Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Submission Photos: Look with Me!

How Does a Children's Modeling Agent Look at Submission Photos?

As you may know, I was a print agent at a great NYC agency for a year in addition to my seven years in the biz as a model mom.  I belong to a few Facebook groups that serve the purpose of discussing headshots -- what makes a good one, is this a good one, whom do you recommend, etc.  I know my way around a decent headshot, but I’m going to talk about submission photos now.  Please note: THERE IS A DIFFERENCE!  I often see parents talking about their child’s new headshots when they are not really headshots… or parents thinking babies need professional headshots… OR WORSE: anyone in the industry telling you that a baby needs professional headshots.  We are NOT talking about headshots, but at the type of good cell-phone photos you would be using for submission.  I thought it would be helpful to know what it is EXACTLY that children’s print agents want to see when you submit your child for consideration.  What I’m going to do here is share what’s going on in my brain when I look at a submission photo.  (Please note: all of this info is based on current accepted practice in the NYC children’s print modeling industry.  This info will NOT carry over to adults or other divisions of print modeling.)

I grabbed a few “stock” photos (these are photos available on the internet for use or purchase, for any purpose; these are NOT children I know and I am presuming all parents involved have signed releases for their children to be used in the images).  The stock photos tend to be pretty good, but I picked a few that I can pick apart a little and a few I can praise as submission photos.  All of these kids are adorable so I am not commenting AT ALL on the “looks” of the child, but rather how I see the submission photo

Photo “Submission” 1:

Aw, happy first birthday, little dude!  Cake smash and other “styled” photo shoots show up in baby submissions often.  Doesn’t get much cuter, right?  Well, a few problems here.  What’s the biggest problem?  The hat?  It’s a problem… but the biggest problem is that I really have no idea what this child looks like.  I need to see a face -- full on, full-frontal face.  Eyes.  They eyes are a key feature to what draws us into a child.  Then, the hat: I don’t know if this baby has any hair.  After all, it is a first birthday photo, and I need to know what kind of hair this child has for his age.  Overall, save these styled shots for friends and family.  First, there is really too much going on here for me to give this child a good look.  Second, styled shoots like this tend to have a lot of editing/photoshop so we might be missing some key features.

Photo “submission” 2:
This is the perfect baby submission photo.  Plain background (can be any neutral color like a beige wall or a grey sofa), simple white onesie, good light on the face, and a clear shot of exactly what this baby looks like.  I even see the baby is sitting up, so that gives me more information about what the baby can do.  If you have a baby or young toddler you would like to submit to an agency, MEMORIZE this photo!  ALSO: this is the type of photo you should be sending to your agents every 2-3 weeks if you have a baby in the business.  Cannot praise this photo enough.

Photo “submission” 3:

This kiddo is pretty cute, but… right, the hat.  I can’t see what’s going on with the hair or head shape. But what if I threw down this one:  Let’s say I get this photo in May.  What does this photo tell me?  Ok, it’s at least 5-6 months old.  Which means, I have no idea what this baby looks like NOW.  Today.  NEXT!

Photo “submission” 4:

I’m really hoping this one is obvious… but that doesn’t mean we don’t get shots like this all the time!  I think she’s cute, but I have no idea because I have actually already moved on through three other submissions in the time I would have written this sentence.  Never hats; never sunglasses.

Photo “submission” 5:

This is an example of a great submission photo.  Nothing distracting in the background -- just grass.  The simple top is good -- notice no distracting words or logos -- just a minimal pastel something or other that blends into the shirt.  (I see the girl -- not the design.)  This is a happy, natural face with a little personality -- not a forced grin or squinty eyes in the light.  Her hair is natural, which clients love.  My only issue here is that I want to see a full-length photo as well, but this girl would get a call for sure.

Photo “submission” 6:

So yeah, this happens too.  Especially for girl submissions, I would see a lot of styled photo shoots.  A couple GIANT problems here: do not send bathing suit photos of your child to anyone, especially anyone seeking photos of children -- even this type of “innocence” can end up in the wrong place.  Gonna wander off a little here: You model a bathing suit for Target?  It’s up in Target?  Great.  But even as your agent I don’t want to be submitting bathing suit photos of children unless a client well known to me is asking specifically for the photo.  My daughter did an adorable bathing suit shoot with a really talented Canadian designer (shout out, Danica!) so there is nothing wrong with that if it’s in your comfort level and you and your agent is booking you with a vetted client.  NEVER LET YOUR CHILD OUT OF YOUR SIGHT AND ONLY YOU DRESS AND UNDRESS YOUR YOUNG CHILD.

Ok, back on track here.  So no to the bathing suit in the submission.  No to cheesy styled photos -- I can hardly find the child through all of that seaweed.  This child looks like she has pretty eyes, but upon closer inspection it appears as though her features have been significantly smoothed out in editing and her eye color may have been altered as well.  I even detect some makeup.  NEVER EVER submit a photo of a child wearing makeup.  Real, working child models do not wear makeup (look at a Children’s Place ad).  For some reason, people have an inclination to make children look older.  In child modeling, children should look as young as possible for as long as possible.  And one more thing:  the hair accessory.  Please, no hair accessories.  Maybe a little clip or pin if you need to keep hair out of a child’s eyes, but don’t do anything that distracts me from seeing the child’s actual hair or head.  You want me to see your child’s face; not some giant flower bow headband thing.

Photo “submission” 7:

Let’s pretend a parent actually submitted this.  This is a RULE-FOLLOWER!  Plain background, solid tshirt, the child is looking at the camera with a natural expression, and nice light.  This is what you are aiming for.  If you are submitting a toddler, memorize this picture!  Full-frontal face and good focus also make this a winner.

So, let’s review the rules.  I even made a handy checklist for your convenience!
Next time, let's talk about something else that's VERY important about your submission. Hint: No, you're not willing to travel.

Thanks for reading! Please respond here, via email at, or on The Bizzy Mama facebook page. Also, check out my Instagram @thebizzymama and my daughter's public account, @bizzyholland

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