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Common Modeling Industry Red Flags

With the use of social media & the internet, it’s getting easier and easier to scam aspiring and even experienced models. While I could write pages & pages about red flags that models need to look out for, one of the most common pitfalls I see more and more of these days is models falling prey to scams under the guise of modeling agencies, scouts, or model bookers.

Woman in red dress with city skyline
Photo by Sabrina Dunn

To help you avoid being taken advantage of physically or financially, I’ve listed some of the leading modeling industry red flags to look out for.

You Have to Pay a Fee: While it’s not uncommon for models to pay out-of-pocket for things like comp cards or website fees, legitimate agencies do not charge you a fee to serve as your agent. Some may try to spin it as a contract fee or signing deposit that will eventually be refunded, but do not fall for this! No legitimate modeling agency will have you pay an upfront cost to receive representation.

They Ask for Nude Photos: It’s common practice to submit polaroids/digitals to modeling agencies or booking agents, and it’s even pretty standard for women to be asked to wear bikinis and for men to be shirtless in those photos. That being said, under no circumstances should you ever be asked to submit nude or implied nude images to anyone, regardless of what the job is for!

They Pressure You to Sign a Contract: Never sign a contract or legal document if the agency, photographer, or client is rushing you. You need time to check them out and read the fine print of a contract before putting your signature on it. If an offer is good today, it will be just as good tomorrow or even next week. If they tell you the opportunity could disappear if you don’t “act now, " then it’s most likely a scam to get you to sign a contract with some sneaky stipulations. Always take the time to review and ask questions!

They Guarantee You Work: No modeling job is ever guaranteed. If any agency or manager guarantees you will be the next big supermodel by signing with them, do not sign their contract. A legitimate agent or manager may tell you they have confidence that you could have a pretty successful career if you are willing to put in the work, but they should never promise that they will book you tons of paid jobs and make you successful.

They Take a Large Commission: Modeling agents make money by taking commissions from the paychecks models get from bookings. The industry standard is a 20%-25% commission fee; if it is any higher than that or there is a combined set of fees that add up to higher than 25%, that is a red flag.

You’re Asked to Meet Outside the Agency/Agency Hours: Agencies are a typical business; as such, they almost always operate during typical 9-5 business hours. Due to this, agency interviews always occur at the agency's actual office and during their regular business hours. If they ask you to meet them late in the evening or at night, especially at an address other than the agency’s primary address, do not agree to do so.

They Aren’t a Real Agency Employee/Photographer: Never agree to meet with or send any personal information to a prospective agent, booker, scout, or photographer without first verifying they are who they say they are. Every agency will have its hours of operation and location easily accessible on their website; some even have a list of their employees. Always check this before meeting someone, and don’t hesitate to call the agency directly to verify.

There is a huge email scam that makes the rounds pretty often from someone claiming to be an assistant of a famous photographer, and they need to book models for an upcoming photoshoot. In this email, they list a huge payment amount and often namedrop random brands claiming that is who the shoot is for. Please don’t fall for this! A model request from a famous photographer or big brand will never come directly to you- they will always only go through agencies.

As you know, if it seems too good to be true- it probably is. Unfortunately, young and aspiring models are often the main targets of modeling scams. To avoid a scam, you must do your due diligence before engaging with anyone who expresses interest in working with you as a model. I hope these red flags have helped you understand what to look out for as you navigate your career!


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