Child Modeling: from where to start & the realities

So you have a cute child.  So cute, strangers tell you that your kid should model. You are thinking about it.  But where to begin?  What is it like being a "Stage Mom"?  It is worth it?  Parents share where to start, what the casting experience is really like & the realities of child modeling.

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 In this article:

 

Agencies

About Agencies

About the Casting Experience & Modeling Life

 

Agencies:  

 Below are a list of Agencies recommended by parents who have tried the child modeling experience:

CESD
Youth Division
257 Park Ave. South  NY, NY
(212) 477-6622                                                  

Abrams Artists Agency
275 7th Ave., 26th floor NY, NY 10001                                                                                    
(646) 486-4600            

Generation
20 West 20th St., #1008 NY, NY 10011 
(212) 727-7219     


Funnyface          
381 Park Avenue South suite 821                            
New York, NY 10016 
(212) 686-4343     

Teri B Talent & Model Management 
https://www.teribtalent.com/about   

New York Models (has a great roster, very beautiful children, and are quite selective)
212.625.4714

Zuri Kids - reputable agency, with offices in LA as well as NY
646.462.3422

          

Innovative (if your child is into acting)

212 253 6900 main

 

 

A few reactions about modeling agencies and dealing with them: 

"My daughter has been modeling for about 6 months now and is with an agency. I’d suggest pursuing an agency before worrying about the trust account and permit (you will need one of those but it only lasts for a year so no sense in getting one before you need it). If you want to go ahead and start putting the papers together anyway, google “New York child performer work permit” and that should take you to the right place.

In terms of agencies, the most important thing is that the agency should not require ANY money from you. And for a baby they should not be pushing any professional pictures. You don’t need pro pics for submitting to the agency—just cell phone pics of the baby looking at the camera are fine. They should be the only one in the photos, and nothing should be on their face. No hats, etc. Each agency’s website will contain submission instructions."

“I think it depends on the agency. Ford is more selective. Abrams Artists and Funny Face Today are less selective. The reps at Funny Face and Ford are very nice. Abrams is a bit "sitcom" drama-like. There's also Product Model Management which has a great rep as well.”

“The only place I know about called Wilhemina models which supposedly is a very reputable company. But you send in pictures and then they will contact you if they want to use your son... so I think it's sort of a crap shoot.”

“My sister-in-law used Abrams and really liked them. Got my niece to a few national auditions (Volkswagon, Gap, etc). Just a word of warning, it is truly a time sucker. great hobby if you only have 1 kid and no full time job, otherwise, very hard to manage. Lots of days waiting around and hoping your kid stays in the same good mood he/she was when you got them there. Good luck to you all.”

“My daughter did Voiceover work through Abrams Artists for a few years when she was younger. It was fun and paid well and eventually she didn't want to do it anymore. When my son was born they begged me to get into it with him because they're always looking for newborns. They hoped I would do it right out of the hospital. I didn't. He did do a photo layout for KMart when he was a baby. They literally taped him to the floor. We went on a few go-sees but there is very little money in photo shoots and the time required - shlepping around the city - waiting in waiting rooms too small for all of the strollers, cattle calls... it's just not worth it.”

 

About the Modeling Life and the Casting Experience: 

 

Some ‘harsh realities’ from an industry insider:

“I work in advertising and work with models of all ages. If you are thinking about getting into this, I would feel remiss if I didn't let you know about some of the albeit harsh realities of getting your child into modeling.

-You need to be present with your child at all times or have legal guardian that you allow to interpret and sign legally binding paperwork/ contracts.

- You and your child need to be at the beckon call of an agent so they can send you on a casting call. Sometimes you will only have a few hours or day's notice.

- On a casting call you can wait for hours to be photographed and once photographed you could be told on the spot that your kid is not right for whatever reason.

-Your child can be called in for several rounds of callbacks and still not be ultimately chosen by the client

-Your child may make to the shoot only to find out that they are shooting 5 other kids for the same role and are going to choose the best picture from that.

- You may never end up seeing the photographs that are taken of your child.

- Just because your child is cute in person does not mean they will photograph well.

-Just because your child is cute is does not mean that your child will still be just as cute when surrounded by lights and crew of people.

-Even though your child is cute does not mean someone else's child might be cuter or might just work better for the campaign idea.

-Casting agents, clients, photographers will throw you away as quickly as they shower you with compliments

-Usage rights for photography of babies and toddlers is often a small flat fee ($250- $3500) for unlimited rights [for a particular client] in perpetuity.

- Laws for photographing children are different from state to state know your rights and requirements as a parent.

- Photographers often will ask to not have a parent in the room while the child is being photographed because it distracts the child.

-You and your child need to have a thick skin and take rejection well.

- Your child needs to be able to nap outside of your home easily because often shooting schedules change and you may need to hang around a set with your child during usual naptime.” (rates are from 2011)

 

And from another parent about why modeling/ entertainment industry was not for them:

 

“Many years ago my now 19 yr old did voiceovers ... not the same as photo modeling -- but I got pregnant with my son when my daughter was 8 and they couldn't wait to get hold of him ... They even asked if I would consider putting him to work straight out of the hospital. Apparently there is a need for "newborns" on screen. I said no. Eventually he did a print ad for Kmart – which was fun because it was a last minute thing - there was no audition - just show up and they took the pix ...

I did take him out on a couple of calls -- but soon discovered it was not for us... Waiting in large rooms w/lots of kids w/my daughter was one thing - but with babies and their strollers and all their stuff was another ... not to mention - missed naps -- having to be photo ready when baby is just waking -- crying -- and the pay sucks.

If I had to guess - it's probably worse now.

We worked w/Abrams Artists and they were terrific.”

 

Waiting times can be long:

 

“I have a friend that is a photographer that does a lot of children's books. He has asked me a few times if I was interested in bringing our 4 year in. One of the main reasons is her mild manner temper. He did say it gets crazy and the wait times can be pretty long.
Because of this I have decided to not bother. He sure did not paint a pretty picture of it.”

 

Sometimes a cute kid might not be so charming in front of the camera:

 

“We met a few when our twins were little and I was home with them. Some took themselves way too seriously and you literally had to call them if you were going to be unavailable for even a day. What a joke! There was one agency i really liked, funny face, because they would call you for a casting, and if you could make it, great. If not, no big deal. That was more my speed. We went on a handful of castings, and we actually did get booked for several jobs. In the end, my son was a ham in front of the camera and loved it but my daughter would cry in front of the camera. She hated it. The pay was not even worth the effort, and in the end, it just became too much of a hassle getting into the city with baby twins. I don't even know how I did it that many times! i do have a few cute clippings for the baby books though.”

“We had a similar experience when our son was an infant. We had some connections and signed him up with an agency...here are some of the basics of what I learned.

All babies are cute - what REALLY matters is the baby's disposition, how well do they do when handed over to a complete stranger with mom/dad standing off to the side possibly out of sight

Is it worth your time - most go sees are in Manhattan or NJ where you'll be put in a holding room with loads of other moms and babies, wait for up to an hour to have some ad types look at your baby, take some reel and say we'll let you know.

After which if you get the booking, aside from the travel time, it's usually a 3-4 hour call with lots of standing around.

Finally - if your child books - it generally pays $50/100 per hour then there's 15%  to the manager who gets you the job and 20% commission to the agency. However, the manager and agent don't get any money from you unless your child books, so you should never pay anybody any money ever for representation.

Editorials and magazines covers pay the least and pharmaceutical national print pays the most...so you also need to be careful of what product you're comfortable having your baby represent.

Ultimately I found it wasn't really worth my time. It was nice to get some money...but I felt it was more important to get him on a regular sleep schedule, go to the park and mostly not spend my time sitting around waiting rooms with a squirmy infant., with other moms who seemed to maybe be trying to live out some of their dreams (sorry if I sound jaded, I spent a lot of time working in casting). If it's something he wants to pursue when he has an opinion on the matter, we can revisit. It is fun to try out though and even more fun to see your baby's face in print.”

 

Competition is tough:

 

“When my son was an infant I took him to a modeling shoot in the neighborhood (like all the parents in PS). I then got an email from the photographer a few weeks later inviting me to another shoot because she thought my son had potential. I thought it might be fun but it was kind of a nightmare. I had to lug him to photo shoots in obscure NY locations (near Lincoln Tunnel, etc) and then wait on line with 200 other people to get his photo taken and then never hear from them again. I decided it wasn't worth my time. I suppose if you can get a legitimate agent they might have better in but it seemed really competitive.

I used to work at a large ad agency, including a couple of baby-oriented accounts. This is an extremely hard way to make money because you have to attend so many casting calls with dozens of babies that are also exceptionally cute.
Babies are hard to cast based on photos since they change so quickly, so the photographer and client will want to see her in person. You don't get paid for this extremely time-consuming effort, so can easily blow 1/2 day per time and you may only get called back 1 out of 10, 20 or 30 times, or never. The money is pretty good for a print ad, but generally low for editorial or catalog. TV ads pay very well, but extremely hard to get. Companies typically bring in several babies (4-6) for each shot they need since they don't want to count on any baby being able to perform at any given moment. All will get a session fee, but only the baby that is used on camera will get additional fees.

The photographer will keep "working" your baby until she starts to cry. You may find this upsetting!

 

One mother says to give it a try or you could regret it:

 

“Try the major agencies...ex. Ford, Wilhelmina, etc. websites. They often hold open calls in NYC. I took my son on a whim last year and he got called back with Ford agency (although we didn't sign a contract at the time...he was in Pre-K and it would have involved taking him out of school regularly for "go-sees" and shoots, which I didn't feel comfortable with)...starting school age, they schedule after school hours. Apparently you have to take them to a lot of interviews in hopes of getting a job...but if you do, great!  Also, they tend to look for kids that fit within certain sizes (ex. 3T, 5T, 8 etc.) so if they don't fall within a certain size, they may not be called at the time.  Anyway, I'm right with you with the whole modeling thing...could never imagine myself as a stage mom...part of why I was scared off by the whole thing...but, you never know, if others are seeing something spectacular in your baby, quite likely an agency will! I'm still kicking myself for not signing him up when I had the chance...
Check their websites...last year the open call for Ford was in March or April I believe... and good luck!!”

 

“I just went through this with my eight year old so I have a bit of info. A woman approached my husband on the playground when he was out with our kids and asked him to bring our daughter into the JCrew office to meet the casting people there. She ended up doing a shoot for them and is now the splash photo on the website when you click on "girls." She wanted to try it and I didn't object but I'm very glad that she had a blast but said she didn't want to do it again because she had to miss school for it and didn't want to miss any more. But most of the big agencies (Ford, Wilhemina etc.) have child and baby modeling divisions. There are also some agencies geared particularly toward children. One which came particularly highly recommended was Generation. The woman who runs it, Patti, is very good and also a warm and reasonable person. You should just take a photo or two of your baby and email it to the children's department of the agencies you're interested in and see if they respond. You can also call them and get some guidelines, but they'll probably want to see pictures before they meet with you."

 

You could have a few fun memories/ photos out of it:

 

"“I ultimately didn’t want my life and his to be about being available for auditions at any time and place and to worry about him always looking camera ready. But we had a few fun moments to add to his baby memories!”

 

And a word of caution about "talent" marketors:

 

“My good friend who lives in Boston and her tween daughter were approached in a mall by a scout.
The scout told them her daughter would be highly sought after for commercials, etc. Their service costs about $1500 to have a professional photoshoot and a profile created on their Internet database, where she is supposedly marketed for opportunities. Supposedly, around 200 talent agents, casting directors, and talent management companies work with them. Any actual fees from jobs would be split between herself and the talent agency that contacts her as the talent marketing company itself is not an agency themselves.

I dont know how the field works but it sounds fishy to me. If you are interested in modeling, etc. don't you just go straight to an agency? I am suspicious that as this company has no material benefit if her kid gets any jobs- all they really want is for her to pay them $1500 bucks for a photo shoot...I would appreciate any insight. I would hate to see my friend get swindled!”

Response to the above story:

“Please advise your friend NOT to move forward with this "talent" marketer. It is a way to get your friends money for nothing. My husband is a professional fashion photographer and I'm an art director. We have both worked within the industry for many years and know for a fact that this is not how it works. I really hate hearing people get scammed especially when it comes to children.

You're also correct in saying if her child wants to get into modeling she will only need to deal with an agent who would typically receive 20% not half. There is no need to pay or sign with a "talent marketing company".

 

These are famous, but no longer in existence.                                                      

Wilhelmina Kids
300 Park Avenue South NY, NY 10010  
(212) 473-1253

Product
240 West 35th St, #1001 NY, NY 10011 
(212) 563-6444                                

Ford Models 
Children's Division 
142 Greene Street   
NY, NY 10012
(212) 219-6150