Photographers take pictures of people all the time, from the very public street photography to personal snapshots of family and friends. But to create professional images with a truly compelling story and to craft a visual message that centrally revolves around a character projected by a professional model is a whole different ballgame. When it comes to working and dealing with professional models, photographers need to understand what it takes and how it all works.
In this exclusive Q&A, Michael Seifert, the CEO and Founder of TalentMan (a boutique management and placement agency), answers a wide swathe of questions on professional modeling and on working with photographers along with the rest of the creative team members in crafting striking ad campaigns for high-profile fashion labels and brands. This is a rare inside look into the career of modeling and into the model’s mind.
DOMINIQUE JAMES: In general, what does it take to succeed as an international fashion model?
MICHAEL SEIFERT: It takes potential, great management, a strategic career plan, hard work, commitment, and a bit of luck.
DJ: What personality traits or characteristics are important in becoming a model?
MS: A model must be comfortable in his or her own skin—know who you are, what you’re all about, and you need to be able to bring a high degree of confidence to the set each time. I always tell models to keep an open mind to anything the photographer or client may expect of them during a shoot, while still staying true to themselves.
DJ: What kind of training must one undergo to become a professional model?
MS: There are different stages, but mostly honed on a case-to-case basis. Usually models have to have a certain ‘experience’ or basic knowledge/understanding of the business. As long as the raw potential is there, the craft of walking and movement can be further studied, enhanced, and applied for future bookings.
DJ: What is it like to be a model working on a photo shoot?
MS: It’s definitely a special experience. Working on a photo shoot enables a model to become a different character in front of the lens each time. It is a form of expression, and In some ways can be compared to acting—allowing the photographer to visually capture a specific mood & state of mind portrayed by the model at the time.
DJ: What are the preparations a model needs to go through when shooting a pictorial?
MS: In a pictorial, a model can never really fully know what to expect. If lucky, a model receives a ‘mood board’—a collage of reference images designed to give one an idea of the look, feel and movement expected at the photo shoot. However, quite often, a model will not be informed until the actual arrival on set. Therefore, it is best for models to walk into every photo shoot with an open mind and keep a positive 'up-for-anything’ mindset for a successful outcome.
DJ: What characteristics and personality traits are helpful and useful in becoming a professional model, and what are usually expected?
MS: Modeling is a professional service provided to others, more specifically unto a mother agency, modeling agencies in different markets, and clients, labels or brands. Models are expected to be professional, have a good attitude, and more importantly deliver what is asked of them. Just like every job, a model performs his or her duties and then gets paid accordingly. The best models in the world understand the importance of hard work and dedication & will perform to the best of their ability to make sure everyone is happy.
DJ: What are the things that models don't like or like when it comes to working with photographers, hair and makeup artists, and stylists? Clients?
MS: Models like the creative environment and the input that the entire team gives to produce beautiful imagery. It’s always a joy to experience the different points of view of each individual. Ultimately there is a goal at the end of each shooting day, and it’s the process of achieving those results that make the day exciting!
DJ When it comes to working with other professionals in the industry such as a photographer, what are the qualities that a model must possess?
MS: In all job scenarios, a model must understand that everyone is there to get through the day with flying colours and to produce great results. It’s important for a model to always be respectful towards one’s agency, clients, co-workers, and to primarily focus on how, through teamwork, the job can be successfully completed in the most effective way.
DJ: How should a model handle extremely undesirable conditions or situations in a professional working environment?
MS: It’s always a test of professionalism when situations arise that are extremely undesirable in terms of work conditions. When hesitation arises, it is best to give the agent a call, particularly if something is asked for during the shoot that was initially not agreed upon. At the end of the day, and in my opinion, honesty is still the best policy.
DJ: In general, what are the things that models expect from a photographer when working? From other people?
MS: Models expect to work with photographers who are not only talented but who also possess a sense of integrity and a high degree of professionalism. Usually, models who are on top of things would research the photographer and the team he or she expects to work with in order to get an overview on their work background and aesthetics. A model arrives at work fully prepared, with an open mind to all possibilities and challenges, and with the objective of achieving successful work results.
DJ: Models don’t talk much on the job, if at all, and most of the talking are done by the photographer and other people, what goes on in the mind of a model when working?
MS: It really varies. It depends on one’s personality. I’ve worked with models that are quite moody—not really early birds at all—looking to complete their job as quick as possible, while others are really passionate about the business, enjoy meeting new people and love seeing the final results. It depends on the model really.
DJ: It seems to me that models are keen observers, even if they don’t say anything for the most part, what are the things models usually observe when working with others?
MS: Models pay attention to the character traits and personalities of the individuals he or she works with, their craftsmanship, and work aesthetics, and pays attention to little details when it comes to grooming, styling, photography, lighting. Models also find it quite fascinating to see how everyone works under pressure, and in seeing how challenging situations are handled.
DJ: What do models feel when they see their work on magazines or billboards or on the Internet?
MS: Again it depends on the model. In most cases they feel lucky, proud, excited, happy. It’s also possible that there would be cases when a model may feel dissatisfied with the final image selection or final edit. In most cases, they will just be happy to receive such exposure in hopes of more career opportunities opening up after. Then you have those that are just reminded of the good talent fee that they received for that booking.
DJ: What do models talk about among themselves? Do they compare notes?
MS: It really changes—some talk about their previous nights out, while others love to share their latest bookings. Others compare rates quite often as it is a competitive industry and everyone would like to be paid the best. In some cases, models just come in to work and display an act of friendliness to get through the day, in order to achieve an organic chemistry on set with the co-models. It’s a very independent industry, so comparing notes would mostly happen amongst new faces - more prominently during runway shows.
DJ: What do most models usually or typically do or enjoy doing when off the job?
MS: Models in general like to continue with their day-to-day endeavours, hit the beach, catch up with friends over a movie or drinks, perhaps even study (if still in school). At the end of the day, models are just like everyone else off-work —looking to engage in their hobbies, interests and passions, and live life to the fullest!
DJ: How would you describe the ideal relationship between a model and the talent agency?
MS: The ideal relationship between a model/talent agency revolves around honesty, loyalty, and in being able to communicate openly. The ideal goal should be to achieve a successful long-term career together.
DJ: What are some of the problems or the usual problems between a model and the agency?
MS: Primarily, it is about dishonesty, when models don’t show up at castings or find excuses not to make an appointment. Unprofessionalism is a common problem in the industry, mostly related to peer pressures of ‘being cool.’ Quite often models believe they know their market & clientele best, and of course, certain models having a ‘bad' attitude. Without trust, reliability, and professionalism, there is no solid foundation.
DJ: What would say are the best ways to resolve the typical conflicts or problems or disagreements that arise between a model and the agency? Or between and among models themselves?
MS: Just the basics—to be honest and to keep in mind why a model is doing what he or she is doing. If everyone is on the same page, conflict can be avoided, and I believe that a strong bond is possible & will reflect results long-term.
DJ: How would you describe the modeling industry today?
MS: The modeling industry has changed dramatically over the past decades—more so, we’re living in the digital world where technology and fashion are at the forefront of multi-billion dollar industries. Social media has become an influential tool, to the point that strong social media followings on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have become a prerequisite for landing castings and jobs! It has made the playing field more competitive in the business with social stars rising to the top coming from well-connected backgrounds, making it much harder for non-established models to fully penetrate the industry and build a long term career. I can only advise every new model to start working on growing their following on social media as soon as possible.
DJ: How is the modeling industry today different from the past?
MS: Social media is the present and the future. The industry has become more tech savvy, adapting to all the digital advancements, making it important for newbies and aspiring models to jump on board social media and start utilizing various platforms to build an engaged following. Agents, photographers, and clients look into these platforms to virtually ‘cast’ models.
TalentMan is a worldwide boutique management and placement agency founded in October of 2014. It aims to redefine the next era of talent management with a primary focus on the discovery, development, and direction of talents. The agency provides talents with a go-to platform for strategic career planning to achieve long-term success on a global scale.
Inclusion and acceptance to TalentMan is through online submissions, referrals and personalized casting calls with select individuals. Models are screened year-round for potential, followed by a personality check, and finally, an assessment of one’s strong determination and sense of achievement in order to take their careers to the next level. In particular, TalentMan is always on the lookout for multifaceted individuals who possess that ‘IT’ factor, and who have a hunger for the business and are willing to work hard. TalentMan models are one-of-a-kind—from the way they look and the way they carry themselves, to how they work—it’s an effortless understanding of the business that rounds up a complete package.
Michael Seifert is the CEO & Founder of TalentMan. To date, TalentMan is exclusively representing Adryan Hanson, Chanty Anderson, Cho Hui, Dora Alma, German Leopoldo, Kenji Kureyama, Liam Samuels, Madi Ross, Milan Truska, and Pawel Bednarek. Visit the TalentMan website at www.thetalentman.com/models for fresh updates on the models! Also, check out and follow TalentMan on Facebook and Instagram.
Note: All photographs courtesy of TalentMan are used with permission. Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved.