After working with hundreds of modeling and talent agencies all over the world I have found that the often publized statement that agencies will pay for your photos and training if they like you is in most cases not true.
Most agencies require you to pay for your headshots, composite cards, zed cards, head books, and photo shoots. Some huge agencies in the top 5 markets in the world may possibly loan money to very promising newcomers but rest assured they will collect and often with profit with interest.
Sometimes the huge Agencies in the biggest cities will line up test shoots for you but if it is a really good photographer they will charge you $100-$400 just for the shoot. The best usually do not work for free. Some new photographers will do free tests but it is usually a waist of your time if you want to use them as a professional marketing tool against top notch competition. Test shoots should usually be used to gain more experience and add to your portfolio if they are good.
To the people that make a successful day to day living in the professional Modeling and Acting industry it is treated as a business. Agencies that have an enduring successful track record do not pay for upfront fees for new talent because there is no guarantee the model or actor will be profitable or that the model or actor will even follow through. They do not know for sure if the talent has all the various attributes it takes to be profitable example, (are they photogenic, intelligent, persistent, punctual, loyal, engaging and willing to accept rejection).
If you don’t have or do not want to invest the required capital it is almost impossible to become a professional model or actor. Most agencies will not be in business long if the agency fronts hundreds even thousands of dollars to each talent. Often the talent either decides not to pursue the business after a few try’s or does not work hard at being a great talent because they have nothing to lose. Some talent after getting their photos and portfolio paid for, then decide to jump to a competing agency. It is too risky for an agency to gamble like that.
Modeling and Acting is more than just taking photos and a few classes, you have to learn the “business” of this industry. You can’t call yourself a model or actor without knowing the business and doing the “real” work, which encompasses knowing how to book a paying job.
Being a smart talent though can make the process much easier and economical. When you sign with an agent make sure you do not pay a fee for them to promote you. You should only pay them a commission when you book a paying job. Do not pay exorbitant fees for photos, cards, portfolios etc. Do not pay exorbitant fees for training. Make sure the agency has a proven history of successfully booking jobs, realize it is a tough business and if an agency makes big promises they are usually after something (many times it is your money).
The talent industry has many honest, upstanding agents, models and actors but like with everything else in life there are a few people that take advantage of inexperienced people. Have a fun rewarding experience but be smart!
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