Getting Started as a Model

I’ve been a freelance model, doing mainly nude and fetish work, for a few years now. I’ve had some success, enough that modeling is my full-time income. This article will, hopefully, help other models with similar interests be more successful.

Model: Ashley Graham; Photographer: T H Taylor

K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid

These are the basics…

Be on time

You have no idea how often this will get you complimented and rebooked. I pride myself on being on time or early. If you are going to be late, tell the producer or photographer as soon as you can.

This is forever

Those pictures you took with a pseudonym will be found by someone close to you. Bear that in mind whenever you shoot. Do you want to be portrayed like this? Are you OK with it if your mom finds them? I made sure everything I’ve done would not make me ashamed when my family found them… and they did find them.

Take pride in yourself

Get your roots done, go to the gym, and eat healthy. You’re selling a product and the product is you.

Networking sites

Be positive, be approachable, and be friendly. If you’re constantly bitching or posting negative things, trash-talking other models or photographers, your potential clients (photographers) may figure you’d be more trouble than you’re worth, and they may pass on you in favor of someone with a more positive attitude. If a model has a bad attitude on the job, they probably won’t get booked again.

Your reputation is all you have in this industry

This goes for everyone in the industry. If I hear from 4 people you are horrible to work with, I’ll pass on you—you should assume that others feel the same.

Stick to your guns

If you are asked to do something that is beyond the limits that you have set for yourself, it’s okay to say no. You should never let someone pressure you into going beyond your limits—that leads to regrets. If you’re doing things right, you should be proud of all the work you do. The best way to avoid this type of situation is clear communication—before the shoot happens. Make sure you understand what the photographer expects of you, and make sure that he or she is well aware of your limits. If someone starts pushing your limits, you need to politely remind them of what your limits are, and if they continue to push, it’s time to pack up your things and leave.

Model: Ashley Graham; Photographer: PXE

Starting a career as a model

I started modeling when I was 19. Before that I had acted my whole life. In 2008 I moved to DC, because I needed a creative outlet. I did not start out doing nude work. It took months of consideration to even think that I would ever model nude.

Finally, I gave in. However, my transition into nude modeling was different than most models. I did not want my first attempts to be with just anyone that was willing to pay me; I wanted to be sure that the resulting images were great, and something to be proud of. So, I scoured my area and found Mickle Design Werks and contacted him. We scheduled a shoot on an evening when Mosh was also scheduled to be there. I shot my first nudes while she was getting ready.  I can remember being terrified of her, because she was someone I looked up to.

One thing turned into another and now Mickle Design Werks is one of my closest friends in this industry. If I need advice, I call him. I think it was a good business move for me to shoot with him first. He created beautiful images of me that opened up doors to other awesome TF opportunities and paid work. Remember this: People will sometimes hire you based solely on your portfolio—and may be willing to pay more to a model with a quality portfolio, than a poorly done one that makes them think you care more about money than creating a beautiful image for them.

Fast forward to a year or so later, and I was able to quit my job as I was making more modeling than I was working. This may or may not happen to you, but if it does you have to make sure you calculate out how much you need to make per month to survive. I know I have slow months, as do other girls. When these months happen, what will you do? You still have rent and bills and food you need for survival. I can make enough in a weekend trip for that, but can you? This is a major thing one needs to think about before going full time. You should have enough money socked away for at least one month before considering quitting your job, two or three months worth would be even better.


It seems fun, right? I mean traveling models get to see all these cool places, right? That’s not true. For the most part, I shoot 4-12 hours a day, and every day I’m on the road. The only time I get off is in the evenings and it’s spent drinking wine with good friends I have met on the road. Some places all I see is a hotel room. I have overhead costs and I still need to make a profit.

Let’s see here (bear in mind, I rent cars and such because I can afford too): My most recent L.A. trip cost $400 for the flight and another $600 for a car for a week, so I need to make $1000 just to cover my costs, and that’s before I can make a profit. It seems simple and easy, but sometimes work falls through and things don’t turn out as planned. That’s okay, it happens, but make sure you can earn enough to make a profit. I often negotiate rates depending on the market, like upstate NY and such places. I don’t mind working more for a lower rate as long as I make a decent profit.

Cities like NYC, DC, San Francisco and Philly are great for public transportation, while some places you need a car, like L.A., TX, upstate NY, Milwaukee, Atlanta and FL. These places are spread out and photographers may or may not be willing to provide you with travel—ask them if they would mind giving you a ride;never assume they will do it. Assumptions are the worst thing you can do in this industry.

Model: Ashley Graham; Photographer: Paper Moon

Lose the ego

An ego is the worst thing you can have in this industry. You are no better, or no worse, then anyone else. Remember that! You are replaceable; there are twenty other models with similar looks and features. This means you need to be enjoyable to work with, so you get hired and re-hired. It’s simple, make people like you and you’ll work.

Be the best you can be

Practice your posing and facial expressions in a mirror and take note of what angles look the best.  Watch what you eat and go to the gym. Proper nutrition and exercise is as important as your ability to pose.

Don’t let those who insult you bring you down. Be proud of who you are. This industry can be harsh and can give you a weight complex or make you think you’re not good enough if you let it. Be your own cheerleading squad. If you’re considering plastic surgery, please consider it carefully and evaluate how much it would actually help your modeling career. And for many, getting your teeth fixed will do you much more good then getting breast implants, for example. You would not believe how much more I get booked now that I have an amazing smile.

Be strong

People who you thought loved you unconditionally will leave you. Being nude on the internet or in magazines is taboo by many people. Some will stay and some will go. I lost my ex-fiancé because I decided to pose nude. I lost my ex-boyfriend because he disapproved of bondage. It is what it is. If you are okay with what you’re doing, let them leave. You don’t need someone in your life that makes conditions on their love for you. My dad’s still here and my family is, even if they don’t approve of what I do, they leave me be. We talk about things other than work when I’m around. They still love me. That is what people should do. My boyfriend goes to shoots with me, has seen most of my content and knows what I do. I was upfront about it all and he told me the things he could not deal with me doing. He also said he just could not date someone who did it, but he would still be in my life. That’s pleasant to know.

This industry will eat you alive if you let it. The rumors are abundant, the talking behind the back is there, and sometimes it’s like high school all over again. Don’t listen to it. You do what you do and if people don’t like it, ignore them. Your limits will be pushed. It’s up to you to say no. There is nothing wrong with that. The producer or photographer may make you think there is something wrong, but they’re not saying that for your benefit, but for theirs. I started out doing glamour, moved to simple bondage and fetish, and then strenuous bondage, and am back doing glamour, and pretty fetish work. Everything I’ve done I did because I wanted to do it. I never cared about a paycheck, I did what made me happy and as long as I’m happy, that’s all that matters.

Ashley Graham

Ashley Graham

Ashley Graham is an internationally published fetish and glamour model. Her work has been featured on the websites of Holly Randall, Ken Marcus and Earl Miller. When not modeling or traveling, she is a full time student studying English. She has proceeded to broaden her career by learning the production side of video work. Follow her ramblings on her blog at

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