How to Become a Catalog Model

young blonde woman posing casually
Dimitri Otis/Getty Images

Catalog modeling isn’t what it used to be, and thanks to the Internet, it's more valuable than ever. It dominates print and is taking over the digital world. Mobile, desktop, and everything in between—wherever the shoppers are, catalog models are there too. All of this increased exposure means catalog modeling is more exciting and lucrative than ever before. Here are a few tips for landing a job as a catalog model.

What Brands Are Looking For

Catalog models are considered to be commercial models, which means models need to look more like “real people” than editorial models. They do need to possess a few basic physical attributes, such as glowing skin, healthy hair, and a killer smile, but instead of falling into the physical requirements of fashion models, they instead have to have a look that appeals to the client’s target audience.

Depending on the catalog, this could mean the client is looking for short, tall, young, old, thin, or plus-size models of diverse ethnicities. There’s even a demand for models with disabilities. So, if you’re not suited to a particular catalog, don’t worry, there are plenty of other catalogs to try for. You just have to find one that suits your look, as opposed to changing your look to suit a particular catalog. 

Another option to keep in mind is parts modeling. If you have an outstanding body part, such as your hands, legs, or feet, you may be able to enter the world of catalog modeling as a parts model.

How Much Catalog Models Get Paid

How much you make as a catalog model depends on many factors, such as your experience level, the catalog you’re shooting for, and the agency you’re signed with, as different agencies deduct different fees (usually 10%–20%). In general, you can expect to earn a few hundred dollars per day for small-scale catalog shoots to thousands of dollars per hour for more popular catalogs.

Established catalog models can earn a very good living from catalog work alone, given the sheer volume of photos that need to be taken and the fact that catalog shoots can take days, weeks, or even months to complete. In the United States, models are considered to be self-employed, so you’ll need to set aside about a third of each paycheck to cover your income taxes.

Jumpstarting a Career

The great thing about the modeling industry today is that you don’t have to be defined by a particular style of modeling. Many catalog models are also runway or editorial models, and vice versa. A lot of models have also used catalog work to jumpstart their careers. David Gandy spent years working as a catalog model, and even supermodel Karen Elson had a brief stint as a catalog model before she made it big. The crossing over of divisions gives catalogs a “cool factor” and makes them more appealing to the masses—which catalogs depend on for their success.

Models and Agencies

Most of the major brands in the United States only work with company-approved modeling agencies in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. Catalogs are expensive and time-consuming to shoot, and clients want to feel confident that they’re booking professional models who will show up on time and get the job done right. As a model, being signed to an agency means you’ll not only have access to more catalog modeling opportunities but also that the jobs you do book will be legitimate, and you’ll be paid what you deserve. It’s a win-win!