Headshots? portfolios? What does my child or teen need to get started?

As a photographer I often get asked about recommended modeling agencies from parents whose children or teens are looking to get started in the industry and have come to me to build their portfolio. Several of my modeling and acting clients are represented by the Bell Agency in Seattle and the parents always had good things to say about their experience so I reached out and invited industry expert Colleen Bell to do a guest post. She was kind enough to share some really sage advice for parents of kids and teens wanting to get started in modeling, acting or both.

So, if you're looking for guidance on what you need to get started in the industry, what kind of images your child should have, and what else to consider, read on!

Tell us about the Bell Agency

Colleen: "The Bell Agency has been in business for over twenty-nine years and is a full service S.A.G./A.F.T.R.A franchised agency serving the Washington & Oregon markets. We represent infants to one-hundred-year-olds for modeling and acting, booking jobs in commercial, industrial, film, voice-over, radio, print and high fashion. We look for a variety of shapes, sizes, ethnicity, age and abilities.

We are best known for commercial and commercial print and fashion print for our younger ones, these are our best categories. For those who don't know what commercial print is, it is when you are modeling WITH a product , like Nintendo, T-Mobile, Microsoft and the likes, it is not when you are "wearing" the product. In other words, the model is there to highlight the product itself rather than the clothes.  We also are very good in film and TV and voice over, along with fashion modeling, but we do have stiff competition in those areas. "

What are you looking for in talent?

Colleen: "It's a myth that we want everyone to look like models.  This is absolutely not true. We look FIRST at personality. Even if your goal is to be a model, we want our clients to LIKE YOU FIRST.  Showing us your fun side, your quirky side and the real you is very important.  Variety is the key to any successful agency."


What kinds of headshots or portfolio images do aspiring models or actors need?

Colleen: "We want children to be photographed as children - age appropriate and not overly made up. But we do want to be sure they are always groomed - hair in place and giving us some great controlled energy.  We don't like a lot going on in the pictures for our headshots, especially no hats or distractions. Backgrounds for headshots should be solid.  The headshots should be close-up images on solid backgrounds, smiling, looking at the camera. Most importantly, your headshot should be SAYING SOMETHING not only with your mouth but your eyes as well. Eyes tell us a lot. 

We love seeing more than just headshots when submitting pictures to the Bell Agency, especially if you want to model as well as act.  We want to see some action, some energy and some variety to really see your personality come through. We recommend a minimum of 3-4 changes of clothing for your photo shoot.

We want you to tell us a story with your pictures, beyond just a headshot.  Are you a dancer?  Do you love skateboarding?  What makes you different? If you have talents, sports or hobbies that could help set you apart, show us that in your portfolio."

"Your headshot should be saying SOMETHING - not only with your mouth but your eyes as well. Eyes tell us a lot."

Colleen Bell, the Bell Agency

Actress Headshot by Kelly Anderson

Example of one of Colleen's young talent's portfolios. Photos by Kelly Anderson

how often are new headshots needed?

Colleen: "We recommend updating your headshot once every year or 1.5 years at most.  We do understand that it is a financial issue sometimes and we will work with your picture as long as the image still looks like you, but it must be representative of your current look.  If you're planning any big changes to your looks or hair try to do those all before your photo shoot so those images last longer."

How Should parents think about opportunities for acting vs modeling?

Colleen: "For children aged 16 and younger, we prefer to hire talent who could do both acting and modeling. We submit talent up to kids size 14 for clothing modeling, commercial print and acting.  As you get older many things will determine if you can be a "fashion model," including your height, weight, and body style. So once that happens and you hit 5'9 for a young woman we can re-direct you to the types of pictures you will need and what to do to get competitive in fashion modeling.  

It's important to develop your skills at any age.  If you want to be an actor, go to your local theater group and get involved.  There are also casting directors in the area who do classes on how to get started and how to audition.  Our agency can always give you a list of those companies. For children modeling, we don't recommend taking classes on how to model until you are older. At the younger ages they sometimes become so mechanical that we lose the child-like quality in them."

what should parents think about when choosing an agency to represent their child?

Colleen: "As long as you go with a SAG/AFTRA franchised agency you will be in good hands.   We always tell our perspective talent, do your homework. Each agency runs their business differently.  Feel confident that you are in the right place before deciding.  We run our company more via email than in person as it allows us to multitask and keep the focus on getting our talent work. Some agencies feel that in-person keeps the talent happy but it doesn't get the work done so we have fine-tuned how we operate, since we are a smaller agency.

We pride ourselves for being one of the longest running agencies in the Washington area (and for a long time in Oregon as well) .We have survived many agencies coming and going as we keep our agency small so that you get specialized care.  You can email us any time day or night and we try very hard to get back to you within 24 hours, faster if you need immediate help. No agency can guarantee any work for any talent, especially post COVID. It has changed a lot in our industry.  What we CAN guarantee is that we have and always will work hard to help our talent realize their dreams."

Many thanks to Colleen Bell for the great advice in this post! You can find the Bell Agency at www.colleenbellagency.net.

If your child is interested in modeling or acting and needs polished looking images to help them stand out, please get in touch with me at Kelly Anderson Photography and I'll help them shine!


Spencer - teen model

"Kelly is so wonderful to work with. She is so creative and talented! I felt very comfortable and safe working with her, and of course, the photos turned out spectacular! I would 100% work with Kelly again."