3 Ways to Hire Models for Your Next Shoot

by Michael Anthony

Hiring models is something that we photographers need to do from time to time, whether you want to practice a concept, build your portfolio, or complete a client assignment, there will come a time where you need to hire a model for something.

So many photographers have questions about how to do this correctly. There is not a one-size fits all approach to hiring models, and it has taken us many years of doing it wrong in order to finally get it right.

First, understand that there are different methods of hiring models for different types of needs, so the ones I am going to discuss today can be applied depending on what the best need is for you. Second, understand that today I am going to talk about hiring models, meaning I am not going to discuss trade situations. There is a time for that, but usually that is when both parties can benefit. Today, speaking from a business owner’s perspective, there will be many times where your needs will outweigh what you could potentially give back to a model.


#1. Using Directories like Model Mayhem

This is by far my most favorite method for finding the right model for my job. Model Mayhem is a community that has been around for well over 10 years. It connects photographers, makeup artists, and models together to help them create. Model Mayhem has been a successful tool for us over the years, however that wasn’t until we started using it correctly.

Most photographers utilize Model Mayhem’s casting call feature. Basically you can create a casting call, and theoretically professional models will search through the casting calls, find you, apply, and give you a ton of choices. Sounds great right?

Unfortunately, I have found that this feature leaves me with dozens of models that don’t fit my project, are inexperienced, or are otherwise not a good match for what I am looking for.

That doesn’t mean that Model Mayhem is a bad source for finding models however…….think about it like this….

Have you ever seen a bride Broadcast on Facebook that she is looking for photographers that don’t charge an arm and a leg? What happens? They are flooded with dozens of unqualified photographers. Why is this? Because she made a casting call…..

Instead, brides find success picking their vendors by doing their research, and reaching out to them directly……and that is what you should do as well.

Using the “Browse” function in Model Mayhem, you are able to search for the exact model you are looking for. From there you can reach out to them directly and begin matching them up with your project. I highly recommend reaching out to multiple models at a time, because they can tend to not be responsive if they are not active on the MM platform, however I like sorting the models by time they last logged in to make sure that I am finding someone that is going to be responsive.

Now, I am going to give you a little tip for hiring not only models this way, but basically anybody that you need to do business with. A photographers typical inclination is to ask a model what her rate is for the day. If you appear like a successful studio, and you ask a model what their rate is, you are probably going to overpay. Instead, treat your job like a business, and put together a budget. Tell your model what your budget is, and negotiate from there.

I learned this the hard way when overseas looking for English speaking models, there were not a ton to choose from, and because I was inexperienced in hiring models at the time, I almost always overpaid.

Now that you know how to negotiate and find models using directories, let’s get onto a more advanced method….using agencies.


#2 Hire models through an agency.

Agencies exist for a variety of reasons, they help connect busy professionals with talent for potential jobs. Agencies typically scout great talent, and then work as a broker to connect them with whoever is looking to hire them.

That being said, you have to understand that agencies are a business, and businesses exist to make a profit, therefore it's reasonable to assume you are going to typically pay more to work with an agency. You are also going to have access to talent that not only has unique looks, but also know how to pose and work in a variety of roles……something that is almost a crapshoot when hiring a model directly from a directory. Expect to pay between $700-$1200 for quality talent at an agency.

One way you can get the cost down is to ask about working with new faces, these are typically newer, less experienced models that you can shoot with. Once you develop a relationship with an agency, they may send you models to test with at no cost. After working with a model, you can develop a relationship with them and oftentimes hire them directly for smaller projects at a reduced fee.

Therefore agencies are typically a great way to hire talent if you are shooting a commercial job that requires punctual, experienced talent and grants you a budget to work with.

Agencies typically have a contact number, and you will likely have to reach out weeks before your shoot. Some are not responsive if the job or budget is too small, so if you have a looming deadline, be sure to reach out to a few.


#3 Find your Models on Instagram

A few years ago, I wouldn’t have listed this as an option, however models have become more and more active over the last few years on Instagram. You can search for your models via hashtags, and save their images to collections….when you have a shoot coming up, you can DM them and propose a rate for your project.

Much like searching directories, IG can be a very useful tool in finding the right models. You can also find models through other photographers that you follow as they will often tag them in their images.

BEWARE when you use this method of IG models, which are exactly what they sound like…..models with little experience that know a few good angles to post on their profile. I always look at a models ability to pose and the variety of different looks and expressions they offer on their shoots. Once you know what you are looking for it’s pretty easy to spot a real model

Now that you know my favorite ways to hire models for your next shoot, put them into practice and leave some of your images in the comments below!



Download our FREE Lighting Guide PDF!

Get lighting diagrams, post-production info, and a gear list from some of the most popular images on our Instagram.