So you happen to have the most beautiful baby in all the land. Lucky you! If you'd like to capitalize on your little one's good looks and charm, you may want to dive into the intriguing world of baby modeling. Before you take the leap and sign those contracts, you'll want to learn all there is to know about baby modeling. The following is helpful advice on the topic; and Betty Hemby, the former executive director of the Miss District of Columbia Scholarship Pageant, also offers some professional expertise and insight on baby modeling.
How to Get Your Baby Into Modeling
Once you decide that modeling is for you and your little one, you'll likely be left with more questions than answers. Where should you start? Who can you trust? How much is this dream going to cost you, and are you going to have to re-mortgage the house to raise the next Cindy Crawford? Thankfully, there are some clear directions, tips, and cautionary tidbits for parents looking to put their kids in front of the camera.
But before you decide to get your baby into modeling, Hemby suggests that parents determine whether they have the time and patience to handle a baby modeling career as well as other duties. She poses the following questions:
- If parents work a full-time job, will they be able to take off at a moment's notice?
- Will parents be able to schedule family and work agendas around their child's modeling schedule?
- If this is something parents can do, go for it, and the money adds up!
Consider the Temperament of Your Baby
Cute doesn't make a child model. Parents need to know that far more than good looks go into creating a successful little runway prodigy. When you do begin touring modeling agencies, pay particularly close attention to your baby's disposition. How do they interact with other adults, other children, the cameras, and the general environment? Typically, agencies are looking for babies with an easygoing demeanor, on top of being adorable and precious. They want to know that whatever shoot they book your kid for, it is going to be a success, not a hot mess due to the baby screaming and clinging to mom.
Find a Modeling Home Base
Finding a modeling agency that works with you and for you with honesty and integrity is going to be at the top of your "must" list. Do your research here. Know what is out there, what their business model is, and where they are located. Determine which ones might be a good fit for your baby and your family and follow up with those. Only send photos of your child to agencies that check off all of the boxes for you. Choose images that showcase your baby's looks as well as their personality.
Make Sure It's Legit
If you are doing an internet search to begin your quest into baby modeling agencies, beware of scams. The internet is packed with them, and parents need to know which leads to an agency are real and which ones will swindle away your time and money. If you ever get an agency requesting money upfront, this serves as a red flag for parents. Yes, agencies take a cut when your baby (their client) lands a job, but that is generally the only way they get paid. Hidden and upfront fees are certainly something to question and look into, as agencies only accept cash or money order.
Reputable agencies are usually good with you sending in high-quality snapshots of your infant instead of providing expensive professional images taken by a photographer that they suggest. Babies' looks change very quickly, meaning those pricey headshots will be outdated in a flash. Question an agency that requires expensive headshots off the bat for young babies and children, especially when they provide you with photographers.
Ask any agency you are considering signing with what companies they have worked with or what models they used with what campaigns. Contact the companies and make sure the stories align. If an agency tells you one thing, but a company claims to have never heard of the agency nor have a record of the models working with them, something is fishy.
Look Into Other Avenues Outside of Agencies
Do you have to sign with an agency? No. You can send images of your cherub anywhere and hope their picture captures the eye of someone who thinks they will be a perfect fit for a job or a brand. Major brands, however, will rely on agencies for model leads, and some companies won't bother even looking at submitted images from just anyone. That is extra work for them when they can simply contact an agency they already work with. Babies signed with agencies do get more calls and, in turn, work. If you are still not sold on going the agency route, you can:
- Check out infant modeling contests. An internet search will turn up droves of contests. This can be time-consuming as you'll need to read through the submission process and follow the requested steps for each contest you enter.
- Be on the lookout for open casting calls. This might end up feeling like a full-time job, but if you are up for it, go right on ahead and try this route. You'll need to know about calls near you when they take place, and what they are looking for, so you know if it is worth your time.
- Hemby adds, "Contact the store/catalog where you would like to see your child model. Some stores use PR agencies who in turn hire models for their store client. If this is the case, contact that agency and find out what modeling agency they use. From that point, you can learn what is needed directly. You can also go online to find out (in some cases)."
Know What to Expect
Set realistic expectations of the experience. This pertains to the agency, your child, and yourself. The last thing you want to do is create a vision of what infant modeling will be like, only to get into it and discover it is nothing like what you thought it would be.
What to Expect on Set
Snapping pics on set is going to look vastly different than taking pictures of your child at home. Sets are filled with plenty of professionals doing a specific set of tasks, and the hustle and bustle can be exciting and intimidating for you and your child. Know that modeling shoots include a lot of waiting around and a lot of paperwork. Outside of set life, you might also have to get a doctor's clearance for your baby to participate in a shoot, and you may also have to do some additional banking to set up the correct accounts.
What to Expect With Pay
If you have dreams of raking in millions off the bat, adjust those expectations as well. The pay for baby models varies greatly and depends on several factors. Generally speaking, babies can earn anywhere from $25 to $75 per hour, with $50 per hour being a solid average. While that seems like a lot of money, remember your little darling can only work an hour or two per day and can't work every day, so go ahead and do the math. The money generated from baby modeling will not pay off any student loans or buy your family a vacation home.
If your baby gets snagged to work on a television show or movie, the pay scale increases, and tots can rake in upwards of several thousand dollars for their contribution to the project.
Should your baby land a commercial, well, you just hit the motherload when it comes to payouts. Babies earn on average $500 for the commercial session fee, so nothing wild, but should the commercial be aired on a network, in a primetime slot... well, you may be able to afford that dream vacation house after all.
What to Expect With Travel
There will often be some travel required with modeling, as you have to get to casting calls when they arise. If you live far away from where the casting call activity happens, you have to be willing to drive to where the calls or shoots occur. If you want to sign with an agency, go local. Major agencies in the big player cities will often require their models to live within an hour from the agency's home base. That is a really aggressive move for families who may or may not stick with the industry.
What Are the Associated Risks?
Baby modeling does come with some associated risks, and parents should not only know what the risks are, but assess whether they are worth taking.
- Infants can grow into a sense of false self (kids believe people want a particular personality from them and not their true selves)
- Growing up to resent specific campaigns they were in as tots (think high school peers seeing them in diapers)
- A learned expectation to perform no matter what
- Misleading ideas about stranger danger, how do they know who is a "safe" person when surrounded by so many strangers on set?
- If they stay involved in modeling, the risks of unhealthy body image and warped views of body image
Parenting No No's in the World of Baby Modeling
When it comes to anything your child does, you are the parent, and you call most of the shots (we said MOST helicopter parents). Sure, as kids get older, they will undoubtedly earn more autonomy from you, but when they are babies, what you say goes. They might be the star, but you are their advocate. That said, some parent no-nos sometimes cause more harm than good, and in the baby modeling scene, parents need to know how to act and what to avoid to better their baby's chances of breaking into the big time.
- Do strike a balance of "with it" and "in the know" and "laid-back."
- Don't be the pushy stage parent.
- Don't cancel an audition without sound reason.
- Don't ask to have auditions work around you. It's your job to get to the call.
- Don't bring the entire family to auditions.
- Don't arrive at any call or audition late unless it is because of an emergency.
Pageants vs. Baby Modeling
Hemby advises parents, "Don't confuse pageants and modeling. Novice parents consider entering their young child or baby in a pageant thinking it will lead to modeling. Find out first whether the judges in these competitions are affiliated with a modeling agency and what their role is. If the judge is from some local agency in a small town in Kentucky, and you live in Wisconsin, you need to ask yourself how this would help you, especially if you are not able to commute to Kentucky. It would be better to go to Chicago and broaden your reach.
To enter your baby or child in a beauty pageant and pay entry fees is not practical, especially when you can do your homework and just go to the agency directly. Why would you have your child compete against 30-40 kids in a pageant that may or may not be judged by model/talent scouts? If you are close enough to New York, take the money you were going to spend entering a pageant and use that to contact model scouts directly.
Be wary of the Internet modeling sites that post your photo. As a precaution, find out who the major agencies are and ask questions! Many scam agencies allude to the fact that they are affiliated with top agencies, but in most cases they are not."
Know When to Call It Quits
This applies to so much more than baby modeling. If you get your kids into something, and one day it simply stops serving them or working for the family, STOP. No matter how much money modeling brings in, or what prestige you feel it creates, if everyone is unhappy, then it simply is not worth doing any longer. Just as you put time and thought into getting into modeling, be sure and put that same assessment into getting out of it. Always keep your kid's best interest at the forefront, and never let a hobby that is supposed to be fun become a miserable chore.