Cynthia Starich


An exclusive behind-the-scenes look into Milwaukee’s hidden gem of a studio + event lounge.

Okay, so it’s confession time. About a year and a half ago, I was checking the mail when I noticed a sign just outside our main lobby that read, “Northern Lights Photography Studio + Events”. How cool!! A new photography studio–and in the exact building I live in–of all places!!

The studio is located right next to Screaming Tuna, so to get there from the outside, you just go in though the main lobby and up the stairs, and down the hall. (The hallway walls are reserved for photographers who would like to display their own work!)

I’ve heard and seen great things coming out of this studio on their Instagram, but decided to reach out to see what the space was all about for myself. David Bernacchi, the studio’s booking agent followed up with me the very same day (on a Saturday), and we had a tour set up that very next week.

As David put it, this place feels like a spaceship. With its wireless remote controlled lights, backdrops, and window shades, the state-of-the-art ceiling drop lights and cyclorama walls instantly make this studio a modern photographer’s dream. Even the bathroom is aesthetically gorgeous, encompassing dual-rainfall shower heads.

I was particularly in love with the amazing make up room!! The vanity sets have color temperature adjustable LED lighting. There’s even a clothing steamer and curling & straightening iron holders. They really thought of everything!

Not to mention, a fully furnished kitchen and lounge, surrounded by a gorgeous view of the Milwaukee River make Northern Lights Photo Studio perfect for wedding shoots and all kinds of events.

Robert Popp, the studio owner is an all around awesome guy and studio host. He really goes the extra mile to help photographers feel comfortable in the space and is happy to suggest light set ups for some fantastic results. I loved watching Bob work with Bryan in our test photo shoot last week. I couldn’t believe how many shots we got in such a short amount of time:

Click here for some fun behind-the-scenes out-takes from this shoot!

The part that I think photographers will love the most is how quickly everything can be set up. Simply push the drop lights from the ceiling to where you want them, pull them up or down, and press a button on the remote to select from an array of backdrops, (or use the always freshly painted white Cyclorama wall) and you’re ready to go!

Want to test it out for yourself? Come join us on Thursday, May 2nd any time from 6:00-9:00PM at the Northern Lights Photo Studio Open House & Networking Event. This free event will be an awesome night of test shoots, networking, and collaboration with complimentary refreshments and hors d’oeuvres. You can reserve your free tickets HERE, and check out the Facebook Event HERE.

Can’t wait till then? Book the studio and save 15% off your total booking session when you use promo code: CYNFLUENCE

Believe it or not, there is a type of modeling where your posing and runway skills don’t actually matter…

In fact, quite honestly we don’t even care what your face looks like, whether or not you have braces, how high your cheek bones are or how chiseled your jawline is. Struggling with acne/break outs? We honestly couldn’t care less. But, how…?

Because Fit Modeling serves an entirely different purpose.

What Does A Fit Model Do?

Photos by Northern Lights Photography Studio Make up by Deb Reimer of Milwaukee Fashion Week.

Clothing and product designers need real life, every day people to work essentially as human-mannequins. The job of a fit model is to test out the clothing for the designers to get an idea of how their garment will fit their future buyers. Once a week for about 1-3 hours, a model will try on clothing and move around a bit so the designers can see how the product fits a real life human, and how it moves comfortably on the body.

Ever order clothing off a fast fashion/super cheap website, and when you get the product you wonder how it could ever possibly fit an actual human? You can bet Fit Models were not utilized (or even thought of?) during the development of the garment!

Fit modeling eliminates this problem altogether by ensuring proper fits, and is a standard procedure with reputable clothing brands.

Qualifiers of Becoming a Fit Model

Okay, maybe they won’t make you do THIS, but mad props to Nick Montag for his skills.

While many traditional modeling aspects do not apply to this division of modeling, a Fit Model must have measurements that just so happen to fall between the designated, target clothing size for the particular brand. (The measurements vary slightly from brand to brand.) And, just how closely does one have to fall within the target measurements?

A half an inch, MAX.

For example, if the posting is looking for a model between the heights of 5″5 and 5″8, models who are 5″4 are too short for the position, and models 5″9 are too tall for that particular fit modeling position.

Fit Models also have to have great communication skills to be able to articulate how the clothing fits, feels, or mention any pulling or discomfort the garment may cause. Designers enjoy working with pleasant, reliable models who have a strong sense of team work and a collaborative spirt.

Oh, and you most certainly be reliable…

Release dates for clothing are crucial, and if a fit model isn’t present for a scheduled fit, it could potentially uphold release dates for an entire line of clothing.


Often times, clients will have a few alternate fit models on call in case their main fit model is not able to make it to a session. Then, it’s up to the next fit model to be ready and flexible to be able to show up at the product development center at a moment’s notice. Clients favor models who follow up to emails QUICKLY as for many, it is the primary way models are contacted.

How Much Does Fit Modeling Pay?

Even though photos are not taken (well, a few phone snap shots may be taken for designer reference) Fit Modeling actually pays substantially MORE than print or catalog models:

  • The entire line of a garment falls on the reliability of only 1-2 fit models for that particular brand
  • It can be extremely difficult to find a Fit Model that happens to fall within the EXACT parameters of a particular size.

Therefore, higher pay.

Fit models can be compensated at either an hourly rate or a flat-fee per session. Depending on the fit model’s experience and the client’s needs, these rates tend to fluctuate between $50-$200 total for a session.

If you know your measurements fall within the specified range within a half inch tolerance, you are a good candidate! You will want to follow up with your agent to confirm they have your most up-to-date stats/measurements on file. If they think you’re a good match, they will set up a “Fit Appointment” or “Go See” with the client.

The Initial Fit Appointment:

Consider this the easiest audition of your life, and a chance to get a behind-the-scenes-look into what goes on in the product development side of fashion. You will be instructed by your agent on what to wear (standard runway attire is usually a great go to) and will be provided with all of the details and contact information before your scheduled appointment.

The a member of the technical design staff will meet with you to verify your measurements, and may have you try on various articles of clothing. They may snap a few phone photos to reference later.

That’s it…

Agency Notes & Tips

Agency talent know the importance of reliability, so leaving early is imperative. You may have to navigate your way around a massive office complex, so allowing enough time to arrive to the venue is extremely important.

Also, agency talent know to NEVER discuss payment or rate information at these go-sees. Your agent will negotiate on your behalf with the client if you are being considered for the fit modeling position.

Do not ask your agent “if you got the job” the very next day. Most often, the design team will be reviewing a few other applicants. They will also need to meet as a group to discuss who their next fit model they believe will most successfully meet their needs.

They will inform your agent about the results in 1-3 weeks. 

Have you ever Fit Modeled?

Share your experience in the comments section below!

Be sure to check out our Auditions and Events page to join us at our upcoming open studio event!

Everything you need to know about Trade Shoots or “TFPs” (Trade For Prints.)

So, you want to get into modeling? Awesome! At this point, you probably know that your first step is to build your modeling portfolio & social media presence. Building a competitive portfolio is a lot of work, especially for someone who is just starting out. You will need to obtain a variety of top quality images that showcase you in the most marketable ways, so that you (and your agent) can effectively market you for future bookings. Your portfolio should always be growing and changing.

Hey… guess who is in a very similar position as you?

…Many up and coming photographers, that’s who! Just as much as you want to take part in professional photo shoots, there are people who just as much want to take your photos.

How it works:

When a project is done as Trade, it means that there is no monetary compensation between the two parties. This is the perfect opportunity to trade services to increase portfolio content for both the model and photographer involved. The model walks away with a few photos to use for her portfolio and Instagram, and so does the photographer!

Details to consider…

Trade work can be a lot of fun, but there are a few things you need to consider. First, you need to understand that photos obtained though trade do not give you the rights to the photo. Which means:

You are NOT allowed to edit the photo in any way. To be even more specific:


When you agree to a Trade Shoot, you are agreeing to keep the photos in their ORIGINAL STATE, to reflect the photographer’s authentic work. Not only is tweaking the photographer’s photo rude and disrespectful, some photographers have trade agreement contracts that include penalization fines for tampering with their work. Agency talent know and understand the importance of respecting the photographer’s work, and always credit the photographer each and every time they share the photo on social media or other web sources.

So…who should I trade with?

It is flattering when you are contacted to collaborate for a trade shoot. However, just because you are asked doesn’t mean you should agree to shoot. First, take a look at the artist’s work: Do you like their style? Will working with them help you generate more marketable content for yourself? Can they provide you with credible references? Can you see yourself having a successful shoot with them…Have you met them in person before? Do you jive with their personality?

If you are signed to an agency, your agent may have a list of awesome photographers or models they think you would be a good fit for. I always tell our talent…when in doubt–REACH OUT! We are here to help!🙌

If you are a freelance model, you must use extreme caution when working with new people or participating in collaborations.

You will want to discuss all kinds of other details prior to agreeing to shoot, so be sure to read The Pre-Photo Shoot Conversation all models & photographers need to have.

Find this article helpful? Give it a ❤️so I know it helped you out! Have a question? Leave it in the comments section below! I respond to all of them!🙌

These things were definitely NOT in the job description…

1. Amazing photos happen when the energy in the room facilitates it

The most successful photo shoots occur when the right energy comes together. Everyone in the room, be it the makeup artist, lighting assistant, photographer, and model all play their fundamental role in creating an environment for creativity to flourish abundantly. Do not work with a photographer, model, or set assistant who is negative, egotistical, or kills positive energy. The entire experience will be less than desirable, and the tension may even show up in the photos. Not to mention: you deserve to work and create with individuals who are about serving a purpose greater than themselves.

2. You must learn to develop the ability to confidently think on your feet.

This shoot was in preparation for next month’s Artist in Residency Final Fashion Showcase at The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. Get the event details to this free event HERE.

Is it starting to rain? Did an outfit get an irreversible stain on it? Did the floor get ripped out without your knowledge on set in a shared studio right before a scheduled photo shoot?

With so many moving parts of a photo shoot, things can happen unexpectedly, but instead of throwing in the towel and giving up right away, often times you can find a way to get creative and make something else work. These kinds of things happen to creatives at every level of the game!! Don’t believe me:

My favorite famous story is about the Beyonce photo shoot with Markus Klinko, who were doing a photo shoot to get the cover of her album, Dangerously In Love. She originally didn’t want to wear that iconic diamond top because there were only skirt options for bottoms… So, what did Markus do?

Took off his pants, and had the superstar model his Levi’s for the studio album cover:

(Thanks Petapixel for the photos!)

Hey, whatever works…and that certainly did! Now, this case is probably a single exception…

If a photographer takes his pants off in a photo shoot, there is ample reason to be concerned. 😅

3. Teaching people how to walk is hard work.

Work with aspiring models on a runway and you will quickly realize how much psychology goes into knocking down their walls of self doubt, insecurity, and fear. This is no easy task, especially in the allotted time of a two hour session. Creating a fun, relaxed environment is paramount to lasting, meaningful impact. Lucky for them, I’m not afraid to let my weird light shine bright when I teach. I am the fearless scapegoat of any perceived judgement, and I am perfectly okay with this. If I can get them to laugh at me, chances are I can get them to laugh at themselves, and stop taking this whole walking thing too damn seriously…

4. Everyone’s goals are different

Yes–you can be a corporate professional AND sing in a rock band. Be who YOU want to be!
Learn more about my band, Down 2 Dance HERE. And follow us on Instagram to keep up with the latest shows, basement jams, and 3 A.M, #Down2Dennys happenings.

Yes, I may be an agent, and my role to my talent is to train them to develop marketable traits and to obtain materials to be competitive in the field, and then to book them into jobs. But, I’m not just an agent. I’m a coach, mentor, rock band singer, semi retired opera singer, Gaga fan, oldest sister… I am a dynamic human. Knowing this helps me to remember that the agency talent are also multidimensional humans who have their own personal and professional goals. And, those goals are priority and secondary to the agency’s goals.

I want the people I represent to become good humans and people before they become good talent…because I know that when they put the time in to do the work and develop their character, they will show up as the best, most confident version of themselves. And THAT is what I know will bring them success–not just in the agency, but in LIFE.

5. Embrace Change, and develop your OWN strategy.

Upon taking the reins of the agency, I was continuously reminded by other people of the way “things have been done”. And, while I knew they had their best intentions at heart, I had to learn to let go of what other people THOUGHT I should be doing in favor of what I knew would be far more effective, efficient, and competitive in a fast paced, and ever changing industry. Now, this wasn’t to say I haven’t made my share of mistakes–I certainly have. BUT I’ve learned that self reflection is a much more effective metric of figuring out how to adjust and move forward. Otherwise, you’re just throwing other people’s darts at a board hoping something will work…And even if one of them does stick by chance, there is no intentional strategy behind it, so there is no way to be consistent.

And consistency is key…

By teaming up with someone who understands that change is necessary for success, I’ve learned I can move toward goals more fearlessly. Krystle, the fabulous agency assistant, is so fantastic and we work so well together because we favor strategy over perceived perfection. We can openly bounce new ideas off each other, leading to trying out new procedures and ideas, while honing our strategy to become even sharper.

It really all comes back to that positive energy concept I mentioned in #1: Work with people who want to move forward in the same direction, and you will save yourself time by not having to work alongside people who believe they are “already there”. Otherwise, you will waste time submerged in their trivial energy competitions–pitted in vanity and ego, clearly rooted in insecurity.

That said, it’s important to realize that we are all humans and all susceptible to the human ego. Check yourself. Keep a beginner’s mindset with childlike wonder. Understand there is ALWAYS more to learn as technology and society–and therefore the industry–changes. Work hard, stay humble, and remember why you started in the first place.

Remember that story of Markus Klinko? Before he was a famous photographer shooting album covers with Beyonce, he was an internationally renowned classical harp player, who traveled to play in symphonies all over the world. After a hand injury that left him unable to play the very instrument that gave his life meaning, he decided that he would find a new instrument:

A Fujifilm GX680111 camera.

(That’s right, all of his shots of David Bowie in the early 2000’s were not shot by a Cannon or Nikon.)

Photography became his passion, and by staying humble, determined, and always kind, not only did he find genuine fulfillment, he eventually opened a full exhibit in the Lincoln Center in New York City, displaying many photo captures from Lady Gaga to Kate Winslet, Vogue covers and all kinds of mega brand collaborations.

The takeaway? Be a Markus Klementi. Be brave enough to try new things, value people as the multifaceted creatures they are, self reflect, and always be open to learning…you just might learn some pretty renowned, unconventional lessons. ❤️

Like this blog? Give it a ❤️or even better: share it with someone who would appreciate it.

Read Next: Defining Where Fear Comes From HEY YOU!! Want to move forward in your passions but not quite sure what’s holding you back? Here’s my opinion: it’s probably something deeper than sheer laziness. It just might be FEAR…even if you don’t realize it. By defining where our fears are coming from, we can put them into perspective so that they no longer subconsciously control us. In this blog, I’ll use personal examples from my own previous fears, and how I’ve learned to punch fear in the face and level up to the person 12 year old me would be proud of. 🙌

In a previous blog, I addressed the Top 5 agency Blunders that can get an agency-talent agreement terminated faster than a same-day rush casting call for Chicago Fire.

Yes…please read that blog (if you haven’t already) to avoid making some of the worst mistakes in the industry!

I’ve put together a list of the most common mistakes I see agency talent make when they first sign to the agency. While these rules may not be quite as harsh as the others, they will certainly hinder your potential and should be avoided at all costs:

1. Thinking you have more time to apply to castings

Follow up with your agent quickly. And I mean QUICKLY. DO NOT assume there will be more time simply because a specific deadline date was not mentioned in the casting notice. Many times, an exact deadline isn’t established. Why? Because the moment the casting or booking agent find the right person for the job, the job is booked.

2. Being unwilling to travel…even a little.

Traveling: Good. Stepping outside your comfort zone: Better.

Especially if you live in a Midwestern or predominately rural demographic, it is important to be able to travel outside of your hometown. Where are the jobs? Mostly in the larger cities. Milwaukee and Chicago are our primary booking cities. A close second place would be Madison, followed by Green Bay and Appleton, WI. If you aren’t willing to travel into the city for opportunities, we will question how much this interest really means to you.

3. Not communicating professionally

Have a question for your agent? Email him/her. Unless you know your agent outside of the agency, it is impolite to start funneling legal questions, booking inquiries, or invoice follow ups via DM on Instagram or Facebook…not to mention, speaking to people across many different platforms gets insanely confusing when it comes to following up with people.

“Hmm…did I talk to them on Instagram, Facebook messenger, snapchat…”

Anything–and I mean anything–business or agency related needs to be addressed by your agent’s preferred method of contact. For me, that is EMAIL. Which also means…


Even if you are not able to do a job/event/show, it is important that you take a second of your time to email your agent to say, “Thank you for the opportunity but I am unavailable for the event.” Otherwise, I’m holding out hope that you will respond saying that you can do it.

…I’d rather you squash my hopes right away.

Following up quickly shows that you care. It shows respect and really goes a long way.

I appreciate you followuppers!!! <3

4. Not turning in vouchers, or leaving fields blank.

If you are booked for a paid job (not volunteer work) your agent will email you a talent voucher beforehand. Talent vouchers serve as extra proof of your hours/day working at a job. Types of jobs that require vouchers are: Fashion shows or hair shows, promotional events, extra work on film or commercial, and paid photo shoots. Once you are finished working the job for the day, make sure you have your voucher signed off by the client. Then, snap a photo of your voucher on your phone and email it back to your agent ASAP.

Forget to have your voucher signed? Let your agent know ASAP so they can confirm and verify your hours and rate with the client before too much time passes.

5. Not being EARLY

Make an entrance in agency-standard runway attire.

In this industry, on time is LATE. You must always be 15-20 minutes early for every booking.

When you are an agency talent, you will be traveling to all kinds of venues that you have never been to before. Always leave earlier than you think you need to in order to allow time for navigating, parking, and unexpected traffic. If you are running more than 10 minutes late to a booking for ANY reason, call your on site contact (that was given to you by your agent.) THEN…let your agent know you are running behind ASAP.

We would much rather here from YOU that you were running late, as opposed to finding out later by the client.

6. Not being prepared ENOUGH for auditions.


If this is a runway audition, make sure you are dressed in COMPLETE Standard Runway Attire with the best RUNWAY SHOES. Your make up is minimal/natural. You have your Comp Card with you, and you know all of your measurements. But most importantly, be sure that:

You have researched this particular show/event, you understand the product or brand, and understand how the client wants the product to be showcased. You will need to deliver a solid runway walk that correlates to the style and brand that will be featured. And yes, you must do this with unquestionable confidence.

7. Being TOO EAGER or not being patient enough

Do not pester your agent for work. When we are notified of a position or opportunity, you will be notified. Understand that bookings tend to slow down before the holidays, and typically won’t pick up until a few weeks after New Year’s.

Also, please don’t go and sign up for every casting service imaginable just because you are desperate for work…many of these NON AGENCIES provide casting services in exchange for your personal contact information…which is then sold to third parties. Don’t be surprised if you start receiving all kinds of emails from other companies offering promises that are too good to be true.

Speaking of too good to be true, it’s just about that time of year again:

**Cue bumping club music**


Okay, let me be the one to say it:

Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel do not need to host talent scoutings in the surrounding suburban cities of Milwaukee Wisconsin to scout talent…


Please steer clear of all of these radio and TV advertisements this time of year. THEY ARE NOT AGENCIES!!


They DO know that you probably just got your taxes back and are therefore more likely to drop larger amounts of money on a perceived pursuit of your child’s hopes and dreams…

Instead of embarking on fictitious “New-Year-New-Me pursuits”, let’s pause for a second to reflect on what actually WILL boost your marketability and opportunities to be cast in local work. It starts with having MARKETABLE photos:

8. Not having marketable photos

Always have RECENT professional photos that have been approved by your agent uploaded to your digital modeling portfolio. Your agent needs natural looking photos of you that are applicable to your age bracket and market in order to effectively market you.

Do not dress inappropriately for a photo shoot and then expect your agent to use those photos to market you because: We won’t.

Your photos must adhere to the Agency Standard in order for your agent to utilize them for marketing purposes. Be sure to read, “How to Dress for a Comp Card Photo Shoot” so that you are completely clear on the expectations of outfits and styles to obtain marketable photos from your next photo shoot. Your agent’s job is to market only the strongest photos of all the agency’s talent.

In short, wardrobe should be:

  • Age appropriate
  • Well fitted and NEW looking attire.
  • Ironed/steamed, with ZERO stains or unintentional holes/tears
  • CLEAN shoes. No scuffs. No dirt. No exceptions.
  • Neatly styled hair. (No “messy bun” or bedhead looks” because they do not photograph well. All flyaways need to be tamed with hair spray and bobby pins. This silkening oil changed my photo shoot life. <3
  • The most marketable photos will depend on your location and local market.
  • For more details on how to obtain your basic agency photos, read this blog.

This really shouldn’t be a problem, as you have entered this field because you are probably passionate about it for the right reasons: You like having your photos taken, so you prioritize photo shoots and shoot regularly and frequently with a variety of photographers.

9. Not knowing how to take digitals

Front View Digital: Model & Singer, Nick Montag

Digitals (aka snapshots) are “non professional grade” photos that can be taken from your cell phone, and they are just as important as your professional photos.

Digitals serve a variety of purposes in the modeling and talent industry. When a prospective agency or casting director wants to see what you look like naturally–without the professional make up artists, high powered lighting, and photo edits, they will ask for digitals. But just to be clear:


To learn how to take digitals, read this.

10. Not knowing how to download your resume as a PDF and attach it to an email.

This is such a vital skill for so many different last minute opportunities!! Not to mention, if you plan on applying to an agency (or any job for that matter) it is a basic necessity to be able to send your resume and head shot as attachments in an email.

I’m no videographer, but I did make a two minute tutorial on how to do this. Check it out on IGTV here.

Okay, I have one more. Consider this a bonus one:

Putting all of your hope into ONE audition

Learn to go about living your life after an audition!!

So much easier said than done, this is a skill that requires time and experience to master. The best thing you can do is to submit for as many castings as possible, and be pleasantly surprised if you receive a callback. This industry is filled with rejection, and you must learn resiliency if you are determined to persevere.

Learn to get in the habit of auditioning for things, and then forgetting about them and moving on with your life. You should have other hobbies and interests that keep you balanced while you are in between gigs.

Find this article helpful? Have any other questions? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.