1. Accurately and honestly assess where you think you fit in – what your look is, what agencies your look is most suited for, and what types of gigs you likely will have an opportunity to audition for after you gain representation. Don’t focus on what you want or how you see yourself, but how others do. Be objective. Agencies have tons of talent going to them seeking representation. How will you add to their lineup?
2. Identify specific agencies you feel you match well with. Look over their talent images on their websites.
3. While at the agency’s website, note their open calls (if any) and submission requirements. Find out what they require. Some request only snapshots, others professional photos, still others comp cards, portfolios, and resumes. Some show headshots tightly cropped. Others show 3/4 shots or waist high, vertical shots on their talent page. As a starting point, several Chicago agencies request a headshot and a full body view at minimum (portrait view showing body type). Other agencies request two headshots – one smiling and one not – and two full body images showing your front and back views so they can get a sense of what you look like and how to cast you.
4. If the agency allows phone calls or emails, find out if there is a photographer they want you to go to or if you can choose your own. Many times major agencies provide information on their sites regarding the kinds of imagery they seek and the types of acceptable submissions e.g., traditional mailings, emails, digital submissions only. Follow their instructions precisely.
5. Do not spend money on professional photography before either contacting the agency with whom you want to register or thoroughly reviewing online submission requirements.
6. Once you are ready for professional headshots and/or modeling comps and you contact a photographer, let the photographer know the agency you are trying to get in with, the type of look you need, and the number of and type of deliverables required. And always closely review the photography portfolio of those you are considering hiring. (Check out the blog post on how to Find the Best Portrait or Headshot Photographer Near You for suggestions on what to look for.)
7. A word of caution, especially if you are young. There are unscrupulous photographers out there. (Every profession has its best and worst.) This means, if you are a minor going to a photographer for a photo shoot, bring at least one parent or guardian with you to your session. (They will likely need to sign releases, too.) Also, if a photographer tells you they want you to do something you are even slightly uncomfortable with, do not do it. Questionable behavior, actions, or wardrobe (or lack of) are not necessary to get great pictures. The pros I know are respectable and professional.