When & Why Should A Model Be Paid

11 Oct

One of the first questions I’ve seen new models ask over and over is “When am I going to get paid?” and one of the questions I see a lot of photographers posing over and over is “Why should I pay a model?” I’m going to do my best to answer both of these questions based on my past experience, and advice and experiences shared with me by other models and photographers. I recommend everyone read both sections because they really do have a lot to do with each other. I’ll also be adding a section at the very end for some amusement at a later time 😉

Why should a photographer pay a model?

I’m going to answer this one first because I think it will make the second question make a lot more sense.

The simple answer to this question is: A photographer should consider paying a model when the model offers something the photographer cannot get via trade (TF).

Sometimes this might be as simple as the fact that the photographer requires a certain type of model for a project being paid for by a client. This is probably the most commonly cited example via the phrase (used by photographers): “I only pay models when a client is paying me.” Paying an appropriate model for a client’s shoot is a good reason to pay a model, but it isn’t the only reason.

Photographers who are just beginning or who want to improve their portfolios also very often hire a model that fits the style of shoot they are looking to do. Maybe the photographer wants to get into shooting fashion. It would certainly make sense for them to find a model with the appropriate stats who knows how to pose for fashion. However, it is very likely that a model with these characteristics is not going to offer a trade shoot to a photographer who isn’t likely to be able to give them any photos they can use from the shoot. Therefore, the photographer will mostly likely have to hire the model.

Similarly, perhaps a photographer would like to work with a model who has an extensive wardrobe of some sort, let’s say latex. Latex wardrobe is expensive so that model, once again, is likely to expect compensation. She has invested in the wardrobe, hopefully learned how to put it on and take care of it, and know how to pose in it, etc.

What about nude models? Nude models are this really cool, really simple example of supply and demand (although the others are examples too). Nude models apparently represent a very small portion of all the models available. Small supply. However, a lot of photographers want to shoot nudes (of varying styles and levels). Relatively high demand. Therefore, nude models often charge. There are other reasons (real/experienced/serious) nude models charge as well, but in general it is still supply and demand. Obviously, the really talented, skilled nude models will charge more and some nude models will offer trade, of course.

When can a model expect to be paid?

The simple answer to this question is: When the model can offer something a photographer cannot get via trade (TF).

Unfortunately, a lot of models enter into modeling expecting to be paid almost instantly. The truth is that if you are a freelance (non-agency represented) model who doesn’t shoot nudes or fetish and just want photographers to pay you because you are pretty, you may never get paid.

The best way to increase your chances to get paid are to offer as many benefits to shoot with you as possible. Here are a few common ones that are likely to increase your chances of being paid:
– being able to do your own hair and/or make-up
– having a collection of unique wardrobe (latex, Gothic lolita, costumes, Victorian, vintage clothing, etc)
– having excellent references
– having a strong portfolio showing that you can shoot the styles you want to be paid for a.k.a. experience
– having a look that fits the styles you want to shoot (for example, being 5’10” and slender if you want to shoot fashion)
You don’t have to have all of these things. You may only need one or two. And there are other things, these are just examples.

Notice that I did not mention shooting nudes on this list. Simply shooting nudes is in no way a reason for you to expect to be paid. You still need to be able to pose and have a look that is suitable for the type of nude modeling you’d like to do.

Getting paid also depends on what other models are available in your area and what they can offer. If you’re in an area with a lot of models, you may find it more difficult to find paid work just because photographers have so many options. Similarly, if you live in an area where photographers aren’t really looking to pay models of your type, even if you are really good, you may have a hard time finding paid work.

I won’t go into detail here about exactly how you decide on what your rates should be, but I do recommend you read my article called: Rates & TF.

Being paid isn’t really so much a matter of time as a matter of skill, experience, look, and/or what you can offer.

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