How Much to Pay Models
By Andrew Hudson Published: June 7, 2011 Updated: November 26, 2013
“Buy low, sell high” is the way to make money. You want to minimize your costs and one of the significant costs is in hiring models. Let’s see how to hire models for minimum money.
Free is a good price. Family and friends might help you out, and aspiring models may work for trade.
Kids are the cheapest models. Usually they’re happy just to receive an ice cream! Of course, the parents often want a bit more. Since the parents have to commit the time and prepare the child, they’ll require something to make the effort worthwhile. If a trade for photos won’t suffice, a payment of perhaps $100 per hour might work.
Note that kids don’t have the attention span to work for too long. You’ll be lucky to get 10 minutes of posing from a toddler. So plan on frequent breaks and bring some toys to keep their focus.
For a photo shoot of kids blowing bubbles, I contacted parents from our local school and paid $40 per child, plus ice cream. Each child was on camera for about ten minutes. I once gathered two soccer teams of 22 six-year-old girls for a photo shoot. I paid $100 for a soccer coach and $20 per child — plus ice cream!
Adults Booked Directly
Models from Craigslist, Model Mayhem or other online model venue will expect $50–$100 per hour, plus expenses. They may want a minimum amount to make the gig worthwhile, such as $200 minimum, or a “booking fee” of $100.
Any expenses for travel, gas, entry, clothing, props, etc. will be additional.
Even if the models are not work for trade, you can be sure that they’ll ask you for copies of the photos for their portfolio, so know beforehand how you want to handle that.
On a photo shoot featuring models from Craigslist, I paid the models $200–$240 for a half day which included travel expenses.
A booking agency can provide models but will require payment for their service. This may be a fixed amount and/or an agency service charge of typically 15–20% of the models’ fees.
There may be a two-hour minimum, a half-day rate (up to four hours), and a full-day rate (up to eight hours). Payment to the agency may be net 30 days, meaning that you pay them by check within 30 after the shoot.
The hourly rate for a model through an agency is likely to be more than if you booked them directly. This is partly because the agency also takes a percentage (perhaps 20%) of the hourly rate before paying the model. In other words, the agency actually gets 40% of the hourly rate — 20% from you and 20% from the model — and the model gets 80% of the rate.
A typical model rate through an agency is $150–$200 per hour. So one model for a few hours of studio work may cost you around $720 ($150 x 4,+20%).
There may also be a fee based on the intended usage of the photos. And the agency may require that the model release(s) be submitted through them.
Note, however, that all these things are often negotiable. You could tell some sob story of how little you’re getting paid and see if they can trim the total bill for you.
As you can see, this can all add up quickly. So make sure that your project requires the extra services of an agency and you can afford the extra money involved.
Benefits of a Modeling Agency
Certainly agencies provide a useful service for the additional cost. Modeling agencies can:
- Respond quickly to meet a tight deadline
- Do the basic screening for you and provide a group of photos to review
- Provide experienced models
- Find a group of models based on your requirements
- Ensure that the models turn up on time, clothed suitably, and ready to start
- Give you one point of billing
- Bill the client directly
Due to the one-stop-shopping and casting services of an agency, most major clients use modeling agencies.
Models are people too, and they’re in a similar business as photographers, trying to make money from what they enjoy. So be prepared to pay a reasonable amount that you would expect to get for your time. It’s better to pay a bit more in the short term in order to build a lasting working relationship for the long term.
But I Want Models for Free!
How about for trade? OK? All right, we have a deal. Here’s how to hire photography models for free.