Pros and Cons of Being a Stock Photography Model

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Becoming a stock photography model can be a good career starter. After one photo session, your image could appear in magazine ads, digital ads, on billboards, or on book covers.

If you are considering starting out a career in modeling, you should consider both the advantages and disadvantages of working as a stock photography model. You don't get paid any royalties for the use of your likeness or photos. It also may be difficult to market yourself with stock photos as they are designed to cover a large number of marketing themes.

However, you don't need any experience to become a stock model and the pay is decent enough to get you started. As long as you have a look that photographers and marketers are looking for, you should be able to find work. There will also be some sessions that are good for your portfolio.

Advantages of Stock Modeling

The stock photography industry is relatively easy to break into. You don’t need years of experience or a stellar portfolio to land a job. If you have a look that appeals to the masses and you fit a general physical description, you can probably find work.

It helps, too, that stock photos are in high demand. Companies will always need stock models for their advertising purposes, which means that you will not only be working but will have something to fall back on.

Stock photography won’t make you rich, but it’s an easy way to make a few bucks. Generally speaking, you can expect to earn anywhere from $75 to $200 for a couple of hours' work. Not bad, considering it’s not too challenging and can be loads of fun.

Just don’t forget that even though stock photography modeling isn’t one of the more commonly recognized types of modeling (like plus size, fashion, etc.), it’s still modeling. You'll have plenty of photos to sift through to start building your portfolio.

Stock Modeling Disadvantages

If you’re looking to bulk up your portfolio with unique photos that show off your versatility and personality, then you may need to find more opportunities while working as a stock model.

Stock photos are always generic photos of people, places, and things. No exceptions. And there’s a reason for this: In order for a stock photographer and a stock photo website to license the photo as many times as possible (in other words make as much money as possible), the photos need to work with all types of content and all types of needs.

Stock photography models are paid a one-time flat fee. You show up for the shoot, you get paid, and you go try to find more opportunities.

It can be disconcerting when your photo appears on the cover of a magazine or pops up as a brand-name ad on a popular website, and you receive no compensation for it. 

Even though you can see your photos sell, you have no idea who bought them or where they’ll appear. Sometimes the element of surprise is fun, as in, “Hey, so-and-so just said they saw me in an ad for cheese!”

When you sign a stock photo release form, chances are your photo can be used for any purpose, in any form, to sell any product, with any modification, in perpetuity. Perpetuity is the use of your photo for as long as the agency wants (there is no limit).

This means that your photo may be used for something that conflicts with a higher paying job you book later or violates your ethical or moral beliefs. This can be hard to deal with if you need the money.

You may be offered a contract with a larger agency that does not want you to model for its competitors. If you sign an agreement with them, and one of your stock photos appears on a competitor's product, you might run into some trouble.

Your options are to turn down the job, accept it and be prepared to face possible legal ramifications down the road, or ensure wording in your contract states that you are not responsible for the use of your stock photos. Make sure it emphasizes that you will not be held accountable if your stocks (or previous works) are used by competitors.

Final Thoughts on Stock Modeling

It's important to weigh all the pros and cons to determine if doing stock photography modeling will be of benefit to you. Generally, for those in smaller markets or those just beginning, it can be a fantastic way to earn extra income and build some experience.

Ensure you read through each contract you sign and that you understand any of the legal responsibilities you have when working for different agencies. When you are starting out, you more than likely will not encounter any issues.

Only when you have been working for a few years and are receiving more recognition will the legalities become more of a concern—and only then if you sign contracts with exclusivity clauses binding you to only the agency you signed it with.