Photography Income: How Do Models Get Paid?

Many people think that models enjoy all the luxury in the world. That model gets paid an enormous amount of money for each photoshoot and that each photoshoot is successful.

Well, the reality is a bit more… actually, a LOT more different, unless you’re a top professional model.

And to get to that phase, you need to know your business, and you need to be patient about this job. Being a model in the photography world is very difficult. The struggle is real, as you try to contact numerous agencies and you can get rejected over and over again.

But then, how do models get paid?

Do they even get to make a living out of this profession?

Let’s begin our in-depth analysis.

Related: Photography Laws: Can a Photographer Use My Photos Without My Permission?

Who Pays for a Photoshoot?

Who Pays

If you thought that the model is the only one who gets paid here, you’ve been deceived. When it comes to the model agencies, usually, the model will also have to spend some cash for the photoshoot, at least when starting their career as a model. This means that for the first photoshoot a model will most likely need to pay for the test photoshoot or maybe it will be later deducted from their salary. Later as a model develops his name brand, the agency will conduct all the costs.

Yes, you’ve read that well!

It’s not always enough to have a pretty face and smoking-hot body to make some money overnight. To put it simply, the one who needs the other more, that person/agency/model pays for the photoshoot.

For example, if you need the agency or a photographer to take some photos of you, the chances are that you’ll pay more or even pay for a complete photoshoot. In most cases, if you opt for an agency, you’ll be the one who pays.

Depending on the agency and the market, the price goes from $500 to $1000, which isn’t a low price for a photoshoot. The reason for this is that agencies usually have tons of models to choose from. They don’t need to pay anything for the models as they can have more than a dozen models each day.

When it comes to the private photoshoot, between the model and the photographer, the story is a bit different. A photographer can pay a particular model to pose for him, and in this case, the model will get their money relatively easy.

If a photographer needs those photos for his portfolio or a gallery show, he is the client, and he pays. And if the model requires the pictures for whatever reason, the model will be the client, and then he/she pays.

There is a strange twist here, though. As you know, female models get paid much more than male models, which is…well, I’m not going to give my opinion. This makes getting a job as a model much easier for women, and it’s more likely that they aren’t going to pay any cash whatsoever, especially for a private photoshoot.

How Do Models Get Paid?

Models Get Paid

This has been addressed in the previous section of our article, but let’s take a closer look. The models can get paid doing vastly different jobs for different companies.

For example, you could be a model for a company that can use you to advertise its products. In most cases, this is a beauty product or a new fashion combo that’s going to blow people away. The company will have you do the job, and after you finish it, the amount of cash you agreed to will be paid to you. And if you have a manager, he’ll get 10 or 20 percent of your payment, and that’s it.

As for professional models, things are a bit different. Professional models get paid from numerous companies and product promotions. Every company needs a model at one time in their existence. For example, companies like Nike, Puma, Reebok, Adidas, or any other similar company, they need models. A model will then get paid for a photoshoot or for merely promoting their products.

The best thing about being a professional model is that you get those products that you need to promote for free, and you get paid for that! Now, it isn’t all that great since you have a long way to go.

  • And Do They Get Some Free Clothes?

Some Free Clothes

It depends. If there’s a company that has just released its piece of clothing and this company is still not that recognizable, the model will usually get that piece of clothing for free. This can either be a pair of shoes, some dresses, sportswear, and similar.

If they don’t get it for free, models are almost always offered to buy that product at a much lower price, which is still a sweet deal for that model.

Now, some photoshoots are quite ‘expensive’ as there are premium pieces of clothing in the game. In that case, a particular dress or shoes are intended only for the photoshoot. A classic example of that would be those fashion runways or fashion shows.

The model gets dressed, walks down the runway and then returns inside. In that case, the clothing is only for the show-off, and the model doesn’t get anything free.

  • What About Instagram Models?

Instagram Models

Instagram was first launched in 2014, and back then, it wasn’t as popular as now. Just a couple of years ago, Facebook amazed us with its all-around features that Instagram didn’t have.

Right now, Instagram is far more superior to Facebook, and when something struck the world’s attention, it’s the right opportunity for people to make it as lucrative as it can be.

Instagram is home of beautiful photography; models made their way as soon as Instagram emerged from the oblivion. And quite frankly, there’s tons of cash involved in popular Instagram accounts – more than you can actually grasp!

Nobody will pay you if you have ten or twelve thousand followers, BUT you didn’t get that number for anything. It’s a perfect combination of views, sponsorships, and followers that gets those Instagram models paid. Usually, those are mostly female models, but there are some male models, too.

Whether it’s a female or a male model, we usually call those models influencers.

  • How Do Instagram Models Make Money?

Models Make Money

It’s all about brand partnerships, simple as that. Those companies will sometimes send free products to Instagram influencers, and they will include those products in their latest post or posts. This is an excellent way to start making money, but as we said, you need a bit of luck and lots of loyal followers.

A company will not use you as a tool for promoting their products if you have 300 or 500 followers, but a much higher number. The company can also pay that person to wear their clothes or tag their brand in every post. That’s why you see those big Instagram profiles tagging some companies from time to time.

Depending on the influencer and the company, the company will sometimes offer the influencer to travel to certain events that are connected with the company. This is a perfect opportunity to make some cash, but of course, you need to have a ridiculous follower count.

Related: How to Grow Your Photography Business on Instagram

  • How Much Money Is at Stake?

How Much Money

A lot of money is at stake here. Sponsorships and advertising can make a lot of money, and companies are already spending billions of dollars annually, which speaks for itself. This is where your follower count has a significant influence.

A beginner Instagram influencer can’t expect to earn lots of money as his follower count isn’t that impressive. A company will get more views and recognition amongst the models with a higher number of followers – nothing new.

But, how much money can they make?

You won’t believe me, but we’re talking about more than $100,000 a month! A single sponsored or branded Instagram post can sometimes cost up to $10,000, and some models even charge every single like they get.

That’s insane!

If a model posts ten sponsored posts per month, that’s already $100,000. And if you charge every like that photo gets, that’s a serious amount of money.

Related: Instagram Rules and Regulations for Photographers

How Much Do Models Make per Photoshoot?

This one is a bit tricky to answer. The amount of cash that one model can earn dramatically depends on the type of the photoshoot as well as the model’s status among the other professionals.

While not every model can make a living out of modeling, there are some that are usually paid well.

Let’s take a look at the three most lucrative types of modeling:

1. Runway Model

Runway Model

You’ve guessed it.

Runway models are paid the most out of all models, but to get to the runway, you’ll need some serious business. Not only that, but there are certain conditions to meet, such as required height, required weight, and not to mention that you need to be extremely good-looking. But enough of that.

How much do they earn at all?

Per show, a runway model can earn up to $20,000. You’ll agree that this is some serious cash and it is. Even if a model has a single show per month, this salary is still much higher than an engineer or even a doctor’s salary.

An hourly rate can get up to $200, which on the other hand, isn’t that impressive. Of course, it all depends on the show and its popularity. If it’s a huge show going on, you’ll be aiming at much higher payments and vice versa.

All in all, these models earn the most, but they also put a lot of effort into getting on that stage.

2. Hand/Foot Model

HandFoot Model


Surprisingly, a hand or foot model can also earn a good amount of cash. Selling parts of your body might not seem like a smart idea, but the good thing is that in most cases, you stay anonymous during these photoshoots.

This means that this modeling niche requires a model to have aesthetically pleasing hands, feet or even legs.

These models usually charge around $100 to $150 per hour or photoshoot. And there isn’t an exact number of how much they can earn per show, as there isn’t any show. Instead, this is more like freelance modeling, meaning that the model can undertake more work for different clients.

Still, this is a very lucrative modeling niche, and it’s worth trying to get into.

3. Portrait/Photographic Model

PortraitPhotographic Model

Portrait/photographic modeling is one of those modeling niches where pretty women can earn a lot. Nonetheless, men are also included in this modeling niche which slowly is becoming more and more popular.

When it comes to modeling for catalogs, you can earn more than $1,000 per day and around $100 per hour.

As for advertising agencies, the payment is increased to $250 per hour and $10,000 per day. But, this all depends on the client, as well as your prestige in the world of modeling.

Related: Portrait Photography Tutorial: How to Do Portrait Photography the Right Way

Male vs. Female Model Earnings

Male vs. Female

We all know it – the whole modeling industry is based around women. That’s not to say that the male model can’t make some earnings. They can, and there are tons of male models that make a living out of this profession, but a woman will ALWAYS earn more than a man.

A woman will be able to sell more products thus earning much more cash, simple as that.

Even if you take a look at some of the advertisements on TV, you’ll see women more than men. A beauty product is almost always advertised by women and rarely by men.

Let’s begin by examining the salaries of male models first.

Two years ago, the average hourly wage for male models was around $10. You’ll agree that this is a fairly low rate, and even though the highest-earning male models could make approximately $25 per hour, it’s still not that high.

This data was taken from the models that aren’t top professionals but are making their way towards the top. And researchers say that women get around 25 to 75% additional salary over the men.

That’s astonishing!

Having said that, the top-earning male model earned around $1.5 million in 2016.

And guess who the most-earning female model was?

It was Gisele Bundchen, with her jaw-dropping annual salary of $42 million. Let me do the math for you – it’s 28 times more than this male model.

Insane, isn’t it?

But that’s how things are it’ll stay like that because women are more important in this business.

To put things into perspective, modeling is a very lucrative business, but it’s also tough to get into. It’s also directly connected with popularity and a bit of luck since it’s all about working with companies that promote specific products.

Without those companies and fashion designers, modeling wouldn’t be that popular and well paid.

In that regard, getting into this business and making a living out of it is sometimes really hard. On the brighter side, a model can be paid in numerous ways for their promotions and hard work.

It’s even better if you are a female model, as you can earn much more and get the job with more ease. Nonetheless, the point of this article was to teach you about how (much) are models earning their living, and that’s what we hopefully achieved.

Modeling career can be full of ups and downs, and the important thing is to stay consistent. If you’re a model wannabe, you can always use your Instagram account to start your journey. As you saw, it’s an excellent way of earning as a model.

Related: How to Make Money Taking Pictures for Companies?

Photography Income: How Do Models Get Paid?

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