There are really two modeling industries: the legitimate one that pays models a fair price for their services; and the evil one which preys on the hopes and dreams of foolish young people (a.k.a. "suckers"). To avoid getting snookered, you have to remind yourself again and again that you're getting into modeling to make money, and not to give it away. This is business, so be stingy. There are lots of con artists posing as photographers, and there are lots of shady organizations calling themselves "agencies" and "schools." So here's what you have to watch out for:

  • Photographers who try to sell you expensive portfolio shots before you approach any agencies. This is a common one. They tell you that you'll never get anywhere with an agency unless you have a professional portfolio to show. Not true. Agencies are connected with photographers who understand and express a particular style, and they usually just end up trashing any pictures you walk in with. That's why snaps are best. Let the agency you sign up with arrange all the portfolio photography for you.

  • Fly-by-night "agencies" that charge so-called "registration fees," and are more interested in getting you to pay for expensive portfolios than finding you work. In such places, the phones aren't ringing as they should be, and the pictures on the walls are of models that have no connection with their business. So when you approach an agency, check them out, make sure they've been around for more than three months, and have a nice big ad in the Yellow Pages. Contact the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints levelled against them.

  • Modeling schools. Some people believe that they are an outright scam, while others believe that they're a pretty good way to gain a little experience, so long as you have money to burn. It's your call to make. Just don't let anyone tell you that you must go through a school (which always seems to be, coincidentally, their own in-house school) before they'll even consider you. No one absolutely needs to go to modeling school in order to become a successful model.

  • Sleazeballs. Flattery, promises to get you working immediately, unusual fees and high-pressure tactics are all signs of a sleazeball operation. When they ask you to pose naked or to have sex in exchange for jobs, then you'll know you've hit rock bottom. Alert the authorities. And keep in mind that, although this sort of thing is more common in less classy operations, it is not altogether unknown at a higher level. Recently, two executives (President Gerald Marie of Elite Europe, and Xavier Moreau, head of the Elite Model Look Contest), were compelled to resign after a BBC documentary caught them treating their business as a sex farm. Yes, this was rather idiosyncractic, but it proves that you should be aware.