If we had a pound for every time we have heard this story, young girl wants to be a model, she applies to a “model agency”, they invite her in for a shoot, hundreds of pounds later she has a portfolio and is signed by the agency. She never hears from them again, we would be rich!

Not quite as often, we hear my daughter really wants to be a model, we are going to pay for her to have some photos done, we thought we would come to you and ask if you could set up a shoot for her.

At Model Students, our ethos is all about finding young people paid work. If we say yes to the latter does that make us unethical or is it just responding to demand in the market?

This brings us to a really hot topic in our industry, when is it appropriate for young people to be paying for model portfolios and if they are going to pay, how much is an appropriate amount?


I am sure many of you will have seen a certain agency, despite having changed their name, that market themselves aggressively on facebook. If you look closely through the comments on their ads or read any online reviews you will probably come to the same conclusion as us, lots of young people paying lots of money for model portfolios and then never hearing from the so called agency again.

Here are some snippets from a recent interview with their director of said agency, quotes taken from the very informative www.aspokesmansaid.com (click on link to read the full article)

First of all I would like to make it clear that all models need professional pictures to be promoted with. I am not suggesting new faces should get a portfolio done prior to applying to model agencies. Simple head snap shots will suffice when applying to join agencies. However to be put forward for actual paid work, of course clients would expect to see portfolios prior to hiring a model. There is not a commercial model agency that will subsidise a model portfolio and that is fact.”

We disagree with you on that one! Our new faces can have shoots with our own photographer free of charge and we will set up test shoots for our new models to build up their portfolios. What’s more, if a client has a specific model in mind for a job they don’t care how many photos they have in their portfolio, especially obvious “model portfolio” shots.

Does this mean that everyone out there offering model portfolio services are in the wrong? There are some amazing photographers, make-up artists and stylists out there who deserve to be paid good money for what they do. There are lots of people who want fabulous photos of themselves or their kids taken and are happy to pay for it. So why not hook the two up?

We have, on request, done this from time to time. We have the resources to set up fantastic photo shoots and our stance is that as long as it is clear that we won’t necessarily sign the person up just because they have had a photo shoot and we agree how many photos they will get after the shoot so there is no question about how much they will be paying and how many photos they will receive, it’s a good service that we are happy to provide.

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Recent photos of the gorgeous Lottie at a shoot set up by Model Students.

We have heard so many stories of young people paying up to £2000 for model portfolios under the impression that they are going to get lots of modelling work and then ending up in debt and never hearing from the “agency” again. In our opinion, this is taking advantage of someone’s hopes and dreams.

To conclude, we believe honesty and ethics are key and we would like to give a few hints and tips to any young people out there who are looking into getting a model portfolio done or are applying to agencies.

  1. What is your reason for getting it done? Do you want to be a model or do you want some cool photos? If you seriously want to model, any good agency will accept natural snapshots as an application, you do not need professional photos.
  2. If a model agency invites you for an interview or a test shoot, if you are under 18 please take a parent. If the agency isn’t legitimate they may pressure you into paying out large amounts of money upfront.
  3. If an agency is interested in you and thinks you have potential they will work with you to build up a portfolio. They will not expect you to pay big sums of money up front for photos.
  4. We see lots of portfolios every day, and there is nothing we dislike more than 30 photos all from the same shoot! Even if you have changed your outfit and make up and maybe got a couple of different backgrounds, we can still see it is from the same shoot. Try and work with a couple of different photographers at different locations on shoots with totally different themes to show your versatility.
  5. If you aren’t necessarily hoping to become a model and just want some cool photos, there are plenty of good photographers and studios out there. Just make sure you check the place out and read any reviews before you go, and if you are under 18 take a parent or guardian.
  6. If you do book yourself in for a photo shoot, be clear on how much money you want to spend on photos. We think agreeing a number of photos and setting a price upfront is the best way to do things. Try to avoid any situations where you might be on your own and put under pressure of buying more photos than you can afford.

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Photos taken by Jose Pope for Model Students.