An Introduction to Child Modelling
At Bubblegum Talent we think that all children are beautiful. So when an eager parent gets in touch hoping that we’ll sign their kid up, we totally understand their excitement and enthusiasm, and if we’re honest, we get a little caught up in the excitement too.
It’s at this point though we have to remind parents that child modelling isn’t just about taking a few photos and watching the college fund grow. You see, while modelling can be lots of fun and a great way to make some extra cash for your child, it’s not quite as easy as it seems. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but the rewards are pretty great.
What is child modelling?
Child modelling is when your child’s image is used to promote a commercial product or service either in print or digital form. It also includes live runway shows and appearances. In a nutshell, it’s when a company pays for the privilege of using taking your child’s photos and using them to promote their brand.
Some parents see it as the ideal stepping stone for a child interested in a career in the entertainment or fashion industry while others think of it as a way to save a little money for their child’s future.
Whichever category you fall into, it’s vital that both you and your child understand the ins and outs of the industry. So take some time to read through the information below before deciding to take any further steps.
Is My Child Suited to the Industry?
This is an incredibly important question that either parents or teen models must ask themselves because let’s face it; not everyone is suited to a life in front of the camera.
And believe it or not, we’re not just talking about good looks, great teeth, and a clear complexion. A child model’s confidence and attitude can be just as important.
It’s not the same as taking photos at home
A child may seem like a natural in front of the camera at home, but standing in front of a group of strangers in a professional setting is very different.
They’ll need to be comfortable posing next to adults and other children that they don’t know all while taking directions from the photographer.
So if your child usually shies away from photos with distant relatives, then there’s a chance they may not be best suited to this industry.
It’s lots of hard work
Some parents and models have told us how surprised they were to learn that modelling takes so much effort. They thought they would just roll up to the shoot, take some photos, and be on their way home in the space of an hour or two.
This is rarely the case as shoots often involve multiple wardrobe changes, background changes, and several hair and makeup sessions. So yes, it can get very tiring.
Rejection can be hard to take
Rejection is something that is unavoidable in this industry, and it happens a lot. Everything depends on what the company or photographer are looking out for, and if a child doesn’t have it, then they won’t get the gig.
It’s nothing personal but for some children and parents, the rejection can be hard to take. This is particularly true for teen models who are much more involved in the business side of their career.
Both parent and child need to be able to deal with this and know from the outset that rejection will happen.
Finding a Reliable Agency
When Bubblegum first opened its doors back in 1981, there were very few agencies that represented children. This made it much easier for parents to find a reputable agency as generally speaking, most were pretty good.
These days, however, it’s a little different. Yes, there are still plenty of amazing agencies out there that do incredible work for their models, but there are also quite a few that are only interested in collecting membership fees and adding as many models to their books as possible.
It’s extremely important that you do your homework and find the agency that is right for you. Try to find genuine people who have experience working with the agency. Check the agency’s client list and ask to see samples of their models’ work. Most will share their models’ success stories on their social media profiles so you can also take a look there.
A reputable agency will take care when selecting models and will want to meet with parent and child before signing them up. This is what we do here at Bubblegum, and it allows us to make sure that any potential child model is comfortable in front of the camera and that both child and parent fully understand the effort required on their part.
So if an agency is willing to sign you up over the phone, we’d consider this a red flag. At the very least, they should want to meet with you and make sure that you have a professionally photographed portfolio.
Building Your Portfolio
A child model’s portfolio is hugely important to their chances of success. Without one, the agency cannot put them forward for work while a poorly photographed portfolio is just as damaging.
This is why many agencies require that you have a professionally photographed portfolio. Believe us when we say that unless you are a professional photographer, this is not something you want to do by yourself.
Your agency will often have a few local photographers that they can recommend while some may even require you to use a particular studio or photographer. Don’t be surprised if this sets you back a few hundred dollars so be prepared to spend.
At Bubblegum, we do it a little differently. We don’t want the significant cost of a portfolio to hinder anyone’s chances of a successful modelling career, and so we provide a professionally shot portfolio free of charge as part of a child’s membership package.
If you decide to sign up with another agency just remember that your portfolio shouldn’t cost the earth. If you think it’s too expensive, then call a few photographers and ask for their prices for a set number of images and outfits. This will give you a ballpark figure to work with, and you’ll have a better idea of how much your agency or their recommended photographer should be charging you.
Finding Modelling Jobs
Ideally, a child model or their parents should never have to look for their own work. The agency will put them forward for suitable jobs as they come along. However, it’s important to note that signing up with an agency provides no guarantee of work.
An agency is obliged to promote you as well as they can, but in terms of securing work, that’s where their obligation ends. As we mentioned earlier, being chosen for a job depends entirely on the brand or photographer’s requirements which is something that a modelling agency has no control over whatsoever.
Trust your agency, and your chance will come.
All You Need to Know About Auditions
Not all modelling assignments require auditions as there are times when a photographer or client will choose a model based on their portfolio. However, if you need to attend an audition, here’s everything you need to know.
This can vary a great deal and is entirely dependent on the client. Auditions can take place in a photographer’s studio, the agency itself, or in a rented space such as a hotel function room.
Your agency will provide you with the address and time to attend, and any changes will come through them. If the client calls or texts you with a location change (highly unlikely), then you must confirm with the agency.
Some clients will provide travel expenses for attending auditions. Generally speaking, these expenses will only cover travel within a certain range, but this can vary depending on the client and how much they want to see a certain child model.
You should always discuss this with your agency before agreeing to an audition especially if there’s a lot of travel involved.
At the audition
Modelling auditions are quite simple. You’ll arrive at the location and may need to fill out a form. Children who can walk may be asked to enter the room by themselves while younger children can be carried by a parent.
There may be a question or two and a few photographs, and that’s it. You’ll head for home, and your agency will call you if the client picks your child.
Always remember that at any audition for either modelling or acting, you need to be polite and approachable. If a child or parent is difficult at an audition, there’s no chance they will be chosen for the job.
Most photo shoots happen during the working week which just so happens to be the same time that school-going models should be sitting in class. And while your child might be super-excited to get time off, they still need permission from the school principal.
Never pull sickies! It sets a bad example for your child. Be honest, and upfront and your child’s teacher might even help out by making sure they don’t miss too much during their time off.
If a photo shoot clashes with an important school event that you feel your child must attend, then simply tell your agency. A child’s education and participation in certain activities are far more important than a photo shoot so think carefully before skipping important school events.
When the agency contacts you with a potential job, check the proposed shooting dates and let them know immediately if there’s a chance your child cannot take the job.
Does a Child Model Need a Work Permit?
Children who work in the entertainment industry are required by law to have a work permit for both paid and unpaid work. The permit ensures that the child’s best interests are taken into account at all times.
Your agency should handle the application process, and the permit will need to be signed off by your school. So again, no sickies!
The laws and regulations regarding child employment in the entertainment industry may vary slightly from state to state so take the time to check your local government website.
Information on Victoria’s regulations can be found here.
NSW information and regulations are listed here.
What Happens At a Photoshoot?
Photo assignments can be a little tiring, but they are usually quite simple especially if your child enjoys time spent in front of the camera.
Ideally, your child should take a shower before the shoot and have no products on their skin or in their hair. Wear clean clothes (no scuffed shoes please!) and any outfits or change of clothing requested by the client should be clean and stored neatly.
Remember that there may be long periods of time when a child model has to sit and wait, and we all know how much kids hate boredom. Bring along some quiet activities to keep them busy during these periods but make sure it’s nothing that gets them too excited.
Photo assignments don’t usually take too long so there may not be any food provided. Take a few snacks and plenty of water with you just in case hunger sets in. Whatever you do, don’t bring anything messy or loaded with sugar.
You may have to fill out a form upon arrival while your agency may have also asked you to fill out a timesheet or keep a record of your hours. These records are extremely important as they allow the agency to bill the client correctly.
While shooting, the photographer or their assistant will direct your child and ask them to stand in various poses. It’s important to note that at no time should your child be asked to do anything that makes you or them feel uncomfortable. So if you feel that anything is a little off, don’t be scared to speak up.
There may be several wardrobe changes throughout the shoot and parents may be asked to help younger children with this. Again it’s important that both you and your child are willing to help out and have the right attitude throughout the shoot. Being polite and easy to work with leaves a lasting impression and the next time the photographer or client is looking for a model, they’ll remember what a joy you were to work with.
One last thing; never take your own photos at the shoot. You may be super excited that your child has this amazing opportunity, but clients really don’t want to see a ‘behind the scenes’ look at their photo shoot shared all over social media.
After the Shoot
Once the shoot has finished, you must send a record of your hours and any travel expenses to the agency immediately. No matter what agency you work with, we can’t stress how important this is. Without your records, the agency cannot bill the client which means that your payment may be late, and no one wants that!
Unfortunately, the agency may not be able to tell you when your child’s photos will be used. You can ask for this information while at the photo shoot but clients can rarely give you an exact date.
Ask nicely, and they may agree to forward you a hard copy of the magazine or catalog that your child is set to appear in or a link if it’s a digital campaign.
Make sure to add the assignment to your child’s experience on their agency profile and any other profiles they may have on platforms such as Showcast. It’s super important that you keep this information up to date and that you notify your agency of any changes made to your child’s profiles. After all, it could give your child an edge the next time the agency puts them forward for a job.
Your agency will bill the client who will then pay the agency for the job. The average hourly rate for photographic assignments is $85-$95. This can vary depending on the type of work involved and the client budget but rest assured you’ll know how much your child will be paid before you accept the job.
Some clients are very quick to pay their invoices while others can take weeks or even months to settle their bill. Ask your agency when you can expect to receive payment but remember that this is out of their control.
Once payment is received, the agency will take their commission (usually 20% for photo assignments) before sending payment to the model. The method of payment can be either check or direct transfer to a bank account. Ask your agency for further details of their payment methods.
What About Tax?
Most clients will deduct P.A.Y.G. Tax as required by the A.T.O.
However, if a client doesn’t take any tax, it is the responsibility of the parent or guardian of the child to ensure that all taxes are paid in full. The standard rate is 20%.
Your agency is under no obligation to deduct tax before forwarding a check, but they will include a detailed breakdown of the payment.
G.S.T. is payable on agency commission.
If you have any questions about the information in this book or would like to know about something that we haven’t covered, please feel free to get in touch with Bubblegum Talent by filling out our contact form or giving us a call on 1300 591 453.
If you’re an aspiring teen model or a parent that would like to give your child a chance to shine in front of the camera, then please feel free to apply to become a member of the Bubblegum Talent family.
We’re always on the lookout for little stars aged 3 months to 18 years in the Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne areas.
Who knows, maybe your child has what it takes to become a successful child model.