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Glossary: Modelling Terms You Need To Know

Glossary: Modelling Terms You Need To Know

Finally, you’ve gotten your feet in the modelling industry but you don’t just understand half of the modelling terms used. You just haven’t heard such words before, don’t worry it’s pretty normal as a newbie. Even some professional models have a tough time keeping up with the terms in the modelling industry. I researched the commonly used words and found their meanings for you. Along the line, I also did some learning myself.



There are two kinds of advances in modelling.

  • The first is money which is given to models that are high in demand to secure their agreement to accept a booking.  If you aren’t a famous model, don’t expect an advance.
  • This is usually the money spent by the agency when you first get signed by them for things you need. They expect a refund when you start earning.

[bctt tweet=”An Advance in Modelling could be down payment or investment done by agency on a model #fandffashion” username=”deji_okufi”]


They specialise in creating ads for big brands.

[bctt tweet=”Most times advertising agencies are clients to modelling agencies #modelling #model” username=”deji_okufi”]



An ad which looks like an editorial. The ad is created and paid for by an advertiser.


 The age range you are in. It’s usually between 5 – 7 years over or under your real age.


The book agencies give out to all of their clients to promote their models. Each model’s (represented by the agency) comp card is usually in the book. Models are often required to pay a fee to have their comp card printed in the book. Sometimes, agencies can give a model advance on the book.


This is the person responsible for creating the concept and layout of an ad or editorial presentation at a magazine or advertising agency. They usually choose the models they think will fit the concept of the campaign.




This is an opportunity to appear before people involved in the hiring process. You will usually have to prove you are right for the job.  The term “audition” is more widely used for acting jobs but is often used for modelling.  See “casting” or “go-see”.



This is usually in the background of a model during shoots. In a studio, it is usually seamless cloth or paper, or an artificial location scene.


9. B&W (Black & White)

This is when the images of a picture or video have only black, white and possibly shades of grey.




A close-up shot of part or all the face (lips, eyes, etc.). It is usually in form of a  head shot with detailed makeup and simple hairstyle. Beauty shots highlight your face in an elegant and beautiful way. This kind of shot is usually used in a cosmetics print ad or in a magazine editorial about skin care products, make-up products, etc.




I have never heard this term in the Nigerian modelling industry but it doesn’t hurt to include it.They are the male counterpart to “Plus Models”, used in catalogue modelling and similar advertising.  They are tall, wear a suit size 44 and above, and are generally fit and proportional.



Used by models to record, job descriptions, the rate of pay, the number of hours worked, the names of clients, and expenses. The client often has to sign the form (voucher). The model will then hand over a copy to the client. The agency one copy and will keep one copy for herself. (see also Voucher)

13. BIO

This is the condensed story of a model’s life – basically, a résumé with particular jobs highlighted.


Models represented by an agency make up “the board”. They are usually grouped into different categories.  There are often a “New Faces Board,” a “Men’s Board” and a “Classic” board, for instance.  The term comes from putting model’s composite cards on a board. This is practised to ensure accessibility for the agents for composite pulls, or to give visiting clients.



Bonuses may come in different forms apart from cash. Designers give clothes as bonuses when they can’t pay the models’ full day rates for a runway show. Regardless of the form of the bonus, the agency takes 20% of the value. Bonuses are often given when a shoot is long, or when a client loves the pictures and wants to use them more often than the original intention/contract.

16. BOOK

A model’s portfolio book of photos.


A person who keeps track of all the income and expenses you have from modelling.  Your agent isn’t going to do it for you.  Usually, your book-keeper is you.




The person responsible for negotiating with clients so as to get works for models at a modelling agency. The Booker may have other responsibilities as well.


Factors that are often included in a booking and for which the model may be paid more. An agency establishes booking conditions that outline fee specifications for overtime or weekend fees, cancellations, weather permitting bookings or bonuses for various other conditions.


The Booker at a magazine.



When you tell your agent you’re not available for a job, for either professional or personal reasons, and the agent cannot book you during that time, you’ve been “booked out” for that time.


The client is simply purchasing unlimited usage rights to a model’s image, although a buyout is often only for a stipulated time, type of media or geographic region.  An example would be “two-year print buyout in South Africa, except for the Internet”.  If there are no qualifiers on the term, it means unlimited use for an unlimited time.


A second audition or meeting with the client so they can see you again before they make a final hiring decision.


A  list that has information of who the creative team is for a shoot.  It may include everyone from the photographer, stylist, makeup artist, drivers and caterers.  It gives the precise location and directions to the shoot, and instructions on how the model should arrive.  Any makeup, hair, wardrobe or other requirements are usually on the call sheet.  Many modelling jobs do not use call sheets (or at least do not distribute them to agencies), and the information the model needs to know will be given by phone call to the agency, or directly to the model.


This is the time a model is needed on the set.  The model should generally show up 15 minutes or so before the actual call time.


Used to describe a set of ads for a particular product.  It can be as limited as a single print ad, or several coördinated print and TV ads.

1.  The act of choosing models for a job

2.  A go-see


A casting that large numbers of models show up for because the casting director gave broad directions to agencies, and may have used many agencies. The casting could be opened to the public or advertised in a newspaper, magazine or on the Internet.  The chances of a model winning a cattle call casting are not great.

29. CHART:

A chart is basically a timetable of your works maintained or held by your agency.


There are times as a model when you don’t go for a job that was booked for you. If you don’t, the client will charge your agency and your agency would in turn charge you. the money charged is a “charge-back”; It could be really expensive.


A term used to describe older models, often in their 40s or later in life.



A specification on a call-sheet that means clean hair, clean face. You have to show up for the photo shoot with no make-up on and freshly washed hair. The reverse of this is “hair and make-up ready”.


Additional uses that are made of an image beyond the primary print ad.  For instance, the point of sale displays or hang tags.


Commercial models have so much flexibility; they can come in different sizes, heights and ages. They can do everything that isn’t usually related with high-fashion, such as ads for products (food products, housewares, tech devices, travel industry, etc.).

If you’d like to become a commercial model then you may want to check out one of the best resources  (a book) titled “How To Become a Successful Commercial Model” by Aaron Marcus.


An agreed fee is taken by an agency or manager based on what the models earn.  Typically, it is a percentage of the model’s fees.


Often referred to as a comp card. A card used to promote the model that has several photos, the model’s stats and contact information.(also “composites,” “comps” or “zed cards”.)  A group of pictures (from one to as many as a dozen or more, depending on size and layout) of a model printed on card stock.  The typical composite is often printed on both sides of heavy, coated card stock and is usually around 5 ½ x 8 ½ inches.  Some very experienced models produce “double” or even “triple” composite cards.  A typical layout includes one headshot/beauty shot and the model’s name on the front of the card, and three or four pictures, the model’s stats and contact information on the opposite side.



The number of models posed in a photograph. Standard fashion configurations are usually singles, doubles, triples, and groups.




Also called Proofs. A photographer’s term for a sheet of film printed with small versions of all the photos taken during the photo shoot.The shots can either be in black and white or coloured. The photographer and the client will choose which shots they want to print and enlarge from the contact sheet.


Models often need more than a copy of their portfolios, and it is accepted practice to make a “carry book” out of high-quality copies of original tear sheets.


Also called a Cyc Studio. A photography studio that has no corners – instead, it’s kind of rounded everywhere with built-in backdrops. Corners and edges (like where the wall meets the floor) tend to look ugly in photographs. A cove studio curtails this effect. The seamless paper gives the same effect in a regular studio.


An advertising agency (or magazine) employee who is responsible for the creative design and direction of an ad (or editorial).


Pronounced “syk,” cyc is short for “Cyclone” studio. See Cove Studio.




The rate charged for a model’s services often for a full 8 hour day of work.


An unusual photographic studio that is lit with natural light, usually by way of windows and skylights.




The money was taken from a model’s earnings to pay back loans/advances the agency has made to her for their expenses.  Common in fashion agencies, less common in other kinds of agencies.


  • Turn a person with modelling potential into a model who is ready to compete in the professional market.
  • Turn exposed film into a picture.




Sometimes models are booked by a client without a go-see, either from a recommendation by the agency or from pictures.


The person in charge of making clothes fit the model properly and pins them if necessary.


Material (text and illustrations) produced by or for a publication, and representing news, commentary or the opinion of the staff of the publication.  Editorial works may appear in newspapers, magazines or even on television or the Internet.




Mostly “beautiful in her own way” appearance, as opposed to mainstream, pretty, “commercial” looks.  So called because of the frequent use of such models in contemporary fashion editorials.


High fashion models that appear in popular fashion magazines. They are usually tall like your typical fashion model.


Fashion pages of a magazine produced by the magazine itself to portray current trends, clothing and fashion ideas.Commercial print usually pays more than editorial work. This is because commercial print is work done for a paying client


  • An agreement that prevents a model from appearing in adverts of any competing product for a specified period.  It may also include a prohibition against public criticism of the client’s product.
  • An agreement between an agency and a model that the model will work only through that agency.  Exclusive agreements may be limited by time, geography (for instance, only in Lagos) or modelling/acting discipline (exclusive for on-camera TV commercials) depending on the terms of the contract.



Models (male or female) fashion designers use to size and measure clothes for production. Fit models have the perfect proportional body parts for a given clothing size. Designers use them to piece together new creations, see how they move, and develop their patterns. The key for a fit model is to never gain or lose an inch. Fit models are often hired by manufacturers on permanent salaries. Often, clothing manufacturers do not hire separate fit models for each size. Instead, they measure the clothes on a standard size (size 8-10 for women; size 40 regular for men) model and then use computer programs to magnify those dimensions for each different size.




  • A model who is represented by an agency who specialises in fashion modelling.
  • Models that work with the fashion industry.  They may show up in fashion editorials, fashion advertising, catalogues or TV commercials, or may do showroom or fit modelling.
  • Short for “editorial fashion model”, which many people consider “real fashion models”.  These are the highly specialised models who appear in high-end fashion editorials and campaigns, and normally meet the stringent height, stats and appearance specifications that people associate with a model



These are shows that give buyers and magazine editors a chance to see what designers will be offering in upcoming seasons, so they present clothing right to a season several months in advance.  “Spring”, for instance, is normally presented in September or October.


The contractual term for a photo shoot in which every model that is part of a shoot is getting paid the same day rate. The highest paid model on the shoot usually gets paid less than his or her usual rate. This helps reduce accusations of unfair work practices and general griping by lower-paid models that are working just as hard as the highly paid model. Models don’t look as good in photographs when they feel they’re being cheated to pay the star.


Fit models are models used by designers and fashion houses often. A fit model would have the perfect measurements that fit industry standards. Can be any size and are not required to have the facial bone structure required of a print model.The model has specific, exact measurements wanted by the designer, and puts on sample clothes to allow the designer or tailor to alter them to fit and move properly.  Fit models are usually of any type, although typically are size 6 for women, and size 40 regular for men.


This is when a model (usually fit model) tries on outfits and clothing to make sure they fit properly and is usually altered before a booking such as fashion show, commercial or print shoot to fit.



This is a model working with multiple agencies (as opposed to one particular agency) or a self-promoting model who works without an agent. Most commercial print models are freelance and work as independent contractors.

61. GO-SEE

A model’s appointment to see a potential client. It varies from personal appointment to mass interview or audition where many models attend to go and see the client so the client can see how the model looks in person (see also Cattle Call). Literally taken from the phrase “go see someone”.  In commercial work generally, a go-see involves going to see (or be seen by) a person who is casting for a particular job.  In fashion work it is usually more general:  you go see people who have a history of hiring models so that when they have a job come up they will know who you are.  Go-sees varies from being general (you are one of a type of model the client has asked for) to being specific:  the client has requested you specifically.




Models get halftime payments for all travel time. If your day rate is N10,000 an hour, you’ll get N5,000 for each hour you travel to and from that job. Your agency also gets 20% of halftime travel rates.


The French word for high fashion.


A poster or brochure of the model’s the agency represents presented to clients. Usually, has the model’s headshot and stats. (Head=sheets are rarely used anymore, almost all agencies have websites where they post their model’s photos and stats.)


Normally used for “special situations” models, such as those who are not available for go-sees, but can be direct booked.


As an independent contractor, the model will be legally treated as a contractor, not an employee, on most modelling jobs. The client will not withhold payroll taxes, pay workers compensation insurance, or do any of the other things they do for employees.


Any place, other than in a studio, where a shoot (photography or film) takes place. When you are on location, it means you are outside the controlled environment of the studio or soundstage and should prepare accordingly.


Several photographs taken of models wearing a designer or manufacturers clothing sent to fashion editors, buyers, clients and special customers to show the designer’s looks for the season.


  • The term “market” refers to the various geographical locations in which models work and earn a living. Lagos is a “market”, Johannesburg is a “market”, New York is a “market”, Paris is “market”, Tokyo is a “market”, and so on.
  • It can also refer to the group your look and body falls into, such as the fashion market, commercial market, plus market, petite market, etc.



A smaller version of the model’s book that can be sent to clients. Photos are usually 5 x 7 inches. (Mini books are rarely used anymore, almost all agencies have websites that clients can easily access from their offices.)


A company that represents models, actors and talent of any kind. They are responsible for representing and promoting the portfolios of models and booking jobs for them. They often handle contracts, payments and the business side of the model’s life. Sometimes, especially with larger agencies, the agency will “lend” the model money for a photo shoot, comp cards, clothes, an apartment, etc(advance). The agency will then pay itself back by taking money out of the model’s first earnings (deductions). It is not usual for reputable agencies to charge a ‘sign-up’ or ‘joining’ fee.




A legal document provided by the client/photographer and signed by the model or agent. It gives permission to the photographer or client to use photographs taken at a particular sitting. If photographs are used without a release, or in a way different from the agreement in the release, then the model can sue for breach of contract.


A mother agent is a person or agency that initially discovered you.  They will help you develop your look, build your book and market you to major and secondary markets.  Mother agencies are an important part of your team and can help you navigate the various markets and manage your career long-term.
An exclusive contract is often signed between a mother agency and a model. The agency then promotes the said model to booking agencies.Generally, the mother agent sponsors models to cities far from where the model lives and manages relationships between the booking agency and the model.
A good mother agency will give continuing advice, support and help to a model who is with another booking agency.  Mother agencies get commissions by taking a percentage of the model’s earnings for some time.


A model new to the agency, still in development, who attends go-sees and castings but not yet “promoted” onto the main board.


Also called a “hold”.   A client has requested the right of first refusal on a model during a specified period.  That means the client’s job has the most priority if booked by the client, and may not accept any other assignment.  A “first option” means that client has priority over any other for that period.  A “second option” (or “second hold”) means the client has a claim to the model if the person holding the first option decides not to book the model for that time.


Various types of modelling define “petite” differently.  In fashion work, a “petite” is normally a model who is 5’7” or less and wears a size 6 or less dress.  In other types, the meaning is closer to the general meaning of the term:  small in stature.


In fashion modelling,  plus model is a model that wears a larger dress size than the standard fashion model, but otherwise is similar to a typical fashion model.  In most markets, Plus models are from dress size 10 to 20, sometimes larger.  The term is not widely used in commercial print modelling although usually means someone of average or greater body dimensions.


Several bunches of photographs and tear sheets of a model, compiled and presented in a book.


An agreement between a model and photographer in which they work for each other on a mutually beneficial basis, and no money changes hands. The photographer provides a selection of prints from the shoot in recognition of the model’s time commitment.


To have “pleasing proportions”.  In modelling, this means relatively long arms and legs, and a body that is slim, or has a well-formed waist, if a plus model.


A sheet stating a model’s education, experience, and vital statistics. The résumé is usually attached to a composite.


These models do live runway shows, showrooms and other types of jobs where a designer or client needs the model to walk and show their clothing.Female runway/catwalk models are a minimum of 5′ 9″ but 5′ 10″ – 5′ 11″ is better.Male runway/catwalk models are a minimum of 6′ 0″ – 6′ 2″




Payments made to a model or actor for continued use of their images.  In modelling “residuals” are usually paid when the usage rights originally purchased by the client have expired, and the client wants to continue to use the.

84. SAG

The Screen Actors Guild


This when a modelling agency signs a model from her current agency.  From the term, it isn’t a practice that agencies appreciate.




A card of special purpose, similar to a composite card. It is usually created to draw attention to an agency’s models as fashion show season approaches.




Used for popular models or celebrities. It can also be used for special cases where the model is available to the agency by agreements made with the model’s mother agency.


A model who specialises in body parts such as hands, feet, legs, backs and other parts.  Shoe models are a subset of this since they must have standard sized feet (size 6-7 for women, 10 for men).


A derogatory term used to describe an overbearing parent of a child model or performer.


(“Statistics”) It is the basic description of a model’s appearance and measurements. Usually, height, bust, waist, hips measurements, hair and eye colour, Modelling shoe size and dress size for women. For men, it is height, chest and waist measurements, Jacket size, neck, sleeve, and inseam measurements.  Men stats also include shoe size, hair colour and eye Modelling agencies seldom, if ever, use weight as a measurement.


A casting for “normal-looking” people, which is often literally done on the street. Such a casting is usually done to give a stronger appearance of reality to an ad.




They are sheets torn from a catalogue, magazine or other print jobs a model appeared in. Models put their tear sheets in their portfolios. Tear-sheets are even better than photos because it shows the kind of work the model has already done. Images on a website do not result in a tear-sheet because such images cannot be torn.



  • When a model and photographer work together on a new idea or on their portfolios. No fees other than sharing film-and-developing expenses. Model and Photographer Releases is often signed before the session.
  • It could also mean when a model tests different looks and start building her portfolio with photos. The model may pay or may not depend on the agreement reached with the photographer.
  • A photographer could also organise one to test some new equipment or to try new techniques. He could even “test-shoot” a model in anticipation of using her later for a job.




In reality, it means slim and fit.  In modelling, can also mean “very slim”.



Models get payments for two things:

  • Work done on set (day rate)
  • Right to use their images in advertising. (usage)

Sometimes the fee will include both (flat). But the two will usually be separately listed, and the model will get paid for a specified, limited use of their pictures.

If the client wants to do something more than what they paid for (different kind of publication media, different target audience, longer time, different geographical region) the model will get more money for more usage.

Models get paid for every different medium in which their photograph gets used. The different mediums, or usages, may include:

  • Magazines; trade magazines, magazine covers, magazine editorials, etc.
  • Product packaging, print ads, bus ads, subway ads, direct mail…….
  • Billboards, posters, catalogues, brochures, point-of-purchase (point-of-sale or p-o-p)……
  • Annual reports, book covers, kiosk, duratrans (those big portable billboards that are towed around behind trucks), newspapers, etc.

The model gets extra fees for each usage the client buys. Usages also vary according to time and region. The longer the ad runs and the more markets in which it appears, all increase the model’s fee. The largest usage is the unlimited time usage, worldwide buyout. That means the client can plaster the photograph across every city in the world in every possible usage until the end of time.


An invoice signed by the model and the client after the model completes a job. The model will hand in their vouchers to the agency so that the client get billed and the model paid.

About The Author

Deji Okufi

Whenever Deji Okufi is not spending all his time scouting for new models or researching the modelling and fashion industry, he's researching ways he can deliver better content for his readers. In an attempt to control his obsession for perfectionism he also studies Digital Marketing.

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