Paying a model: Hourly versus Flat Rate 

I’ve been photographing models for over 18 years and one important topic is their compensation. You want whatever agreement to be settled before the day of the shoot is at hand. About all models you find on Model Mayhem and other websites will list an hourly rate and number of hours minimum. Some will also list trip charges and list an area they will consider plus other terms such as escorts. For an established model who is constantly working it is going to be firm but for newbies in reality it is wishful thinking.

When it comes to paying a model strictly by the hour, I won’t do it after getting burned a few times when I was a newbie photographer. I had a few instances where a model ‘ran the clock’ by taking frequent breaks to brush her hair or needing fifteen minutes to change an outfit. Suddenly my bill for the shoot was double what I was expecting. This is a hobby for me and I am not making money off the images so it is not a cost I will absorb.

Therefore, I will only do ‘flat rate’ based on number of outfits and not how long the shoot takes. With a flat rate shoot both parties get what they want and share the risk for any technical issues that can arise during a shoot or if the model needs a half hour to change. It is a two-way street. But the offer for flat rate should be based on what is realistic for the model to expect for the time and not to take advantage of her.

If you offer a model this you will undoubtedly get her initial objection and some will tell you they will not do it and end the negotiation and others will tell you to FOAD. One well known model that was local to me at the time would answer my periodic ads for models on ModelMayhem and we’d have the same argument every six months as she was adamant of hourly only and would never consider flat rate. At her level in the industry she is in the position to reject offers like mine. But for the lessor known or models rising the ladder they will counteroffer most of the time since they need income.

   A flat rate example: Model wants $150 an hour with two hour minimum. So I would offer 6 outfits for $250 or eight for $300 to get her into the bargaining. She counters at seven outfits for $300 with two-hour maximum time. I counter for five outfits and two bikini (if she offers that in her profile) for $300 and about all the time she would take it.

   Another way of doing it if the negotiation like above fail is payment per outfit which I also find fair. The model wants $100 an hour so I offer $30 per outfit with max of seven outfits of $210. Then comes the second level negotiating of maximum time per outfit. Most of the time I would tip the model if she was really good with her posing and attitude. Some models are a joy to work with and others are not.

     Most models will counter with an additional condition of a overall time limit which is fair. A model does not want you to get her for half a day if you did not set up your lighting. A busy model can have multiple shoots per day so she can be limited in how much time you can have. I will gladly agree to an overall time limit. I don’t want to enter a model shoot with an uptight or irritable model.