If you’ve ever looked down at your hands and thought, “These things were made for modeling,” or had someone tell you, “Your hands are so soft and pretty!,” you could have a modeling career on your…hands.
Make no mistake, modeling is harder than it looks. It can be tough work, involving exhausting photo shoots, and it requires you to take the utmost care of the product you’re selling: yourself. The same is true for hand modeling; having a photogenic quality may not be enough. But if you’re curious about a potentially lucrative career and are willing to put in the work, you can brush up on the basics of the hand modeling industry right here.
A hand model is someone who models their hands for video and photo shoots—primarily advertisements and editorials for commercial products. Although hand models may not be as recognizable as their traditional model counterparts, their work is just as valuable. As agent Dani Korwin once told Vogue, the parts model is the “unsung stepchild of the modeling industry.”
Hand models tend to have narrow, slender fingers and unspotted skin. Moles, blemishes, or irregularly shaped fingers and nails may disqualify you. But fear not, freckled models: It is still possible, albeit more challenging, to make a career with spotty hands. Still, people with the most elegant hands and clearest skin—especially when it comes to thumbs, the most important element—tend to book the most jobs.
Hand models use their hands in images and videos to showcase products and services. Their work involves extensive posing and sometimes gesturing, such as waving or finger flutters. Companies usually hire hand models to advertise products including nail polish, jewelry (particularly wedding rings), and flowers. A hand model might also do close-up work for scenes highlighting a product that isn’t necessarily hand-related; for example, a hand model might be hired to hold a cheesy piece of pizza, pet an adorable dog, or elegantly perform any of the other myriad activities hands do every day. They can also be used as a “hand double” for actors where close-up shots of their hands are required, though that crosses over from modeling into the realm of acting.
According to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary for hand models is $56,791, ranging from a low of $25,000 to a high of $97,500.
Insider Business reports that hand model rates range between $150 to $4,000 per shoot. The more established you are as a hand model, the more money you will make. In general, commercial modeling jobs pay between $25 and $175 an hour—although you can negotiate more for overtime and bonuses depending on ad type, location, and run time.
- Study and practice. Take a look at traditional print and television commercials involving hand modeling. Learn to imitate the most common hand poses. Practice holding different objects. Like any modeling or acting job, your task is to express different thoughts or emotions—except using only your hands. This means practicing in front of a camera. Do you know how to display your fingers in a way that indicates strength? Seduction? Joy?
- Assemble photographs of your hands. If you’re just starting out as a hand model, you need the equivalent of an actor’s headshots. Hire a professional photographer—who will generally charge between $75 and $250 per image—to take shots of your hands in traditional poses. Print the photos on professional paper and assemble a portfolio to submit to modeling agencies. Here’s a tip: Include one shot that features your beautiful face, so you’ll be recognized at go-sees when you meet with clients about potential jobs.
- Apply to modeling agencies. Parts Models and Carmen’s Hand Models in New York City, and Body Parts Models in Los Angeles, are the biggest names in hand modeling, but there are plenty of other agencies to choose from. Get in touch using whatever method the agency prefers, and send in that portfolio! If you’re serious about putting in the work, you could eventually score a modeling agent who can help you open even more doors. Always remember: Reputable agencies will never ask for money up front. Agents get paid once you start booking gigs.
- Lend yourself a hand. If you’ve been applying to agency after agency and still haven’t landed an agent or been invited to a go-see, you can try promoting yourself and your hardworking hands on social media. Post aesthetically pleasing images of your hands across platforms with hashtags like #handmodel, #prettyhands, #partsmodel, #nailmodel, and #nailart to get noticed. Generate enough of a buzz and you may just be handed a lifeline.
- Always get a manicure prior to shooting. Before any shoot, make sure those hands are in tip-top shape. Find a manicurist you trust who makes you feel confident about your hands’ appeal. Later in your modeling career, you’ll have people begging to give you manicures!
- Keep those hands steady. Can you keep perfectly still for an extended period of time? What about doing so while holding an object? What about a heavy object? Some shoots can last for hours, even if they’re for a 30-second commercial. Directors are going to want a model who can hold their hands still for a long time, as any tiny movement can blur or throw off a shot. To improve steadiness, strengthen your hands by regularly doing exercises like making a fist, doing finger lifts, wearing wrist weights, or squeezing a stress ball.
- Take care of your hands. Hand model upkeep isn’t a one-time thing. Even if you’ve landed your dream gig, one day of self-care neglect can mean handing off the coveted role to the next contender. Did you know that some hand models sleep in gloves to preserve their hands’ softness? Like models of any sort, they also eat healthy and get plenty of sleep, take vitamins, use sunscreen, and moisturize regularly. Keep your nails trimmed by filing rather than clipping them, and avoid activities that may put your hands in danger. (Maybe have someone else chop your veggies.)
- Have patience and persevere. Any acting advice you read on our site also goes hand in hand with modeling advice. The industry can be as challenging as it is rewarding, so keep at it. Take your career into your own capable hands.
Check out Backstage’s modeling listings!