1) I have a listing agent who reaches out to specific clients.
2) I can do online or in-person portfolio reviews.
Neither one is cheap, but I can commit to doing at least one of them this year, and would like to, as I’m trying to land at least one more corporate or ad client this year. I’m also hoping to expand my reach, and not always be hired locally/regionally.
SternRep’s Marketing Budget Formula is the overall breakdown of the available imagery placed in all potential places attracting the attention of potential clients.
We call this combo- InReach and OutReach; working in tandem. Our marketing budget covers our time and hiring help in all areas, used to gain insightful feedback on what works.
Step one – updating quick + easy landing spots (website, IG + BeHance) for clients to see/find the work.
Step two – consistent content creation show-pieces for LinkedIn posts, promos, portfolio pdf, IG Reels, articles/blogs for SEO, etc., all drawing traffic to landing spots.
Step one – personal and mass engaging on all platforms generated by the timely content we have to show.
Step two – setting up reviews/meetings/showings/calls taking the connection a step further.
Step three – follow-up across all mediums on a well-scheduled system.
I know an artist rep who pays for his photographer’s marketing. My rep is a company where I pay a monthly fee while still paying them the same 25% of each job. How do I know what percentage is accurate with this different type of representation company?
The rep/agent/marketing company configurations are more diverse due to the increase of photographers in our industry, each with different fee structures, making it challenging to compare. We have reps, marketing companies, and networking promotional directories removing the easy comparison of who does what and how much to pay. I’ve even opened a wing called Temp Rep due to the large number of photographers needing bidding representation. Which platform(s) best fit your client base awareness while fitting into your annual salary percentage allotted for marketing? My rule on this is -the expense should eventually pay for itself. The simple answer is to pay for what works for you.
I’m trying to get into the beauty photography business by going for smaller brands in my local area, but I’m finding it very hard to create leverage in this industry. I’ve tried email marketing, and sometimes their PR domains are blocked. Instagram messages think I want to “collab” with them. I’m unsure how to start networking with consumer package companies. What do you recommend I can do to be seen by commercial clients?
We all face similar challenges to get in front of potential clients, as described here, no matter which area of photography we focus on. Of course, it begins with a strongly branded portfolio showing you off quickly and succinctly. After that, it’s a potluck of strategic moves knowing which you are getting done and which need more attention.
Check out my Marketing Strategy Planner on “Downloads” –https://asksternrep.com/downloads/ where I map out all the potential ways I use to rep photographers to the appropriate clients. Pick a few favorites on my pyramid chart and see what works for you.
One benefit of having a rep bid on your job is this world of secret handshakes. It requires us to pick up on the right time to indirectly ask about pricing amounts + totals. I’m not sure why it goes down this way, but clients usually do not come out and tell us what needs to be changed to get the job. Reps get used to this negotiation system and can often find out information that is a bit hidden. I call it the “rep’s language.”
Has there ever been a case of a photographer negotiating down their rep’s percentage? Does this simply lead to bad morale in the relationship? Is there a workable solution to this or might parting ways be the best option?
Reps are negotiators, so there are workable solutions to commission percentages. “House” accounts are the standard norm for lower commission rates based on fair compromises. The one thing you don’t want to do is slow down your rep’s time/effort by removing financial gains. My answer is to determine the undercurrent issue – is this a teammate who brings a quality you need in your career trajectory? If not, well, that may be the answer.
Photographers in the commercial advertising industry can face complex unmapped territory, especially when invited by a client to submit a bid to get a job. Photographer’s agents are the trusted resource supervising every step of the bidding process to ensure it goes smoothly, helping land the job. Finding a rep to help with bidding negotiation can get tricky; we here at AskSternRep are all about demystifying the photography business, so our team sat down with our founder and photographer’s representative of SternRep, Andrea Stern, for a Q&A on Freelance Temporary Representation.
AskSternRep Team: Let’s start with the basics: what IS Temp Repping, and how is it priced?
Andrea Stern: “Temp Rep” is how I join forces with un-repped photographers on a per-project or per-client basis when they want a rep’s help on their bid request, image licensing rights, copyright ownership, reuse, or renewal fees. Whether a photographer only needs me behind the scenes for advice or wants me to be their voice communicating the negotiation with the client, I bring my 100% dedication to treating each case with my utmost attention.
Temporary Representation is how I jump in to be on the photographer’s side wherever they need it. I’ll oversee the bidding process, assessing our needs to get this job. Do you have the right producer, or will we create the bid for you to produce your job? Are we getting all the correct information from the client to support an accurate estimate? Are your bid terms clear and set up to protect you on this specific production? Let’s make the best of the creative call and your treatment without leaving any money on the table when we land this job.
I charge a commission on the photographer’s fees between 15 – 25% only if we get the job. No charge if we don’t get the job; I get paid if you get paid.
ASR: How and why did you start offering Temp Repping?
Andrea Stern: Temp Repping created itself in 2015 when photographers who knew me started reaching out, needing a freelance rep as they didn’t want to negotiate jobs independently. At the same time, it worked on both ends of the business as client-direct brands and producers started reaching out with mass searches for photographers for a specific project. When I could be helpful on both sides, it was easy to do what I enjoy most no matter what the configuration looked like – I rep photographers to help them get the job. The commercial advertising business started shifting this way, where broader doors were opening, making it easier for un-repped photographers to get their foot in the door.
ASR: How often do you Temp Rep for photographers?
Andrea Stern: Over the years, it’s become a regular recurring position as many photographers can use a rep temporarily. These mainly happen not on a one-time basis but more of an ongoing relationship we are building. It’s a great way to get to know the specifics of each photographer and how they work.
I have worked with over 100 un-repped photographers bidding with clients, including Magnolia Bakery, Sonic Drive-In, Audi, HGTV, Chevy, Merrell, NFL, Adidas, ESPN, Sunbrella, DirectTV, Jack Daniels, State Farm, Delta, Pacifico, HP, Lexus, Target, Disney, Purina, Airbnb, Priceline, Timberland, Darigold, Chase Bank, Bosch, Duluth Trading Co, and Title Nine.
ASR: How does a photographer know they need a Temp Rep? How is it helpful?
Andrea Stern: Almost every job I bid on with my photographers involves a team, as that is how our business works. When bidding on a project that feels over a photographer’s head regarding ease, communication, finances, and production, they should always involve support. Clients may get nervous if it’s a more significant production and the photographer is on their own.
The benefits of having an agent represent a photographer in our commercial advertising industry are endless if you can trust the Rep you are working with. A representative offers solid protection on the bidding process by overseeing terms, treatment editing, etc., and will get them paid fairly. It astonishes me that every photographer wouldn’t seek a rep’s help on every bid.
ASR: What criteria can help photographers decide if they need to get a rep involved when asked to bid on a job?
Andrea Stern: When a photographer is asked to bid on a job, the first thought should be to consider whether they should bring in a rep. If they’re unsure whether it’s worth it to bring in an agent, some great questions photographers can ask themselves are:
Do you feel comfortable/confident doing this alone?
How big is this job? Is there a high enough budget for this project to pay a rep 15%, 20%, or 25% of your fee?
Will a rep’s support make you an even stronger candidate to be awarded this job?
ASR: How does the process begin, and when should the Rep be looped in with the client?
Andrea Stern: When you receive a bid request, you should first decide if you want a rep to work with you on it before even responding. If we are representing you, we should be there from the start, as it’s well worth our commission to warm up the relationship with the client from the get-go. The more seamless the bidding process communication will be as soon as you get the agent involved.
ASR: Does being repped when bidding on a job influence an advertising agency’s opinion on how they will respect working with that photographer? Or does a rep sometimes freak out a client, signaling they will be more expensive to work with?
Andrea Stern: Clients familiar with reps are the ad agencies, and clients who tend to be unfamiliar with agents are smaller client brands with in-house marketing. I’ve seen how the type of client can affect the bidding process, so this goes into our team planning strategy before we move forward. Not to boast, but I haven’t met a client I can’t warm up quickly. I accept this challenge as one of my skill sets, where I begin with a soft and personal tone breaking that age-old harsh reputation that agents can have. However we approach this, it is a discussion where we consider the pros and cons, coming up with our game plan together.
ASR: Is there a “bid minimum” you like to have in mind when entering a temp rep engagement? (For example, should a job prospectively be at least 10/20/30K to interest you in offering your services?)
Andrea Stern: Generally, budget is not my deciding factor as to who I will Temp Rep; it is more about the type of industry. I’m unfamiliar with editorial, fashion, publication, or photojournalism rates, so I would not feel as helpful as I do with commercial advertising projects, so I stick with those.
ASR: Is there a limit to the jobs you would Temp Rep for one photographer?
Andrea Stern: No, the more times I work with a photographer, the better. I become more comfortable the more we work together. I base a lot of my negotiation on how that photographer works, so getting to know them more only helps me give more to each project.
ASR: Can a Temp Rep situation lead to joining a rep’s roster?
Andrea Stern: Yes! A couple of my Temp Repping situations have turned into full-time repping. Vinnie Finn, for example, started that way. Vinnie called me to help bid on a wine project in Sonoma County and several long-term projects after that. We had a great thing together; the longer we worked together, the more we knew we could do even better by joining forces full-time.
A Temp Rep situation can lead to an official rep engagement – so if a photographer is looking to get a rep, this can be a perfect way to get to know each other.
My suggestion for un-repped photographers is to research reps who match their style and type of clientele, ask around and do your due diligence to create a short list of reps who may be right for you. Get to know each other as we all have unique ways of working; get a rep who speaks accurately for you, even during a stressful job situation.
It’s a big commitment, and I’ve seen photographers regret signing on with reps; don’t rush the process, and make sure you get to know them first.
ASR: Why would a rep want to take on a Temp Rep job with a photographer?
Andrea Stern: Well, not to sound crass, but we are business minded and here to make money. We have what it takes, so why not put our skillset into action with the right opportunities? A rep does have a reputation to consider, so we want to represent those who will build our clientele and not damage our brand. We do have to be careful as our name goes into these temporary situations, and our company depends on building relationships. After the checks and balances, we will enjoy the opportunity if we can make money with you.
ASR: What do you enjoy most about Temp Repping?
Andrea Stern: The best part of my job is the relationships I create. If I can be helpful to get a photographer paid and well taken care of, then I’m all in. I enjoy selling the photographer with my moment-to-moment negotiation process, looking for ways to solidify the photographer’s relationship with the client. There’s a genuine advocacy to all of this, which is the most enjoyable part about repping- the confidence, belief, and cheering for talented photographers.
ASR: Any success stories you can share?
Andrea Stern: A photographer I have temporarily represented on a regular basis since 2017 has me listed as the agent to contact directly for incoming requests on their website. I am trusted without much back and forth to make decisions as they know I will get the best done for them. It’s a nice way to work, Temporary Repping but based on a solid long-term relationship.
We were in a situation where a company used two images after the usage rights expired. The client needed to be financially penalized for that unowned usage term and then wanted to extend the usage for three more years. This negotiation was a situation I could get the photographer paid more than they were expecting, which was extremely satisfying to make a successful renewal deal with one of our highest financial payoffs.
I knew I could start with a high rate, as the client wanted to avoid getting into a legal battle for their illegal photography usage rights. We got $140,000 for the two images for (3) years of packaging, social media, print, OOH, and in-store usage. It was fun to shock the photographer with that payment amount and feel that sense of success, but success is much more than that.
This long-term relationship with the photographer stands out to me as a real success because they permitted me to speak freely on their behalf, getting them compensated to the best of my ability. It’s nice to have that trust with photographers who use me as their Temporary Rep, but it doesn’t feel temporary.
I have myself listed with a couple of agent services, but I’d like to be repped full-time for more outreach efforts. Is there a way to find an up-and-coming rep to grow together with? How does one approach a rep?
Reps are working hard to get their name out there, so ask clients or organizations like APA, Workbook, etc. Approaching the rep with a referral is the best way to get a response. Finding a new rep just getting into the business can be a clever way to get in before we have full rosters. Like any relationship, it can grow with time, so as long as you are clear on your business direction, that should help you focus on the style of rep that is right for you.
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.“