Aaron Roberts Photographer | Avoid Bad Modelling Contracts - Aaron Roberts Photographer
Aaron Roberts - Photographer - Cluj-Napoca
Aaron Roberts - Photographer - Cluj-Napoca
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  • Modelling Contracts - Tips - Trapped - Locked in
26th February 2017

Avoid Bad Modelling Contracts

Have you ever really wanted to try modelling and show off your beauty? Did you ever feel as though being in front of the camera, is one of the places that you’re most happy and that it makes you feel great?

Finally feel like you want to make some sort of career out of this… and now, all of a sudden, you’ve been approached by an agency who wants to make all of your dreams come true??…


Before jumping into ANY agency and signing any contracts, no matter how much they tell you that you will have the chance to become your city or country’s next top model, you should know what you’re getting yourself into first… as it could very well be a career ending move, rather than a career starting move.

Here are my tips on how to decide if an agency is the best thing for you, and how to select the agency to work for, based on the sort of contracts that they are presenting.

Identify the Agency or Representative

So, one of the first things you want to do, is make sure that the agency or representative who you are thinking about signing with, is reputable and experienced. Also, you’d be amazed at how many representatives, don’t actually work for an agency. Instead, they are paid commission for signing up as many ‘suitable’ – and by suitable, that might mean gullible – people who just looking for a head start in the industry.

Make sure that the agency has a website, social media presence and a collection of models with a strong portfolio of work, which is easy for you to see. After all, if this agency has models and it’s easy for you to find them, look at the other models’ photos and view their information, then well… that means other people will be able to find you!

Another thing to check for, is online reviews of an agency, or “over-recruitment”. The last thing you need is to find out that you’ve just signed a contract with an agency who turns out to have 100’s of “models” who are all waiting their turn. The simple reason for this, is imagine if you’re just one model, amongst another 100. What is the chance of you getting any regular work, when you’re just in the stock pile?

More often than not, these sorts of agencies will cause some people to voice their opinion, writing “reviews” or their opinions in Facebook groups, pages or on other websites. However, this is not always the case, so you should always carefully research the agency who is offering you a home.

A professional agency, with a strong brand image, should be able to pay for your portfolio and any training you need in order to become a successful model.

Oh… and by the way:

No serious agency will pressure you into signing with them “right now” as they should understand that a serious model, whether new to the industry or not, will want to read over the terms and agreement. This will demonstrate to them, that you are intelligent, careful and take the entire situation into consideration. If they pressure you, they’re looking for someone they can manipulate, and if you just signed because they told you, “this is the only chance” or “if you don’t sign now, there will be some fees” then, congratulations… you stand to make almost no money from this “agency”, as this is just unfair and unprofessional.

Modelling Contracts - Signing - Agreement

The Contract

First thing to know, is that there are typically 4 types of modelling contracts.

  1. Exclusive Contracts
  2. Non-Exclusive Contracts
  3. One-time Contracts
  4. Mother Agency Contracts

Understanding the differences between these contracts, can be the difference between success and failure. However, no matter how much you read this post, it doesn’t replace having an experienced lawyer or legal representative reading the contract in detail. As they will soon find any “risky” terms which could lead you into difficult situations.

Exclusive Contracts

An exclusive contract basically means, the agency is your exclusive manager. This means that basically everything must pass through the agency, before you can take on any assignments. This often means you will need to consider yourself almost, as a representative of the agency, and thus, insuring that you are representing yourself well at all times.

This means, no potentially dangerous Facebook or Instagram posts which may lead to the agency’s reputation being damaged or misrepresented as this will often result in you losing your contract, or worse, having to pay damages.

But before you even sign for an exclusive contract you, you will need to understand the full extent to which this agency can both progress or hold back your career as you will not be allowed to sign with any other agency as long as the contract is in active.

Agencies that offer exclusive contracts, should have the funds to offer to build your portfolio and pay for any professional photo sessions up-front, if you don’t already have a professional portfolio. However, you should always have someone check the terms of this offer, as usually the costs for these sessions are recovered through a percentage of your initial earnings as a model within their agency. Leaving that agency before paying off the ‘debt’ could leave you will a hefty charge.

Non-Exclusive Contracts

A non-exclusive contract will allow you some more flexibility and to find your own work. It will also allow you to sign with other non-exclusive agencies and take some free or paid assignments here and there. This is usually a really good choice, as it means you can still make your own decisions, seek your own work, or do absolutely nothing, and have some assignments given to you every now and then.

And here comes the but: Remember, non-exclusive contracts are all good and dandy if they actually find you some work. If they don’t, well, you may find that they are just using your looks in order to attract more models to their agency and to “show off”. Non-exclusive contracting agency’s will often not provide you with a professional portfolio, and this will be something you’ll have to pay for or create yourself. However, that’s not always a bad thing! It just depends on how serious you are about becoming a professional model.

One-Time Contracts

One-time contracts are exactly what they’re called; contracts that will last for one job only. You typically come across these when being asked to feature in a single event or promotion. Just be pretty careful to read the terms of the contract though, because you don’t want to learn that your photo is going to end up in some airline magazine on the other side of the world and that you have no rights to the image or maybe you don’t even know where it’ll end up.

These contracts might seem like a hassle-free way to earn a quick sum of money, but you should always think about the long-term and check where the images will likely be used and more importantly, what for!

Mother Agencies

This sort of contract basically oversees everything that you do. Normally, a mother agency will give you everything you need to start out. This includes, a professional portfolio, some marketing here and there and a tidy page on their website. However, these are typically large organisations and like any large organisation, you can easily get lost in the fine print.

You will usually be able to sign with other agencies and have other representation, but only if the mother agency agrees in advance. If they do agree, they will usually set the terms of the agreement between you and your sub-agency / agencies. The rules can be pretty tight, and unless you’re being signed to big deals, you may not earn much money.

Imagine, instead of having just one agency paying you for the job and taking their commission, you now have two! Two agencies, means two commissions to pay. There are, however, some serious advantages to having a mother agency. Typically, these agencies will have their own legal department who can discuss and take care of any legal matters, including disputes, guarantee of payment and other things that most people just wouldn’t want to get involved in. But this can obviously be flipped around too.

Woman Holding Sign - "Earn $$$ per day doing things you mother wouldn't be proud of!"

No Hidden Surprises!

So, you have an awesome photo shoot, they pay you your commission and that’s it. Job done… right? – Wrong.

You should always check the terms of any contact you sign, even if it’s a model release form. Check for simple terms that are designed to protect you and look out for terms that could come back to bite you in your cute little butt one day.

Speaking of cute little butts, if you are commissioned to do something a little more “risky”, like lingerie, you should be very clear on what the intentions of use are for the photos from your session. Here’s an example of a clear and “safe” release term.

“I hereby give the photographer and assigns mentioned above my permission to license the images and to use the images in any media for any purpose (except pornographic, defamatory, libelous or otherwise unlawful) which may include, among others, advertising, promotion, marketing and packaging for any product or service.”

You’ll notice the underlined section states clearly, that your images will not be used in something your mother wouldn’t be proud of. If you don’t see this line, or something similar, it’s time to ask what the photos will be used for and whether they should revise the terms of this session.

Remember: Read every document or have it read for you by a legal representative that you can trust. Contracts can protect us, but they can also lead us into places we don’t want to be, into unfavourable situations or into financial obligations.

If you are careful and work with honest professionals, you are sure to have a prosperous and enjoyable career in the modelling industry. If you are careless or intimidated easily, you run the risk of making a poor choice, which could have much less fruitful consequences.

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