Modelling scams, what to look out for?
Most people entering the world of modelling are young and impressionable and full of anticipation and excitement. Unfortunately there are many illegitimate agencies and tricksters who pray on this vulnerability and give modelling a bad name. If you’re interested in embarking on a career in modelling, keep your wits about you at all times and be on the lookout for any suspicious deals or offers. Here are some tips on how to spot the scams from the genuine modelling agencies and assignments so that you don’t end up out of pocket and disillusioned – or even worse, in personal danger.
Some photographers offer portfolio packages for people aspiring to be models, often charging several hundred or even over a thousand pounds to shoot a series of photographs to make up a portfolio for agencies.
This is a waste of money and the finished portfolio that you get won’t necessarily be what the agency is looking for. The photographer will usually shoot all the photographs of you in one sitting, so they’ll all have a similar look and feel with similar backdrops and of course you won’t have much of a chance to change your style of clothing or make-up. Several photographs that all look very similar are no use to an agency as they don’t give an impression of how versatile you can be.
Instead, they’ll be looking for a variety of shots taken on different days by different photographers, all in different settings and with different styles. If you’re just starting out, you won’t be expected to produce a varied portfolio like this to an agency. A few inexpensive professional shots will be fine, and you can build up your portfolio as you gain experience. Don’t pay much more than £100-£140 for some professional test shots. It’s wise to employ a professional make-up and hair artist, though, but this needn’t be expensive – no more than £30 to £50.
Contracts – the small print
As with anything, never sign on the dotted line until you’ve read all the terms and conditions of the contract and fully understand them. And no matter how eager you are, don’t just glance over it on the spot – take it home so that you can read over it fully without feeling under pressure.
No genuine agency will pressure you into signing there and then. Get someone else to read over it too, as they might spot things that you hadn’t noticed. If anything seems unclear to you or you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask the agency.
If they’re legitimate, they’ll willingly give you an open and honest explanation. Some key areas to look out for are clauses detailing fees and charges – are they reasonable? Also look out for clauses that tie you into the contract for a certain period – is this acceptable to you? Another potential grey area is what will happen to any images of you taken by the agency. Check that you will not be signing away any rights, otherwise you could end up seeing your image in places that you would never have consented to.
Even legitimate agencies may try to give you a contract that isn’t very favourable to you – remember they’re in it to make money – so be on your guard and fight your corner to get a good deal for yourself.
Bogus modelling or casting agencies
Setting up a fake agency can be a real money-spinner for con artists who use flattery and glamour to prey on young and impressionable wannabe models. The ‘casting agencies’ tend to operate by hosting ‘casting sessions’ in hotels across the country, enticing people to pay an up-front fee to register with them and have photographs taken so that they can help them to find work with modelling agencies. They often offer a ‘money-back guarantee’ if they don’t manage to find you employment within a certain period.
Sometimes they do find work with an agency, but the agency is just as bogus as they are and is usually run by the same people. Again, the agency asks for an up-front fee to join, so victims end up paying twice. It’s all a scam to run off with people’s fees and victims never hear from them again – and never get their money back.
A genuine modelling agency will never charge an up-front registration fee. You shouldn’t ever be charged anything until you’ve completed the first assignment they’ve arranged for you.
Good and reputable agencies don’t charge any entry fees for their competitions. If you come across a competition where an entry fee is required, even if they say it’s to cover the cost of photographs and administration, and even if they look slick and professional, steer clear – they’re just after your money.
Bear in mind that a model competition isn’t the same thing as a beauty pageant, which will normally – and quite legitimately – charge an entry fee to cover the costs of hosting the event.
Beware of agencies that insist upon you completing a day’s training run by themselves at your own cost in order to register and obtain work with them. No model can be trained in a day – it takes practice and experience – so any claims of turning you into a professional model in an instant are nonsense. Genuine agencies may offer to send you on training courses but they shouldn’t charge you up front. Any costs incurred will normally be charged to you after you have started earning with the agency.
Free photo shoots
Often advertised in the classified sections of newspapers and magazines, these scams offer free photo shoots for people aspiring to be models. However, as the old saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. These tricksters end up with a free set of photographs that they can use to unscrupulously sell to various publications, making a profit out of you which you don’t see a penny of. What makes it worse is that you have no control over how your photographs are used and you could find your picture in undesirable or inappropriate publications. This is especially the case where the advertised ‘free photo shoot’ is looking for potential glamour models. Worse still, you could end up putting yourself in danger as many of these shoots are conducted in hotel bedrooms or other private places. Never go anywhere without telling someone else first, and if possible take someone to accompany you. Don’t be bullied into doing anything you don’t want to do and if you smell a rat, get out as soon as possible. These criminals sometimes use the opportunity to cajole young, innocent victims into performing *** favours for them or attempt to *** assault them.
Tania Machowska is a former model with experience of catwalk and catalogue modelling. For the past four years she's been contributing to websites such as http://www.chemodels.com , Brussels Model Agency .