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The Essentials: 15 Modelling Terms You Need to Know

Updated: Oct 5, 2023


Hello and happy Tuesday! Today we’re talking modelling terms. The modelling industry comes with a lot of terminology that can be a bit confusing at first so I thought I’d lay out some of the most important ones for you. Whether you’re just getting into modelling and are hearing all these words you don’t understand, or you’re just here to read and learn, these words are pretty standard in the modelling world and I will be using them often. So, let’s get into it.

  1. Mother Agency: A mother agency is an agency that works as a manager for a model, they are your main agent for your career. They are a communicator between the model and the agencies they are on international placements with. A mother agency can be based in your home country, or be an international agency who has models signed all over the world. Often, when a model goes to a new country, they sign with a local agency in the city they’re going to, and a mother agent is the one who finds and negotiates those contracts for you. They can help if any issues arise while on placement, and often give advice to their models. It is really important to find a mother agency you can trust, with a good reputation. You do not want to end up stuck on placement in a bad situation, and have a mother agency that is unwilling to help you

  2. Advances/Minus: Your advances are all the combined costs that an agency pays when bringing you on placement. In most countries, when a model travels there for a contract, the agency will advance plane fare, transportation, model apartment, and weekly pocket money. Which means the model isn’t paying anything out of pocket to get there. These costs come out of your earnings from work until they are paid back.

  3. On Placement: This is what we call it when a model is placed on a contract with an agency in a country for an extended period of time, usually at least three months.

  4. Freelance: Freelancing is when a model lives and works without an agency as the middleman. They will communicate directly with clients, often proposing their own rates and choosing the shoots they want to do. This can be good when it comes to profit, as no agency is taking a percentage of your earnings. But it is much harder to find jobs until you are long established in a specific market. Freelancers often stay in one place for extended periods of time instead of jumping country to country.

  5. Casting: A casting is the modelling equivalent to an audition. Depending on the brand, and the type of shoot you are casting for, they will ask for different things. Most castings require models to pose in front of a camera, giving variety in poses and facial expressions. For TVC castings you can be asked to walk, speak, pose, and do many other random things. Often you are there with many other models, casting for the same thing.

  6. Fitting/Fit test: A fit test is similar to a casting but the brand is just wanting to see how you look in the clothes and whether or not they fit you.

  7. Book: Your book is another term for your modelling portfolio, which contains all of your previous work and test shoots. The more diverse and organised your book, the better it is to book jobs.

  8. Comp Card: Comp cards, short for composite cards, are basically a model’s business card. In some countries, models are required to always bring one to castings, but more often these days they are digital and sent to clients beforehand, or only when requested. They have some of your best images, as well as all of your measurements.

  9. E-commerce: E-commerce, or as we more often refer to it, E-comm, is pretty much all images you see online used to showcase a product or garment. E-comm is the most common type of modelling in most major markets, and it is also usually the type of modelling that makes the most money, besides TVC’s (below). When shooting e-comm, models usually do front, side, and back angles, as well as close-ups, to properly show the clothes or products. They’re used on websites most often. Anytime you’re online shopping and looking at the product photos, you can think of the fact the model probably shot 70–100 garments that day.

  10. TVC: This stands for TV commercials, meaning any full video advertisement. This can include not only TV commercials but YouTube ads, or video campaigns advertised on social media. These are the highest paying type of jobs for models, but the shooting days usually last 12–18 hours, depending on the concept.

  11. Campaign: A campaign is usually when the model is the face of a new launch for a brand. The images are usually more creative and less commercial, they can be used all over a website, in person in stores, on billboards, and on social media. These shoots are usually very long and have a higher usage.

  12. Usage: Usage is how long and where a model’s work will be used. Billboards, social media, advertisements, all have to have usage negotiated into the budget for the job. More usage means a higher budget.

  13. Test shoot: This is a type of shoot that is purely for the purpose of growing your portfolio and getting new images. Often considered a collaboration, there will sometimes be a makeup artist and stylist on set, so everyone can use the photos for themselves, but sometimes it is just simply you and a photographer. Test shoots are a great way to be creative and get some new images.

  14. Polaroids: Polaroids are images we take to send to clients and agencies, very natural, at front, side, and back angles. They’re used to show what we look like, basically as a blank canvas. We usually have to update them monthly, maybe longer than that if our appearance hasn’t changed. Sometimes clients will want updated polaroids before booking you on a job, especially if it is a big campaign or an important booking.

  15. Tear Sheet: This is a copy of a published work of a model, most often in magazines but can also be catalogue or campaigns.


There you have it! 15 of the most important terms in the modelling industry. Every industry comes with its own language, and it’s important to become familiar with it so that you can easily understand what’s going on. I learned a lot of these things on my first contract, and it took a bit of adjusting. I think it would’ve been easier for me if my understanding was stronger before even starting to travel. Your first contract will come with plenty of challenges no matter what, so understanding the basics will make it that much easier. I hope this will help you out if you’re just beginning, and help you to understand the modelling world just a little bit better. Until next time,


Sammie Taylor

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