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Casting Models – Preparing for Castings and Working with Modelling Agencies

Casting Models – Part One


One of the things that I found interesting about my job is the sheer number of people I have met over the years. Especially when I lived and worked in larger markets like Paris and Milan. The high turn over of people that come into these markets when a new fashion season begins is incredible. I have met hundreds of clients, designers, fashion editors, photo editors, art buyers, art directors, hair stylists, make-up artists, stylist, model agents and assistants. Plus many others directly as well as indirectly related to the business, but that is a meager pittance compared to the thousands upon thousands of models I have met during castings I have held. With the number of models I have met in all the castings I had over the years, I have learned a few things that has made my life easier when it comes to casting the right model for the job. In this article I will go though the different steps of casting models for your production. This is going to be quite a long article so I am going to break it down into three different posting.

Relationships with modelling agencies

If you are a experienced photographer then you have your relationship with your preferred agencies already. So I will try and write this in a way that best helps someone with little or no experience working with modelling agencies. It is difficult to get the attention of a model agent unless they know you or know your work, or they know the client well. So if your job is a good one ( for example. editorial with a good magazine, or a good paying commercial client they know ) then you will get their attention and get better models to choose from. If not and your client is small, unknown, bad paying, or it is a low level magazine then you will have difficultly with getting their attention and if you do some how manage to get their attention you will not get to choose from a great selection of models. It is that simple, good and/or high paying job, then good selection and good models, low paying job or low level client, then poor choice of models and you may have to use a model with little or no experience at all. Which is not a bad thing if you are a competent photographer and are capable of working with rookie models, but if you feel like you need a more experienced model then you will need to get more money from your client. So the best advice I can give you is get to know the agents, test some of their models so they get to know you and your work, it will help a little but until you reach a higher level of work don’t expect to have a really great selection of models available to choose from.

Example of a professional model’s comp card.
Model: Paula Patrice at Ford Models NY

What to ask of the model agencies

You can ask the modelling agent you contact to send a package of set-cards to you, just call them and ask. Model comp cards or model set-cards are like large business cards for models with a head shot on the front and usually three or four different photos on the back with the model photographed in various situations, and with written details like height, eye colour, hair colour, dress size, and shoe size of the model, plus the model’s agency contact details. Tell the booker about the job you are doing then tell them when you are doing the job and what kind of model or models you are looking for so they can tailor the package for your job requirements. Tell them if you are only looking at in town models or both in-town and international models, and if it is both ask them to separate them so you you know who is in town and who you would have to fly in.

At the beginning of every season I always ask the agencies to send me packages of models that they know will be in town for the season and to write on the model’s set card the dates they will be in town, if they are not in for the full season. This saves me a lot of time when I am having the pre-production meeting with the client and/or stylist. I can show them the comp cards and get idea of what type of model or models I will need for the production. before I contact the model agencies for the actual casting call, thus streamlining the process.

Knowing as much as possible before the casting and actual production will save you major headaches later on.

Prepare yourself before a casting

Before you call a casting you should prepare yourself. You should have production date set for your shooting, or at least a ball park idea when you want to shoot. You should have a very good idea of what type of production you are doing. Is it a fashion shoot, beauty or cosmetic, cover shoot, catalogue, a commercial campaign of some kind?
You should have had at least one production meetings with client, and stylist, and have discussed the type of model or models you will need for the shoot. Bring model comp cards to the meetings to help in the choosing of the type of model or models that the client and you would would like for the production. You should know how long will you need to book the model for before you talk to the agent,  is it half a day booking, full day booking or more? Will the model need to travel or is it a local production?

Find out if there are there any special requirements or skills that the model will need for the shooting. Some examples could be,  she will need to be able to ride a horse well, or can she dance, or is she afraid of heights, or can she swim, the list goes on and on. You should know that many models may limit what they are willing to do on a shoot, like going topless or wearing fur, so ask the model agent if any of the models you are looking at have any restrictions that may affect your production. Find out what kind of budget the client has for the models and usage rights they will need. Ask if they want to only look at in-town models or if the budget allows for flying in a model for the job. Knowing as much as possible before the casting and actual production will save you major headaches later on.

Next in part two, I will discuss where to hold your castings, and what to look for when casting two or more models that will need to work together. Don’t forget to subscribe to our email updates or to the  RSS feed to get a update notice when we post the next article.

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