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Common Modeling Industry Terms

When you start getting into modeling, you quickly learn that the fashion industry has its own language. Even if you’ve been in the modeling industry for a while, some of the lingo that industry insiders use can get confusing since there are a few terms that can mean the same thing.

In this post, I’ll list some of the common terms (in alphabetical order) used in the modeling industry that are important for models to know!

Photo by Alex Todd

Advance: When a modeling agency covers the cost for things on your behalf, such as photo shoots, comp cards, model apartments, etc.. They are essentially “advancing”, or loaning, the model the money to cover those expenses. The model will ultimately be responsible for these costs, though, and the agency will deduct it from his/her earnings as they start booking jobs.

Age Category/Age Range: The age range in which a modeling agency intends to market you is your age category, usually between a 5 – 7 year range around the model's actual age. This range will obviously vary based on the model’s look.

Agent: A person who works at a modeling or casting agency and actively pursues work for the model/actor and receives a commission for each booking they secure for the model/actor.

Audition: Similar to a job interview, this is where you meet with the client or decision-makers who have been appointed by the client to book talent for a project. (See also: Casting Call, Go-See)

Beauty Shot: A headshot that is often used to showcase makeup looks, hairstyles, jewelry, or beauty products. This is not the same as a modeling or acting headshot.

Model Board: This term originated from the shelves that display the represented model’s comp cards. Different parts of the wall represented the different categories (boards) such as Runway, New Faces, Commercial, Mature, Men, etc. If an agent says “we need to get you up on the board”, this is what they are referring to. Now in the digital age, most agencies don’t display shelves of comp cards in the agency office anymore but will still sometimes refer to the web pages displaying models as “boards”.

Book: This is another word used to describe a modeling portfolio, which is a book of 10-20 photographs that show the model’s ability to work the camera. Before the digital age, models carried physical photo books to casting calls, but now these photographs are displayed on the agency's website and are submitted via a weblink to clients to procure work for the model. Currently, it is still suggested models carry a physical book, but they are rarely requested to be seen by a client. (Also See: Portfolio)

Booking: Any type of modeling job is referred to as a booking. (i.e.: “I have a campaign booking tomorrow.” or “I have been booked for a runway show.”)

Booker/Booking Agent: The person at a modeling agency who represents the agency’s models to clients and books them jobs. A booker’s responsibilities include communicating with clients and setting up appointments for the models. They also ensure a model has all the information they need about any upcoming castings or bookings.

Booking Fee: The charge from the modeling agency to the client for the agency’s services (booking models). This fee is usually charged directly to the client and is different than the commission fee that is taken from the model’s earnings. (See also: Commission)

Booking Out: When a model notifies their agency that they are unavailable for work on specific days/weeks. This prevents a model from being booked for a job they’re unable to do. When you notify your booking agent that you will be unavailable, you are “booked out” for that time, and they won’t send you any castings or book you for jobs on your “booked out” days.

Buyout: A one-time payment issued to the model/agency for the use of their photographs for a specific timeframe (could be just 1 year or unlimited) without making any additional payments to the model or agency. Many commercial clients will choose a buyout instead of paying residuals. This is always negotiated in advance and is generally a payment on top of the model’s base fee for a project.

Call Back: Round 2 of casting for a project. After an initial casting or audition, the client or casting director may request to have a smaller group of talent from the initial casting return for a second casting/audition before final decisions are made.

Call Sheet: The call sheet includes all the details you need to know about a booking, such as the time to be there, location address, important contact people, things you need to bring, etc. The details outlined on the call sheet are not suggestions; they are terms of employment– follow them exactly. If you have any questions, call your booking agent immediately for clarification.

Call Time: The time that the model is expected to arrive to set and be ready to work. A good rule of thumb is to arrive 10- 15 minutes before the listed call time.

Camera Ready: A direction on a call sheet or brief that means you are to arrive for the job with your hair and makeup done and ready to get in front of the camera with minor touch-ups. This tells the model that there will not be a makeup or hairstylist on set and that they are responsible for their own hair and makeup.

Campaign: Short for ‘advertising campaign’, this generally refers to a series of print ads or TV commercials that will be done for a client to use as marketing.

Casting: The process of selecting model(s) for a booking. Clients will give a brief to a modeling agency describing what they are looking for in a model. The brief will detail specific physical features or skills that the job requires. The modeling agency will then send recommendations to the client based on their available roster of models, and the client will choose which model they want to book for their project.

Casting Call: Essentially, this is the same process as the previously mentioned Casting, but it is held in person. A closed casting call is one where models have been invited to attend. An open casting call is one that is open to anyone who would like to attend.

**Scam Alert: You should never be charged money to attend a casting call. If there is any type of fee involved, don’t go!

Casting Agency: Similar to a modeling agency, casting agencies specialize in finding people with specific talents like acting, singing, and dancing. Casting agencies frequently also represent models on a non-exclusive basis.

Casting Director: The person who represents the client (often a booking agent) to help find the best talent for the project.

Catwalk: The “stage” on which a model does their runway walk to showcase clothing during a fashion show. (Also See: Runway)

Charge-back: A fee charged by the client to an agency in the instance that a model doesn’t show up for a booking. The client can charge the agency for the loss it incurred since the production team for the project showed up and still needs to get paid. These charges can also be incurred if the model damages clothing or something on set. The dollar amount can be large, and the agency will often make the model cover the fees if it is their fault.

Classic Model: The term often used to describe older models, generally 40 years and older.

Client: The company that hires and pays the model is the client. Remember – modeling agencies don’t hire or pay models – clients do. The agency is the middle-man.

Collection: A group of coordinated clothing looks from a fashion designer that is being shown or photographed. Typically geared around the seasons- ex. Fall Collection or Spring Collection.

Commercial Print: An advertisement appearing in print is a commercial print ad. Newspapers, magazines, brochures, posters, and billboards are all examples of commercial print advertising.

Commercial Model: A model that appears in everything from ads for various products and/or services. Because commercial print models are representing “real people,” the physical requirements are generally not as strict as they are for fashion models. People of all different body types and sizes work as commercial print models.

Commission: The fee charged to the model from the agency for their role in booking your jobs. This is how agencies make money. Most agencies deduct 20% from whatever you earn. (See also: Booking Fee)

Comp Card: Essentially a business card for models, it displays the best images from a model’s portfolio. Printed on heavy card stock, comp cards are given to prospective clients by agencies and models. A comp card generally has the model’s headshot and name printed on the front and between 3 – 5 photos on the back, along with the model’s ‘stats’ (height, measurements, agency contact info). Also known as a Composite, Sed Card, or Zed Card.

Contact Sheet/Proofs: The term Contact Sheet refers to the paper proofs of the film days. In the digital realm, the more commonly used term is ‘Proofs’, which refers to the unretouched digital images that a photographer sends to the client or model after a shoot for them to review and select final images to be edited.

Day Rate: The model's pay rate for a full 8-hour day of work. This fee is often used in place of an hourly fee if the shoot is going to last longer than 5 hours.

Digitals: A more modern term for “polaroids”. Digitals are frequently taken at castings and go-sees to capture a model’s current and unedited look. This is the type of photo models also submit to agencies when seeking representation. (Also See: Polaroids)

Direct Booking: When an agency is able to secure a booking for a model without a go-see or casting call. A direct booking usually happens based on the client trusting the booking agent’s recommendation, by the client simply reviewing the model’s comp card or portfolio online, or because the model lives out of town and isn’t able to travel for go-see’s or casting calls.

Dresser: The person who helps model dress backstage at a fashion show or photoshoot is referred to as a dresser.

Editorial: Images that are created to illustrate a story in a magazine. This term also refers to images that are more edgy and creative than commercial advertising images.


  • A contract that requires a model works exclusively with one agency. Exclusivity agreements can be based on a timeframe, geography, or discipline (modeling/acting).

  • A contract that prohibits a model from working for a competing product or designer for a specific period of time.

Expo: Short for Exposition, expos are similar to trade shows. Companies will show off their products and services and frequently need models to demonstrate.

Extra: A model or actor who appears in the background of the photograph or TV/movie scene. Extras are paid very little compared to the main talent and rarely have speaking parts.

Fashion Model: Models that meet very specific height and body measurement requirements as requested by fashion designers. A fashion model can appear on a runway or in print in editorial layouts or catalogs. Fashion models can also work as fit models and showroom models.

Fit Model: Models that a designer uses to size and measure their clothes before sending them to production. Fit models must fit the sample size preferred by the designer and must maintain very specific measurements. Body types for fit models vary based on the designer, and fit models do not have to be as photogenic as their print counterparts. Fit models are sometimes referred to as “House Models”.

Fitting: A session prior to the booking where the model tries on wardrobe options before a fashion show or photoshoot so that any necessary alterations can be made.

Freelance Model: A model that works directly with clients without any agency representation.

Go-See: An appointment for a model to meet with a client- essentially like a job interview. Sometimes it’s for a specific booking, and the client wants to see their options in person. Other times it could just be as an introduction to hopefully be remembered for future bookings.

Haute Couture: French for “High Fashion”; couture is a specialized high-end category of clothing. High Fashion editorial models are generally used for couture.

Hold: When a client is considering hiring you for a project, and they want you to put a “hold” on your calendar for them. Being put on hold doesn’t mean you booked the job, and they may not end up using you. If another job comes up while you are on hold, you need to check with your agency before accepting it.

Independent Contractor: Models are paid as contractors and not employees of the agency. This means that clients do not withhold payroll taxes or provide any employee benefits.

Informal Modeling: A type of modeling that usually takes place in shopping malls, stores, or events where models walk around casually to show off their clothing. There is no runway, and they often interact with patrons.

Junior Model: A young model, generally between the age of 8 and 12 years old.

Markets: These are different geological areas, such as cities, that have a fashion industry presence. In the United States, some of the top markets for modeling are New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami.

Modeling Agency: A company that represents models and finds them work. Modeling agencies are similar to traditional employment agencies and make their money by taking a commission from the work that they secure from the model and by charging the client a booking fee.

Model Bag: A bag that every model should have when on a job that includes everything they may need for their booking.

Model Release: A legal document that gives the photographer and/or client the right to use the photographs of a model taken during a photoshoot. The modeling release can be signed by the model or by the agency on behalf of the model.

Mother Agency: A modeling agency that signs a model to an exclusive contract and then markets the model to other modeling agencies, usually in larger or foreign markets. Traditionally, the Mother Agency is responsible for developing the model’s skills and providing ongoing career advice to the model.

New Faces: A term that usually applies to new models who are still in the development phase of their careers. The agency will begin sending the model to castings and go-sees but will not promote them to the main board until their portfolio is complete and they have gained some experience.

Non-Union: A job that does not have union status. In other words, a job that does not require you to be a member of a union to be hired is referred to as a non-union job.

Parts Model: A parts model is hired to model specific body parts such as legs, feet, hands, etc. Shoe models are also a part of this group.

Petite Model: In the fashion world, a petite model’s height is generally 5’7” or less. In commercial modeling, the term simply refers to the general size of the model.

Polaroid: Prior to the digital age, polaroid photos of each model were frequently taken at castings and go-sees and attached to the model’s resume or comp card. The term is still occasionally used to represent the “natural look” photos taken with digital cameras for the same purposes. (Also See: Digitals)

Portfolio: A modeling portfolio is a book of 10-20 photographs that show the model’s ability to work the camera. Before the digital age, models carried physical photo books to casting calls, but now these photographs are displayed on the agency's website and are submitted via a weblink to clients to procure work for the model. Currently, it is still suggested models carry a physical book, but they are rarely requested to be seen by a client. (Also See: Book)

Rates: This is the term often used when discussing payment. It could be the amount a model charges for their services or the amount that a client is paying the talent for a booking. There are many different types, such as hourly rates, day rates, and usage rates.

Residuals: Typically, this is a form of payment that is made to the model after the original usage rights have expired, but the client wants to continue to use the model’s image.

Resume/CV: Similar to a regular job resume, a modeling resume is an outline of your modeling experience- jobs you have done and clients you have worked for.

Runway: The “stage” on which the model does their runway walk to showcase clothing during a fashion show. (Also See: Catwalk)

SAG-AFTRA: Some modeling agencies also provide talent and casting services for movie or television roles, so they become members of SAG-AFTRA so that they can submit their talent for those projects. Formerly the television performers union American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), in 2012, merged with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) to create SAG-AFTRA.

Sample: A “one-off” piece of clothing from a designer that a model wears in fashion shows or at a photoshoot. Usually, it’s a one-of-a-kind piece that is used as the template for mass production of that garment.

Scout: A person who searches for potential new faces by combing the rosters of smaller agencies, meeting people on the street, or holding scouting events. Larger agencies either employ scouts or use reputable freelance scouts.

**Scam Warning: Unfortunately, many modeling scams involve people or even companies claiming to be scouts for large modeling agencies. If a scout approaches you, be sure to ask for ID and then follow up by doing research on the person and contacting the agency they claim to be representing directly. If you are dealing with a legitimate scout – they won’t mind you doing so.

Self-tape: A video that casting directors request when an audition is done through a digital casting rather than auditioning in person. The talent (model/actor) must record their audition video on their own and submit it to their agent or the client. It usually starts with saying your "slate" (see below for definition) followed by a couple of lines or other instructions they want you to act out.

Senior Model: A model in his/her 50s, 60s, or older

Set: The place where the photographs, film, or commercial are being shot. It may be in a studio or out on location.

Show Card: Similar to a composite card, show cards are used during fashion show season.

Showroom: A display room for fashion designers to showcase their lines to clothing buyers using live models.

Showroom Model: A model that works in a clothing designer’s showroom, showing clothing to retail and department store buyers.

Slate: Essentially the introduction of yourself that you give at the beginning of your self-tape for an audition/casting call. In your slate video, you should always state your name and agency first, then provide other information that may be asked, such as your height, age, or location.

Stats/Statistics: The model’s specific sizes and measurements. A model’s stats are listed on their comp cards and agency website profile.

Tear-sheet: The actual printed page from a newspaper, magazine, or brochure that a model’s photographs are published in. The name comes from the idea of tearing the page from the magazine.

Test Shoot: A test shoot is a shoot that takes place to test the way a new model works the camera. It could also be a photoshoot that is set up for a photographer to “test out” a new piece of equipment or concept.

TFP (Time for Print/Trade for Photo/Time for Photo): A type of photoshoot where a model agrees to pose for a photographer in exchange for photos for their portfolio. This is an arrangement that is beneficial to both new models and new photographers who are looking to get more experience working and also build their portfolios.

Usage Fee: A fee that covers specific use of the images. That specific use could be the medium like print or packaging, or it could be the difference between regional and national usage and the ability to use the images for a certain length of time. Anything above and beyond the initial agreement means that the model would be paid more money for additional usage.

Voucher: This form details the hours worked on a job and is signed by both the model and the client at the end of the job. The model then turns it in to their agency, and the agency will then bill the client so that the model can get paid. Most agencies no longer use this form, but some clients still like to use them, so it is a good idea to keep some in your model bag just in case.


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