I am thinking about shooting a fashion story for magazine submission. It's a contest, but if I lose then I can still submit to other publications. Is it common for the agencies to let models do these sort of shoots or should I go through an agency at all? Also, it is my understanding that agency models are generally not allowed to sign a release. So, if that is the case, what hoops need to be jumped through?
First off, I haven't had a model sign a model release in a longgg time, well over a year now. I am betting that the model release is something that was recently invented. I can't imagine Demarchelier or Avedon ever asking their models to sign releases even before they were famous.
The way it works with agencies is that it's implied you'll use the images for self-promotion (i.e. website, etc) and not in the form of anything you could potentially sell (e.g. book, etc.). The agencies on the same note, don't go selling your images, and neither does the model. It's just implied. Again I guess it comes down to the watermark discussion we had. It's not supposed to be a problem. I'm not sure if the models aren't allowed to sign releases since I've never asked them to sign a release.
BUT! If you're submitting to a magazine/competition, the magazine will request a release, at which point you ask the agency to sign the release (ask the agent). They will understand and be more than happy to do so since it is (potentially) a tearsheet for the model which = win.
Working backwards still, you can easily request models from agencies for potential magazine submissions and tearsheets. Obviously there is no guarantee that you'll be published (unless you're Miesel or Demarchelier) but if you have a good relationship with the agent, it's fine to ask. Here's the catch though: If the pictures are published, the tearsheets can be used in the model's book and everyone is happy. Hooray! If the images aren't published, typically the concept is too fashion-forward and unusable by the model/agency. Unless of course the concept is something basic like beauty, or something drab like using a white wall background. Know what I'm saying? Unless the concept resembles a typical studio test, then the pics are likely to wind up in the dumpster with the agency (unless they're published of course). This is precisely where your relationship with the agent comes into play. If the agent trusts you, then you'll get whatever models you want. Or if you can ALSO shoot something basic/test-oriented then sure the agent will give you models because now at least the model will have basic portfolio work that she can use.
So to sum it all up:
1. You can ask the agency, but probably only if you have a decent relationship and don't let this be the first shoot. Of course if you are sure you'll win or get published, then by all means ask.
2. If you submit, have the agency sign the release after you get it from the magazine or the competition website.