Are you expecting the world from your agent?

I’m currently co-chairing Creative Asia Plus, the first folio review programme in Asia. The event is on in just 2 weeks so we have been receiving a flurry of Emails from photographers around the world who are keen to come to Hong Kong to take advantage of meeting so many creatives from around Asia in one day.

Yesterday we received an Email from an award-winning photographer in Europe. He already has agents in Asia and Europe. He wants more work from Asia, but has issues around what his agent’s responsibilities are and how much he can actually do or should do given that his agent is on the ground there.

When it comes to new territories I hear this all the time. And because I’ve been on both sides of the coin here are my answers, regardless of whether you’re a European breaking into Asia, or an Australian breaking into the USA, or a Wanaka photographer breaking into Auckland.

Isn’t it my agents job to get me the work in their region(s)?

Well yes.  But you can’t rest on your laurels. You must have a presence in the markets in which your agents are operating- even if you don’t live there. And relying on your rep for that is often not enough.

Agents are great, and pretty essential, but the problem is many do not have the time to market their photographers as fully as they’d like. They sometimes rely on their brand or name to bring in the work. Indeed, many of them are bombarded by overworked agency art buyers making one call to an agent to procure 4 folios for a potential job on their desk (rather than contacting 4 separate photographers). This is a classic scenario across Australasia.

So let your agent market their brand, and send out your folio for those incoming jobs, and juggle all the incoming calls for estimates, and close your deals, and manage your schedules, but for goodness sake get your butt out there and build some relationships.

Why should I invest in coming such a long way to see creatives that my agent should be seeing regularly?

So you live a long way away. Ahem? You’re a photographer for goodness sake!

Here’s why you should make an effort to jump on a plane:

  1. Even the best agents who are investing time marketing their photographers have to spread themselves thin, and cover as much ground as possible. Individual photographers are lucky enough to be able to foster relationships with a small group of perfect clients. You can target the people you want to work with, and put all your energies in the right places.
  2. When you arrange face to face meetings far away from your home base you send the message that you are willing to invest in working with those clients. They’ll will take you far more seriously if they see that you have made the effort to come all that way. That you’re not just another name on a website chockablock full of photographers. In fact they’ll be thrilled to meet you.
  3. It’s not just your clients that will get this message. Your agent will know you mean business. They’ll also take you more seriously and work harder for you. You put the effort in and they’ll put the effort in.
  4. Never met your agent? Well do it now! And to see your agent in action. Get a sense of how they run their business. How they manage their clients, and yours. I’d like to think you’ll also see how hard they work for you. Get introductions from them. Work as a real team.
  5. When you’re there, use the opportunity to shoot beautiful and exotic personal work. Whilst you’re at it familiarise yourself with the light conditions, locations and local resources. Potential clients will trust you more when they see you can work with their light and get good results. They’ll relate more to you too. Your agent will be chuffed to have more relevant work for your folio.
  6. With fresh personal work from far flung places your local clients will perceive you more as an international shooter and perhaps even treat you with more respect.

I worked with a photographer from Australia who had never before been to Asia. On his second visit he had 3 top agents offering to represent him. Trust me, this is unusual. One of the reasons for this was because he was getting in to see more creatives that they were. In fact, they didn’t know quite how he was getting in front of some people as they had tried and failed. Although he has an agent, he still continues to travel to Asia and build relationships with existing and potential clients.

Lesson: The best agent/ photographer partnerships are when both parties are investing their time into marketing.

So if you want to work in Asia, or the USA, or Auckland; anywhere in fact that isn’t where you usually live, commit yourself. One hundred percent. Your agent will thank you. And longer term so will your bank balance.