for TFP (Trade for print, or trade for portfolio) or do test shoots with you. This often means that they are also portfolio-building, and may be looking for a specific look or might not be very experienced, but it still provides you the opportunity to get you the practice you need, and at least start building a portfolio.

Once you really start to feel more confident with your skills, it can be well worth it to hire a skilled photographer to help you build your book, giving you more freedom to choose the look and feel of the shoot.


With social media, it's not hard at all to find modeling opportunities, or photographers who are willing to work with you. Instagram is highly effective for showcasing your work and booking shoots. There are also several Facebook groups that regularly post about model searches, but it's definitely worth asking your local community for suggestions.

Another great way to network is showing up to industry events - model mixers, runway/fashion shows or photography meet-ups! 




Digitals, Polaroids & Headshots

You'll often asked to submit digitals or take polaroids for certain castings. 'Digitals' are industry lingo for raw images of your face and body, typically just in underwear and heels, or form-fitting clothes. These should be taken in natural light, with absolutely no makeup or retouching, and stoic facial expressions. The requirements can vary from job to job, but the most traditional example is shown here. This provides a clean slate, raw template of how you actually look.



Polaroids function in the same way, but are taken at the casting or agency.

Headshots are different, but similarly should still be an accurate real-life depiction of your look. Headshots can show a little bit of personality and style, with a bit of makeup and light retouching generally acceptable. These should be updated regularly, especially when you change your look (haircut, new hair color, new tattoos, etc.)

You are likely to need both, but generally, commercial models commonly use their headshots for castings, while runway / editorial models more often use digitals.


Printed Portfolio & Website

Once you've done the work to build a strong portfolio, you'll want to consider having it printed and keeping a book, which you'll often need at castings. It should be updated often with new work, but should only have your very best images, or ones that show off your special traits or skills. Time is valuable so try to keep it between 12-20 images or spreads max. You should also include any tearsheets you might have. (Torn out pages of your published work.)

You can also consider having a website as an online portfolio. Keep in mind though that agents & casting directors will typically want something they can look at immediately, and you never know how tech-savvy they might be. It can definitely help you book jobs abroad, but typically a printed portfolio will be more practical for local gigs, and Instagram is a more effective tool for online presence.


We've compiled a list of some our local favorite photographers that can help you build a strong portfolio! These are experienced, full-time professionals, and you'll most likely have to pay for their time, but strong headshots & portfolio images are the best investment you can make towards your modeling career.

Jenna Mahr

Chad Moon

Regina Wamba

Hannah Lee Kuhn

Hannah Voxland

Lauren Krysti

Chris McDuffie

Joan and Garrett Born

Bethany Schrock

Janelle Olson

Miroslav Skorykh

Paul Weaver

Freelance Modeling

Unless you get scouted by an agency from the get-go, you will start out as a freelance model. Even after you do get signed, as long as you're non-exclusive, you can continue doing freelance jobs. It may require some extra work, but freelancing gives you the most amount of freedom; you choose your exact rates and what type of work you do.

advantages & disadvantages

An agency works on your behalf to find jobs, so as a freelance model you will have to be your own agent and find jobs yourself. This will limit the pool of jobs available to you, as many commercial clients will only work with an agency, but there are still numerous open casting calls available, and once you start building up a strong reputation amongst your local network, they will remember you and help you get jobs.

Social Media

Today, it is much easier to be a freelance model thanks to social media platforms, namely Instagram with its current popularity and marketing tools. With a strong following, you can start to get noticed by big or small brands, influencers & photographers, who may offer paid promotions, trade offers or exciting collaborations. This is definitely going to be your most helpful tool for booking new jobs.

Be professional

Even though it's easy to get into freelance modeling, and social media is a casual away to approach job opportunities, you gain a lot of respect and credibility by conducting yourself as if you were an agent. It's okay to DM about jobs at times, but keep it short and sweet, then ask for an email address. Texting or DM's are generally not professional.

Ask for details, get things in writing, and always try to have a contract when applicable!

Download sample contract -



Recommended local agencies

Moore Creative Talent:

Agency Models and Talent:

Wehmann Models and Talent:

Caryn Models and Talent:

Meredith Model and Talent Agency:

Ignite Models:

Ruggiero Models and Talent:

Arquette Agency:


Signing with an agency is a big step towards moving up in your modeling career. They are essentially your sponsor. They'll promote you and find you jobs, but how well they can do that is up to how much you put in - if you work hard for your agency, they'll work hard for you.

Remember your focus - some agencies, like Ignite, will exclusively book editorial & runway gigs, while others may only provide commercial jobs.

How to sign

Do your research on local agencies, look at their requirements, and learn how to submit your digitals or when to show up for open call days.

Exclusive or non-exclusive

Being exclusive (locked in with one agency) shows loyalty, meaning your agency is likely to feature you as one of their premier models and work harder to get you higher-paying jobs with low competition. It does, however, limit your freedom to do other types of modeling gigs.

Non-exclusive models can have several agencies, allowing access to a wider range of jobs, and also gives models the freedom to do freelance work. Your castings will usually be more competitive, and if you're not actively engaged with your agents or the jobs they're offering you, they may forget about you and you'll be offered fewer gigs.


Regardless of what route you choose, it's a good practice to have a solid working relationship with agents - stop in often, send in updated photos regularly, and tag them in social media. If you stay memorable, they'll work harder to get you great castings.

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Typically agencies will require you to pay annually for having you on their website roster, and also update your photos when needed. You'll also often be required to print your own comp cards, or pay for the agency to do this on your behalf. A comp card (or zed card, z card) is like your modeling business card, that includes your stats, as well as a headshot and your latest, greatest photos, or your digitals, depending on the type of modeling you're focused on.

Word of caution

Sadly, it's not uncommon for some agencies to take advantage of young, aspiring models - they may require you to pay substantial fees for portfolio-building test shoots through their own photographer, high website fees, and new comp cards every couple of months. They will send you castings or talk about high-paying opportunities, but often fail to mention that you do not meet the requirements for those jobs. They are making money off of you without ever booking you any work. Or alternatively, they may be taking a larger cut than normal hoping that you won't know your worth. Learn an agency's reputation before signing!


Whether you're signed with an agency, or working freelance, you should always be keeping track of your expenses. Typically your agency will cover most of your expenses when you're on a job, so make sure to keep receipts.

If you're freelancing, these are all write-offs; transportation costs, parking fees, meals and anything you had to purchase for the shoot, including clothes or salon visits. These should all be worked into your rate!

It's suggested that you work with a tax professional or financial advisor to help you with this.


Agency jobs typically have a set rate that is not negotiable. Sometimes the rate is low, especially if you're newly signed - if you're just starting out, it's okay to take a few low-paying jobs to start building that relationship. The jobs eventually get better.

Regardless if it's through your agency, or you setting your own prices, your rates will vary based on your experience, job type and usage.

Job type is pretty straightforward, the harder you have to work, or the more you're put outside your comfort zone, the higher the rate. Generally rates are by the hour, so longer shoots demand more. Nudes, or even implied nudes, should always be a higher rate. You can also negotiate higher rates for using your special skills, such as dancing, or for needing to be in character and act in front of people, such as promo modeling.

Always clarify usage - meaning where the photographs are being used and featured. Even if it's the exact same shoot, you should get vastly different rates if the images are just being used on a local storefront as opposed to printed in an international ad campaign. 

If you need help trying to know what to charge, here is a really insightful article to get you going:


Once you're signed, your agency will regularly email you castings. Check these often, and even if it's not always the best paying job or something you might want, your agency will be grateful if you book it so it's a great way to start building a relationship. If you're signed with multiple agencies, sometimes they may both send you the same casting, but the rates may be different - be aware of that and take advantage of it!

Carefully read over a casting call to make sure that you meet the requirements. Sometimes your agent may send you a casting call that's not the right fit for you - you shouldn't be going to castings searching for tall redheads if you're a short brunette.

If you're a freelance model, then you'll likely be going to open casting calls, but you should still try to go to as many as you can - you can also build a relationship with casting directors who will remember you for future jobs.


what makes a good CASTING

The most important thing you can do is be prepared! Give them exactly what they ask for. It may be hard to stand out against a room full of models that look just like you, but you don't have to do anything special. Remember that, most of the time, they just want to see you in person - they'll often take a photo or polaroid of you, or have you do a walk, and that's it. Being well prepared and professional is the best way to make a good impression -  and of course, stay happy, smile and be polite!

Preparation & What to bring

Castings will usually specify exactly what they need from you. If not specified, it's recommended to wear form-fitting clothes that are all black, but a bit of color might be okay for commercial castings, as it may help you be more memorable.

General casting wardrobe:
• Black skinny jeans
• Black tanktop, or black t-shirt for guys
• Black heels, or dress shoes for guys
• Avoid jewelry

Castings will usually want to see your book, and have a copy of your headshot or comp card. Sometimes more. Even though they might not ask for it, you should always bring:

• Printed headshot (8x10, portrait not landscape)
• Printed resume (sized to 8x10, so it fits nicely with your headshot!)
• Your portfolio book, including any tearsheets
• Printed digitals
• Comp cards

Shoot etiquette

Regardless how big or small the shoot, it's good to have a common routine in place so that you can be well prepared.

Before the shoot

Figure out the details of your shoot well beforehand; exactly where you need to be, when to arrive and what to bring. Get a contact number to call if you have questions. At times, especially when doing TFP work, you will need to do your own hair & makeup, or visit a salon beforehand. Plan time for that.

Make sure you know what you're getting into. Who will be present? Are you allowed to bring someone? Will you be doing nudes or implied nudes? Is there a possibility of bodily harm? These are all important things to know and should be figured out before the shoot - if something changes once you arrive on set, discuss it right away.


Generally, if you are doing agency work, you'll be working in a safe environment with teams of professionals who can easily be held accountable. As a freelance model, however, you are sometimes taking a risk by working with photographers who may not have a lot of credibility - this can be avoided by doing some research, and asking models they've worked with about their experiences.

There should always be professional conduct on set. If the photographer, or anyone else does or says something inappropriate that makes you feel vulnerable or uncomfortable, the shoot has been compromised - your discomfort will be noticeable in the work, but communicating your discomfort may cause tension on set. The best course of action once a line has been crossed is usually just to leave the set. If it's an agency job, call your agent, and let them know what happened.

If you ever feel deeply uncomfortable or in danger, you have every right to leave.

Even if it's an agency assignment, your safety is the top priority, and they should be understanding of the situation.


On set

Arriving early means you're arriving on time, and arriving on time means you're late. Being late means you will not get hired again. Nobody can afford to wait on models - especially when hair & makeup can take a long time, and typically the artists are there early and are ready to get started right away.

Unless you're doing your own hair & makeup, you should arrive with day-old hair with no product or styling, and a fresh, clean face. Bring anything else that was requested as well as your modeling bag with the basic essentials. Don't forget snacks!

Shoots can last a long time - hair & makeup can take awhile, you might get hot, cold, hungry or tired, or be put in uncomfortable positions. Even though it can be hard at times, try to maintain a positive attitude!

Remember that as a model, you don't really get to call the shots - you should do your best work while following instruction from the photographer or director so that they can achieve their vision.

Modeling Bag

Your essential items that you should bring to every shoot! Keep this bag packed and ready to go whenever you have any kind of gig.

  • Nude seamless underwear

  • nude strapless bra

  • Black bikini

  • Heel options, nude & black

  • Makeup wipes

  • Makeup with your palette

  • hairpins

  • Snacks, water

  • Ibuprofen

  • Sweater or small blanket

  • Deodorant, hairbrush

  • Toothbrush, floss

  • Straws

  • Phone charger

You may also be waiting around for awhile, or hair & makeup can take some time, so feel free to bring a book or something quiet to work on. It's also recommended to wear zip-up or button tops so you don't mess up your hair when getting changed.

Model lifestyle - maintaining your look

It may seem like common sense, but the better you take care of yourself, the better you'll look and feel. As a model, you will have to work harder to stay healthy because it directly affects the quality of your work. 

Healthy lifestyle

Get adequate sleep, especially the night before a shoot, and avoid drinking. Fatigue will definitely show up on camera, and alcohol will make your face puffy.

Exercise regularly to stay in shape and try to develop a routine. Besides just being great for your physical health, exercise also supports a healthy mental well-being. You don't always have to hit the gym - yoga is a great workout routine for models, but do what you like best!

Eat healthy and drinks lots of water. Avoid heavily processed foods and refined sugars - these are filled with toxins and will make your skin more likely to break out. 

Wash your face regularly and remember to exfoliate. Moisturize often with lotion, witch hazel or vitamin E. It's often overlooked but healthy skin is such a valuable asset!

Keep your hair & nails healthy and clean as well. Make regular salon visits to keep up your look, or if you do decide to change things up, have it done professionally. If you have colored hair, maintain it.

Changing your look

If you do decide to change your look, such as a haircut, hair color, or new highly visible tattoos, remember that you will also need to update your headshots, digitals and comp cards.

If it's a big change, you may also be required to start rebuilding your portfolio from scratch. It could also mean you may lose potential repeat clients who wanted your look for a specific reason. Evaluate this decision carefully!

body love

Being a model doesn't mean you need to fit some idyllic standard of beauty - there's no reason to make any drastic changes unless you absolutely want to. You don't need to work up a six-pack, run 10 miles a day and eat nothing but protein shakes & salads. But you should still try to keep yourself as healthy as possible, by whatever means attainable. Remember, it's about maintaining your look, not transforming it.

Staying healthy is about more than just looking good - it's also about feeling good. If you are comfortable and confident in your own skin, it will show, and that confidence will get you further than anything else you can do health-wise.

Mental health

Modeling, like most other jobs, can be stressful and mentally taxing. It may require a lot of upkeep, but you can choose to put into it as much as you want to.

Take time away from if it feels like it's too much or you're no longer enjoying it. Modeling should ultimately be a fun and rewarding experience - it's okay to take a step back and just do what you find fulfilling. 



There are a lot of resources available here, but you are always welcome to reach out! We're here to help you be successful.