Aaron Marcus is the author of the book 'How to Become a Successful Commercial Model' available through Amazon.com
What do you think is the biggest mistake people make when trying to get commercial print work? - Laura, NY
Without a doubt, the biggest mistake people make when trying to get commercial print work is lack of information about photos. Most people will set up a photo session and ask the photographer what kind of shots he or she thinks would be good. That is asking a lot of the photographer. People should learn everything they can about commercial print and understand the formulas and ingredients that go into putting together a strong commercial photo, and then contact a photographer. People should set up an appointment with a photographer prior to the session. The photographer should be shown samples of the types of shots desired. After both parties agree on the photos, then the commercial model can walk into a photo session knowing exactly what shots are going to done, what props are needed and have a complete understanding of the message in the photo.
Agents want to see fresh and interesting photographs, photos that grab their attention, not the same generic shots that they are bombarded with 50 times a day.
How much can a model earn in a day? - Alice, Miami
That is a tough question because it can vary so much. In New York City we earn $250 an hour which means we could earn $2,000 in a full day booking which is an 8 hour day. In Washington, DC/Baltimore commercial models earn between $125 to $150 hour. Most of the time models are hired on the average of 2 hours per session. I have never heard of an agent allowing a model to get paid for less than one hours work.
The tricky part is that sometimes models are paid bonuses for high exposure format jobs. For instance if a model's ad is placed on a billboard, poster, side of a bus, point of purchase (those cutout items in stores) he/she is paid a bonus because he/she could lose other bookings. If someone had a billboard ad for Pepsi, well there is almost no chance in the world that any other soft drink company will hire that model because they worked for Pepsi. Models can also lose work from a high exposure format ad. Although they might have the perfect look for an ad, but the photographer of art director might say that they have seen that model around town too much and might want a fresh face. Those are the two reasons why models are generally paid additional money for high exposure format.
I recently spoke with an agent from L.A. Models, who told me that he just negotiated a $300,000. print booking for one of his models for Gillette. This gives Gillette full use of the models image for Gillette products world wide. This lucky model also got the TV spots which fall under a completely different pay scale.
What do you do if all of your photos were lost? - Jennifer, Toronto
The first step you should take is to contact the photographers and see if you can get more copies printed up from the original negatives. Each color photo might cost you around $25, but that would be much more economical then to re-shoot your photos.
For the future, you might consider getting laser copies of all of your work (or ask the photographer for a CD with the digital images every time you do a shoot), and place them in your portfolio. That way, if your book is lost, you still have all the originals in a safe place.
If you are thinking of doing any re-shooting and can't afford to hire another professional photographer here are a few ideas. Go to the photography class at a local college or university and ask the teacher if he or she knows of any students who are interested in getting some experience shooting some commercial photography. They can't afford your $250 an hour fee, so you can suggest a trade. You will offer your services free (so they can build up their portfolio or use the sessions as a class project) and in return, they will give you copies of the shots.
You can also call a few professional photographers and ask to see if they are working with some assistant photographers who would want to shoot with you. Another option is to look into stock photography. As I talk about in my book, there are some real dangers with doing stock photography, but there are a lot of models who have greatly benefited from doing stock work.
Unless necessary, never send or leave your original portfolio anywhere. That is what color lazer copies are for. You agency should have one or two copies of your portfolio with lazers in them that they send out to interested clients.
I just started working with a local agent. I was surprised that the agent did not ask me to sign an exclusive contract. Is this unusual?- Delores, CA
No, it is not unusual for an agency to work with actors and models without a contract. This is especially true for commercial models. I currently work with 62 agents and do not have an exclusive contract with any one of them.
I am not saying there is any problem with having an exclusive contract with an agent. My life would be much less complicated if I had one agent who could get me enough work so that I would not have to work with so many agents. I spend a fortune making sure that each agent has enough head shots, comp cards and voice and video tapes.
If you live in an area where there are few agents, chances are good that each agent will ask for exclusive representation.
Hi, recently I put my portfolio on newfaces.com and now have four agencies that want to represent me. How do I pick one? - Deb, MA
One of things I would want to find out from a new agent is what types of bookings do they generally get for their talent. Do they primarily book TV commercials, corporate or feature films, radio spots, live promotional jobs, fashion or commercial modeling.
After narrowing down your possibilities from that, then I would want to know how many other models or actors they represent in your category. How many other people would be sent out for the same auditions as you?
Talk with all of the agents. See which ones offer you the best advice. See which ones really want to help you. You can also find out about their fees. They should all take between 15-20% commission for all modeling jobs.
Most of all, use your intuition. Which one do you feel the most comfortable with? Finding a good agent is like finding a wife or husband. Sometimes you have to search pretty hard until you find the right one. The nice part of your dilemma is that unlike most people, you have a number of choices.
If an agency wants to work with you, should you be suspicious if they tell you that you have to pay for your own comp cards? - Holly, Chicago
No, not at all. Actually, the opposite is true. It would be highly unlikely that an agency would be willing to pay for a models comp card. In the fashion industry, sometimes, the agency will front the money for photos and comp cards, but they will be reimbursed from the jobs the model gets. In the commercial industry, it would be highly unusual for an agency to offer to pay for the cards. It is the models responsibility to create and pay for composite sheets.
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