Adding a human touch to your product photography with models can elevate a brand’s image.

People relate to people, so adding a model to a product shot not only showcases your wares but gives it a more personal touch.

When scrolling through your favorite brands on Instagram, you’ve likely come across stunning product images that include models.

Why? Because it adds appeal to consumers.

In this article, I’m going to be sharing a lot of information, from:

• what types of product photography can benefit from models,

• what types of modeling are available,

• how to find models,

• how much models get paid,

• why a hair & makeup artist are important and how to find one,

• when to have your model get a manicure (yes, even the male models)

• what you need from a model to use their image, and

• how treat and shoot with models. (Yes, some people need this section and you should check it out too!)


So let’s get started on creating some incredible product photos featuring models!

How to use models in product photoshoots - hand model pose.


Which Type of Product Photography Usually Involves Models?


Lifestyle Photography


Models are particularly prevalent in lifestyle photography where the product is showcased in its “natural habitat.”

Think of a model wearing a luxury watch while dining at a chic restaurant.

Or maybe the model is using a cutting-edge smartphone, laptop or tablet at a hipster café.

They could be using the latest headphones while in a crowded environment.

Models offer plenty of options to create incredible lifestyle product photos that tell stories.


E-commerce Photography


Even in e-commerce photography, a model wearing a piece of clothing can provide a better sense of scale and fit than a garment on a lifeless mannequin.

It isn’t uncommon to see a hand model in e-commerce product photos either.


Social Media Photography


Sharing images of people is a great way to attract potential clients.

They look at the image and think, hey, I could be like that! Of course, they would need what you are selling.

Social media is also a great place to post behind the scenes shots of the photoshoot too.


Advertising & Print Photography


When you use a model or two in paid advertising or prints, it can help catch viewer attention.

People want to see what this person is doing and why they are on the screen, billboard or printed page.


How Are Models Used in Product Photography?


1. Size Comparison:

Ever purchased a product that was much smaller than you thought? Adding a model to the equation helps a consumer see the size of things by comparison.


2. Hand Models:

Hand models can hold a product, wear jewelry, or be there to direct attention. They generally pamper their hands so they are smooth and look elegant. (Even the guys!)


3. Foot Models:

I’m not talking about some fetish here, but actual models. They model shoe wear, or curl there toes in a plush carpet. They may be standing on new flooring, or pushing a mop for a floor cleaning solution.


4. Serious or Having Fun:

Depending on the product and mood, you could have models enjoying a drink at a local pub or coffee shop.

They could be putting laundry in a washing machine or dryer. Cleaning house, dressed to go out, at work or on vacation.

There are all types of ways to use models in product photos. It will depend on what mood and style your client wants.

product photography for haircare and beauty products
product photography with a hand model


What is Model Photography Called?


Ah, the terminologies!

In the industry, photography that focuses on the model as the subject is often referred to as “fashion photography” or “portrait photography.”

However, when a model is used to showcase a product, it’s generally considered “product photography” with a model element.


How Do I Hire a Product Photography Model?


So you’re sold on the idea of adding a model to your photoshoot, but where do you find one?

There are several platforms like Model Mayhem or even Instagram, where you can find freelance models in your area.

If your client requires a Union model, you will have to contact a modeling agency.

Here, Google is your friend as most professional agencies have websites.

But before you slide into someone’s DMs, consider these tips:


• Budget: Know your budget and be upfront about it.
• Skill Level: Are you looking for an experienced model or are you okay with beginners?
• Type: Will any model do, or do you need someone with a particular look or skill set (e.g., a hand model for a jewelry shoot)?


Should a Photographer Pay a Model?


It’s a two-way street. If the model is enhancing the value of your photoshoot, they should be compensated.

Some photographers offer a “TFP” (Time for Print or Trade For Print – usually the edited digital files) deal where the model receives free photographs for their portfolio.

But remember, exposure doesn’t pay the rent. Never expect a model to work for free. Especially when you and the client will be earning money with this image.

If you’re a business owner or a marketing director, be prepared to include the model’s fee in the project’s overall budget.

If you are arranging this as the photographer, it will be your job to inform the client and get approval before hiring one.


How Much Do Models Charge Per Photoshoot?


Costs can vary widely based on the model’s experience, the complexity of the shoot, and your geographical area.

Some models charge per hour, typically ranging from $50 to $200, while others may have day rates.

Make sure to clarify this in your negotiations.

Pay attention to details when working with a model.
How to work with models on product photography photoshoots.


Legal Paperwork and Contracts For Working With Models


When using a model, you will want to have a contract to make sure everything is in writing, signed, dated and witnessed.

The last thing you want is a model who believes they is earning continuing royalties for the use of his or her likeness.

In some professional modeling contracts, they may be. This will need to be administered by the client and signed off by them.

For smaller shoots, I have a model contract that states the model is being compensated $X and understands the images will be used commercially.

It continues in a nice manner, saying they will have no rights to the images and will receive no additional payment for their use.

I also have models sign a 2257 form. These are usually used in the adult business, but I believe they are useful in the product photography business as well.

A 2257 form basically states the model is of legal age, 18 years or older. I then require an image of their license and a photo of them holding their license.

Sounds like a lot of work, but trust me, if they ever try to sue you or the client, you will want this information on file.

If your model is not legal age, you will need a guardian to sign the paperwork.

Click here for more legal information and a free contract template.


Model product photography - hand model
Hand model e-commerce product photo


Photographer / Model Etiquette


Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty. How do you actually work with models without stepping on any toes—literally and figuratively?




Folks, this isn’t rocket science, it’s basic human decency. Do not touch a model to pose them.

Use verbal communication or mirror actions to guide them.

Jump on the set and show them the pose by doing it yourself.

I’ve heard so many horror stories from models who have been treated poorly by photographers.

Models talk, word gets around – don’t be a guy or gal with a camera, be a professional photographer!


Provide a Private Space


Don’t expect models to change outfits in the corner of your photography studio. Allocate a private space for them to change and freshen up.


Pre-shoot Communication


Before you roll out your photography services, discuss the photoshoot in detail with the model.

They may have wardrobe items that could work for the shoot, saving everyone time and money.

Be open to their suggestions about poses and try those out in addition to your own thoughts. You never know when their pose might be exactly what a client wants!


Details Matter: Manicures and Makeup Artists


A model’s appearance can make or break a photoshoot.

For hand models, a professional manicure is a must. I usually have the model go for the manicure before coming to the set.

For facial shots, hiring a skilled makeup artist can be a game-changer. Hair and makeup should be done on location.

Use Instagram hashtags like #hmua and local tags to find talent in your area. You can also check Model Mayhem again since some HMUA’s post there.

Heck, you may even check local wedding guides for HMUA’s that will come to you and do makeup.

And please, pay them what they ask and bill it to the client. They are using their makeup resources and their skills – they deserve to be paid a fair wage.


Last Thoughts On Models, HMUA’s and Other Talent/Assistants


Scheduling the Photoshoot


Check with your makeup artist so you have an idea of how long hair and makeup will take. This will help you set a call time for the model.

I worked with one artist who could have a model ready to shoot within an hour.

A second HMUA took almost two hours, and since I hadn’t asked ahead of the shoot, time was wasted on set that day.

So check!

And pay to have the HMUA stay for the shoot in case the talent needs touch ups or hair styling.


Remember Your Manners


There can be a lot of pressure on you as the photographer on a set. Don’t let that affect your manners.

Be sure to say please and thank you.

Another nice touch is to send copies of any images the client purchases to the models and HMUA’s to use in their portfolio.

These relationships will be important as you grow and begin to photograph more models in your product photography.


Professional headshot for website


Wrapping Up


Adding a model to your product photography can be a win-win situation, enhancing both the visual appeal and the storytelling element of your brand.

Make sure to cover all your legal bases with model contracts and permissions—these should be an add-on to your client’s photo licensing agreement.

If you’re thinking about incorporating a model into your next photoshoot, what’s holding you back?

Fill out the form below and schedule a free consultation call to discuss your project. Let’s make your product the star it deserves to be!


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