LeightonD, Photographer

LeightonD's Photographic life.

Model Monday: Tattoo. To be, or taboo?

Jesiah and Kimber

With tattoos these days being larger than the classic “mom” or “heart”, can they effect your ability to get hired?

Recently, I was casting models for a fashion shoot. To me, I thought it was normal casting requirements for print fashion. 5’8-5’11, Size 0-4, and no visible markings or tattoos. Well to my surprise, the last requirement seemed hard to come by. It seemed that those requirements were mostly able to be filled by “agency” models. So I ask, does having a tattoo or several impair a model’s ability to get hired for a gig?

First, let me qualify the question with two things. 1) Personally, I love tattoos. While I would probably never have one, because I am not too fond of needles, I like the details, the colors, the meanings that most tattoos signify. 2) Whether it is a tattoo, changing your hair color, gaining or losing 10 pounds; any physical alteration that you do with your body will usually have an impact, positive or negative, on your ability to get casted for certain gigs. I feel so strongly about that second statement that I think it applies to both in front of and behind the camera. Physical appearance does matter when it comes to getting some gigs.

The reason why I ask, is because I want us to think about our personal expressions and our careers. When you look to Hollywood, you see many actors who gain and lose weight, sometimes over 50lbs, in order to land a role. Their dedication to their career requires them to do so. In the fashion world, I have seen blonds turn to brunettes, and women who are normally a size 4 slim down to a size 2 in order to walk a runway. At the end of the day, what is more important to you, your career or your personal expression?

This year, more so than ever, I think I have seen more tattooed models walking in NYC, London, Paris, and Milan. From my sources though, this is more a trend out of necessity than it is out of desire. I have yet to see tattooed models make a big impact in editorial fashion magazine and ads. As expressed by advertising clients, tattoos are mostly about personal expression. They are art. But a model’s personal expression may not match the message or vision of the client. The preference will usually to have a model with a “blank slate” or “clean canvas.” Most fashion designers and product clients do not want the focus to be on anything but their product, and often a tattoo is a distraction away from the product being marketed.

Yes with photoshop, or posing position, small tattoos can be covered up or removed, but the reality is that the more work that has to be done to make an image look ready for print, the more cost that is attached to it. Set directors and photographers do not want to be limited in what they can do with a model. When thinking of getting a tattoo, dying your hair, or anything that might change your appearance, ask yourself, “Can this wait?” If you are desiring to do fashion and you are 18 or 19 years old, can the tattoo wait. If you were casted as a brunette for a shoot coming up this weekend, can dying your hair red, wait until after the shoot?

If modeling is desired to be more than just a hobby, that means doing every little thing possible to make you more successful. Conversely, it also means refraining from things that can limit your progress. We should always strive not only to do our best, but to bring our best as well.


About Leighton DaCosta, Photographer

International Wedding, Portrait, and Fashion photographer based in Miramar, Florida. Also a Pilot and a LEAN technician.

4 comments on “Model Monday: Tattoo. To be, or taboo?

  1. queensoulsista
    October 2, 2012

    Embrace the tattoos!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Lol there’s nothing wrong with ink. It is art! I love my ink and getting into more alternative modeling gigs are more fun than stick skinny advertisement ads. Of course my height kills most high fashion & some runway but!!!! I still get in catalogs and fun clothing and make up gigs.

    • LDPhotography
      October 2, 2012

      Thanks! It wouldn’t let me respond the first time, so my response is below.

    • LDPhotography
      October 2, 2012

      Also, I will probably be doing some fine art work with ONLY tattooed models, but as stated, that is a “specific” project. 🙂

  2. LDPhotography
    October 2, 2012

    Thank you for the response QueenSoulSista! Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Tattoos are bad. What I am saying is that if your desire is to be able to get the most amount of fashion work or gigs period, that it is easier for you to be able to come in without them than to have them. The one thing about tattoos is that regardless of what it is, it’s still considered “Body Art.” As art, it is subjective to whomever is viewing it. As you have said, you are getting into ‘Alternative Modeling.’ The genre by definition, says that it is not mainstream. The irony is that if you look at the alternative models from 10 years ago, when the genre started picking up steam, and what body coverings they had; most of those models would not be able to work in that genre today, because they would be not covered ENOUGH. The other side of the equation as well is that there are VERY talented tattoo artist in the industry who do temporary tattoos, which on film, look like the “real” thing. Meaning now a model/advertiser can make their model’s tattoos conform to their specific ads.

    The question I want a young 17 or 18 year old model to think about though, is the permanency of getting a tattoo to begin with. I think it would be safe to assume that you have seen people with tattoos where even you may have thought, “what were they thinking?”

    Is there a difference between the “tribal” print on the arm, and the entire sleeve? Yes, of course. My intention is that I hope a younger reader understands that as well. If you are in your mid to late 20’s, your likelihood of being able to “start out” and end up on major fashion week’s runway decreases every year. So a 28 year old model not only would probably be already in whatever genre they were wanting to be in, but would also be more “aware” of whatever body modifications they did. That 28 year old model is less likely to go out and get a chest tattoo, right below the collar, or on the neck, of the boyfriend/girlfriend’s name. An 18 year old might.

    At the end of the day, it is about what is marketable to the most people within a certain market. If I am selling my used car, there will be a certain number of people who would LOVE the Fast n Furious look. The reality though, is that it would probably appeal to the most amount of people by leaving it in its original state, and giving the new buyer the option to customize. So is it with an advertising client.

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