Hiring your own models for cover design


I’m considering working with professional models to find someone to shoot a dozen different cover options with. My thought is that this will give me better control of the poses, outfits, and expressions, etc. (compared to stock photos), and a consistent individual “character” across a series. Bonus: I’ll own the photos.

Have you ever tried it? Did you go through an agency or use social media? Thoughts?


I’ve known people who did it. It’s expensive, and you need to make sure you have COMMERCIAL rights to the photos and signed releases from the model.


I’ve done custom photo shoots and they worked out between $100-250 per photo. As XimeraGrey says you need the models to sign commercial releases and you also need the photographer to sign a digital manipulation contract so that a cover artist (if you take the photos to someone else) can work with the photos.


So in your case, you were hiring a photographer and models. (I’d do my own photography.) But when you say $100-250 per photo, I’m guessing you mean per final cover image – surely not every photo taken in the shoot? That seems comparable to an Extended License on Shutterstock.

Did you choose the models or have any say in who the photographer used? Did they charge extra for an MUA or wardrobe? Curious.


I worked with a photographer and they hired the models. I then reviewed the photos taken and picked which ones I wanted to use. Those worked out to between $100-250 per final photo.

We agreed on the wardrobe before hand (steampunk shoots) and sometimes there are particular pieces I want use that I know the photographer can source, or I have couriered items to them I want featured.


Are you photographing this yourself? Do you have any digital design experience?

You’ll have to hire the photographer, hire the models, and probably pay extra for commercial use, especially to the photographer. And even then, the photographer might not allow you to edit the photo however you want. Usually that is done, in tandem, with a graph designer so the photographer knows who is manipulating their work. OR the photographer is highly experienced in creative photoshop use and can design the cover image for you (while you design the lettering)

EDIT: You get what you pay for. You might not want to go too cheap (depending where you live) and make sure the photographer is more designed for consumer marketing, and not just a commercial photographer who doesn’t edit that well and uses minimal lighting effects.

I will say, in the end, if you can afford this, this is the preferable route. That way you own everything, saw the models and photographers sign the contracts, and have them yourself. Which is better than buying some stock photography. This way, it will be the only one available, and also safer to use.



Yes, to the first two questions. I used to do pro model/actor photography in LA (trained under John Russo, shot a lot of portraits, comp card portfolios, lifestyle, etc.). I still have the gear, but I’d hire a book cover designer to do the digital effects and final imagery since that isn’t my forte. I agree: good contracts are a must.

Authors don’t talk about this much, but even with stock photos, you can still get sued if the context of the image presents the model “in a way that a reasonable person would find offensive” or “considered pornographic, obscene, immoral, infringing, defamatory or libelous in nature, or that would be reasonably likely to bring any person or property reflected in the Content into disrepute”. Disturbing or questionable forms of erotica come to mind…