A few weeks ago I received an Email from a photographer:
‘I have to know, Christina. Why didn’t you ever rep me?’
OMG. This poor photographer had been hanging onto my ‘rejection’ for 10 years. Holy moly.
Admittedly his dog had just died, he was having a few stiff drinks and he was feeling VERY sorry for himself.
If you’ve been rejected by an agent, or want to know how to go about winning over a photo rep (yes, it’s the same thing), you might find this list useful.
For goodness sake, research the photo reps you are considering.
- Are they working in your target market? Your target industry and territory must align.
- Make sure they are already pulling in work along the lines of your style and/or genre.
If not, there’s a strong chance they’re not going to attract much work for you. Get to know the clients they have, the approach they have, and their success stories (and failures). Find out how they work.
- Are they actively marketing their photographers? (Trust me, some don’t. It’s a thing)
- Do they help with production? (Again, some just market and expect you to have your own producer)
- Do they handle billing? Portfolios? Find out!
What do you actually need help with?
Research will help you avoid wasting your time and theirs unnecessarily harassing them if they’re not a good fit.
2. Treat them like a potential dream client.
For the record, and for those that haven’t worked this out, agents do not ’employ’ you. And you do not just hire any old agent over the phone, pay them some money and them tell them what to do. (After all the Emails I received as a rep I can confidently say that needed clarifying.)
The agent-photographer relationship is one of the greatest collaborations. If it works well, an agent can launch you in new markets, introduce you to people you only dreamed of working with, and guide and nurture you to be a better and more professional shooter.
So consider this a golden opportunity to attract someone that can change your life more than any single client.
With that in mind, treat them like you would an amazing potential client.
- Assume they are always busy (if you are hoping for a good rep they will always have to prioritise relationships with clients and their own stable)
- Avoid slovenly Emails where you haven’t even bothered to find out their name, or worse still, leave on another agent’s name (believe me, I’ve seen it all)
- Don’t instruct them to call you, or Email you, or anything for that matter. (Yup- that too)
- Reach out to them in a multiple of professional, respectful ways
- Stay in touch, often. Implement a plan for this. Reps do not take on photographers lightly.
3. Keep investing in your personal work.
- Continually set goals and revisit who you are as an artist.
- Never stop producing personal work that takes you there.
- And honestly, try to produce decent bodies of work. One or two random shots (that may not even match your style or goals) will not help terribly unless you’re willing to invest in a decent chunk of work.
- Be committed to your path!
Reps will always be more motivated to work with motivated photographers. They want to see that you are passionate about your work. That you have something to say in a unique voice. That you will be able to provide more material for the next folio they have to lug around on your behalf (or book appointments for you to do the same). Their name is on the line as much as yours- if not more.
4. Be careful what you wish for.
Just a couple of days ago a photographer told me that three days working on his website under my guidance created multiple times more success than 3 years with his ex agent.
That’s pretty scary. Three whole years of his life when he could have been building an amazing brand.
Now, please do not ditch your agent at this point on the assumption you can replace them with a folio consultant- our roles are different and a good agent will connect you and build your profile.
Just be warned: No agent is better than the wrong agent. Don’t jump into an arrangement just because it’s the only offer on the table, or you’re desperate. Its a great way to kill your photography business.
I know this is a very big topic, so next I plan to cover how to maintain and nurture that all-important client-agent relationship, before it turns sour. (Which sometimes happens)
In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about the strategy that my clients have used to attract agents you can find out more info here.