Like any new job, getting started as an eye model can be intimidating, and it can be challenging to know how best to transition it into a full-time job. But if you’ve ever been told that your eyes are captivating, maybe you might make it.
Here’s how to make money as an eye model:
- Create a portfolio.
- Show off your full range of looks.
- Show your full range of emotional depth.
- Display photos that show your eyes and your face.
- Look for trade-for-print jobs.
- Go to modeling events.
- Get on social media.
- Hire an agent.
- Contact businesses directly.
- Take modeling or acting classes.
- Invest in your eyes.
- Look for work outside of eye modeling.
In this article, I will discuss the steps needed to kickstart your eye modeling career and get you to a place where you’re making a comfortable living.
1. Create a Portfolio
This is the first and most crucial step in starting your eye modeling career. You don’t need to pay a professional photographer for high-definition photos right off the bat, despite what you may have heard.
Modern cameras are good enough to have a friend help you create your first portfolio pieces; the most important thing to keep in mind is clarity.
Make sure your portfolio pieces show off your eyes and that your eyes and face are the clear focal point of all of the photos in your portfolio. If you want to be an eye model, you need potential clients and talent scouts to see what you’re bringing to the table, so be sure to maximize the potential of each portfolio piece.
The next three sections show you what you may want to put in your portfolio.
2. Show Off Your Full Range of Looks
One of the main goals of your portfolio is to show how variable your physical appearance can be. Over time, you’ll have clients with wildly different needs who want to know that you can get the job done, regardless of the project.
First, make sure you have photos in your portfolio completely free of makeup. Your makeup-free face allows people looking at your portfolio to view your face as a “blank slate.”
Companies like skincare brands often hire models that harness a more natural and neutral look. This look draws attention to the skin around the eyes or face, so you want to be sure to appeal to this potential audience.
In addition to a few photos without makeup, you’ll want to include some pictures in your portfolio in which you have a relatively small amount of natural-looking makeup. This will highlight your natural features without distracting from your general look or polarizing any potential clients.
Lastly, be sure to include some photos that offer a more dramatic makeup look, and show what your eyes can look like if given a chance to shine.
You want to inspire those viewing your portfolio and show that even though you look great without makeup, you can also bring a completely different energy to the table. Many of the products that eye models sell are makeup-related, and you want to include portfolio pieces that prove to brands that you could sell their products.
Note: You do not need to touch up photos in your portfolio, as the last thing you want is for potential clients to be surprised by your appearance once they’ve already hired you. They will have the opportunity to touch up any photos in post after they’ve worked with you.
3. Show Your Full Range of Emotional Depth
Aside from how you look physically, the point of your portfolio is to show what you’re capable of in terms of nonverbal communication. Models rely on their facial expressions and body language to convey the tone and mood of the photoshoot.
As such, you’ll want to make sure you have a wide range of emotions on display in your portfolio.
You can have some fun here, but make sure to highlight your strongest suits. Whatever looks and emotions you decide to highlight in your portfolio, be sure to at the very least include photos that convey both happiness and sadness.
These are staples in the industry and emotions that you will build off of down the line.
As an eye model, you will commonly be asked to express something similar to joy or happiness. This will be a fundamental skill expected of you, so make sure to have at least one photo in your portfolio that shows that you can express happy emotions.
Like happiness, a requisite emotion you will be asked to convey is sadness or grief. Don’t be afraid to put at least one photo in your portfolio in which you’re tearful or weepy-eyed. Genuine emotion is crucial for photo shoots to be believable. One of the best ways to get a sad photo is to think of something incredibly sad before taking the photo.
Or, you could just watch a sad movie. “Coco” or “Inside Out” usually does it for me.
4. Display Photos That Show Your Eyes and Your Face
Even though your eyes may be the focal point, your entire face may be present in many photoshoots and finished images. Include photos that are all the way zoomed in on your eyes, some that have partial closeups on a more significant portion of your face, as well as ones that include your entire face.
Don’t forget to clean and style your hair, as it will show in photos of your face.
Tip: Put eye drops in before taking portfolio photos. People looking for eye models want to see eyes that are white and clear of veins, so eye drops are a great way to clear them up for the photos.
5. Look for Trade-for-Print Jobs
An ideal way to start bolstering your portfolio, trade-for-print jobs are where you offer modeling services in exchange for photos that you can use in your portfolio. While your ultimate goal is to make money as an eye model, consider this a stepping stone.
Rather than paying someone to take photos for you, you’re getting professional-grade portfolio pieces for free.
Furthermore, it’s an excellent opportunity to work with clients and hone your skill set.
Additionally, any connection with potential clients or people who can vouch for your abilities is a crucial part of succeeding in the modeling world, so look at this as a way of expanding your network.
6. Go to Modeling Events
While this might be slightly harder if you live somewhere more rural or remote, there are likely plenty of modeling events in your area if you live in a city.
This can include:
- Trade shows
- Fashion shows
- Beauty expos
The goal of going to these events is to meet potential clients, talent scouts, or modeling agents who want to work with you.
It’s also not a bad way to meet other eye models who are just getting started and can relate to what you’re going through or more experienced models who can give you valuable advice or feedback.
You also might try looking for online events via Zoom.
The Importance of Networking To Make Money as an Eye Model
Like any job, it’s not what you know but who you know when it comes to having success as an eye model. Networking is an essential part of modeling, especially if you want to grow your clientele and make more money.
7. Get on Social Media
Social media is an invaluable self-promotional tool in the modern age. You may want to start thinking of your face as your brand and doing everything in your power to put it out there and get exposure.
Keep an eye on relevant hashtags in the industry, and make sure to utilize them when posting photos, as well as tagging any brands associated with your posts.
Facebook groups are also a great way of keeping up to date on industry happenings in your area. Follow brands and designers you would like to work with and keep an eye out to see if they post upcoming casting calls.
8. Hire an Agent
Perhaps one of the most important moves for a new model to make is hiring an agent. While they can take a pretty hefty percentage of your earnings, which is an especially tough pill to swallow when you’re not making as much money yet, the tradeoff is often worth it.
Agents or agencies bring with them an entire network of brands, models, and designers that they’ve built relationships with over time.
Your agent will be out in the world representing you and finding work for you.
When selecting an agency to work with, remember that your success is directly tied to theirs. This means you’ll want to look for an agency with a good reputation and a proven history of success accredited by the Better Business Bureau.
But don’t forget that they work for you as much as you work for them. Find an agency that aligns with your values, identity, and working style.
9. Contact Businesses Directly
While this may make you uncomfortable, remember that self-promotion is integral to having financial success with any modeling.
If there are particular makeup or eyeglasses companies that you love, reach out to them.
Send them messages on social media, send composite cards, which are a mix between a business card and a portfolio, or ask if they have any upcoming casting calls. Do whatever you can to get on their radar.
10. Take Modeling or Acting Classes
A considerable part of modeling is telling a story through your expressions and body language.
Eye modeling boils this skill down even further by expecting you to express a mood or emotion simply through your eyes. While some of this may be intuitive, modeling is also a skill that can be learned and practiced.
Spend time flipping through magazines or looking online at other eye models and analyzing their expressions.
Ask yourself what they’re trying to convey, what they’re trying to sell. Consider investing in acting or modeling classes, which is a great way to learn tips and tricks and get feedback on how your facial expressions are perceived.
11. Invest in Your Eyes
You have to spend money to make money, as they say. If you’re an eye model, then your eyes are quite literally your livelihood. It’s essential to do everything in your power to keep them looking good.
Care for Your Skin
To get work as an eye model, you’ll be expected to have clear and healthy-looking skin.
Investing in good skincare products is one of the best things to protect your most important asset as a working model, which is your skin. Remember that if you feel like your skincare routine is over the top, then you’re doing it right.
- Wear makeup as little as possible.
- Wash your face.
- Use appropriate serum and moisturizers.
- Always wear SPF.
Preventing fine lines and wrinkles is one of the best ways to keep your skin healthy and youthful, meaning you’ll have an easier time finding work.
Get Lots of Sleep
We all know how puffy our faces can look when we don’t get enough sleep. Giant bags under your eyes or dark circles mean more work for the makeup team and more editing in post. Thus, sleep is vital to being an eye model, and while it’s best practice to get a good night’s sleep the night before a shoot, being in a healthy routine is equally important.
Wear Sunglasses and Eyeglasses
Like SPF for your skin, you should be protecting your eyes from the sun with sunglasses. You want to protect your eyes as much as possible, and sunglasses keep your eyes free from UV damage and excess drying.
Eyeglasses are also essential. They are a non-invasive way of correcting your vision, and even if you don’t require prescription glasses, it may not be the worst idea to buy a pair of blue light glasses.
Blue light is harmful to your eyes, and many glasses offer blue light lenses that prevent the harmful blue light from affecting your skin and eyes.
Try to avoid screen time whenever possible to avoid blue light exposure as well.
Stay Hydrated and Eat Healthily
For both your eyes and your skin, staying hydrated and eating healthy is critical. The moisture and nutrients you take in through food and water show on your skin and in your eyes.
The best moisturizer in the world isn’t going to fill in the fine lines if you’re constantly dehydrated. Do yourself a favor and remember to drink plenty of water and eat nutrient-dense food.
Get Your Eyebrows Professionally Groomed
Even on the most close-up shots in your repertoire, your eyebrows will likely be at least partially visible. Tiny rogue hairs that you barely notice when you’re walking around will show up in your photos, especially if there’s a high contrast between your hair and skin color.
Getting your eyebrows waxed or threaded is an excellent way to make sure they are appropriately shaped and that all the tiny hairs are accounted for. Spend some time finding a professional with whom you have a positive relationship that consistently does an excellent job on your brows, and then stay on top of it.
Focus on Your Strengths
Although a natural side effect of modeling is a heavy focus on your physical appearance, and experiencing rejection around it, remember to focus on what you bring to the table.
If you have prominent, bushy eyebrows that define your look, just lean into it. While this may not appeal to every single client and project, it gives you something defining and is sure to bring you as much work as it turns away.
Furthermore, remember that what you offer isn’t only in your physical appearance.
Who you are as a person, your skillset, and how easy you are to work with are crucial skills in succeeding in the industry.
12. Look For Work Outside of Eye Modeling
It is best to make sure that you’re pursuing all possible leads for potential work when first starting out. You never know when a client or project that isn’t exactly what you were hoping for points you in the direction of your dream job.
While it can be a worthy goal to work as an eye model exclusively, many eye models choose to do work outside of just eyes when starting to help with exposure and supplementary income.
Because eye modeling is so niche, opening yourself up to the possibility of doing other types of modeling work, such as commercial or runway modeling, gives you not only the opportunity to make new contacts and make money but also diversify your portfolio.
When first starting, consider casting a wider net and accepting any jobs presented to you while remembering your ultimate goal of exclusively eye modeling down the line.
How To Get Into Modeling
If you want to get into modeling, the above tips are great to get started. But, you may have a difficult time staying the course if you get discouraged. Here are a couple of tips that might help you when things don’t go your way.
Never forget the importance of being true to yourself. Being “good” at modeling is about more than just the end product you’re delivering. Equally as important as having successful deliverables is being easy to work with.
If you have a comparable skill set to another model, but the other model is challenging to work with, and you are not, your personality could be the thing that gets you the job.
Building relationships in the community and finding photographers, brands, and people you develop bonds with will help your overall success. Having friends in the industry who can suggest you when roles come up is an invaluable tool for your success.
Furthermore, you want to build a reputation within the industry that you are easy to work with, no drama, and whenever possible, fun.
Don’t Let Rejection Discourage You
Perhaps one of the most important lessons when beginning any modeling career is to brace yourself for rejection. Rejection is a natural part of the modeling process, so remember that it is not always you that they are rejecting.
There is usually a concrete idea of which direction the shoot will go when planning a photoshoot, and you may not always be the right fit.
Rejection will likely become less and less frequent as you become more established and find more repeat clients. That said, you will probably be rejected more often than hired when you first start, and it is essential just to continue looking for work.
Making Money as an Eye Model
While it can be intimidating to break into a new career, eye modeling can offer a perfectly comfortable salary if you’re able to find enough work. According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for eye models in the United States is $56,785 a year, with some of the highest paying positions offered in many cities across California.
Some of the highest salaries for eye models were reported to be around $166,500, which, while certainly not the industry standard, indicates a significant potential for growth with experience and expertise.
Eye models fall into a small category of models called “parts models,” which include:
- Eye models
- Hand models
- Leg models
- Hair models
- Lip or teeth models
- Foot models
Parts models typically focus on what they consider their best feature and specialize in modeling products and information about this part of the body.
For eye models, this may include products such as eyeshadow, eyeliner, eyeglasses, and others, and may also expand into industries such as skincare or informational medical brochures.
While sometimes lucrative, parts modeling can put you into a niche with less available work, which could harm your overall modeling success, especially if you’re in the early stages of your career.
Getting started as an eye model can be difficult, and getting to a place where it can be your primary income source can sometimes feel scary. But remember that it’s a possibility to make a living as an eye model if you’re willing to put in the work.
Building a portfolio is the most important thing, then building connections with other models and potential clients come next. You might want to consider hiring an agent and going to networking events.
Protect your eyes and skin to make sure you have the potential to keep growing your career long-term.