As an agency-approved photographer, what would you tell aspiring/ young models to look for in a photographer when seeking to update or start up a portfolio?
Work with the best photographers you can get. Whether this be paid or unpaid-testing, the better the photographer is, the better your portfolio will be. The images however are only as good as you can pose. So practice, practice, practice. Don't think that you'll just be able to "turn it on" in front of the camera. A good model spends time in front of the mirror, maybe even in front of a camera on a tripod set to timer, to practice her poses.
Do you think aspiring models need to pay photographers who can give them images that deliver the aesthetic of the leading fashion industries?
Yes. Think about the alternative. Suppose, you decide to go the unpaid route. You *might* someday build a decent portfolio. But do you have time to do all that trial and error? Do you have time to shoot TF with photographers that might not deliver? That's why agencies still send some of their girls to me for paid tests. Your time is valuable. Your career is finite. Mathematically speaking even if a great photographer charged $1,000 but your agency day rate is $1,500, you will more than make it back with 1 job. If that great photographer could be the difference, you should shoot with him/her even if it costs you $1,000!
Where do you stand on Agencies that charge a fee for membership or representation?
All the agencies that I work with charge a 20% agency fee to the client and also take 20% from the model. I don't know of any agency that charges their models a "membership fee". That sounds suspicious to me. They might send you on paid tests that come out of your pocket in the beginning (like Elite) but they shouldn't charge you for representation on a regular basis (unless that fee is the agency fee which comes out of your paid jobs). So, no. I don't believe in such "membership fees".
Besides the angular aesthetic that comes with photographing a TALL model for fashion, can you explain why fashion models need to be Tall? (of course there are the few exceptions).
If there is any point of reference in the frame e.g. a chair, a table, a door, anything... then you can infer the model's height via comparison. So unless you're shooting against a white background 100% of the time, the audience can usually deduce a model's height. And let's face it. Tall people just look better. I didn't make this up. It's common psychology. That psychology has turned into industry standards because tall models sell products better than short models. So really the industry standard is a reflection of our cultural/societal values.
What are three common things most aspiring/young models do on shoots that you would rather they not do?
It's been a while since I've worked with new models but I'm going to answer this question differently. New models should seek to build rapport with the photographer quickly. That rapport is the foundation of the shoot and the more comfortable you feel with the photographer, the better you'll feel in front of the camera. Next, relax. There are no wrong "answers". It costs the photographer nothing to shoot a frame he/she won't use. So try some new things but don't worry about the "details" when you're on set. Lastly, have fun. The more fun you have the better your images will be. If you work along these lines, you'll likely escape most of the pitfalls I see with new models.
As a photographer, are you pro or con overly processed photo shopped images. In lieu to your response, do you think images in that nature have a place in fashion photography?
I don't believe in over-processing. But that's highly subjective. And how you define "over" and "processing" is subjective too. I think that if you can find something similar in your favorite fashion magazine, then you're within the norms. But if your model looks like Barbie after Barbie's gotten lots of botox and Barbie looks like she was shot in front of a green-screen then superimposed onto an image of Niagara Falls. Then, yeah. I'd say that's over-processing. On the other hand there are no rules to this thing. If people like your images then that's that.
A word to the wise according to Charles Lucima?
Word to the wise? Work hard. I work twice as hard as a photographer than when I was fully-employed. Which means I work weekends, holidays, and nights. My average week is about 60-80 hours of work. Don't expect things to just fall in your lap. And for God's sake stop spamming on the social mediums :) The people who are curing cancer, negotiating peace in the Middle East, ending famines... they aren't the ones telling you what they just had for breakfast on Facebook. Go out and actually do something. Stop hiding behind the Interwebz.