Pros and Cons of Being a Stock Photography Model

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At first thought, becoming a stock photography model seems like a terrific idea. After one little photo session, your image could appear in magazine ads, in digital ads, on billboards, on posters, and even on book covers—basically any type of marketing that requires a person with your specific look. It all seems so easy. But is stock photography modeling as great as it seems?

Pro: No Experience Required

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 can fit a general physical description, you can probably get yourself on a stock photography website. It helps, too, that stock photos are in high demand and always will be. That means that stock photo agencies are always searching for models—and plenty of them. 

Pro: the Pay Is Pretty Good

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 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 commercial, plus size, fashion, etc.), it’s still modeling! To ensure your safety, you must be sure you’re only working with legitimate modeling agencies and photographers.

Con: the Photos Are Generic

If you’re looking to bulk up your portfolio with unique photos that show off your versatility and personality, then stock photography is not for you. 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. Hence the not-so-interesting nature of stock photography.

Having said that, you may still be able to get a few shots for your book to impress future agents and clients.

Con: Flat Fees

Stock photography models are paid a one-time flat fee. You show up for the shoot, you get paid, you get sent on your way. That’s the last you’ll hear of it. So even though whoever buys the photo has to pay more for certain usage rights, sizes, distributions, duration, etc., the model won’t get any extra money for it. This is especially painful when your photo appears on the cover of a magazine or pops up as a brand-name ad on a popular website. 

Con: You Never Know Who's Using Your Photos

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!” But it’s not always this amusing. 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. That means you might not always like where your photo ends up, especially if the ad is for something that conflicts with a higher paying jobs you book later or violates your ethical or moral beliefs.

Con: It Can Interfere With Future Bookings

If you go on to pursue other types of modeling (commercial modeling, for example), potential clients may ask you if you’ve ever done an ad for a competing company or product. The problem is, if you’ve done stock photography, you won’t have a clue and you won’t have any way of finding out. So you either have to turn down the job (the smart decision) or accept it and be prepared to face some nasty legal ramifications down the road (never a good idea).

At the end of the day, it's important to weigh all the pros and cons to determine if doing stock photography modeling will be of benefit to you. For some, generally those in smaller markets, it can be a fantastic way to earn extra income; for others in larger markets who are already signed to a major agency, it may not be.