Getting your Foot in the Door
Isn’t that Scary!
One of my blog readers, Troy Copes, wrote to me recently and suggested I write a post about how to approach modeling agencies. In truth, I have gotten a fair amount of emails asking the same question. So I thought I’d try to answer the question and post some of my early work from my first portfolio, the very same portfolio that I used to get my own foot in the door of the modeling agencies. Keep in mind, I first approached modeling agencies back in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s. Also keep in mind that this is just from my personal experience. I can only write about what I have experienced myself. And it’s been a few years since I first started out…….but hopefully you’ll find some useful information in the post!
I remember it was a pretty daunting experience to approach an agency like Ford or Wilhelmina. You’re at the point where you NEED good models for your book and while you’re not exactly booking big money jobs, your portfolio is at a place where pro models are the next step in furthering your work and your career. I am not sure why agencies can be intimidating and trust me, I’m trying to remember my early fears of them and why I was so shy. Maybe it’s from the stand point of the agency having something you need and you know that you don’t have a lot of money to offer or jobs on the table to make it worth their while to send good models your way. But you have to start somewhere so making those initial calls HAS to be done. First of all, remember, not everyone out there is going to fall all over themselves to help you. And not everyone out there is going to think your work is utterly amazing. There will be some agencies that really like you and your work and will want to help you, while others may not show that much interest. That’s okay. Obviously, stick with the agencies that show interest in having you test with some of their new faces and start to develop relationships with those bookers.
Contacting the Agency
Before you approach any agency you have to have a website to refer the bookers to. You would call the agency and ask to speak to the booker in charge of new faces. After introducing yourself, ask him or her if you can get their email so you can send them your website. In the email to them, keep it short and sweet. Don’t send them paragraphs of personal information about your life and your vision. They don’t care. All they care about is if your work is good enough for them to take a chance with you by sending you some of their girls that need to test for their books. So in your email, introduce yourself, give them the link to your site, offer to come in and show them your print portfolio, thank them for their time and consideration and wish them a good day. That’s all you need to do in the beginning. If they’re interested in working with you, they’ll email you back or call you. It’s that simple, really.
Fogettah Bout’ It!
In the early days, I clicked immediately with some bookers and was able to really start testing with some very good, professional models right away. And then again, there were some agencies that just simply weren’t that interested in working with me. Even today, I click with some bookers and approach them first when I have a job or even if I feel like testing. And then I send out the casting call to the others. Some bookers I’ve met and I’ve known for 20 years. Some bookers I’ve never met in person but we have a strong on-line relationship. I make an effort to go out and meet the bookers at some point because I think it’s still important to introduce myself to people in the industry. It’s not a daunting experience for me anymore but I’ve developed a thicker skin at this point and I know deep down that some people are going to love my work and some people aren’t going to “get it”. That’s okay nowadays. But when I was younger and more insecure, it was really intimidating. All I can say is that after time you will become aware of this fact and it will get easier to approach the agencies.
To Print or Not to Print?
I still think it’s important to have a print portfolio. I was recently in New York and took my print book to all the agencies when I went to introduce myself. I recently bought an iPad ( I know….I’m such an apple groupie ) and I will probably start carrying that around with me on appointments from now on. But I will continue to keep my print book updated and carry that with me as well on most appointments. The one thing I think the iPad will be great for is presentations for clients and editors. I’m not sure about Fed Ex’ing an iPad to a potential client yet. I’ve been reading about it on other blogs but I don’t feel comfortable with the idea at this point. But it’s definitely something I will use in meetings when discussing upcoming projects.
If at First You Don’t Succeed…
Most fears are conquered by just facing them down. I have found through experience that overplaying a scenario that intimidates me in my mind over and over again is far worse in my head than the actual situation ends up turning out. Find the best local modeling agencies in your area and then start calling them one by one. You can always ask the receptionist for the email of the booker you wish to contact, sometimes they will give it to you. Or you can ask the receptionist what the agency’s protocol is for potential photographers that want to test. Some agencies have an open call day where you go in during certain times to show your book. It just can’t hurt to ask. And you’re not the first photographer who has called asking to test their models. One thing that goes without saying, and again, this is just my humble opinion but I wouldn’t try to get my foot in the door of an agency you wish to test with by asking to do paid tests. A paid test is where the model pays the photographer for pictures for her book. Start out by offering to test for free and after time, when you’ve built a good relationship with the agency, THEN you can start asking for payment. Again, all of this is just my own opinion and advice. Other photographers might tell you differently!