I know I’m ready for artist representation, but unsure where to find one. Should I go to Lebook and meet folks (if so, should I only attend the ones in the markets I want to work in)? Word of mouth/asking friends?
The long-term commitment of a rep is not something to settle for a person you happen to run into but should be a well-researched exploration matching your goals with that rep’s overall focus. Personal introductions are extremely helpful but remember, this decision cannot be based on desperation and should be made with confident assurance that your value will increase with the right representation.
Should I work with an agent who has other photographers like me, or should I work with one who doesn’t have a photographer with my specialty?
The first major step in the rep search process is the skillset every photographer must master to succeed – I call it “the objective eye.” You have to be able to judge a “good” image and a “good” grouping of images. Will your work fit well within the rep’s roster, highlighting and amplifying your brand? Your well-curated viewpoint begins with a snap of the shutter and continues into portfolio/feed promotion. The rep requirement checklist grows from there, but this starting point should shape your search.
A photography agent or photographer representative is an additional public persona getting you exposure, findability, and raising your stature with their reputation, connections, and business knowledge. A photographer’s rep is a powerful negotiation voice – getting you paid as much as possible while protecting you with legal oversight. They are your teammate partnership working alongside you, managing the business direction while overseeing the progression of your craft.
“A photo rep knows the business side of creative careers. To put it bluntly, we protect and sell you.”
The myth that damages photographers’ careers is to assume the rep is doing all the public connecting and then not doing it yourself – perhaps 10-15 years ago, that was true, but now, it can kill your career. Repped or not, the role of marketing must be a fine-tuned, consistent plan of action based on your circumstances. The essential component of having a rep has changed with the times – they are no longer the one operation to take your career to that next level.
Social media has created an open market for you to participate in, opening doors reps used to open for you. These days a photographer’s marketing strategy demands high-level repetition mixed with A-level instantaneous curated direction allowing clients to get that quick read as they search for who to bid on a job.
“Photographer representatives can take a photographer’s marketing to the next level, but they need their active participation to make this work.”
Five Ways to Begin Your Photo Rep Search
Assess the size of the photography agency. Do you want a big rep agency or an individual rep? Think about if you want more of a hand-held catering to who you are or to be one of many fitting into a company conglomerate? Every photographer has different needs, and knowing which type of situation makes you tick even better should be your goal.
Consider location. Do you want a photo rep near you or is what you do more focused in a particular city or area? For example, if you’re in high fashion photography, you’d need a New York rep.
Look at the rep’s style. Every rep has a different curated vibe. Do you belong within that vibe? Or do you stand out in a way that doesn’t belong?
Review the rep’s clients. Who are the clients that the rep works with regularly? Do you fit within the client roster of that rep or rep agency?
Think about the competition. Many reps have the same kind of photographers, and you’ll be competing with them for jobs. For example, I rep three car photographers –I’m often bidding two of my photographers together against each other. My photographers trust me on this but will it bother you that your rep is not just for “you” all the time?
What to Look for in a Photo Rep
Be sure the photo agent is moving along with the times. They should be active in social media. Look at their social media – how proactive are they? A rep isn’t an influencer, but they are promoting your work. How can they do that if they aren’t on Instagram.
Look for a well-designed website with good functionality. Easy functionality with a style sharpness that stands out.
Consider their response to your email – was it in a warm or hurried tone? You can usually get a sense of where they are from the email response. If they don’t respond, that’s a sign that they’re either not very responsive or not interested.
Talk to other photographers about reps. You can find out about a rep’s reputation by asking others. It would be great to understand what didn’t work for one photographer with a particular agent. It may not bother you, but it could also be a reason to look elsewhere.
Look to see if the rep on LinkedIn. If a rep isn’t on the platform, I don’t know what they’re doing. An agent has to be active in all these prominent ways. It’s what we are today – no way around it.
How to Get a Photo Rep
If you are repped and looking for a change, you can be honest about why you’re seeking a change. If you have not been repped and are new to the business, keep your email short – reps know your intention immediately. It’s not easy to say no, so email a question or relatable topic to encourage building a relationship vs. needing us to figure out how to say no creatively – if we are interested, we will accept talking further. We are happy to see a quick rundown of your situation, giving us a sense of the kind and confident person you are. However, the more you say to us, the more we don’t read what you say. Make it easy for a rep who gets many of these emails daily.
“Treat reps like any other client you want to work with. The goal is to always stay in front of prospective clients in a way that works best for them.”
Whether it’s a printed mail or email promo, don’t limit yourself to just these two methods; remember, the marketing doors are your oyster to try new ways until it works. Be open to discovering fresh new ways to keep yourself out there in this rapidly ever-changing world.
What Not to Do When Approaching a Photographer’s Rep
Do not call people. Email first, then set up a call if the rep responds with interest.
Don’t waste the rep’s time by sending them work that doesn’t apply to their lists. Research the rep’s style and aesthetic before making contact.
Don’t send mass emails, and be careful that you’ve spelled the rep’s names accurately.
The Ideal Photographer and Photo Rep Relationship
The ideal photographer and rep relationship is all about a growing team trust with complementary perspectives. You won’t always agree on things – I see it like I earn my commission by throwing ideas like pasta against the wall to see what sticks, and the photographer needs to work with me, expressing what is right for them along the way. We do this together, exploring new ideas in our consistent approach and keeping up with the times to always grow forward.
“Remember, the right rep for you is about that team effort promoting the best of you to get to a constantly better place.“
This ambiguous topic comes up a lot, and if I had to choose one answer, I’d say from a rep’s perspective that a photographer is ready to get an agent when we would be making money together. If you are asking, you are probably not ready for a rep.
Once a photographer secures a rep, can we feel relieved, knowing that the rep will secure work for us regularly, like once a month or more? I believe this is an essential question since photography is a precarious profession, and I’m curious if representation can mitigate this.
Simple answer: NO
Think of it like this: a rep can open doors, but it will still be you, with your same portfolio showing up to those meetings.
We have the contacts, and you have the goods. The question is more about what are you needing to land the jobs? Is the answer something where a rep can help you grow your portfolio and make you more findable or credible with exposure? Figuring this out before you look for a rep may help you not waste any time determining the right path for you.
I’ve been thinking of reaching out to agencies, local and international, to get represented.
Do you maybe have any tips on how to do this? I don’t want to make a bad first impression with a terribly worded email.
Good point! Don’t be too “worded.” If you are repped and looking for a change, you can be honest about that. If you have not been repped and are on the business’s newer side, keep it short because reps know what you are saying. It’s not easy to say no, so email a question or relatable topic to encourage building a relationship vs. needing us to spend time figuring out how to say no creatively. Us reps know what you are saying, and if we are interested, we will accept talking further. We are happy to see a quick rundown of your situation, giving us a sense of the kind and confident person you are, but the more you say to us, the more we don’t read what you are saying. Make it easy for a rep who gets many of these emails a day.
How do I get over bidding anxiety? I’ve passed up asks for bids because of fear.
Bidding is an unknown fluctuating entity without an industry standard of set rates. Bidding a job is baffling; everyone will have their process. I use my direct human connecting skills backed by my knowledge of day rates, creative fees, usage rates, etc. You have a community of producers, consultants, reps who could be helpful resources for you. Learn to trust someone to help you bid. It’s worth the cost as it usually pays for itself just by getting the job with higher fees than you probably would have put in for yourself. Use a pro, allowing you to be the creative artist flourishing with the tasks that don’t give you anxiety.