Modeling in Seattle (Updated August 2014)

by Leo on August 24, 2014

Hannah Larson at TCM Models

For some reason I have been receiving a lot of modeling inquiries lately from people who are aspiring to become one.  Instead of replying to it all, let me list the proper steps of approaching modeling in our city.  I am not a modeling agency, even though I work with a lot of them, so contacting me really does not accomplish much.  This post applies to real-world, commercial modeling in Seattle, not for amateurs or those who only want to do it for fun.  Remember, modeling is a business.

Here are the steps:

  1. You should go to one of the three major modeling agencies in Seattle’s websites to see when their open-calls are and what requirements you need to meet (height, measurements etc.).  The three agencies are TCM, SMG and Heffner.
  2. Open-calls are castings open to public, you do not need to make an appointment to go nor do you need connections.
  3. You only need to bring two photos: One “headshot” and one “full-body” photo. Snapshots will do.
  4. You do not need to have professionally taken photographs to get signed if you meet the requirements and have the specific looks that the agencies are looking for.
  5. You definitely do not need to go to any modeling school.
  6. Once, and if, you are signed, your agency will give you a list of photographers whom they have already vetted to get photos taken.  It is not free, no one on the list needs to shoot for their portfolios.  Any business would require some investment, your book/portfolio is your investment.  In the Seattle area, a test costs about $400-600, depending on the experience and caliber of the photographer.  A test should never cost over $2,000, that’s absurd and a sign of a portfolio mill, and you should just walk away (repeat from Step 1).
  7. Once you have your book, your agent will create your composite cards (big business cards with your photos on it), put you on their websites etc, both of which you generally have to pay for.  You do not pay to get signed, you only pay for the promotional materials so they can do their jobs on your behalf.  That said, if you are good at graphic design, you can also create and print your own compcards, saving you even more money. After that, with some luck, you will attend some castings, and you may get work as a commercial/fashion model.

One note on rejection:

If the agencies reject you, because of your height, measurements or “looks” (that’s all they look for initially), do not despair. It does not make you any less of a person or any less beautiful. It only means that maybe commercial modeling is not for you. A huge majority of the commercial models only last a few years, and will go to college and have a wonderful life as contributing members of society. For example, Hannah shown above goes to college and will be a doctor soon. A few smart models are now a professor at UW, a biochemist doing thyroid research, a lawyer, a cancer researcher, a teacher, a marketer, professional artists, entrepreneurs and software developers.

You have a lot of choices.

There are also many parts of you, your look is only one of the many parts, but it is also the only part that you cannot change.

You can’t change how you look (I am short for a guy, too!), but you can change what you learn. If you are rejected, smile at yourself, and move on to better things. If you want career/life mentorship, you can contact me via my consulting company.

I hope this is helpful for someone out there.  Best wishes to your adventure, and may be I will see you at a job or test soon.


LOUIE 2013 Spring/Summer Campaign

by Leo on November 18, 2012

Supporting a beautifully designed “tween” line from Seattle. LOUIE received much critical acclaim at the Playtime Tradeshow in New York. You should be seeing them at the stores next year.

Design by Ann Marie Louie and Liesl Getcheco.

Makeup/hair by Liesl Getcheco.

Models: Lauren @ SMG and Ana.


9 Steps to a Better Portfolio – Guest Blog by Christopher Natsuume – Co-Founder of BoomZap

December 21, 2011

Tweet Christopher and I were classmates at the UW Foster Business School.  He has since founded one of the most successful casual game companies in the world Boomzap.  I am very glad that he agreed to write this blog, which is as applicable to photographers as it is to any visual creatives. 9 Steps to […]

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Jesica Milton F/W 2011 in 180 Mag

August 16, 2011

Tweet A new editorial featuring one of Seattle’s most promising designers Jesica Milton‘s 2011 F/W collection is now showing in 180 Mag’s Summer Edition. Jesica was the winner of Seattle Magazine’s Seamless in Seattle competition, and one of the best graduates of the New York Fashion Academy in Seattle.  Check out this beautiful collection!

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Congratulations to Jennifer Cole

June 23, 2011

Tweet A big congratulations to Seattle’s own Jennifer Cole, for winning the 2011 PBA Beacon Award!  We created these entries a few months ago and I had a wonderful time working with Jennifer.  She is incredibly talented, driven, humble and sweet.  I love the energy we had and I am sure there will be many […]

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June 7, 2011

Tweet A slightly sexier editorial showing at Photographer&Muse.  “Bound”.  NSFW. Click on the image to see full-screen slideshows.  Hope you enjoy it. Model was Hattie Watson.

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Quietly Brilliant

May 19, 2011

Tweet “Quietly Brilliant”.  I am talking about Derek Andrew Inc., with their two prominent lines in major high-end outlets. Featuring Aimee from ANTM Season 10 and her first editorial in over a year, and as angelic as ever. Styled by Tanya Min Jee using CORSON and Twisted Heart from Derek Andrew.  Makeup & hair by […]

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Photography book list for beginners

April 18, 2011

Tweet Over the past years I have been asked many times what books I would recommend for aspiring photographers to learn the craft.  Instead of repeating it for every one individually, I have compiled the list here. Not everything in life can be learned by doing.  Sometimes, a bit of reading can save you countless […]

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Kurv Magazine Issue 23

April 2, 2011

Tweet CC Fontana photographed by Wolf189 in Kurv Magazine.  Retouched by me. Click to see larger slideshow.

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In response to Japan’s earthquake

March 14, 2011
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