Emma Catherine Frank: Tips to becoming a model
I recently interviewed Emma about her experiences modeling. She gives tips to becoming a model as well as gives her background and future goals.
You can see more of Emma on her Instagram: @emmacatherinefrank
How did you get into modeling?
I always had an affinity for it as a child because it suits my personality. I would put on shows for my parents and friends. When I was in middle school, I was interested in theatre. My parents weren’t supportive when I wanted to pursue acting, so I picked up modeling when I came to NC State. I had a modeling coach from College of Textiles who set me up with test shoots and boutique advertising. It was a way for me to be creative without compromising my studies in Biology. Eventually, I realized that art and fashion were disciplines that I wanted to have careers in.
What do you think people’s biggest misconception about modeling is?
I don’t think most people realize the extent at which the models exert themselves. It would be a massive understatement to say that it’s exhausting. You don’t just show up and get pampered; models work long hours without breaks. When I traveled to Tokyo, I got off a 14-hour flight and went to 12 castings. Secondly, I’ve never understood the “models are stupid and pretty” stereotype. I’ve met seemingly ignorant models and I’ve met some with multiple degrees. That being said, successful models are usually well traveled and tenacious. You have to be.
What advice would you give someone interested in modeling?
First, I always try to let people know what they’re getting into; everyone has preconceptions that they can do x, y, and z to get noticed. There is no recipe for it. It is a system of making money that cycles in and out of different patterns. You can go into it thinking you want to change that, but the clients are who control who gets picked and they don’t even have %100 control of who works for the job; the buyers do.
What should models look for when finding a photographer to work with?
If you’re starting out, its best to go through an agency to get all test shoots. They know the best photographers in the area. You may think you know what looks good when you research them online, but being overly sexy isn’t good for signing with a larger agency. I look for someone who has experience with clients and always look at their portfolio before I contact them. Make connections between what clients the photographer shoots for and what models he uses. Are they agency represented? Does he/she have references? What is their aesthetic?
Can you talk about an enjoyable photo shoot you were on? What made it enjoyable?
I think it’s the most enjoyable when the creative team has a plan. When the makeup artist, stylist, model, and photographer only have to focus on their own jobs, they’re the happiest. On the other hand, when you meet creatives that become your friends, there’s nothing better. My favorite shoot was actually one time my best friend took photos of me because it meant something bigger to both of us. We were both on the same page with the vision.
Have you had any photo shoots not go well? What happened? Where you able to avoid this situation in the future?
I think the worst shoots I’ve had were either because I didn’t like the photographer or it was just a long day. You can’t really get around the long days. Bring snacks and always carry a big purse with shoes, food, and water. Other than that, there will be creepy photographers. In a business where you have to impress people on a daily basis, it’s hard to avoid getting taken advantage of. That’s why it’s best to have an agency, so that you’re only working with approved photographers. There are tons of hobbyists who just want to shoot naked models. Otherwise, you can bring someone for a test shoot (as long as it’s not your boyfriend, that’s SUPER unprofessional). If they only have sexy photos in their portfolio, that’s a red flag. If you aren’t sure what is trashy, get a second opinion. If you don’t feel comfortable, leave.
What are your goals and where do you see yourself going in modeling and what steps are you taking to try and reach those goals?
My main goal is to make money doing this. Secondly, I’m studying art/design and being around such talented creative people is helpful. At this point, I am moving to NYC with an agency. The next step for me is to build my portfolio with good clientele that the agency and I believed to be suited to my particular look. After that, the goal is to get either a cover or large campaign job. What I’m doing in order to accomplish that is 1. Staying healthy, working out 2. Flying to NY for tests 3. Applying to masters programs in NY and graduating from my degree program in NC.
Can you explain the process you went through to become with an agency/agencies? What the agency does for you and the expectations the agencies have of you?
My best advice would be to find local agencies that do mostly commercial (tv, lifestyle, department store) type casting. If they say no, try another city. Submit photos online, but always show up in person if it’s possible. Typically, these agencies have relationships with bigger agencies. A small agency will get you paid jobs about once a week, usually without a casting. A big one will send you on 8-20 castings per day, depending on the day. They will also control your branding and give you advice. If they want you to change your hair, you change it. It’s in the contract that you do what they say as far as following their suggestions. They also can control what you put on social media. They will not go to jobs with you. Most bookers have hundreds of models to keep track of. The agency expects you to make all appointments they give you, whether it is a casting or job. In some cities, like Shanghai and Tokyo, they will drive you around.
How important is your portfolio and digitals? What type of shots do you think models should have in their portfolios to be successful?
Simple. That’s it. Find an experienced photographer (in FASHION) to get shots of you in natural lighting with no makeup and basic black clothing. They are supposed to show what you truly look like in order to attract a larger agency. Even if a smaller agency is not interested in you, politely email them to give you a list of good photographers. I get direct messages on Instagram asking me for contacts and I try to help, but remember, many models won’t answer. It will cost money, but don’t spend more than $450 on shots to get started on. Don’t pay for a stylist, but hair/makeup can be helpful. Sometimes, you can find someone to do a trade for free with you. Digitals or polaroids are extremely important and surprisingly hard to do if you don’t have experience. I would suggest getting a professional to take them on a test shoot (no makeup, jeans, black tank top, bikini, on your phone or they can use their camera, but they cannot be retouched). Google model comp cards to see what angles you need. If you sign with an agency, the first thing they will do is take digitals.