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.

Learn more.


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.

Agency Models

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.


Reply by Anonymous

September 24, 2016

I am looking to hire a model for a shoot for my new CD cover. Should I expect to just pay a flat rate to the model, or should I expect to also pay a % of CD sales? I want to be fair about it, but I also need to control upfront costs as I am financing the entire project myself.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

November 15, 2016

Expect to pay a flat rate. A percentage of sales is not necessary and would be an ongoing accounting headache. Offer the flat rate your consider fair and make sure you get a signed model release.

Reply by Yarevan

July 14, 2016

I want my daughter to be a model, What is a first step?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 2, 2016

Talk to your friends, perhaps one of them knows someone who is a model or a photographer that you can ask for advice.

Contact a local modeling agency or photographer for suggestions.

There may be model training services in your area, where you pay a fee to a company that will send your daughter on model assignments.

Reply by Anonymous

April 7, 2016

Thanks for the article, but modeling rates have really come down the last few years. Many models on Craigslist and ModelMayhem will accept less than $20 per hour. And many professional jobs, that were cast with agency models, are now using independent models. Often working for free or some clothes or pictures and hoping to get some exposure or make contacts.

Yes, established models with a major agency make excellent money, but most newer models make much more modest fees. And only a few make the kind of money it takes to do well in a place like New York or Paris.

Reply by Anonymous

November 17, 2015

Thank you I really want to become one.

Reply by Anonymous

March 27, 2015

Interesting info.

Reply by Anonymous

March 2, 2015

I’m interested in modeling ...need help..

Reply by Anonymous

February 8, 2015

I like modeling and I need help.

Reply by Stylist Lee

June 16, 2013

Looking for great talented models for my portfolio .

Reply by Natalie

May 7, 2013

Thank you for your info, I am thinking of starting a model agency, very helpful.

Is there anything you would add?

Reply by Agency

March 19, 2013

Good information however, the % an agency receives is actually 33% (not 40%). While I can understand that most people will see 20% from the model and 20% from the client equals 40%, this is incorrect.

For example:

Client books model for a 1-day shoot at the rate of $1000, plus a 20% agency fee - that is, $200 for a TOTAL invoice of $1200 to the client.

Now at this point, it is important that the agency deducts its 20% from the client BEFORE deducting its 20% from the model (the model must only pay 20% from their rate of $1000, not $1200).

The agency should remove the first $200 from the client, then deduct the model’s 20% (which is $200), for a total of $400 paid to the agency. $400 of the total invoice ($1200) is actually 1/3, or 33%.

If the agency received the $1200 from the client and automatically deducted 40% as you mentioned, they would be overcharging the model because 40% of $1200 is actually $480.

It’s a common mistake, but a good accounting department will know to calculate the agency fee properly :)

Reply by Betty

January 25, 2013

I’ve always wanted to be a model & take pictures. I love showing my beauty & keeping pictures , doing themes , I think I have very much potential to be a supermodel by the time I’m older , right now I’m doing teen modeling I’ll be 18 next year & I can’t wait to go farther.

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