You Can Become a Successful Commercial Model

by Aaron Marcus

Very pretty woman

There are many different types of commercial models and here's how you can be one of them.


Every day you see models in many different types of ads. They appear in newspapers, catalogs, magazines, editorials, (photos shown in conjunction with an article in a magazine), brochures, on posters, billboards, sides of buses, packages of food items, household products, games, etc. These are the "real" faces that entice you to buy everything from food to shampoo and they are know as commercial models. Commercial modeling is a still picture of a commercial. It is acting without words. And many commercial models are well trained and skilled actors because they can take direction, and provide a variety of layers of believable emotions. Where fashion models normally promote high-end designer clothes; commercial models advertise everything else.

To even be considered as a fashion model you must have very specific physical requirements. Normally female fashion models are between 5'9 - 6'0 tall and must wear a size two - six. Male fashion models are normally 6'0 to 6'2 and wear a size 40 regular jacket.

Commercial models, on the other hand, need only to have the ability to look like a real person. Unlike fashion modeling, there are no height, weight, or age restrictions. In commercial modeling people of all heights, weights, sizes, ages, and races are hired. There are many beautiful women and handsome men who are commercial models, however, you do not need to have the "perfect" look to succeed. They are cast to appear in ads as the doctor, student, teacher, plumber, athlete, banker, farmer, nurse etc. Open any magazine you will see commercial models working in many different types of ads. How Much Commercial Models Earn
The fees are different from city to city and job to job. Adult commercial models can expect to make anywhere from $50 to $250 an hour depending on the market. Children are paid less than adults, but can earn up to $75 an hour. There is no way of knowing how much one can earn. I know a commercial model who earned $50,000 from one job, and I know people who have made $2,000 for an entire year.

Most people do not realize that commercial modeling is like any other kind of business. Before entering this or any industry, you must do your homework. You must learn about the types of photos that will get you the most work. You must understand what agents do, and know how to make sure you are working with a reputable and honest agent. You must know what is expected of you as a professional model, and learn how to practice before entering the business. Certainly, the people who have done their research and have gotten the needed information will have the greatest chance for success.

The Advantages to Working as a Commercial Model
As I mentioned earlier there are no physical limitations to being a commercial model. Most people do commercial modeling to supplement their income on a part-time basis. The hours are extremely flexible, and the hourly fees paid to commercial models are wonderful. And, of course, it is a thrill to see yourself or your child in a magazine, newspaper, brochure, or on a poster or billboard.

How to Get Bookings
A composite sheet is the primary way commercial models get bookings. A composite sheet is a collection of photographs that shows the variety of ways a model can look. The most basic composite sheet will have a headshot on one side and two or three different types of photos on the back. The most common size is 5 x 7 inch, however there is no set rule on how a comp must look.

How to Create Great Photos for your Comp Card
Deciding on the image or images that fit you best might be the hardest part of the whole process of putting together a composite sheet. Ask agents, casting agents, photographers, art directors and friends how they see you being cast. You must figure out how you want to present yourself to the world. Are you a grandparent type, teenager, student, athlete, teacher, plumber, salesperson, nerd, mechanic, or mom? Do you look at home roasting marshmallows around a campfire, sitting behind an office desk - or both?

Think about the types of photos that would best display those images. To help with ideas, look through:
  • Magazines
  • Agents' talent books (these publications show photos of the models they work with)
  • Newspaper ads
  • Junk mail
  • Photographers' showcase books (photographers pay to have their work shown in the books to generate business for themselves)
Planning Your Shot
Since the shots for your composite sheet don't have words, make sure each photograph itself tells the story. Take your time and be creative in thinking of different scenarios for your shots.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to make the photos look like ads. Do not pose for the camera. Show a wide range of expression for the different photos. Having strong pictures for your comp will give you your greatest chance for success.

After the Photo Session
Before printing any composite sheets, you want to have agents view the photos and get suggestions from them. Contact some agents and see if they have open calls. Open calls are when agents see new people. Once you are sure that your photos will represent you well, then create a composite sheet.
Aaron Marcus has been a full-time actor and commercial model since 1986. He has been cast in 1030 (to date) projects. You have most recently seen Aaron on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, HBO's, The Wire, The West Wing, and ads for companies such as: AT&T, McDonalds, Molson Beer, Acura, Disney World, Nissan, Ruby Tuesday's, United Way and K-Mart. Aaron has been cast in Broadcast News, Cry Baby, Korea Gate, Stage Fright, America's Most Wanted, and General Lee. He has been hired as a stand-in on projects such as: Silence of the Lambs, Guarding Tess, The Pelican Brief, Twelve Monkeys, Syriana and Runaway Bride.

Aaron Marcus has written what many consider the most important book for commercial modeling entitled, "How to Become a Successful Commercial Model." This informative book can be purchased through Aaron Marcus' web site, www.howtomodel.com. He also publishes "The Tear Sheet newsletter," a quarterly commercial modeling/acting newsletter.

Mr. Marcus travels throughout North America teaching people how to become successful commercial models with his 6-hour "How to Become a Successful Commercial Model Seminar." For additional information about Mr. Marcus' book, newsletter, or workshop contact: Aaron Marcus 410-764-8270, marcusinst@erols.com or visit www.howtomodel.com.

Copyright © Aaron Marcus. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the author. Not to be reproduced or distributed.
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Reader Comments

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge of commercial modeling with the world. I learned so much valuable information from your site.

Posted by Larissa Irving (2009-11-01) 2169

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