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Model Mayhem Redefines Membership Levels, Severely Limits Free Accounts

Model Mayhem was the website that more than any other helped me find models to work with when I was just getting started with portraiture. Starting this month, Model Mayhem has updated its subscription service going far beyond offering perks as it once did. While the update is being touted as an improvement, photographers using Model Mayhem are likely going to be quickly re-evaluating if this service is one that they are interested in continuing to use.

In the past Model Mayhem was, for the most part, an open and free social network for models, photographers, makeup artists, stylists, and other creative professionals. It served as a fantastic way to find other amateurs to work with who also want to build their portfolio. Their search tool allowed for a photographer to search with specific detail and individually contact any model that he or she wished to work with.

Starting this month Model Mayhem has taken a page out of the LinkedIn playbook and severely limited the ability for free accounts to contact other users. Previously a "Basic" membership was allowed to send five private messages per day to users it was not already connected with, but that feature has been completely removed from the basic plan now and now requires a subscription in order to contact potential models unless they respond to a friend request first.

The new subscription structure enjoys three tiers: the "Basic" membership is free, while the "Premium" membership costs $6.00/month, and the "VIP" membership costs $10.00/month. Existing paying users have been grandfathered into a "Legacy" membership that seems to be a slightly upgraded Basic membership. Full comparisons are included below this article.

What do you think of Model Mayhem's new subscription structure? Are the newly added paid features worth investing in or do you feel that Model Mayhem no longer will be a tool that you use? Let me know in the comments below.

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Jared Wolfe's picture

As long as Modelmayhem continues to be pretty much the only site with a critical mass of users I suspect people will put up with this and its circa 2000 site design.

Ramiro Garcia's picture

There is a new website and it is for free. I think everyone is tired of model mayhaems outdated system lol

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

I reached out to 75 models who were in my area and had profiles indicating that they wanted to work with a photographer to expand their portfolio. I only shot with 3 out of the 75. Some cancelled, some were no-shows, some responded months later, most just didn't respond. I eventually cancelled my account because I couldn't find enough serious people on there. I already had a solid body of work to show (Peter Hurley headshots), I just wanted more people to shoot to keep building my portfolio and I found myself putting forth way too much effort to find people who were serious about getting their picture taken on a website designed to facilitate exactly that. It's not the fault of the website, but it is what it is.

I didn't find it useful for free. I don't see how charging nominal fees for access will improve that. If it were not free at all and the fee for even a basic plan was high enough that it would weed out all the people who aren't serious or only check their account twice a year, etc., that might improve the experience on both sides of the camera, but who would pay such a fee, given the reputation the site has? I joined despite its reputation and figured I'd get out of it what I put into it, but I found that not to be the case. There's no way I'd pay for it now.

Ryan Cooper's picture

This has always been my experience with TFP models, regardless of where I found them. Whether its through MM, or a friend of a friend, or even an agency test shoot I always found my cancellation/mia rate was always about 90-95%. Models are flaky, models who aren't getting paid are extremely flaky. Such is the nature of what we do.

Michael DeStefano's picture

Sounds like a good article opportunity. How to start working with modeling agencies.

Quentin Decaillet's picture

I'm always surprised when I hear photographers talking about such high cancellation or no-show rates for their TFP shoots! In 4 years, I've had 4 people not showing up, two of whom were sick and we rescheduled. Not sure if that's due to the European vs US culture…

Tom Lew's picture

MM was actually a critical part to my learning and growing as a photographer when I started out. I had rented studio space and shot with a different model almost every day for a month. That being said, for anybody using MM I would say you should try to move away from it and more to agencies ASAP. Even working with a super super small agency is better than any MM connection. It's so so bad and truly attracts some of the worst talent out there.. both photographers and models.

Brian Schmittgens's picture

I started shooting with agency models last year, and while I've still gotten a couple duds, the overwhelming majority have been better than anyone I ever worked with from MM.

Jay Jay's picture

They've had one minor website facelift (very minor), while keeping everything under the hood exactly the same. 6 or so years later, it's still the exact same site and same sparse, almost non existant features.

You'll also notice that they'll 'activity-recycle' dormant pages daily to bring them up to the top of your search to make it look like the model has been active on the site (even though in almost every case, the model's photos haven't been updated in 5 years). In the last 4 years, i've gotten exactly 1 single message on their site from a model. If modelmayhem goes under, i wouldn't shed a single tear for it.

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

That explains why so many of the "active" models I reached out to responded many months later or not at all.

Ryan Cooper's picture

You could actually get around this i the advanced search feature by excluding any model that hasn't logged in within the last week or two. I never bothered emailing anyone who hasn't logged in recently.

Jay Jay's picture

Exactly. It makes the site look busier than it actually is. Shady, yes. MM hasn't ever done anything to improve their website for as long as they've been around. There's not much value, even with the free plan, so they are having to do resort to tactics like that.

Justin Berrington's picture

I've been using a new ios app with pretty good success. Pro Photo Shoot. It's free with limited usage and has some reasonably priced paid services. I haven't found a reason to use those paid services yet since my need for extending casting calls is usually only once or twice a month which is included in the free account.

I think model mayhem has missed the boat on this one. Any reputable website (Ahem, Fstoppers) based around photography should have an app at this point.

Spy Black's picture

That sounds interesting, but could fall into the same traps that went through MM. I guess time will tell. Seems very cool.

Spy Black's picture

Perhaps a site like this could step up to the plate and offer some kind of referencing or database for models, stylists, photographers, MUA, hairstylists, etc.

stir photos's picture

I can't imagine pros sourcing talent from Model Mayhem. Having said that, as an amateur, I'd highly recommend anybody considering an account (especially now) to think twice about it...

I would say the new subscription model and features are not worth it. I had a free account once and it wasn't worth it at that price. I'd suggest giving Model Mayhem a chance after other avenues don't produce results in your sourcing first. MM was shady, slow, cumbersome, and only once produced a model I got to shoot. My experience with MM was so poor that I had better results just talking to random people, seriously...

When I first started, I shot friends and acquaintances. This still works for me, but has slowed way down in the last couple of years. I still don't use Model Mayhem though. I'd say it's still not a tool that I'd use.

Geoffrey Badner's picture

If you're in NYC, you can find some fairly decent talent on MM. There are a lot of signed or should-be-signed men/women here that use MM to build their book or earn extra cash. I've booked dozens of models from there and have only ever had 1 no show. Of course, if you're in a smaller market, I'm sure quality/reliability drops off quickly.

Today, I only use MM for pure testing where I want to try something new that might or might not like. Don't like to ask agencies for talent on these shoots because they always want to see the images and I might not want to share them.

Nick Black's picture

The reason MM had any people on it at all was because it was free to send messages. It's why many of the sites with better design just didn't have as many people on them. With the amount of turn over, they have to be nuts to think they are going to survive by making it harder for people to connect.

Eric Lefebvre's picture

Time to nuke my account. I got a few replies a few years back but in my area, Model Mayhem is pretty dead. Old profiles that haven't been updated or online in half a year or more, no replies at all to messages ...

The only messages I get are friend requests from retouchers.

I get better results from my local modeling / photography facebook groups.

Tack on their horrible website (and even worse mobile site) and there isn't much appeal to pay for a premium account. The fact that they want to charge as much as a Netflix account is also a little mind boggling. The site offers very little value.

I do have to say that the moderators are very much on point ... or they were 2 years ago when I actually checked the site on a regular basis.

Quentin Decaillet's picture

As much as I love the concept behind MM, the talents available in Europe on their website is quite limited. As Eric Lefebvre stated in his comments, the only interaction I've gotten on there is retouchers wanting images to blur… oooh… and some Eastern European models who wanted to shoot but sent me their price list – not sure I get the concept of contacting someone to shoot but asking money for it.
Instagram and Facebook have been my go-to places to find models, and until now it has worked extremely well! And it's free, unlike MM… If anything, MM should make it cheaper and easier for people to signup, not raise their prices or remove features for free users.

Stuart Moore's picture

MM is very slow and inactive these days in the UK, by my experience. Most photographers, models, etc seem to be using Purpleport which is a lot more active.

Dave McDermott's picture

It was never worth paying for in my opinion. Not enough active members on it. Although I do find it useful for traveling. Being able to search for people by location is handy. I guess I'll just have to send out some friend requests in future before planning any trips.

Studio 403's picture

I am a VIP member. The trend I see. New female talent is dropping off. The absence of courtesy to not informing me of a cancellation and just not showing up is on the rise. Almost impossible to get talent to call and discuiss shoot details. MM site format is cumbersome and way outdated of today's web sites. Navigation is inept. To add photos is a slow process. I find the site an old dog that needs a transplant. Having written this I keep MM as a VIP. I do a lot test shoots, new ideas and concept shoot. 99% of my my on MM is TFCD. I see a trend of raw talent with no expericen wanting $100 per hour or more. That's not for me. So as much as I "hate" MM web site and absences of any professilism from talent, Its a teeth pulling experience but I do find some gems.

Brad Barton's picture

I haven't found it overly useful in years... my test shoots come almost exclusively from Facebook networking these days

Chris Peck's picture

Just an amateurs perspective.

After doing some group shoots I joined MM to try to connect to some models. Since then I have done multiple shoots with models from MM, mostly very professional ones, all paid (none TFP), and none have ever cancelled.

I use the "casting alerts" which come up roughly one a week as a new model plans a trip to my city (Melbourne). So, there's a constant stream of good models coming this way, too many for me to work with in fact. And of course there's lots of local models on there too.

Just to be clear, because of the negativity above, and the positivity of my comment, I am not affiliated with MM, I am just a paying customer of theirs, who finds it very useful. Maybe that will change if I ever become any good, or become professional, but for now it's great.

Stephen Allen's picture

We are a brand new mobile app that allows you to connect with other creatives for free. It's designed for amateurs and professionals and is growing daily. We have a rating system to ensure everything is safe and goes to plan. Check out @photoshoot_app on Instagram for details and a download link. We'd love to have you onboard!

It's been called ''A modern Model Mayhem''.

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Many have tried, but part of it is that they have the user base. That is what drives it, and any new ones just don't get the people, and without models/photographers, it can't attract and hold more people. Model Mayhem is the only one that i can consistently find people.