It’s Not Fair
I’ve heard many times, “It’s not fair,” in comment on how some nude models get lots of work while others do not. Often it is the aspiring model, having trouble finding work, who is commenting.
Nude modeling is not supposed to be egalitarian or documentary. Whether the decision maker is the photographer, an art director, or a publisher there is no obligation to take all applicants. Just as with any employment there will always be more applicants than open positions. Even qualified applicants will be turned away.
No, It’s Not Fair, and It’s Not Supposed to Be
Too tall, too short, too heavy, too thin, too male, too female, and any number of other reasons prevent a prospective model from getting the part. There is a misconception among some that if they try hard enough, they can get any part. While I encourage aspiring models not to give up, you have to find your niche. While you’re trying to find your niche you have to be realistic. It may take a long time and you may face a lot of rejection.
Certainly there are those who will accept just about any applicant for their projects. These entry-level projects are a fine way to start, provided they are legitimate opportunities. Most everyone has to start at the bottom and work their way up. It’s one of the few “fair” things about any industry. But most models want to get to the next level. Many expect to be injected right at the top from the very beginning. It’s simply not going to happen.
Meeting the Minimum Requirement is Seldom Enough
Make sure you read the requirements for any casting call. If it says minimum height is 5’6″ and you’re 5’5″ and three quarters, don’t get your hopes up. Even applicants who are 5’7″ are going up against those who are 5’10″. If height is stressed in the casting, they are probably looking for long legs. Unless you are “tall for your height” (leggy), you will still not be the most qualified even if you meet the minimum requirements.
Not every genre of modeling is going to be for you either. No photographer is obligated to shoot in multiple styles or a even a single traditional style. Just because your look is perfect for a popular style of nude photography doesn’t mean you’re a shoe-in for every job.
I had one model write to me “I don’t have the face for fashion or glamour, which is why I am perfect for nudes.” While this makes sense for some genres of nude photography, again it’s not a guarantee of employment. The majority of nude photography de-emphasizes the face to some degree simply by the inclusion of the body. But the degree to which the face is important varies from style to style. There may be more options for an aesthetically pleasing nude without the face than in other types of photography. However, not having the face for glamour doesn’t mean you’re perfect for nudes. (Side note: I did not find the model in question unattractive. I’m not saying who she is, but I photographed her and thought her face was one of the more interesting things about the images.)
Don’t Be Discouraged
If you are an aspiring model, don’t give up after a few rejections. It’s not fair, but you’re not being singled out. I’ve rejected models that were too thin, too busty, too tall, and other reasons that you might think would give them an advantage. The fact is, like other photographers, I’m looking for something in particular for each shoot. You won’t know what that is until you ask us. And like most employment applications, you’re more likely not to get the job than to get it.
I’ve had some models contact me twenty times without being awarded a shoot. I’ve even referred some overly persistent models to other photographers (admittedly with the selfish purpose of getting them off my back.) But other models have contacted me multiple times and only found work on the third or fourth contact.
Persistence will help you. Broaden your horizons and look for different types of castings, especially those where you fit in the middle or high end of the requirements. If they want someone 5’4″ or taller and you’re 5’6″, go for it. If they ask for few tattoos and you have zero, don’t forget to mention that. If they want comfort with implied nude and you’ve experience with full nudity, let them know when you apply. Look for those opportunities where you have an unfair advantage.