Modeling Scams – photo mills

There are many types of scams in entertainment but modeling scams still seem to be some of the most popular.

Just about every teen girl wants to be a famous model.  Lots of companies are out there preying on that fact and sucking the parents dry in the process.

Modeling scams are usually a bait and switch gig and are allowed to exist because in the end, they did offer some sub-par service to their victims.

Most of these companies are sneaky and use a name that does not disclose what they really are, photography services.

They travel the country setting up shop in a mall, a convention hall, a hotel, a studio or any other venue that they can fit many people into. Before they come to town, they run ads on the radio, in papers and online looking to hook wanna be models. They claim they are doing auditions for models that “want to be discovered” and claim that they are in the business of getting models discovered. What all their ads don’t say is that they are a photo mill and are in the business of selling photography services.

These companies stay on the road and change names often to stay under the radar. Many states have outlawed such deceitful practices and moving often keeps them from getting caught. Changing names keeps them from having bad press about their company.

Their pitch is usually about getting you work and they suck you in by telling you that “You have that ‘it’ quality”. They tell you about high paying modeling jobs and quote success stories that usually can’t be verified. They use high pressure sales tactics and explain that before you go off on your new multi-million dollar career, you will first need a portfolio with photos.

Everyone knows that models have portfolios, so explaining that you need one to get started does not seem far fetched. They give you a price for their services and photoshoot and the price is not excessively high.

When you arrive at the photoshoot / model casting, you realize there are lots of other wanna be models there and this is in fact a photo mill. Most reputable photographers do 1 on 1 shoots with clients, photo mills set up a so called casting / photoshoot and have everyone show up.

At this point many have already paid the initial fee and stay there to get their money’s worth. This is where the sales start…

To get the best photos you will need makeup and that is an additional charge.

You will also need hair, cough up some more money.

The stylist also wants to be paid as does the lighting guy.

After paying all the extra fees you find out that all you got was the “photoshoot”, meaning you don’t actually have any prints or usable pictures. If you want pictures you can use, see and feel, you will now need to pay for them.

You went there on a promise of a model casting call and what you will walk away with are very expensive crummy pictures that you will never be able to use.

Those types of pictures are useless in the industry because most agents will not use them to represent their models. Legit agents will send a potential model on a test shoot with an independent photographer that does not work for them.

Unfortunately, once you are done with the photomill, the sales calls will start coming in from other sales people claiming to “make you famous”. Once the scammers are done with you, they sell your info to other telemarketers such as modeling schools, modeling conventions and ‘fake’ agents. Many such companies work together and receive commissions from each other. They figure if you fell for the pitch once, you are likely to fall for another pitch.

The signs to watch out for:

Anyone claiming to “get you discovered” or “make you famous”. A real agent cannot make such claims.

Anyone claiming to be able to find you work that does not have a license. Agencies must display their licence.

“Bait and switch” tactics – Using the words “audition”, “casting call”, “booking”  then asking for a fee for a service you must first buy.

Sales tactics such as Success Stories.

Companies that go city to city. Real agents have an office and do not do the national shopping mall tour.

How to protect yourself:

Beware of anyone doing business in temporary places.

Look to see what kind of work is being done. Does the office look setup to sell models to clients or sell themselves to the models. Real offices have people doing real work.

Only an agent can actually find you work. Ask to see the license.

Agents are not allowed to have staff photographers or charge for photo services, they will lose their license for that.

Remember that agents only make money if you do, meaning you would need to first work before they get paid.

Do your homework. Look up the company. Look at their website. Does their website look like its geared for clients or wanna be models. Look at how long their website has been up. Call your local BBB and get more info. Since these companies change names often, no info about them usually is a bad sign.

Go into this as a business person. Find out what, exactly is in it for you and them. Don’t be swayed by flattery.

Read the contract carefully! Find out exactly what their ‘real’ business is.

Always remember that scams use high pressure to get you to do this NOW! The reason they do not want you to ‘sleep on it’ or come back later is because they do not want you to dig around for more info. Anyone wanting you to do something NOW without discussing or researching it is most likely a scammer. A good business should have no problem with you taking your time. The scammers are not real agents, they are commissioned sales people that know that they get a percent of anything you pay. Many people have reported these sales people getting angry when they asked if  ‘they could think about it’. Some scammers even threaten to get them blacklisted if they don’t sign now and tell them the opportunity will go to someone else if they leave without paying…. DON’T BELIEVE THEM!

Best way to protect yourself and your money is to know who you are doing business with!

Learn about other schemes designed to separate you from your money – more about modeling scams here.

Child acting scams

Disney Audition scams

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