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New photographers, stylists, and designers will often ask an agency for volunteer models to use when building their own working portfolios.It is a win-win situation for all parties; new models get pictures and experience while the photographers, stylists, and designers get free labor.Asking you to style your test shoots yourself is a very common practice.Just remember that make up for film and make up for everyday life are very different.Legitimate modeling agencies do not have handling fees, signing fees, agency fees (outside of their cut of work done as noted above) or any other kind of upfront before-you-can-be-signed fee.
Most agencies have agreements with photographers and makeup artists whom they pay to take their test shots and even build a working portfolio for an up-and-coming model.
Small market agencies are usually local without an affiliation with a major agency and the work they get for you will likely be limited to your hometown.
Since the potential for work in one city is small these agencies will seek to recoup some or all of their initial expenses in signing a model.
It is usually about the size of a 4x6 photograph, has between three and five shots of a model with different looks and includes a brief bio with basic info like eye color, hair color, height, weight, age, and shoe size.
Some aspiring models do pay for these themselves but these are girls who are looking to be signed, not models with an offer on the table.
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Modeling is a business and businesses mean taking risks, a legitimate agency that thinks you can work as a model will take a risk on you.