How to Get Your Child Into Modeling
Getting your child into modeling is as easy as mailing, or emailing, some snapshots to a modeling agent who represents children. Sounds easy, right? It is easy, or rather it can be.
There is a misconception that parents have to spend tons of money on professional photographs, modeling classes, and fancy outfits to get their child into modeling, or wait for them to somehow get "discovered." That is simply not true. Read on and you'll learn how to get your child on the road to modeling, a little bit about what the child modeling industry is like, and if modeling is a good fit for you and your child. Please remember that the guidelines I'm giving you are general guidelines based on my own experience. There are exceptions to every rule.
Getting Your Child Started In Modeling
Start by looking in the yellow pages or doing a Google search for some modeling agencies in your area. Unlike the world of adult supermodels, child models don't usually fly all over the world, jetting from job to job. For the most part, a child model's jobs are in the metropolitan area where he or she lives. Which brings us to another point: in some parts of the country there may be zero modeling agencies and zero modeling jobs. If you live in a large metropolitan area, your chances of finding an agency with plenty of clients, naturally, are better. So consider where you live and don't get your hopes up too high if you live in a remote area. I certainly don't want to squash anyone's dreams, I am simply trying to paint a realistic picture.
You've Made Your List of Modeling Agency Names. What's Next?
Once you've compiled a list of agency names, do a little research to make sure they are trustworthy, legitimate agencies, and to make sure they accept children. Some agencies accept only older children and not babies, some accept only adults. Two great places to get feedback on agencies are the Backstage child modeling message board and the iVillage child modeling message board. Join each board and use the search button to start digging. You can also start a new thread and ask experienced members what they know about any specific agency. A quick Google search of the agency's name with the word "scam" can be a big eye-opener also. If an agency is SAG-franchised (Screen Actors Guild), then they are most likely legit.
There are lots of scammers out there who prey on parents' lack of knowledge of the modeling industry, and there are modeling schools who will lead you to believe that they will help your child find modeling jobs. If you want your child to get modeling jobs, get them an agent, plain and simple. Someone who runs, owns, or works for a modeling school is not an agent, although they may let you believe that they are. Your child does not need to take any kind of modeling classes whatsoever. They are a useless waste of money. I'll say it again: Get your child a modeling agent, not modeling classes. Your child does not need classes on how to pose for a photographer. If she can follow directions on set ("hands in pockets... chin down... look up... smile!), then she is good to go. A parent's lack of knowledge of the industry, combined with the hopes and dreams they've pinned on their darling child, can be a perfect storm for a scammer or modeling school. There is no reason to pay anyone any money to get your child started in modeling. If your child is signed by a modeling agency, the agency will work to get your child modeling jobs, then take a cut of what your child is paid. That is how modeling agencies make their money. A legitimate modeling agency will never charge their models money, only pay their models money for work they do. After your child is signed they may ask you to pay for headshots or a fee to be featured on their website, but that shouldn't be mandatory right away. They can use the snapshots you've provided to get started. Babies and toddlers don't need professional photos until they are at least three years old. Be suspicious if an agent wants you to pay for headshots for your baby or toddler.
Start Taking Photos!
Once you've got a good list of legitimate agencies, it's time to start taking photos to send to them. You absolutely do not need professional photos at this point, nor do you need a bunch of fancy clothes. Dress your child in something clean, casual, and simple, preferably in solid colors as prints can distract the eye from your child's beautiful face. Think about what colors look great with your child's eyes, skin, or hair. What you're after are clean, clear photos that show off your child's beautiful features to their best advantage. Here is a short list of "no-no's" most agents do not like to see in submission photographs:
- No hats
- No makeup
- No pageant dresses
- No hair covering the eyes
- No closed eyes
- No drool or runny noses
- No "messy food face" photos or dirty bibs
- No naked "bathtub" shots
- No other children, people or pets in the photo
- No distracting backgrounds, such as piles of laundry, an unmade bed or a bright floral couch
What you're after is three or four nice, clean shots: perhaps one closeup of your child's smiling face; another closeup with a thoughtful, pensive expression; one 3/4 body shot and one full-length body shot. In at least three of the four, your child should be looking directly into the camera. These are just guidelines; use your best judgement when selecting photos. Do send at least one close-up of your child smiling and at least one full body shot.
Photo Tips and Hints
The three or four photos that you choose to submit to agents should be the best of the best. As I stated earlier, you absolutely do not need professional photos at this point. However, it can be frustrating and time consuming to get good shots on your own. Take your time, perhaps enlist your spouse or friend to help, and make it fun for your child. Don't expect him to sit for hours while you take photo after photo. Take your camera with you wherever you go and snap away for a few minutes here and there until you get some you are happy with. Take tons and tons of photos. The more you take, the better your chances are of getting some really good ones.
Another hint for photo taking is to thoughtfully consider the lighting. I am not a professional photographer by any means, so I need all the help I can get. I have found it helpful to take photos outside in natural light, early in the morning or later in the evening when the lighting outside is soft. An overcast day can work, too. Taking a photo in full, bright sun often results in the child either squinting as she looks into the sun, or her face hidden in a dark shadow if the sun is behind her. If I'm taking photos inside, I prefer to put my child near a bright window and turn the flash off. Flashbulbs often cast too bright a light and wash out your child's features.
Start Submitting Your Child's Photos!
Once you've chosen your photos, it's time to start sending them to agents. Check each agency's website for their submission guidelines. Most will tell you exactly how they want you to proceed and exactly what and what not to send them. Follow their instructions explicitly. Asking for an exception or not following directions is not a good start to the agent/parent relationship. Some agencies will want you to submit only through the US mail, some will require that you only email them, some will offer you a choice. Most will want to know the basics about your child: name, birth date, height, weight, etc. And don't forget to include your name and phone number so they can contact you. I also included a cover letter describing my child, and stating that I was a stay-at-home mom who lived close by and had a very flexible schedule. Don't be afraid to "sell" your child and yourself to them a little. Most importantly, be professional and polite. They are looking at the parents almost as closely as they are looking at the children, because, in a way, parents are representatives of their agency when they take children to go-sees (auditions) and bookings (jobs).
The Waiting Begins...
If a modeling agency is interested in your child, they will contact you, sometimes that very day, sometimes weeks or months later. Some agencies will also contact you to let you know they are not interested, however many agencies do not have the manpower to reply to every submission, and unfortunately their silence means they are not interested.
If you are lucky, you'll be contacted and asked to bring your child in for an interview. Sometimes children are offered a modeling contract at the interview, sometimes the agent will want to mull it over and contact you later. If your child is not accepted at one agency, perhaps they will be accepted by another. If you don't get any bites at all, don't despair. There are many reasons why some children are offered contracts and some are not, and it does not mean your child is not "cute" enough or "pretty" enough. For example, if your child is a little girl who wears a size five and has blond hair and blue eyes, and this particular agency already has six or seven girls who fit that description on their roster, they may not want to add any more at this time. Additionally, modeling agents usually know what kind of "look" their clients prefer, and if your child doesn't fit that description they may not be interested. These are just two examples; there are many, many reasons why one child is offered a contract and another is turned away. Do not take it personally. Only the agent knows what they are looking for and why they choose some children over others.
If your child is not accepted, the general wisdom is to continue taking and refining their submission photos and submit them again in about six months. If you are persistent in this way, your child may eventually be signed. However, do know that child modeling is a highly competitive and selective field. Agents are bombarded with tons of submissions every day, but only sign a tiny percentage of them.
Is Modeling Right for Your Child?
Modeling is not a great fit for every child. It's probably obvious that friendly, outgoing children are best suited to modeling. Child models also need to be obedient and cooperative. A child model may be asked to do all kinds of uncomfortable things, like stand on a cold beach in a swimsuit, wear shoes that are way too small, or have their hairstyle changed three times in one hour. If your child hates to have his hair combed, styled and sprayed, or hates to repeatedly change outfits, modeling may not be right for him. If your child feels uncomfortable around adults he doesn't know, modeling may not be right for him.
Babies should be generally easygoing and not afraid of going to people they're unfamiliar with. Toddlers are, of course, unpredictable and can sometimes be hard to manage, but at least need to be able to cooperate and follow directions. Older children will be expected to project a certain degree of professionalism. While clients and agents alike understand that kids will be kids, they prefer easygoing, well mannered children who follow directions well, catch on quickly and don't complain.
Your child also needs to be resilient. This is a tough field. No one is ever offered all the jobs they audition for. Of course a baby or toddler will not have a clue that they weren't selected for a job, but an older child will figure it out quickly. If a go-see does not materialize into a job, your child needs to be able to put it behind her and move ahead to the next one.
Is Being the Parent of a Child Model Right for You?
As a parent, it is best that you look at child modeling as a fun adventure for you and your child. Do not expect that your child will get rich, pay your bills or buy you a new car. Obviously, different kids living in different cities have different degrees of success, but as a parent it is helpful for you to look at it as a hobby or an adventure. It is good advice to put all your child's earnings toward their future college tuition. If they make enough to pay for college, terrific. Chances are, they'll be able to pay for at least a small chunk of it. Modeling can be lucrative, but not to the degree that some people think. Again, every case is different.
Modeling is a highly competitive field. Just as your child needs to be able to move ahead after rejection, so should you. If you have a child in the modeling business, you cannot take it personally when they are not selected for a job.
As the parent, it is your responsibility to get your child to go-sees and bookings on time, and often there is little notice: maybe a day, maybe two days, and often an agent will call you in the morning and ask you to have your child at a go-see a little later that day. Many parents who work full-time find it difficult to keep up with the demands of having a child model. Before an agent signs your child, they will most likely inquire about your availability to drive your child to and from go-sees and bookings. If you have inflexible working hours, the agent will want to make sure that your spouse, a grandparent, babysitter, someone, can get your child where they are required to be, before offering your child a contract. Modeling is a business. While it is beneficial for you to view it as a hobby or adventure, you must also see it from the agent's point of view. Modeling is a business, and the photographers, casting directors, etc. usually work Monday through Friday during normal business hours. There will be an occasional weekend go-see or shoot, but going into child modeling thinking "we will only do this on the weekends" is not realistic.
What the Job Is Like for a Child Model
The video below is not my child, but I wanted to include it to show you what a modeling shoot can be like. As you see, it can be slow at times, with quite a bit of standing around and waiting. The little girl in the video is ideal for modeling because she does not seem to mind having her hair styled and her face made up. She waits patiently for the staff to style her and pose her, and listens and takes direction well even though she appears to be quite young. Modeling seems very glamorous, and often the finished product is, but the day-to-day reality of it can mean lots of auditions that lead nowhere, and long, boring days for the kids when they book a job.
Most photographers, stylists and "child wranglers" are accustomed to working with kids and try to make photo shoots as fun as possible. However, there is no guarantee that will be the case every time. Also, while some jobs may be a fairly quick in-and-out, others may last many hours and require multiple hairstyle and clothing changes.
Footage of a Child Model in Action
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.