Five Questions to ask Yourself before Charging to Model

By: Abby DivDate: July 22, 2019

When to charge for your work is a common question asked by many photographers and models. Maybe you've done a few shoots or you've been shooting for years. It's not an easy question to answer either as there can be many factors that play into the value of your work which will tell if there's a fee to charge. These are the signs of whether it's time to change that expensive past time into a profession or casual creative outlet into a commodity:

Who are you shooting for?

The number one reason creatives start photography is due to something that sounds very obvious...because it's creative. It’s not trivial though as the motivation guides the content. If this sounds familiar ask yourself "Am I shooting for myself or someone else?". If the answer is personal then charging a client will not hit its target, mainly because the chance you're producing work that they also want is rarely synchronous.

Instead, if a business endeavor is the objective consider "Am I shooting for the right audience?". Getting in the mindset of your ideal client changes not only what you shoot, but how it is shot. To appeal to your target market then becomes the objective as opposed to tapping into a creative outlet.

Is the content niche or for general audiences?

The contemporary argument goes: it’s better to be a generalist than a specialist in an overly specialized world. As individuals become more specialized in a trade or skill set it becomes more apparent that you need to have many adaptable skills in order to be successful. Applying this theory, it is better to model for a range of content or shoot a variety of genres to show versatility and appeal to the largest segment possible.

This argument breaks down for photography when being overly generalized confuses audiences as to just what it is that you shoot. Having multiple portfolios of work to distinguish genres is a step right direction, but when there are more than a few types it starts to get cluttered instead of clustered.

After segmenting the type of work, understanding the market size is the next considerations. There are genres like fine art photography that is an extremely niche interest to headshots or lifestyle photography for more general audiences. Appealing to a niche means there is less competition balanced by also a smaller pool who want the service. Appealing to general audiences means more competition but also higher demand for the service.

Is there interest in the target market?

You may now be shooting or modeling in the genres you enjoy, producing a soufflé of imagery that reflects your creativity and interest. There is an essential ingredient to the recipe of success aside from personal initiative, interest. Is there interest in the market for the work?

For example, if you’re in non-major marketplace for fashion it may an uphill battle to find work or interested clientele for editorial work. If you're by the beach shooting studio headshots there may not be the highest demand then if you're shooting in a capitol for film or theater. Consider where you can thrive in the market you're currently working in and if you need to shift focus to tailor to the demand.

Do you have the set up to go professional?

There's a large gap between casually shooting in the park and having the latest Profoto gear in a ten thousand square foot studio. Similarly there's an equally large gap between shooting second hand clothing to the latest couture collection. The quality of the set up reflects directly on the impression you set for potential clientele.

Do you have a base of potential clients?

Making the move from building a solid portfolio to charging for that work usually entails shooting a lot of trade for service, trading time for the ability to shoot. It’s a process almost every creative has to go through to establish their reputation and content. Overcoming the upstart costs, there then comes competing in the industry where others have been for years.

That’s where really being creative starts. Chances are you don’t already know your potential clientele. Marketing and direct sales then becomes the foundation for outreach to promote yourself. It’s definitely not the moment to be shy about your product or branding.


There is no right way to enter a professional pursuit or direct path that will lead there. Everyone’s journey is different and unique based on the compilation of experiences. Where one succeeds the other may fail. The important takeaway is to not limit your scope on a singular objective of getting paid to the broader view of the industry and how to optimize your potential within it.