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model pricing guide: what to expect when hiring a model [2022]

by | Dec 10, 2021

research shows that utilizing models in e-commerce product photography encourages sales.  we love the online retail revolution; e-commerce sales have gradually overtaken in-person shopping in most categories.  but consumers still want to feel like they know the way it fits. the way it moves. the way it feels.  a good model will achieve this: bridging the gap between the screen and the customer.  


here’s everything you need to know about hiring models — what you can expect to pay for different types of models — and best practices to keep in mind for great e-commerce photos and building rapport with other creatives.

variables that impact the costs of models 

because modeling is widely considered independent contractor work: there are dozens of variables that can affect the price. time. and outcome of hiring models.  some models are signed with agencies who book on their behalf.  some manage their own bookings through sites like Craigslist and Fiverr.  and some might be your next-door neighbor’s dog.  

no matter what type of model you’re working with — or how thick their portfolio is — remember to treat them professionally and respectfully.  building rapport with studio creatives and having a reputation for treating models well will pay off for you in the long run!

model options and their costs

sourcing free models via friends and family 

 recruiting from your own social circle for models might be a super affordable option!  using everyday people as models is also a great way to showcase relatability in your product photography.  this method might work for some and end up being a headache for others.  consider what types of detailed shots you’ll need to get from your models.  if you need hand models — for example — you may end up paying for your friends’ manicures to ensure they look nice.  or if you need full-body shots for clothing items: a shoot may take a lot longer trying to get the right angles from a non-professional.  and lastly: if your product requires a certain skill to use — using amateur models may turn out awkward in your photos.  carefully consider the vibe you want in your product photos to ensure your models can match that.



  • can be a more relaxed shoot
  • can result in fun and down-to-earth photos
  • most likely the more economical option



  • photos may look less professional
  • models can be less skilled
  • more time-consuming
  • hidden costs to get models ready

using kid models can be an affordable option 

oftentimes kid models can be cheaper than adult models.  this isn’t because you’re not paying for their labor (you are!) but because with children you may only be able to expect a few minutes of viable shooting time before they’re tired or distracted.  the younger the child: the less time you should expect to get them to pose.  but if your product needs to be marketed with child models — all you need is a few quality minutes to get the shots you want!  there are modeling agencies who represent child models if you’re looking for a little one with experience in front of the camera.  there are also photographers who bribe their local t-ball team with ice cream and end up with great photos (with parents’ permission of course).  your approach here will depend on how you want your photos to turn out and how you want your kid models to interact with your product.


  • often the cheapest professional models
  • a shorter shoot
  • it just doesn’t get cuter



  • kids can be difficult to manage
  • a shorter shoot (let’s be real: this is a pro and a con)
  • hidden costs involved with cleaning up messes. editing out messes. managing messes.

finding a model is hard

but booking one with soona is easy. you’re just a few clicks away from a fully refreshed content library. 

the cost associated with using pets as photography models 

pet models vary wildly in price. dog training — for example — isn’t cheap.  if you want a dog who will wear a hat and spin in a circle for your GIF: you’ll need to pay the owner fairly for how much time and money they’ve invested in training their dog.  just like human models; pet models can also be represented by an agency or booked independently by their human.  the good news is: just the presence of a furry friend on your set can catch the eye of your potential customers.  so you won’t always need them to sit perfectly still or hold poses.  candid shots of an animal curiously sniffing your product can stop a scroll just as well!



  • consumers love to see cute animals in product photos
  • you’re guaranteed to have a great day 👌
  • candid photos of pet models usually turn out great



  • be prepared to clean up some messes
  • can be less predictable
  • similar to children: you may only get a few minutes to shoot
  • you’ll need to pay the owner too!

the price of booking directly with a model

booking directly with a model usually means they manage their own bookings and therefore their own rates.  because these models aren’t represented by an agency: you may be getting a better rate because you aren’t paying fees to the agency and the model isn’t having to pay a portion of their profits.  booking models directly can happen on freelancing websites or through open-call type ads.  this may give you a lot of freedom to get specific with the type of model you want and the experience you want them to have.  while you can get pretty niche with your requirements — you may also be answering a lot of inquiries from models who don’t have the experience or professionalism you’re looking for. 

freelance or private contractor models typically range between $50 – 250 per hour.  you’ll want to negotiate hourly rates as well as travel time and any preparations (do you want them to have their hair/nails/makeup done? do you expect them to wear a certain type of clothing to set? will you have a changing room or tent available on set for them to use?)


  • nearly infinite options for types of models
  • can save money on agency fees
  • can build rapport with local models for future use



    • can be less predictable/reliable
    • costs can add up for preparation of the model
    • travel can be costly depending on the location
    • you’ll have to negotiate for yourself

      agency model costs 

      booking a model with an agency is usually pretty streamlined: they’re a business who essentially rents out their models.  you pay the agency and the agency pays the models.  but because of this middleman — it’s easy to incur more fees.  you can expect your models to have more professional experience and arrive to set groomed and ready to shoot if they’re representing an agency.  however — the agency will likely still be charging travel rates.  agencies can also be less flexible about time. 

      for example: you should expect an agency to require you to book a half day or full day model within a certain time frame (example: 9am-5pm).  and they may charge fees if your shoot is earlier or later than their typical operating hours.  you can expect price ranges for agency models to be higher.  for example: $100 per hour for the model plus 20% agency fees.



      • models with professional experience
      • an agency handles communication
      • pricing can be more straight-forward



        • agencies often charge more fees
        • may be more rigid with price negotiation
        • set time constraints

          packaged, non-traditional model sourcing opportunities 

          a perfect solution for utilizing models in a stress-free way is to take a non-traditional route.  soona is a company that has reimagined product photography for e-commerce.  you can book a shoot a la carte style (meaning you only pay for the photos you end up loving)! 

          soona hosts virtual photo shoots — so you can hop onto a shoot via video call or chat and see the photos as they’re taken in real-time.  this way: you don’t pay travel costs for yourself or the model.  you build the photoshoot you want and soona’s studio creatives collaborate with you to bring your vision to life!

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