Share This

Modeling 101 – Lingo You Need to Know

The Model’s Dictionary

With COVID-19 still looming, many photo studios remain dark and no one is prowling the catwalks. What is an aspiring model to do?

Stay healthy, eat right, exercise, and educate yourself! Learn everything you can about the business so you are ready to take action once the industry is buzzing again. Expectations of instant gratification will get you nowhere these days. Select the “Modeling” category on my blog and read all the posts (keep arrowing back for more). For bonus points, read all of the Modeling Articles on my site.

Here is a cheat sheet of terms every model needs to know…

Agency – The middle man between the client and the model. They take a percent of what the model makes for each booking (usually 20%). A legitimate agency will not charge anything when they sign you; they only make money if you work.
(Best Modeling Agencies in NYC for Women) (Top Kid Model Agencies in NYC)
(Modeling Agency Appointment: What to Expect and When to Beware)

Book – The more common term for “portfolio.”

Booking – A confirmed modeling job.

Call-Time – The time the model needs to arrive at the job. Never be late. If you hold up a shoot, it can cost a client thousands of dollars (studio rental, crew, equipment rental, the photographer and other models’ time).

Casting – An “audition” for a specific job. Usually a model isn’t requested to do anything beyond show their portfolio, possibly have some digital photos taken, and occasionally try on clothing. If it’s a runway casting, models will walk for the client. For commercials, models will be put on camera, sometimes with dialogue, or they may just slate their name and agency and show their profiles or do a 360-degree turn.
(The Casting Couch: How Big a Role Does It Play in the Modeling World)

Catalog – This term can refer to a job, model, or market. A catalog job is a shoot for a store’s catalog, e.g. JCPenney. A catalog model usually has conventional American-as-apple-pie good looks, unlike the more unusual creatures populating high-fashion magazine spreads and catwalks. A catalog market is a city that has more catalog-type clients than editorial/high-fashion clients. Miami, Dallas, and Munich are examples of catalog markets.

Cattle-Call – A casting characterized by masses of models. Lists can go beyond 200 and involve hours of waiting.

Chart – A model’s work calendar on which an agent types in a model’s upcoming options, bookings, and any days she may have “booked out” for personal reasons or vacation. With the advent of model-agency software, charts became computerized. In the 90s, they used to hang from a circular frame above the bookers’ table and the bookers would spin them around to find the chart they needed.

Comp Card – Common term for composite card. This is a model’s key selling tool—her business card—which usually features a color headshot on the front and several shots on the back. The agency mails out packages of comp cards to clients constantly and the model must always have comps to leave at castings and go-sees.

Digitals – Your agency will periodically take digital photos of you at the agency, which are no-nonsense snapshots of you: headshot, profiles, and non-posey full-lengths so clients can see what you look like, sans makeup and elaborate styling.

profile of platinum haired model in black tank top

Modeling Mentor Model of the Year Alexa Kissling – digital profile shot

Direct Booking – A job in which an out-of-town model is booked by a client who usually pays for the model to come in from another market. The client books the model from a comp card or portfolio, without seeing the model in person (or the client may know him/her from a previous booking).

Editorial – As opposed to catalog, an editorial job is for a magazine and editorial models can be more edgy than pretty. Editorial work pays much less than catalog but is essential to building a strong book of tear sheets and getting the exposure needed to climb the supermodel ladder. Top editorial models usually do the top shows and vice versa; the top editors who book them are sitting in the front rows at the shows. Paris, Milan, and New York are editorial markets.

Go-See – An appointment to go and see a client or photographer. A new model or a model new to a market will do days of pavement-pounding go-sees. Many agents use “go-see” and “casting” interchangeably, but originally a go-see meant a model was making the rounds and seeing the clients so they knew him or her for future reference; a casting was for a specific job.

Mother Agent – Your first agency or the agency that guides your career and places you with agents in different markets. Your mother agent generally retains 10% of your earnings, while the agency where they place you gets the other 10%. So having a mother agents does not affect the model’s net profits, since the total agency cut remains 20%.
(The Ins and Outs of Agency Contracts)

Option – A client has put a hold (“first option”) on a model, and that client will be given first dibs on booking the model should a “second option” or booking come in from another client.

Request Casting – A casting in which the model has been specifically requested by the client.

Tear Sheet – Any page from a magazine or publication that the featured model can “tear” out and put in her book. Tear sheets, especially good ones from top magazines, are like gold. They prove a model is in demand, and, since people are sheep, that leads to more demand. A great tear sheet trumps good catalog cash.

Em Marie posing under Vogue logo

Modeling Mentor Model of the Year Em Marie has built a book of fabulous tear sheets while modeling in Asia over the past two years.

Test – A shoot that is done specifically to build a book—the model’s and/or the photographer’s—not for a job. New models need to test as much as possible. Experienced models will replace test shots with tear sheets, but most models—except the top echelon—will continue to do some testing throughout their careers to keep their books updated.

Voucher – This is the form, provided by your agency in your voucher book, that you and the client fill out at the end of each booking. One copy goes to the client, one to the agency (these days generally you can take a photo and email it to them at the end of the booking), and one for your records.

Blast from the Past: Check out My Favorite Modeling Articles from Tear Sheet magazine