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Hiring and Working with Models for Hotel and Resort Photography

Where do you find models? What type of model releases do you need to use the images in your advertising, collateral, website, and social media? How much do models cost to hire?

Finding the Right Models for Your Hotel or Resort.

The first thing to know about hiring models is that you are seeking “Lifestyle” models, not high fashion models. The emphasis these days in advertising is on images that feel “Real,” “Authentic,” and “Natural.” A guest looking at the images of your property should feel as though they can substitute themselves for the people in the image. That isn’t to say that photographs of models at resorts cannot be aspirational, but the reason not to use high fashion models is that the average person cannot relate to the nearly perfect bodies and looks of fashion models (not to mention the resulting retouching that takes “perfect” to another level.) The exception to this rule is Miami, where fashion and the art of living are intertwined.

Miami notwithstanding, most properties will require lifestyle models and the first question to answer is, “What is the target demographic for my property?” Young Couples? Families? Active Seniors? A mix of races? When shooting for a particular age range, most photo shoots will require lifestyle models on the lower end of the target age scale, but much younger models will be too young to connect with your target audience.So for example if you want to attract 30-55 year olds, don't cast 22 year olds

Model Casting Call

Although it is possible to "Cast from cards," meaning choosing models based on their photos alone, it's best to cast the models in person if you can. If you live near a major metropolitan area, you should have several modeling agencies in your vicinity. A photographer or producer can run a model casting at your hotel or resort several days before the photo shoot is to begin. Whoever is running the casting will need to call the modeling agencies in advance of the casting to let them know you are seeking lifestyle models and to negotiate a price for the day rate of the models and the usage of the images. This should always be done before the casting so that you do not end up choosing models only to find out that the price to hire them exceeds your entire budget. Note that if you have several agencies in your area, it is always better to have multiple agencies send models to the casting. Not only is variety important, you may find you get better service or value from one agency over another.

A casting should last a minimum of 4 hours and up to 8 hours. It is always better if the casting times extend beyond the normal work-day-hours. 10 to 6:30 would work fine if you had more than two models to cast. Or 2 to 6:30 would work great if you were just looking for 1 or 2 models.

The casting itself can be run in a small banquet room - 750 to 1000 square feet will work fine. The photographer will usually set up a mobile studio with white background paper, and take 2 to 6 casting shots of each model. The whole process with each model takes 10 or 15 minutes: they fill out a casting form with their sizes and get the pictures taken and they’re done! The photographer will go through the images with you when the casting is complete and the images are organized for you to make your choices of who to hire. Note: if you are planning on hiring a family with small children, I have found that families work best if they are an actual family.

How Much Do Models Cost to Hire?

The cost ranges widely from region to region from $300 a day to $3000, depending upon the property and usage required. For example, in Cancun, Mexico, I recently did an estimate for a property and the models average $500 a day. On the other hand, in Miami, the models average $2500 per day. Modeling agencies will typically tack on a 20% agency fee, so if your budget is $1000 per model, make sure you tell them you have $1000 total including the agency fee.

Model Releases and Model Contracts

In large markets, model agents will want you to pay to use the images of their models for a limited period of time, in a specific market. Typically, this is done in yearly increments, but shorter periods of time can also be negotiated. You can also ask for a “Total buyout,” in which the models’ images are owned by your property and you need not worry about relicensing the images after the license you had runs out. A total buyout is generally more expensive but if models are new or inexperienced or in a small market, sometimes you can negotiate a total buyout for a good price You may be taking a risk doing this though, as sometimes the inexperience of the models shows up in the final images. If you decide you do want a total buyout, ask the agency and get the price before you invite the models to the casting.

Click here for a link to a model release that has been translated into 23 languages, which can be used for a total buyout and gives you all rights to use a model’s image for almost any purpose. This model release has been produced by Getty Images and is a standard stock model release. It is widely used in the industry. Make sure it is properly filled out and kept on file. Do not ask a model to sign it without speaking with her agency first, otherwise you risk souring your relationship with the modeling agency.

Some Photographers Will Either Cast or Bring Models with Them to the Photo Shoot.

This can be very helpful for any property not near a major metropolitan area. You may pay a little extra to have the models travel to your property and you will take an additional room out of sales, but it can be well worth it not the have the extra headache of trying to cast models. Just make sure the photographer has secured the proper model releases and gives you copies for your own records.

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Greg Ceo is a professional hotel and resort photographer based in Brooklyn, NY and Savannah, GA. He has worked on an episode of Hotel Impossible and written for Lodging Magazine. He has shot for Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Omni, Starwood, Wyndham, and boutique hotel properties around the world. See more of his work at www.gregceostudio.com.