top of page

Modeling Industry Terms

Even if you’ve been in the modeling industry for a while, some of the lingo that industry insiders use can get confusing. Don’t worry, I’ve got you! See the list below of commonly used terms and phrases used in the modeling industry.

Advance: When a modeling agency covers the cost for things on your behalf such as photo shoots, comp cards, model apartment, est. they are essentially “advancing” the model the money. The model is ultimately responsible for these costs, and the agency will deduct it from his/her earnings as they start booking jobs.

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

Art Director: The person responsible for creating the look of an ad, editorial or other visual presentation. Can be an independent contractor or employed by an advertising agency, a magazine, or photographer. They are usually on set during a shoot to ensure the vision gets executed as planned.

Age Category/Age Range: The age range in which a modeling agency intends to market you is your age category, usually between 5 – 7 years over and under the models actual age. This range will obviously vary based upon the model’s look.

Agency: A company that represents models and/or actors and finds them work in their respective markets. (See: Casting Agency and Modeling Agency)

Agent: A person who works at an agency and actively pursues work for the model/actor and receives a commission for each booking he/she sets up. Generally, models don’t work directly with agents, they sign with modeling agencies and are managed by a booking agent. (See also: Booking Agent)

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

Beauty Shot: A headshot with excellent, clean makeup and a very simple hairstyle is labeled a beauty shot. It is a common image in a modeling portfolio, and is also often used to showcase makeup looks, jewelry, and beauty products.

Billing Form: 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 into her agency and the agency will then bill the client so that the model can get paid. Clients don’t pay agency models directly. Payment is made to the model’s agency and after the agency deducts their commission, they cut a check to the model for the remaining balance. (Also see: Voucher)

Board: Modeling agencies usually have different categories of models, such as Runway, a New Faces, a Teens, a Men, etc. Each of these groups will also have their own booking agents. This term originated from the shelves that display the represented model’s comp cards. Different parts of the wall represented the different categories (boards). 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, but will still sometimes refer to the webpages displaying models as “boards”.

Book: A modeling portfolio is the collection of 10-20 photographs that show the model’s range and ability. These photographs are displayed on the agencies website and are submitted to clients to procure work for the model. Models should also take them to casting calls in case the client they are casting for wants to see their images. (Also See: Portfolio)

Booking: Any type of modeling job, paid or in trade is referred to as a booking. (i.e.: “I have a booking next Wednesday to shoot a campaign.” 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. A booker’s responsibilities include communicating with clients regarding which models will best suit their needs and then 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 that is made by a modeling agency to the client for the agency’s services (booking models) is a booking fee. Most agencies charge a 20% booking fee to the client and then take 20% from the model. Example- If the model’s rate is $100, the modeling agency then charges the client a total of $120.00. The modeling agency earns a total of $40.00 for the booking after the also take 20% 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. When you have notified your booking agent that you will be on vacation, you are “booked out” for that time. This prevents a model being booked for a job they’re unable to do.

Buyout: A one-time payment issued to the model for use of his/her photographs for a specific time 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 fee.

Call Back: A second audition or meeting with the client. This is generally used to help the client to narrow down their choices by having the people they liked come back to be seen again.

Call Sheet: The call sheet includes all the details about times, location, and how you should prepare for that particular booking. Preparation details may include what you should wear or what outfits you should bring to set, how you should prepare your face (arriving bare faced or with light makeup), how you should do your hair, 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 and be ready to work. A good rule of thumb is to prepare your model bag the night before the job and arrive at least 15 minutes early.

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 the same advertiser.

Casting: The process of selecting model(s) for the specific job. Clients will give a brief to the 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 make recommendations to the client based on their available roster of models. Clients are then given the option of making a selection based on the digital submissions or comp cards, or scheduling a casting call so that they can meet the models in person before making a selection.

Casting Call: Essentially an in-person job interview for models. A closed casting call is one where the talent has been pre-selected by the agency or the client and invited to attend. An open casting call is one that is broadcast to numerous modeling agencies and/or the general public and are 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 Detail Sheet: Contains all the important information about the casting; date, times, client, directions and any preparation notes. This is what you will usually get via email from your agent/booker.

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 the model does their runway walk to showcase clothing during a fashion show. (Also See: Runway)

Charge-back: If a model doesn’t show up for a booking, the client can charge their agency for the loss it incurred since the photographers, makeup artists, and stylists all still got paid for showing up to work. These charges an also be incurred if the model damages clothing or something on set. The dollar amount can be large and the agency will charge them back to you.

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.

Collection: A group of coordinated clothing looks from a fashion designer that is being shown or photographed.

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

Commercial Print 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: A commission is your agency’s fee for getting you work and how the agency makes its 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 rarely used 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 posts online after a shoot so that the model and/or their agency can review them to select which ones should appear in the model’s portfolio.

Creative Director: The person that oversees the overall creative direction of the project is called the creative director. This person is hired by the client and usually has final say over all decisions including the selection of the models.

Day Rate: The models pay rate for a full 8-hour day of work. This is the fee that the agency quotes and charges to the client before taking their 20% commission.

Demonstrator: A model that demonstrates products at trade shows, expos, and stores.

Digitals: A more modern term for “polaroid’s”. Polaroids were frequently used for castings and go-sees to take a photo of each model and then attach it to the model’s resume or comp card. Also, fashion modeling agencies would shoot Polaroids of new models at open calls or interviews. The term is still used today to represent the “natural look” snapshots taken with digital cameras for the same purposes. When digitals are requested, models should have on very little makeup and naturally styled hair. (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 just for go-see’s or casting calls.

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

Editorial: Images that are created to illustrate a story in a magazine are considered editorial in nature. Applied to modeling, this term refers to images that are more edgy and creative than the commercial advertising images.


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

2. A contract that ensures a model will work only for a given client. Ex: a designer may sign a model exclusively so that he/she can only appear wearing their product.

3. 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 is referred to as an extra. Extras are paid very little and rarely have speaking parts. The word background is also used to refer to an extra or extras.

Fashion Model: Models that meet very specific height and body weight requirements as requested by fashion designers. Fashion models are generally slim, with long legs and well-defined features. 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 upon 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 where the model tries on clothing and shoes before a fashion show or photo shoot 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 scheduled by an agency for a model to meet with a client. Sometimes a go-see would involves being seen by someone who is casting for a photoshoot, in other cases a go see is simply a method of introduction to people who routinely hire models in the hopes that they will remember you the next time they are hiring for a shoot or a show. In both instances, the model is expected to take his/her comp card and portfolio and dress appropriately.

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

Hold: If a client is considering hiring you for a project and they want you to keep time available for them, they can request that your agency put you “on hold”. 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. This means that clients do not withhold payroll taxes, pay workers compensation insurance, or provide any benefits.

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

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

Markets: These are areas that have a major media and advertising presence. A byproduct is that there is more modeling work available, which makes it easier to launch a career and earn money professionally. In the United States, the top media markets are New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami and Dallas.

Modeling Agency: A company that represents models and finds them work. Modeling agencies operate under the same laws as traditional employment agencies and make their money by taking a commission from the work that they secure from the model and also by charging the client a booking fee.

Model Bag: A bag that every model should have when on a job that includes the basic necessities. See this post and this post for more details on what a model bad should contain.

Model Release: A legal document that gives the photographer and/or client the rights to use the photographs taken during a shoot. The modeling release can be signed by the model, or by the agency. In many cases, when a model “signs with an agency” he/she authorizes the agency to review and sign all releases on his/her behalf. See this post for more information about model releases.

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 markets or foreign markets. Traditionally, the Mother Agency is responsible for developing the model’s skills and providing ongoing career advice to the model, regardless of what market they wind up working in. Mother agents make their money by taking a small percentage – usually 5% – of the models earnings for the duration of the exclusive contract.

New Faces: A term that usually applies to a new model whose portfolio is still in development. 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.

Nude Model: A model that is comfortable with the idea and willing to pose without clothes. Nude modeling can range from artistic fine art type images to glamour nude images similar to the old Playboy style nudes. Nude modeling can include erotic or sexually oriented images, depending on a model’s comfort level.

Parts Model: Also referred to as a “Specialty Model”, a parts model is hired for body parts such as legs, feet, hands, and other parts. Shoe models are also a part of this group.

Petite Model: In the fashion world, a petite model is generally 5’7” or less and wears a size 6 or less dress. In commercial modeling the term simply refers to the general size of the model.

Plus Size: In fashion terms, a plus-sized model wears a dress size from 10 to 20 with the average plus-sized model being a size 12.

Polaroid: A type of camera that used a film that provided a finished photograph approximately 60 seconds after taking the photo. Polaroids were frequently used for castings and go-sees to take a photo of each model and then attach it to the model’s resume or comp card. Also, fashion modeling agencies would shoot Polaroids of new models at open calls or interviews. The term is still used today to represent the “natural look” snapshots taken with digital cameras for the same purposes. (Also See: Digitals)

Portfolio: A modeling portfolio is the collection of 10-20 photographs that show the model’s range and ability. These photographs are displayed on the agencies website and are submitted to clients to procure work for the model. Models should also take them to casting calls in case the client they are casting for wants to see their images. (Also See: Book)

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

Resume/CV: A short and concise 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)

Sample: A “one-off” piece of clothing from a designer that a model wears in fashion shows or at a photo shoot.

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 contact 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 many casting directors refer to 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 lines or other instructions they want you to act out. They may give a few lines to say or just want you to show your profiles (turn to the right, then back towards the front, and then to the left, so that the camera can see your whole face) and give a couple different facial expressions without speaking.

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

Set: In a studio or on location, a set is the place where the photographs, film, or commercial are being shot.

Show Card: Similar to a composite card, show cards are created by the larger fashion agencies to showcase their models as fashion show seasons approach.

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: A "slate" is 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. A female model will list her height, waist in inches, hips in inches, bust in inches, cup size, dress size, & shoe size. A male model lists his height in inches, chest in inches, waist in inches, inseam in inches, shirt size, collar size, sleeve length, suit size, shoe size, hair color, and eye color.

Tearsheet: 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. Appearing on a company’s website does not count as a tearsheet.

Testing: A photo shoot that is done for either the photographer’s portfolio or the model portfolio as a trade. In major fashion markets it is commonplace for top-notch photographers to be paid to test with new models to boost the quality of their portfolios. The photographers will agree to do the test at a reduced rate compared to their regular fees if they have a standing relationship with the model’s agency or if they feel that the model can add something to their portfolio.

Test Shoot: A test shoot is a shoot that takes place because a photographer wants to “test out” a new piece of equipment. In this situation no money would exchange hands between the photographer, model or agency. In recent years, test shoots have given way to TFP and Testing.

TFP (Time for Print): A phrase that became popular on amateur modeling websites is when a model agrees to pose for a photographer in exchange for prints 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 to build out their portfolios.

Usage Fee/Rate: Depending on the budget and scope of the job, models are sometimes paid for two different things. The first is their actual working time, which is covered by their “rate”. The second is a usage rate, which is 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 into her agency and the agency will then bill the client so that the model can get paid. Clients don’t pay agency models directly. Payment is made to the model’s agency and after the agency deducts their commission, they cut a check to the model for the remaining balance. (Also See: Billing Form)


#modelingindustry #modelingterms #modelingblog #model #modeltips #modeling101 #modelingagent #castingcall #runway #fashion #modelingportfolio #compcards #modelblog #tearsheets #plussizemodel #fashionmodel #editorialmodel #commercialmodel #motheragent #motheragency


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page