Pay Attention to the Model’s Rights

Tip 36 for Better Shoots by Heidi Rondak

The Post-Production 101

PART B.4: Pay Attention to the Model’s Rights

Images always belong to the copyright holder and like described in Tip No. 33 the ownership cannot be transferred to anyone else. When it comes to images of people, though, these persons have rights to their own pictures too. In commercial photography, this means that a license and buyout fee isn’t only due for the creator but also the model who is generally represented and managed by an agency. You won’t, therefore, only pay for their performance on set but additionally for them supplying your campaign with their visual identity.

Understanding the Model’s Market Value

Admittedly, it is a strange thing to speak about ‘market value’ when it comes to a human being. Nevertheless, a model’s reputation and experience, sometimes relative to their age, play a major role in her pricing. After all, it’s the model’s optical body condition that is offered along with their performance. That said, a model’s fees are, in the abstract, directly reliant on former campaigns, publications, and shows she accomplished – the more and eminent their achievements, the more expensive it will be to book them. Another factor can be the degree of publicity or, nowadays, the number of social followers they have, or in other words, whether they are famous or not – which can even be in a certain niche only. Being well positioned and sought-after a model’s daily rates and buyouts can rise substantially and, given that they’re much on tour, you’ll certainly need to pay for travel costs and accommodations on top. As if this wasn’t enough, for their work, model agencies charge another 15–20 % of the models’ fees as provision for their work wherefore the temptation of asking the pretty girl next door to model for your campaign instead is understandable. But – and it’s a remarkable BUT – let me tell you that if you book a professional, in fact, you won’t regret it! It takes something to be a good model as explained in Tip No. 17, and so, photos taken with experienced models versus those of amateurs are poles apart, guaranteed. Considering that the model represents your brand’s visual identity for the duration of your campaign, by comparison, it is hence better to pay more for a better outcome than less and be unsatisfied with the results, right?

Respect the Limits of Your Usage Rights

Now, if you’ve decided to work with an agency model, or even if you haven’t, a so-called model release defines the photo usage rights your brand is granted just like in the contract with your photographer. With paying the buyout you become a licensee for campaigning with the photos as agreed upon, for example on social media like discussed in the last tip article, or on a larger scale. Here, as you can imagine, the more platforms and media you choose to operate on, and the longer you plan to do that, the more expensive the buyout gets. Therefore, it might be interesting to remember the option of renewing or extending your license when it turns out the images are a marketing success, meaning that you choose a limited usage at first. Hereby, you retain certain flexibility in your promotional strategy to invest in new photography instead of a pricey license covering a vast usage from the beginning. However, if you indeed choose to buy out images for a particular usage only, beware of accidental secondary publications. It is one of the model agencies’ functions to surveil the correct usage of their models’ images and claim compensations, or even penalties, for any usage that goes beyond the original agreement. Hence, such a violation just means evitable troubles that no one is keen on. If you have any experience with model agencies in general, you probably know that the bookers are, usually, friendly and easygoing, always open to answer your questions. In this sense, you can always, in case of doubt, hit them up and ask about possibilities and the conditions of further usage. Depending on the matter, they’ll either be accommodating, or offer you a fee for the new usage you’d like to add to the plan. By the way – to prevent you from any sandtraps: when working with agency models, the model release contract is, as a rule, provided by the bookers. This contract, usually, specifically prohibits signing a contract with the model on set, meaning that every contractual matter needs to be discussed with the agency – not with the model personally.

Stick with the Initial Plan

In Tip No. 24, in the paragraph about “Why You Need to Disclose the Number of Products Openly and Precisely” I’m already talking about calling it a wrap when, according to the shot list, all images have been realised – even if it’s the case earlier in the day than expected. Although a regular shooting day, for models as well, is defined to be around 8 hours you, actually, don’t pay for their time here but for their performance and the images you agreed to create with them. Considering that you finish up earlier it might be tempting, however, to glory in the present constellation of the photographic team plus models and wanting more images over and above the initially planned number. Especially for social media content, a couple of more images can’t hurt, right? Yet, the problematic nature of this becomes apparent when you think about the contract that you negotiated with the model’s agency beforehand where those images are not among. To be able to really use them, you won’t get out of asking the booker for permission which will, ultimately, cost you an extra sum in the form of another buyout. In this view, as long as you’re aware of this and willing to afford it, it’s up to you whether you content yourself with the originally planned photos, or take advantage of making good time. In my view, there’s no shame in finishing earlier but it’s rather a generous and humble gesture to thank the team for their exceptional work and set them free. After all, it can be demoralising to expect the end of the working day just to be faced with more unannounced work while being anxious whether you’ll get paid for it properly.


With this article, part B of the “Prost-Production 101” is complete. Hopefully, the last four tips could help you develop a more profound understanding of copy- and third-party rights, as well as how to proceed with licensed photography correctly. Unfortunately, obtaining usage rights has been recently bypassed more and more often in order to facilitate the formalities – and this is certainly due to a lack of awareness regarding its importance towards the creative parties in a production. Having read this, you now belong to the woke ones respecting the work and rights of those you cherish for breathing life into your products in the images they produce – if you will. In that case, your next photographic team will, by all means, work for you with even greater pleasure.


If you enjoyed reading this article, or you found it helpful in one way or another, I would love to know (reach out)! You are also welcome to support my work and writing by donating whichever amount this is worth to you. I will thank you with lots of telepathic love and more interesting journal entries. Cheers!

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