First of all, determine if you really need a rep and if they really need you.
For most larger, traditional photo agencies, this graphic above would be a good gauge of whether or not you need a rep. Those agencies are mostly interested in photographers who are already billing a lot of money per year on their own. Smaller boutique agencies may consider photographers who are billing lower who can show that they are serious about their hustle. All agencies are going to want to see a strong consistent aesthetic and evidence of a strong marketing strategy.
Some photographers believe that if they can get a rep then they will magically start getting lots of work and high-paying campaigns. What they may not understand is that reps expect them to already be working a lot and marketing themselves regularly.
If you’re busy but not getting the next-level clients that you want, or if you need someone to help you refine your portfolio, define your target market, and provide a solid marketing strategy, you may want to hire a photography consultant before reaching out for representation. Once you have worked with a consultant, you may then want to hire a marketing assistant to help you launch your new marketing strategy, update your website, design your emails and promos, and keep up with social media.
If you have a steady flow of clients that you are happy with, but need help with production and billing, you may only need to take on a studio manager or find an amazing producer (I know a few!)
Photo reps traditionally come in when you are working quite a bit, or need someone to help you bid and produce high-budget projects. The main work of an agent is to help you seal the deals and guide your career in the right creative direction. Let’s break it down -
Things that photo reps do:
- Manage requests for your services
- Bid new jobs (help you with estimates, pitches, production costs, creative PDFs, and communicate with clients)
- Help you refine your portfolio
- Read and negotiate legal contracts
- Help produce photo shoots
- Be your therapist
- Take a commission (20-35%)
- Show your work to potential new advertising clients
If your focus is editorial, local, or photojournalism, you likely do not need a rep. Photography agents are interested in high-dollar advertising shoots, and anything smaller is not usually worth their time. (And having to go through a rep can actually deter smaller clients from seeking to work with you.)
All of this being said, all reps are different and agency models are changing as advertising and the influencer landscape is evolving.
There are still a few unicorn photographers that are so crazy talented that an agent may take them regardless of their client list.
Check out my interview with Annie Campbell, Senior Agent at Altered Agency for more insight on artist <> rep relationships.
Here are some more great articles on the subject:
P.S. I’m rooting for you!
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