On Set | How to book an agency model in 5 steps

On Set How to book a Model in 5 steps | Rebecca Hawkes 2

On Set How to book a Model in 5 steps | Rebecca Hawkes 3

Now it may seem so simple after booking models for several years but I still look back at my university years and wish someone had told me how to book an agency model. I think because the steps are simple that once you have worked with model agencies you quickly forget how difficult it once seemed to approach them. The information doesn’t get passed down as it sometimes seems obvious, but believe me for a student just getting into the industry with big ideas but no idea where to start, it can feel like one of the biggest obstacles. I was one of them. Today I will share with you five simple tips that will have you on first name terms with a model booker in no time!

On Set How to book a Model in 5 steps | Rebecca Hawkes 4


1. Create a portfolio
This can seem daunting and I can hear you asking how to do this without an agency model? Well this is your place to experiment, find an idea and test. You could take inspiration from photographic artists such as Cindy Sherman and take self portraits. This is how fashion photographer Lara Jade got her start in the industry, allowing her to create imagery for her portfolio with just herself, props and a camera. Or find that stunning best friend of yours, take her to the park and take some photos (pay her back in amazing images for her Facebook wall). Alternatively you can scour modelling websites such as Modelmayhem (where you contact models in your area directly) and use The Creative Book to collaborate with stylists, make up artists, hair stylists and photographers. This is a great way to select a team of strong creatives, meet other people just starting out in industry and collaborate ideas.

2. Ring Agencies.
Sounds scary? Oh yes, I have been there! And to be fair, I air on the side of ‘Introvert’ and can still find this daunting. But this is the best way to quickly build a relationship with the model bookers and gives you a higher chance of them replying to your follow up email. Do a google search of model agencies in your area and find there phone number. If several are listed you will want to contact the number for ‘New Faces’. This refers to models that do not have a large portfolio yet and are looking to take on more shoots with up and coming photographers and stylists (i.e. You!). Once you pick up the phone tell them your name and profession, photographer, stylist e.c.t (don’t mention student if you are one as the key here is to sound professional). Ask to speak with the head of the new faces division, and once you are put through explain what you plan to shoot and a type of model you are looking for. Ask to email them with more details. More often then not they will immediately ask you to email them with details and will provide you with a personal address. Note this down and go to step three!

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3. Email Relevant Person
Once you have the personal email address, write them an email as soon as you can so that you are fresh in their mind. In the email briefly introduce yourself, when you will be shooting and mention that it was nice to speak on the phone and are following up with an email. In this email you want to briefly (one or two sentences) explain the idea behind the shoot, type of model you are looking for (hair colour, ethnicity, large eyes, strong look, soft look, editorial, edgy e.c.t), who you will be working with and what the images will be used for. When booking an agency model there are a few terms to be aware of :

+ ‘Test’ – A test shoot is when you are ‘testing’ an idea. These images are mainly used for personal work, to be used in portfolios.
+ Submission’ – Often you will see online that magazines post up an option to ‘submit’ for their next issue. At Haunt we do this and receive a lot of entries. This is used when you have an idea of which magazine you would like to see your images but haven’t been commissioned. Many online magazines have this option and its a great way to get your work into those publications you love!
+ ‘Commission’ – This is when a magazine has asked you to produce an editorial for them. This almost always a guarantee that the images will be published.
+ ‘Published/Unpublished’ – Simply put this will explain where the images will be scene. You can further explain where, for example print, or online.

Finally add a link to your portfolio (if online), or attach a PDF of your work. In addition attach a visual mood board of the shoot you wish to produce. Press the button and keep those fingers crossed! The hard part is over!

On Set How to book a Model in 5 steps | Rebecca Hawkes

4. Wait for a response.
Oh the waiting game! Now this can go two ways, either the booker will reply with a ‘package’ (portfolio of models you can book) or you do not hear anything. Do not worry if it is the latter as there are many agencies out there and there may be one that is more suitable to your work. Go back to step two and contact another agency. If you do receive a package, celebrate a little (maybe have a little dance) then get back to the booker with the model you would most like to work with. At this stage its good to have options. Ask for a 1st option on your favourite and a 2nd on a back up model.

5. Confirm model & Celebrate your first model booking!
Once the booker replies with which models are available for your shoot, confirm the model by sending a call sheet. The call sheet will include all the information the model will need for the shoot. Include shoot date, location, call time (when everyone will meet), and your teams roles and contact details. I like to make a PDF in InDesign but I have seen photographers also simply state the information in an email.

Well done you just booked a model! Once you have booked a model a few times it will become easier to contact the bookers you have worked with before and the models you are offered will only get better and better. I hope you fill your portfolio with dreamy images!



  1. Kasia

    Hi, great advice! 🙂 But what about model release? Don’t you sign with agency?

    • rebeccahawkesdiary

      Glad you found it useful Kasia! I know it can be different from country to country but in the UK I have only had to sign a release form stating the purpose and use of the photos for about 2/3 of the models I have booked. Most of the time I am not sent a release form by the agency. If you are selling the images, then you will need the models consent. I hope this helps!

  2. Tom Goddard

    Found this very helpful as I am currently building my professional portfolio and am constantly looking for new models with different looks! Check my Instagram out! Mrtomgoddard Thanks again!

  3. henry


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