Information Packet for New Models

Most new models trying their hand in the modeling scene, often don’t know what to expect or how to prepare for a modeling session. I usually then fumble around looking up various information on the internet for them to read up on, to help clarify things. But it always feels a bit cumbersome at first, so I decided to put together my own info packet right here – sort of a one stop shop for how I, as a professional photographer, work with models when helping them build their portfolios.

Terminology Used

Just like any other industry, there is special lingo used that can be confusing to someone not versed in the meaning. Below is a list of a few items you’ll see the most, and their meanings

  • TFP – Time For Print, Trade For Print: Is a term used to describe an arrangement between a photographer and model, where the photographer agrees to donate his time to provide the model with photos and a limited license to use those photos in return for the models time.
  • TFCD – Time For CD, Trade For CD: Same as TFP except instead of prints, the photographer provides a CD of the selected images.
  • TFC – Time For Clothing: A variation of the above where the model is compensated by giving her some or all of the clothing that was used and purchased for the session.
  • TF * – A much more generic form of the above which equates the * as defining just about anything that the photographer and model agree upon.  For instance maybe the model receives the images on a thumb drive plus some of the clothing.
  • Tear Sheet – A tear sheet is a image cut or torn out of a publication to prove to a client that an image was actually published. Tear sheets can be added inside your portfolio.
  • Comp Card – Is used by the model similar to a business card.  Typically they are 8.5 X 5.5 card stock, with a full sized image printed on one side, and a selection of smaller images on the second side. It includes the models vitals (weight, measurements, dress size, shoe size, and contact information).
  • “Polaroids” – Is a term used to describe a set of photos that show the model in basic form.  NO makeup, NO fancy poses. Just a couple full body shots (swim wear), a couple closeups of the face – straight on, 3/4 profile, and full profile.  The purpose is to show potential clients what you really look like without all the fluff and glitter of makeup and flattering lighting.
  • GWC – Guy With Camera: Is a polite way to identify a “creeper” with a digital camera who is pretending to be a professional photographer.

Escorts, yes or no?

A few photographers simply refuse to work with a model who insists on bringing an escort with her.  I’m NOT one of them however.  I am of the belief that anything that makes the model feel safe and more comfortable, especially a new model, is a benefit to the outcome of the session. If the model is comfortable and at ease – then it will show in the photos.

That being said, I do understand why some photographers are against escorts.  For one thing, an escort can be a distraction to the model, and for another thing, an escort could potentially have the opposite effect, and place a model NOT at ease as well. For example a boyfriend or Mother glaring (or worse) at their girlfriend or daughter because she might be wearing lingerie and showing more than what they feel is appropriate and causing all sorts of drama. Plus there have also been cases where an escort has actually robbed the photographer while the session is going on too.However, like I said, I have no problem with models bringing escorts – I remind the escort to not be a distraction, and I quite often put them to work for me during the session by having them aim and hold a reflector – that way they feel like they are part of the session, and they are less likely to get bored waiting for the session to end, plus it’s cheap help for me!  🙂

If you must work with a photographer that insists on no escorts – do your homework and check out the photographer.  Is he a real photographer running a business with a real website and a portfolio of his or her work?  Or is he just a GWC (Guy With Camera), someone who got a camera for his birthday and just wants to use it as a means to photograph women?

Logically, it’s in a professional photographer’s best business interest, to not be a bad person and piss people off, so if he’s legit with credentials to support that, then you can be fairly certain he’s not going to do anything to harm you, but it pays to be cautious, and don’t be afraid to ask for references from some of the other models he has photographed.

Contracts / Model Releases

This is something that is important, but again something that not all photographers provide. I’ll admit in the past that I didn’t always use them either, but I do now.  It’s important for both parties to know, up front, what the expectations are of the session – who gets the photos, what the photos will be used for, etc.  Currently, my model release is very straightforward with a few stipulations.  Grafx Solutions Model Release.

If a photographer doesn’t have a contract or model release – make sure you understand completely how the photos will be used, and even then, it will be a matter of “he said, she said” if something comes up because of a misunderstanding about the use of the photos – and it could get messy and costly.

Model Preparation Before the Session

Something that most new models don’t realize is that the camera will pick up every little detail – the good and the bad – especially on close up portraits, so it’s very helpful and appreciated if a model will do what she can to maximize the good, and lessen the bad. 

  • If you need to take care of any facial hair – do it at least two days before the session. This allows the redness to go away from plucked hairs.
  • If it’s chapped lip season, make sure you use plenty of lip balm a couple of days before, and leading up to the session. Same with dry skin, use moisturizer to keep your skin healthy looking.
  • Get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcoholic beverages the night before – lack of sleep and alcohol will make the blood vessels in your eyes stick out for a major case of bloodshot eyes!
  • Of course, brush and floss teeth and don’t eat anything until after the session is over.
  • Wear loose fitting clothing to the session.  Tight fitting clothing can leave “red welts” where it fits the tightest that could be visible after changing into your session wardrobe.
  • Be sure the clothing you’ll be wearing for the session is clean and free of stains, rips, lint and pet hairs.
  • Don’t forget to bring your makeup and beauty accessories that you might need.  (I usually provide a mirror)
  • Make sure your nails are “clean”. Again, closeups will reveal every little detail!
  • HAVE FUN! Shooting these are a lot of fun, so relax and enjoy the time!

If a model pays attention to those details as much as possible, then she will receive the best results in her portfolio!   And speaking of portfolios…

What Should A Model Portfolio Look Like?

I personally like to have at least 5 different looks for a portfolio.

  • Starting with a couple beauty shots up front – (headshots, shoulders on up) simple makeup, well lit, nothing extravagant or over the top.
  • A few swimsuit shots – I prefer going to an actual beach for these, like Hamlin Beach or the beach across from Durand Eastman Park in Rochester, but they can also be shot in studio as well.
  • A few fitness shots – running outfits, tennis outfits, etc… (I’d love to photograph a model wearing boxing shorts, sports bra, and boxing gloves!  I think that would be very unique and pretty cool if done properly!)
  • A few commercial fashion type shots. I love doing these outdoors like some of the Abercrombie & Fitch fashion sessions, but they can be shot in studio as well.
  • If you are interested in becoming a lingerie model, then a few lingerie shots should be included as well. Lingerie models make a lot of money, so it’s something to consider, but this is totally up to the model and what direction she wants to go with her career. Just make sure if you do want to pose in lingerie and you’re bringing a boyfriend, or Mom or Dad for an escort, that they know what you plan on doing beforehand. (See “Escorts, yes or no?” above.) And I wouldn’t recommend doing lingerie with any photographer without a contract / model  release either!  If a model is not interested in lingerie then a few different commercial fashion type shots, or glamor shots should suffice to round out the portfolio.

NOTE: The above are just guidelines based on what clients are usually looking for in a models portfolio.
I shoot my portfolio photos with a 9 x 12 vertical format in mind.  This seems to be the standard for model portfolios these days, and as for the actual book or binder to place the photos in, for a beginning or freelance model not under agency contract, I would suggest the 9 X 12 “Starter Portfolio Book” from Portfolio Mart.  

It’s inexpensive but professional, holds up to 48 full size photos, includes free personalization with your name on the cover and spine, and it has an inside front cover pocket, suitable for your resume, business cards, comp cards, and any other information that you want a potential client to see and grab! As a freelance model you’re trying to sell yourself, so having those items up front where potential clients can take them is important!

What About Modeling Sites?

There are a bunch of them out there, the only one that I have an account with, and recommend is Model Mayhem (MM for short) MM is designed for models and photographers alike to create profiles and show off their talent and work. The goal here is to get noticed and acquire some jobs!  To be honest, I really don’t go on it as much as I should – I happen to be blessed by knowing a lot of ladies through other venues that like to model, but I do know a couple of models on MM – one, a friend that I knew before hand, and the other I met exclusively through MM.  I’ve had a few sessions with her, and she is now a good friend as well – so it does work if you put your time into it! But I also had a couple of models “no show” on me from there too, so it’s not all sunshine and roses.  If you do join it, do your homework before agreeing to meet a photographer for a session.  There are “nutters” out there unfortunately and it pays to be safe!


I really don’t have much to add here, other than; If you schedule a session with someone, and something comes up preventing you from showing up – please be courteous and let the client / photographer know.  Everyone understands that things happen, it’s unavoidable, most people get that. But if you are a no show with no explanation as to why – you’re going to get a reputation fast, and not a good one either.  Remember, you’re a professional model, so you need to be professional. 

Final Thoughts

If you’ve read this far, then it shows that you have a strong interest in becoming a model, and this is a trait that will serve you well in your pursuit! Becoming a successful model, one that actually makes a living at it, will take a lot of dedication and hard work on your part.  A lot of young ladies don’t realize this until they actually try it – and then they get discouraged. But, if this is something that you really want – then you need to turn that discouragement into motivation, and work harder!  I’m here to help you, and I will do my best to do so, but help is all I can do – YOU need to market yourself!

. . .

I think that’s about it for now.  This document will evolve as more things come to mind, but at least it’s a good start!

As a side note, you may be wondering why this guide is geared towards female models only? Well, the simple truth of the matter is – from where I sit anyway, aspiring female models outnumber aspiring male models by a huge percentage!  As a matter of fact, I have yet to receive an inquiry from a male regarding creating a model portfolio for them!  

It’s just the way it is I guess – most girls I know love having their pictures taken, whereas most guys I know would rather have un-sedated root canal procedures performed on all of their teeth – at once!    😉 

Hope you found this information useful and helpful.