Getting the most from Model Mayhem casting calls

I frequently read posts in the Model Mayhem forums about photographers having difficulty finding models through their casting calls or models not finding good photographers from theirs. They usually complain that either they don’t get any responses or that the responses they do get are from people who aren’t qualified. Upon closer examination, it’s clear that the reason a casting call receives few if any responses is that the author was ineffective at conveying their point to their audience.

Photo: Shot by Adam Models: Miss Mariah & Madelon Jeanne

On the flip side of this coin, there are an equal number of discussions about people responding to casting calls that either never hear back or are never cast for any they respond to. As in the first set of circumstances, this usually boils down to poor communication.

In this article I’m going to create an anatomy for an effective casting call and break it down as to how to write it, what points you should hit when doing so and how to screen the best candidates of those who respond. For those of you responding to casting calls, I’m going to show you the most effective way to break through the piles of responses and get chosen above the rest.

How to create effective casting calls

Let’s start with the running of a casting call. While Model Mayhem has a very easy to use system for creating one, there still a lot of nuances that escape people. There are rules that Model Mayhem outlines that are frequently overlooked. When you make the decision to create a new casting call, at the very top of the screen you will see a set of rules Model Mayhem requires you to follow. Some of these rules are common sense, such as actually entering a date for the shoot, but others are often overlooked or ignored. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t see someone create a casting call seeking paid work, an upcoming event, or spam for a studio. Casting calls of this nature are a violation of the rules and will usually be reported rather quickly to the Moderators for removal. So, if you’re posting a casting call looking for paid work and the responses you are getting usually start with an insult, it’s because you obviously haven’t read the rules. If you haven’t done so recently, I suggest you reacquaint yourself with them before you post your next casting call.

The first set of criteria in a casting call are the basics… what are you looking for? A female model, a photographer, a Make-up Artist, all of the above? Choose what you are looking for here. Select the date. Be sure to be clear here… is your shoot on one day or several days? Are you looking to find someone available over a span of days, weeks or months? Select that here. You’ll  make reference to this later on for clarification.

Next, is there nudity involved with your shoot? Oddly enough, there is a lot of gray area on this. Some interpret this as suggesting that the model will be partially or fully nude in the photos. Others suggest that if the model merely is doing an implied shoot, but must be nude during the shoot, then nudity is involved. The way I run my casting calls is that unless the model is nude in the photo, I select “no” on this option and then explain the circumstances later on in the description.

Your next choice is compensation. I think clarification on this matter is really important, as it’s often misinterpreted. This is NOT compensation for the person running the casting call, this is compensation for the people who might respond. If you are a photographer posting a casting call and select that it is a paid shoot, it means that YOU will be paying the person you are casting, not the other way around. The same thing holds true for when you select “Negotiable.” This doesn’t mean you are negotiating for your rates, it means that you are open to negotiating for another form of payment or rate.

After you select the location of the shoot, the next part is the casting call description. This is where it starts to get tricky. This brief description is your headline… your banner as it were, to draw attention to what you are casting for. This is your opportunity to shine and really sell what you are looking for. Now is the time to take off the hat of being a Photographer, a model, a hair stylist, etc., and time to put on the Sales Person hat. You are going to use this title and description to sell your idea to the masses. This is the point where most casting calls generate results or crash and burn.

When I write my description, I make sure it’s clear, easy to understand and grabs the attention of the person skimming through all the other dozens of casting calls in front of them.

Here are some examples of bad titles:

  • “Let’s Shoot”
  • “Tog wants model for cool shoot :-D”
  • “Port Update Needed”

When writing your title, Be clear and concise about what you are looking for. Don’t use txt speak, don’t write vague or boring information and don’t use emoticons. Titles such as these are going to draw in everyone except what you are looking for. It’s going to attract those who respond to each and every casting call and you’re not going to be happy with the result.

Here are some effective casting call titles:

  • “Experienced body painter needed for cosplay shoot “
  • “Fashion photographer needed for runway show this Saturday”
  • “Tall (5’8″ or taller) redheaded model needed for artistic nude shoot”
  • “Promo Model Needed for Trade Show booth”
  • “Experienced Wedding Photographer Needed for July Wedding and Reception”

The more clear you are with your description, the more views you will get on your casting call. More specifically, the more QUALIFIED views you will get, which is ultimately more important.

Now that you have your title written, it’s time to write the description. This is the first step toward having a successful shoot or a miserable failure. Well written casting calls draw the most qualified candidates to your job and, after all, that’s what you’re most interested in, right? Typically, when people complain that they don’t get good responses to their casting calls, this is the source of their problems. Remember, your job here is to sell the vision you have to your reader. The information you provide here as to what you are looking for will make or break your success in finding the right person or persons for your shoot.

Typical bad descriptions read like:

  • “My portfolio stinks and I need new photos. If you’re a photographer and are free to shoot next week hit me up.”
  • “Seeking a model who wants to shoot something sexy. I’m open to ideas, locations, etc. Email me if interested.”

People aren’t inspired by others with no vision or direction in their purpose. If I ever saw a casting call from a model saying she just wants new photos I’d skip it and move on to the next casting call. Right there is a warning that, odds are, the model is not clear in what she wants and her unprofessional casting call might be a red flag for an unprofessional shoot.

Examples of good casting calls look like this:

  • “My portfolio shows all my images from when I was brunette and now I’m a blonde. I would like some updated headshots in studio and in two remote locations. One would be downtown on Main St. and the other would be in a park near the center of town. Photographer would be required to have access to his/her own studio and can provide 1-3 retouched images per look.”
  • “Casting for a tall, brunette model to fill existing showgirl outfit for promo shoot. The outfit is designed to fit a model 5’7″ – 5’9″ tall, 120-130 pounds, and C-cup. Model will be required to provide black, heeled, platform shoes and her own hair and makeup. The shoot will be in studio from 1-3 PM this Monday.”

See the difference? When writing your casting call, there should be a set of bullet points you hit so you can get the best responses possible, such as:

What is the compensation? Is this a paid shoot and, if so, how much? If the shoot is a TFP shoot, how many images are you providing or are seeking?

  • General location and time of the shoot. What will be the total amount of time needed for the shoot? Are you flexible on dates and times?
  • What will be needed of the person being cast? Will they need to provide any costuming, hair, make-up, etc.? Do you require a shoot to be done with a particular lens or camera? Do you require an MUA to use a particular brand or style of make-up?
  • If you are casting for a model, be as specific as you can in what you are looking for (e.g. 5’5″ or taller female model, age 21-30, blonde hair, athletic build, etc.)
  • What kind of photos are you expecting? Headshots? Full body shots? Shots involving vehicles or pets?
  • Does your shoot involve nudity, and, if so, in what way?
  • Describe the full vision of what you want out of this shoot. Remember, you need to SELL YOUR IDEA to your prospective readers.

The more specific you are in your details the better the responses you will get. In addition to providing all the specifics of your shoot, I also suggest you include what I refer to as my “Van Halen Clause.” Back in the 80’s, the rock band Van Halen wrote into their contract a provision that in their dressing room there needed to be a bowl full of M&M candies provided with all of the brown candies removed. While some interpreted this as an ego-maniacal tirade, it actually did serve a purpose… to insure that the event management did, in fact, read the whole contract. I do the same thing in my casting calls. A sure-fire way to see if someone is really reading it and not just responding to each and every posting down the line is to include some information that requires a specific response. For example, in my casting calls I always include the following statement:

“Please respond to this casting call only via private message and include your name, contact information, the best time to reach you and your availability for the shoot. Responses without this information, public responses or responses of “Interested” will be ignored and deleted.”

You’d be amazed at how well this works to help you weed out the good from the bad candidates. If someone is using a cut-and-paste response to every casting call of the day, or is clearly not reading what you are saying in your casting call, it’s a sign that they are not truly looking out for your best interests in the shoot. When people respond with specific information I requested, I know they actually bothered to read the full casting call and are genuinely interested in contributing in a professional manner.

This all being said, responding to someone else’s casting calls should be done with the same attention to detail. If you respond to a casting call with nothing more than “interested,” you aren’t doing a good job selling your services. My experience has shown that when people respond to a casting call in such a fashion, it’s usually a sign of other unprofessional mannerisms and I skip to the next possible candidate. When responding to a casting call, take the time to read it thoroughly. Answer back with specific information that’s requested and possibly even contribute an idea or two as to why you are the best choice. If I put out a casting call for a bikini model, get 30 responses back that all look the same but one person says, “I even have over 50 different outfits I can bring to the shoot, all organized and ready to go for you to choose from,” it’s going to make me take a closer look at that model as opposed to the ones that only say, “Please take a look at my port and let me know if you want to shoot.” Remember, the more you sell what you bring to the table, the higher the likelihood that you’ll rise to the top.

So, follow these simple steps when working with casting calls and you’ll start to see a big difference in the quantity and quality of your responses. When responding to casting calls, understand that you probably are not the only person responding, and probably not the first one to respond either. You don’t need to write back with a doctoral thesis as to why you are the best candidate, but you should respond in a way that sounds professional and genuinely interested in the project being cast. Doing so will make a dramatic impact on your ability to be cast for a project, and will leave a lasting impression in the minds of others for possible future projects as well.

Shot By Adam

Adam Sternberg has been a professional events, commercial, and creative photographer for 15 years. Born and currently residing in Las Vegas, he has worked with many top models, celebrities and venues only the Entertainment Capital of the World can provide.

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43 Responses to “Getting the most from Model Mayhem casting calls”

  1. September 01, 2016 at 12:55 pm, Terry said:

    excellent advice, maybe it should relace the one on how to run a casting call


  2. June 09, 2015 at 9:06 am, Carlos Bryant said:

    This should be required reading before you are allowed to join MM. Thank You


  3. January 25, 2015 at 8:10 pm, A K Nicholas said:

    I get about 20% unqualified applicants, but they are easy to spot, so they only take up about 5% of my time. One red flag, you can safely delete any inquiry that begins with an apology (“I know I’m not…”)


  4. May 17, 2013 at 3:07 pm, Danielle said:

    It’s amazing how many people that list casting calls that have obviously never read this. Since reading this, I try to elaborate more than just “im interested”. My excuse is that I’m new and saw everyone else responding that way..


  5. May 09, 2013 at 1:59 am, BlackSilk GothModel said:

    Even when being professional I get flakes, no responses and encounter unprofessional people 98% of the time.


  6. June 13, 2012 at 6:48 pm, Spiros Papadakis Modelsinterna said:

    love it


  7. June 09, 2012 at 7:11 am, Mei-Fern Chong said:

    Thanks for the article. I only recently started using MM, but I think this article can be applied to just about any web/portal/situation where professionalism is required. It’s frustrating because I find myself dealing with way more unprofessional conduct than professional (not limited to MM). More people need to read this. 


  8. June 01, 2012 at 4:47 pm, The Dramatic Image said:

    Very concise summary of several major points to success.  Thank you for taking the time to write this and sharing your knowledge.


  9. May 07, 2012 at 7:38 am, Jonathan Keller Photography said:

    I have always included a Van Halen Clause. Its amazing how many people completely ignore it.


  10. April 07, 2012 at 10:24 am, jon said:

    Very informational. Thanks a lot Adam. Any advice on how tell if a job offer is a scam or not? Any red flags that should be noticed immediately?


  11. March 21, 2012 at 10:47 pm, Efoy said:

    Love this. Straight to the point. 


  12. February 20, 2012 at 7:49 pm, guest said:

    Very clear. I hope more people read and retain the common sense. Although common sense is not a common thing…


  13. February 19, 2012 at 9:53 pm, Ikoshnick said:

    Really good article. Much needed. Many here at MM are young and inarticulate, and just as lazy in their communication skills. Thanks for helping provide tips! 🙂


  14. February 06, 2012 at 3:33 am, Iceprincess127 said:

    thank you for posting this! i almost always respond just “interested” :/


  15. February 05, 2012 at 9:36 pm, Twixxx Twixxx said:

    Very nicely writttn


  16. February 05, 2012 at 6:41 pm, Oz John Tekson said:

    I think this article is very useful; not just because some people ignore certain rules or they are laid back or not serious enough, but also everyday newbees join MM. I see this article as an educative call rather than a criticism. Maybe, that type of articles should be posted (or maybe e-mailed to the newbees especially) once a year to usher by the do’s and don’ts of the MM culture. When things are explained with examples and the reasons behind, people become more responsive. Thank you for this great article.


  17. February 04, 2012 at 10:50 pm, B3ll3gurl said:

    This is great, because it is not fun when someone says you don’t have the look for this shoot, when they never posted one in the first place. When models are all different shapes, sizes, colors, and styles on here it would help. Especially, when the model as experience in the genre you are looking for.


  18. February 04, 2012 at 8:42 am, Antonion iliou said:

    Being a new member myself. Thank You for saving me allot of time regarding how I post casting calls.


  19. February 04, 2012 at 6:31 am, Melmodel said:

    I don’t believe people are following this advice, for the most part I’m still finding plenty of the “bad examples” in the casting calls


  20. February 03, 2012 at 9:24 am, Envisage said:

    Excellent article and I especially enjoyed reading how you take the time to sell your idea to catch the eye of your ideal model. Including specific information to see whether the respondents have read and paid attention to the contract is a good filter.


  21. February 03, 2012 at 3:57 am, Peter said:

    I have a Van Halen clause. I always ask that models send a message or email, but still I have at least 5 or 6 dummies post casting comments. sigh.


  22. February 03, 2012 at 1:52 am, ex jay said:

    Facebook! I believe FB has largely supplanted the MM casting call. Many of my favorite models rarely check the MM castings on a regular basis anymore, but on FB if I post something I’m getting messages of interest back within a minute or two.


  23. February 03, 2012 at 12:32 am, Modelyasmin said:

    Thanks for taking the time to write. A definitely helpful article.


  24. February 03, 2012 at 12:32 am, Modelayasmin said:

    Thanks for taking the time to write. A definitely helpful article.


  25. February 02, 2012 at 12:08 pm, Kathy Chin said:

    Thank you for this article!


  26. February 02, 2012 at 10:38 am, said:

    Thanks so much for posting this… lol… One thing I would like to say, is when you are shooting nude or implied, make sure it says it. Cause when I filter out nudes, I still see many nude posts…. don’t false advertise!


  27. February 02, 2012 at 8:43 am, J. said:

    I recently posted a call with at least some degree of specifics, and the response have been overwhelming. I have had some 30’ish models respond to one casting.

    I would like to comment on the “interested” replies. Alot of the ones who anwered that way were pretty communicative when I responded back with even more detail. My experience is that if a person has not answered you withing a couople of days they are not going to. Of the 30’ish responses, 8 was not responding after their initial contact (even the ones who made me spend 10 minutes writing full answers to all their questions). This was a paid shoot with no nudity on a specific, public location, so the casting details should not have scared anyone off.

    Some flakes, but mainly very positive and genuinely interested models.

    (Happy as a hippo.)


  28. December 04, 2011 at 9:03 pm, Raúl Juarez said:

    This was very helpful, thank your Adam for your knowledge and easy to follow article.


  29. December 04, 2011 at 8:59 pm, Raúl Juarez said:

    This was very helpful, thank your Adam for your knowledge and easy to follow article.


  30. November 02, 2011 at 6:34 am, reuben dixon said:

    Great thoughts, thanks for writing this


  31. October 21, 2011 at 4:20 pm, Dguerra001 said:

    Great article. I think the Van Halen Clause is a good idea. I appreciate the thoroughness and time you took on your explanations. I was having issues with getting call backs because I was trying to get as many castings as possible, so I would respond kind of generic across the board. I will definitely use your approach from now on.


  32. October 02, 2011 at 8:26 am, Andrzej said:

    The only thing here that does not make sense is the payment part.

    If I advertise my car for sale and put “£5,000 neg”…

    Then I mean that I might accept slightly less – not that I will accept “chickens”

    How does everyone else read “Negotiable”?


    • October 02, 2011 at 1:55 pm, Adam Sternberg said:

      “Negotiable” is usually to cover those gray areas. For example, if I am casting for a model and my client is going to pay them a fee, I’ll list it as a paid casting call and list the rate. If it’s a TFP shoot, then obviously you would select that. “Negotiable” is for those circumstances where more explanation needed. Perhaps you are offering a discounted pay rate in lieu of receiving retouched images from a shoot? Perhaps you are casting for a photographer for a magazine where you are willing to offer pay for the shoot or a free quarter-page ad instead? These are good examples of when “Negotiable” fills the gap.


  33. September 30, 2011 at 3:58 pm, Keithdewey3 said:

    Well written and a great resource for everyone doing castings. Thanks for doing this.


  34. September 30, 2011 at 5:24 am, Theodoroz said:

    What is sad is that there was a need to write this article- although its great, it should all be common knowledge.


  35. September 30, 2011 at 12:03 am, Billranneyphotography said:

    Great article. I run into 99% flakes on here. No consideration for time or professionalism. Love the Van Halen Clause. I think I would like a bowl of just yellow ones.


    • October 04, 2011 at 2:34 pm, LauriePeal said:

      I agree, I choose the green m&m ‘s! Love,” Achieving Expression”! Rapid City , Michigan ( near Torch Lake, the 3rd most beautiful lake in the world) speaking of Van Halen , just ask Kid Rock about our sandbar in Nothern Michigan! Talk about a great place to shoot!

      my email Laurie [email protected] to contact me!!


  36. September 29, 2011 at 5:54 am, Brianscanlon48 said:

    Good article, I particularly like what you refer to as a “Van Halen” clause. I think I will start using that.


  37. September 29, 2011 at 3:11 am, RONE said:

    Very good article! It is nice that you point out the do’s and don’ts and simple examples. Your advice will be gladly taken.
    Thank you!!!


  38. September 29, 2011 at 3:08 am, Mitch Bugge said:

    Thanks for writing this. I’ve put up a couple of casting calls in the past & they were miserable failures. I’ve been looking at doing another one, and I’m glad I waited until after I read this. I posted it just a few hours ago, and have already had several bites!


  39. September 29, 2011 at 1:55 am, Ana Muerte said:

    Too true. Thank you for writing this. I’m fat and old in modeling terms, but I have no shortage of folks willing to work with me. As a model, I do overlook the generic type of posts by photographers. I just assume they don’t want my type. I have posted two castings and was specific in each. Great results. You really do have to have an idea for location and such. Without that, what’s the reader to think?


  40. September 28, 2011 at 10:00 pm, Johnnyjomp said:

    Very well written and good advice!


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