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Model Rates: How much do agencies charge?

If you are serious about your photography and want to book an outstanding model, your best bet is to go through an agency. Not only do most agency models fit the general requirements of the fashion industry as excellent clothes hangers, they also know how to pose and will certainly help you create better pictures than you would have otherwise and in a much shorter period of time. You may have seen freelance models charging rates over $100 per hour and may think that agencies must be so much more expensive, but they are not. There are several factors that come into play when booking an agency model, so I will try to explain them as easily and accurately as possible.

Whenever you book a model through an agency, it’s subject to negotiation. While agencies have somewhat fixed rates for their models, they will vary them depending on the photographer and the model’s schedule. In addition, you will have to pay for extras such as commercial usage or travel time.

Model Base Rate

The base rate for an agency model can vary between $0 and easily run into the thousands of dollars per hour. If you are an approved photographer with an agency, it is very likely that they will let you shoot their new models for free and that you will receive a pretty good discount on their experienced models as long as you are not doing a commercial photo shoot. Otherwise, the average rate for an agency model is between $50 and $250 per hour (depending on the market and the agency) plus 20% agency fee. Naturally you will pay more for a model in a market like NYC who is signed with one of the better agencies. Some agencies will also charge more if the models has to be on set before 9 am or after 5 or 6pm.

Model Day Rate / Half Day Rate

Day rates are charged when you book a model for a whole day, which is usually 9 am till 5.30 pm (including at least a 30 minute break). Half day rates are charged for any four hours within that time-frame. Some agencies are strict on half days, as they try to maybe book another half day for the model. Other agencies are fine with any four hour block between 9 am and 5.30pm.

Travel Time

Unless you are planning to do the shoot close to where the agency is located, you will likely be charged for travel time. In general, travel time is billed as half of the base rate. Close in this respect is relative. Some agencies in NYC will not charge travel time for travel to Queens, while others will consider everything outside of their ZIP Code as travel.

Hair, Make-Up, Styling, Preparation

Most likely you will pay the full rate as soon as the model arrives on your set until she leaves your set. If the MUA needs three hours for the make-up, you will pay the full base rate for those three hours. Hence, a good and fast make-up stylist will cost more than a newbie, but may save you money in the long run. The same applies to hair stylists, wardrobe stylists, and anybody else who works with the model before, during, or after you shoot.

Usage Fees

Professional photographers charge usage and license fees for their images and so do agencies. These fees very largely depending on a whole lot of factors, such as the agency, the market, the model, and of course where and how the image will be used. Naturally, the usage fee for a pamphlet for medium-sized company will be significantly lower than the usage fee for an international ad campaign. If you plan to use the pictures for an ad campaign, most agencies will also expect you to inform them about the nature of the product and/or the brand. There is usually no usage fee if you just want to use the pictures for your Portfolio.

Other Terms and Conditions

Alright, once you negotiated all of the above, there are still some things that you should negotiate with the agency beforehand. Remember, modeling and photography is a business and you should treat it as such. This especially hold true when it comes to binding contracts. Depending on the agency, many of the following terms will not be negotiable.


Usually, bookings that are canceled within five business days are charged at half of the base rate and bookings that are canceled within three business days are charge at the full base rate. If you need to cancel your shoot due to inclement weather, most agencies have so called “weather permits” that either let you reschedule the shoot or get out of it for half of the base rate.

Tentative Bookings

Tentative bookings can be canceled at any time by either party without any fines or fees to be paid. If you are going this route, expect the agency to call you to confirm as soon as they have an inquiry for that time an date or about a week in advance of the shoot. If you do not confirm on short notice, the agency will most likely cancel the shoot. Aside from the agency, the model may also cancel the shoot on her own accord at any time before it is confirmed.

Multiple Models

If you plan to do a shoot with more than one model, you will most likely have to inform the agency. Some agencies are fine with it, while others may give you a hard time depending on the other model.

Changing Facilities / Dressing Rooms

Almost all agencies require you to provide a dressing room or other type of changing facility for the model to change outfits. Some agencies are more strict about the privacy level of them than others, but in any case, they need to be secure from any outsiders who have nothing to do with the shoot.

Lingerie / Swimwear

Some agencies may require you to do those types of shoots on a closed set. That does not mean that it actually has to be in a close room, but that the set should be protected from outsiders passing through. Usually some ropes and someone watching out is sufficient, but some agencies are stricter than others.


As you can see, hiring an agency model is probably more complicated in the beginning than hiring a freelance model. Nonetheless, it is not necessarily more expensive and is certainly more reliable. I do not know any photographer who ever had a problem with an agency model not showing up or an agency model not delivering on expectations. Of course it may happen, but the chances are pretty low.

14 thoughts on “Model Rates: How much do agencies charge?”
  1. Cindy October 27, 2010 on 3:30 am Reply

    More great info! thanks

  2. Michael Bloomberg December 12, 2011 on 5:49 pm Reply

    Cheers, Your website looks outstanding, I can tell how much time you have put into it. I am going to bookmark it and will make sure to visit weekly.

  3. Helen April 10, 2012 on 1:32 pm Reply

    Hello. I am a new agency and I was wondering where do I get model vouchers from? How do I find the rates I should charge clients? What percentage should I charge the models? How much of a “agency fee” should I charge? Thank you for your help!

    • Svenler April 10, 2012 on 2:06 pm Reply

      Hi Helen,

      A model voucher is a document that details the shoot and which the model has to bring to every shoot. It’s pretty much a receipt of work done and you can make your own template and pretty much any printer should be able to make it into a voucher book.

      The rates that you should charge clients depend on your market and the models under contract with you. If no one books models from you, you either have bad marketing or your rates are too high.

      The percentage charged to models and the agency fee usually vary between 10-25% with most major agencies charging 20%. This is again a business decision. If you can’t find any clients, you may want to lower the agency fee. If you can’t find any models, you may want to lower the model fee.

      I hope this helps and let me know if you have any questions.

      On a side note, I took a look at your website and it should be more clear in which city you provide models and their stats are (as well as more pictures). Let me know if you are sending one of your models to the D.C. area soon, I might be able to use one for a test shoot.


  4. AKASH June 4, 2012 on 6:58 am Reply


  5. Joaine November 7, 2012 on 12:22 pm Reply

    I am in the process of starting up my own model agency.
    Can someone help me with a few questions I have?
    Is there any one I can contact directly?
    Thank you

  6. Natalie May 9, 2013 on 10:55 am Reply

    Thank you for this informative piece. I would like to gather some more info about starting my own model agency. I have all the models, photographers, make- up artist, receptionist & PA to work, all I need now is a trainer & coach. I am wondering how do I find these people?

  7. Angela October 14, 2014 on 8:14 am Reply

    Hi there!

    I find this site very informative. I was offered a modelling job by a free lancer photographer based in Australia. I’ve met him in one of the professional sites in the net. He offered me a rate of $350/hr which is far more than the usual rate that you stated in this site. I am, somehow, having second thoughts since I am not a professional model being offered with such high rate. How do I know if he is really a legitimate photographer in his field of profession?

    • Svenler October 24, 2014 on 2:58 pm Reply

      Hey Angela,

      As a general rule, the only photographers who pay models are stock photographers (or amateurs who are more interested in erotic work), in the case of stock photography $350 would be high even as a day rate.

      For professional jobs that pay $350 an hour, there is no reason not to go through an agency, especially since you want to have some assurances that the model will show up on set on time.

      I hope that helps.


  8. Juliet November 25, 2014 on 3:33 am Reply

    I was wondering how one would go about contacting the agency to book the model, and what to expect?

  9. Grace Paulino June 20, 2015 on 3:05 am Reply


    Thank you for the information. It was very useful to me as a new Talent management. I’m currently booking models locally in Toronto, Canada and might started sending some oversea as early as next year depending on the market pick up. I’m interested in fining out more about our local market in Toronto’s rate hourly and daily etc..


    Grace Paulino

  10. Katherine October 30, 2015 on 7:54 am Reply

    Hi Sven,

    I want to take up the job as a talent for Hair Shampoo TVC, however I was asked what my rates will be like. I have no idea about the right and best rates about Hair Shampoo TVC or any TVC.

    May I have some advises from you?

    Thank you.


    • Svenler October 30, 2015 on 12:34 pm Reply

      Hi Katherine, your rate depends on a lot of factors:

      Will you be lead, visual, or out-of-visual?
      Will everything be done in one day or will you need to be on set several days?
      What city/country are you in?
      Will the commercial be aired internationally, nationally, statewide, or locally?
      If it will be aired internationally, in how many countries and which ones?
      Will the commercial only be aired on television or will there be other usage as well?
      How long will the campaign run for?

      These are a lot of questions, but while your day rate might be comparably low, the extent of usage will determine your pay for this assignment.


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