The Agency Submission Photo Formula

The Agency Submission Photo Formula

Recently I’ve received many messages from models asking me how to get signed and graduate from “amateur” to “agency.” This question often leaves many girls — and young men — scratching their heads as they work to achieve this next step in their career. I want to address an aspect of the matter that is pertinent to photographers as well, so today’s article will be exclusively on submission photos. At the end of this page you should have a nice little blueprint of all details – what to wear, how to pose, where to take the photos, etc. Photographers, take notes so you know how to direct your models that are seeking submission photos. Models, let’s get you signed!

Know the Agency Preferences
Every agency will have a certain market their brands cater to. Try to gear your submissions towards the agencies and brands that seem the best fits for your own features. Does one agency provide talent for mainly swimwear, activewear, and sports ads? This will be an excellent fit if you are athletic and fit. Does another agency typically provide bookings for editorial work? They will probably be on the hunt for defined features, slim figures, and faces that can pull off out-of-the-box concepts. Know what markets you serve best, select the proper agencies to submit to, and try to subtly showcase the features they seek in your submission photos.

Natural Is Best
Companies want to know what they are hiring. Stay away from images that appear heavily-edited and refrain from caking on the glamour makeup. I once read on an agency submission page; “When in doubt think passport photo, not photoshoot.” This Is quite the perfect description because most agencies I have researched request photos with very minimal makeup and hair pulled neatly away from the face. This allows the agency to see your features clearly and gives the highly-attractive impression you have nothing to hide. It’s alright to submit a couple images that are more high-fashion or styled to show off your versatility, but make sure to not neglect the core basic photos.
Yes, it is perfectly permissible to wear makeup and have your photos edited… The key is doing so in the right way. I advise wearing a light BB cream to even the skin tone and add a luminous glow. Make sure to apply lotion to your body as well. Keep everything else to a strict minimum, sticking with neutrals, earth-tones, and hues that do not stray too far from your natural skin tone.

Setting Up the Shot
It’s crucial to understand the goals of final images before the shoot begins. This will allow you to plan accordingly and set everything up for success. As previously mentioned, a good submission photo enhances a model’s natural features and beauty. Now let’s cover a few specifics that make an exceptional final photo before the camera even clicks.
Background is always important. The model should be in an environment that is not visually distracting – he/she should be the most notable thing in the photo. When in doubt, stick with a classic and plain white wall. This will reflect every bit of light and automatically make the photos subconsciously appeal to the agency. If an indoor studio space is unobtainable, outdoor photos can be acceptable as well. Just remember the goal of simplicity and search for something visually uniform. A brick wall would be an option to consider here.
Bathe your model in the appropriate light. You want the images to exude a bright and clean feeling as opposed to dark and mysterious. Again, this appeals to the overall perception of honest representation. Opt for a soft, flattering light that works well with the model’s skin tone. Avoid lights that leave the model appearing too overexposed with indistinguishable features. If you are shooting indoors and have the option to manipulate the light, work with your model to capture the desired angles with strategically placed highlights and shadows. Always ensure the model’s face is towards the light, and do everything possible to minimize shadows in the eyes. The eyes are often what give that automatic connection. Light them up.
Capture a variety of headshots and full-body for final selection. I’m sure that my previous remark about “passport photos” vs. “photoshoot” left some people scratching their heads, but this is where the advice becomes helpful… Make sure you capture the model from straight-on as well as both profiles. The poses should be simplistic, with good posture and structure the main focus.
Wardrobe should often be simplistic, neutral, and clean. Much like the background, we want to avoid distracting the viewer from the model’s features with loud colors or patterns. It is best to choose things that are fitted and provide an accurate representation of the model’s physical frame. Often, an agency will suggest submissions with a simple white tank top and jeans. Sometimes there are also requests for shots in swimwear, but do these tastefully at your own discretion. Many self-proclaimed agencies have questionable legitimacy, so be careful who you entrust with what images. Once again, choose solid neutral colors, black, white, and/or earth-tones that appear flattering with the model’s skin tone. If he/she has warm undertones, gravitate to warmer choices. If they have cooler tones, adjust accordingly.

Finishing Touches
The purpose of post-production editing should be done with a similar goal in mind. Photographers need to remember the goal of “honestly enhancing” the model’s features. It’s okay to make alterations on temporary flaws such as blemishes, misplaced shadows, and enlarged pores. It also is a good idea to subtly dodge and burn to enhance your model’s healthy glow. However, refrain from doing anything that changes any permanent features. If the agency gives your model a call-back, there should be no shock or confusion because of anatomical shapeshifting in postproduction.
(For anyone wondering what it means to “dodge and burn,” that is simply the process of strategically emphasizing shadows and highlights in the photo. If you would like a tutorial on how to do this, leave a comment below and perhaps Hanna will post a future tutorial for you on his youtube channel

So there we have it! This completes my list of secrets to achieve the perfect submission photos. Models, have you been signed with an agency? If so, what were the photos that got you signed? Photographers, do you work in partnership with agencies? If so, what do they request and prefer in a final image? Leave all your comments below!

Here are my own photos and comp cards that got me my first agency contract. These images and comp card compilations are courtesy of photographer Red Scott. Find him at and on Instagram @redscottphoto.

Model: Ashley BeLoat


Photographer: Red Scott

Photographers (Top) Left-Right: Red Scott, John Carlton, and Rajibul Saikat

Photographers (Bottom) Left-Right: Stew Blaquiere, Yomaira Ruiz, and Michelle Hartman

Overall Comp Card Compilation: Red Scott

Until next week,

Ashley BeLoat

Instagram: @ashleybeloat

Professional Page:


  1. Ron on September 16, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Very good advise. As a photographer I have never been a fan of over edited images. I want the person in the photo to be the same person in real life. Minus blemishes of course. Real will always trump altered.

    • Ashley BeLoat on September 19, 2017 at 2:06 pm

      I think the authenticity of a shot adds so much value. I do love the potential to create a fantasy in Photoshop, but there’s nothing like a truly honest photo.

  2. Adeline on September 16, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    Hi Asheley, thank you so much for doing this. I decided to finally start modeling and got signed with professionally pretty and all the pictures I submitted are some of the few I have on my instagram modeling page. Now that I am signed I would like more photos to get more casting, so how do I go about asking photographers to shoot with me and help their portfolio as well as mine? I don’t mind paying but wouldn’t like to pay Everytime I need new photos.

    • Barry Fitzgerald on September 17, 2017 at 8:18 pm

      There are many model and photographer pages on Facebook, search for one in your area and put out a TF casting call.

      • Adeline on September 23, 2017 at 2:33 am

        Thank you!

    • Ashley BeLoat on September 19, 2017 at 2:08 pm

      Congratulations on your contract, Adeline! That is so exciting!! I can’t wait to see where your opportunities take you.

      As for castings and portfolio building, I did this by simply approaching the photographers I admired online and offering my services in exchange for photos. Sometimes it is just as simple as being courageous enough to reach out.

      • Adeline on September 23, 2017 at 2:33 am

        Thank you! You’re awesome awesome!

  3. Photographer on September 16, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    Great article. It would be helpful to also provide information about how to submit to an agency and which agencies are reputable. So many models get lied to by photographers who tell them that they can also represent them. Models need to know where they can go to find legitimate agencies

    • Ashley BeLoat on September 19, 2017 at 2:11 pm

      I’m afraid I don’t know much about agencies outside of my area, and this article was intended to be useful for people everywhere. I would love to write an article about how to select an agency and red flags to be aware of… However, I would like to find a way to make such a topic pertinent to photographers as well. I want to create posts that are beneficial to both photographers and models. If you have any ideas, let me know!

  4. Lisa Waterman on September 16, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    As always, you are very clear and concise. I can imagine myself as a model (ha!) wondering what to do…and you have made this very direct. Even though I don’t know the first thing about modeling, I now understand this part of modeling fairly well. Good job once again.

    • Ashley BeLoat on September 19, 2017 at 2:12 pm

      Thank you so much, Miss Lisa! It always brings a smile to my face when you like my work. 🙂

  5. Tom Calano on September 16, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    Nicely written. Thank you very much for the insights. I’m learning ad a photographer and appreciate this perspective coming from your experience. I’d like to do more shoots of this nature to improve my skills with the camera and with working with people/models. Thanks again!

    • Ashley BeLoat on September 19, 2017 at 2:13 pm

      You are most welcome! Trust me, in this industry you will never stop learning, improving, re-learning, and experimenting. The ever-evolving beauty of the perfect shot is such a thrill to chase.

  6. Michael Triolo on September 17, 2017 at 1:36 am

    You say, “Every agency will have a certain market their brands cater to.” How would a model or photographer determine an agency’s markets and brands?

    • Ashley BeLoat on September 19, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      Many agencies will boast about the companies they have provided talent for on their websites. Also, I look closely at the sample pictures they have online of their talent… I feel that the sample photos they choose to flaunt are often a reflection of the style of work they wish to supply their talent with. I have also gone so far as to simply ask agencies what jobs they typically book for.

  7. Shante Armstrong on September 26, 2017 at 11:40 pm

    Hello Ashley,

    Great read! I’ve previously signed with countless agencies from editorial and commercial to acting and marketing. A lot of the editorial/commercial agencies I’ve signed with requests for newbies to submit unedited, snapshots mostly from a camera phone with no make whatsoever. My trick to delivering their requests and still look refreshed and vibrant is my skin care regimen with simple wardrobe of either fitted solid top and dark fitted denims; or a solid bikini. I always go for a light color Top or bikini to compliment my skin complexion unless noted otherwise.

    As for acting and marketing agencies, they are totally different in regards to their requests. They prefer professional, naturally, edited portraits and headshots with resumes attached.

Leave a Comment