At one point in time, a professional model was considered a member of an elite group of individuals, recognized to be highly skilled and talented at their trade. Because film was expensive, even test shoots were reserved for the best of the best. Models toted heavy portfolios of their images and agents submitted their talent selection through snail mail or courier, using printed composite cards featuring 5-10 of the model’s best images. Because agents and photographers couldn’t waste their time, shipping fees and precious film on just anyone, the industry operated on an elevated level, meaning that clients were only submitted top notch talent.


The digital camera quickly made for inexpensive photo shoots, opening the floor for test shoots by anyone, to anyone, at a fraction of the cost. Models and photographers operated unrestricted by the old standards of photography. With the help of the invention of editing tools (ie. photoshop), images started to get “doctored up” to make the average individual look like a model. Now too, agents can act just as unrestricted, submitting images online and via email, all trying their hand at booking these average individuals. Suddenly, everyone was a model, photographer, or talent agent! Resulting in a cheapened industry. Ultimately, clients suffer because they end up booking these average individuals to represent their brands.

Trade show clients bare the brunt of this chain of unfortunate events booking these average “booth babes,” if you will – who lack elegance, chew gum non-stop and pass time by responding to personal text messaged. This cheapened version of a trade show model is hardly an asset to the exhibiting company and definitely an insult to the attendees intelligence. The average cost of a 10×10 trade show booth, including the space rental, pop up displays, travel expenses, show services and shipping is between $15,000 – $25,000 – the appearance of which is totally reversed and discredited by having a poorly selected booth hostess.

So, how can a trade show client protect themselves from ending up with average talent instead of the best in the industry?


You have to go through a reputable dealer who knows their product well and who isn’t undercutting competitor agencies in order to make a quick buck. “The online talent catalog,” is one of the biggest red flags that suggest you are not in sincere hands. This is a page on the agency website that features the images of all the models that the agency represents. Now, I’m not discrediting every talent catalog, just those that are not managed daily by the agent personally.


When the digital age turned the industry into a frenzy of available talent, agencies became inundated with model submissions. Agents went from offering a select few models to offering a few hundred. There is no way the agents can personally meet these hundreds of models, learn their names, and see them weekly to take their measurements and assess their appearance. Nor can they manage the mass amount of images pouring in from the talent.

Solutions like “AgencyPro,” came into being by offering a way that talent can upload their images onto the agency site. This format requires models to do the work for a nominal fee of being listed, giving them exposure and make the life of the agent far easier. It’s a win-win. For the talent and the agent that is. It is however, a huge loss for the client. They are now left selecting from a mass catalog of models, with no idea if that model has ever met the agent (it’s strictly aesthetically based).

There is often no restriction on the photoshopping of the images, so the client may be fooled into selecting a model who looks nothing like her images. It wastes the clients time and money to sift through large catalogs of models who may not still be in that particular city or even available for the booking dates.

True models do not buy into this type of representation. They are wiser than to be listed amongst “aspiring” models. These models would much rather work with real, quality agents, the more “old fashioned” type of representation and are never marketing themselves on those sites.


Now, as a 10 year veteran as a trade show expert, I hear time and time again how relieved our clients are when I show up at the booth for the first time. There is always the repeated account of being disappointed with models, looking little like their online images and overall lacking of professionalism. This is escapable!

Choose an agent who knows their models personally, meets with them on a weekly basis, keeps a studio at the office to shoot updated, unedited images of the talent. This is the only way that you can avoid the mess of hiring the wrong talent for your brand.