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As you develop your skills and techniques throughout your photography career and you start to enjoy more success and clients, you may start to consider working with a photography agent. A photography agent offers you professional representation through an agency and can be hugely advantageous for your further growth in the competitive photography industry.
There are pros and cons to be weighed up when it comes to making any business decision and the right choice will depend on where you are in your career, what your budget for future growth is and how well your work will translate into marketable opportunities with the assistance of a photography agent.
The Pros Of Having A Photography Agent.
- Build New Relationships With Clients: The primary reason for having an agent is because they will work to get you more jobs, new clients and increase the opportunities that are available to you. They will use their contacts, marketing and networking skills to land you new clients and jobs.
- Your Agent Can Negotiate On Your Behalf: Whether you’re new to the photography business or a seasoned professional, negotiating the best price for your work can be tricky, particularly if you’re shy or prefer to work on your photography rather than haggle the price up! This is where your agent steps in because they do all this for you; and since they will receive a percentage fee of the price it’s in their interest to get you the very price for your work as possible!
- If You Have Problems With Your Client The Agent Can Smooth It Over: It’s natural that occasionally your personality might clash with a client even though the work you produce is great; and so when this happens your agent can step in to be the voice of reason and smooth over any issues that come up. This also applies to misunderstandings which can lead to conflict during an event so having your agent on the other end of the phone to explain things on your behalf can be invaluable in finding a resolution.
- More Time To Take Photos!: When your agent is handling your scheduling, finding you new clients and overseeing the marketing and promotion of your work and services you can focus more of your energies on your real passion, photography. Most photographers didn’t get into the industry to do administration, invoicing, drafting contracts and filing so why not let your agent handle all those tiring aspects of the job to leave you to take the pictures and work with your clients.
The Cons Of Having A Photography Agent.
- You’re Not Guaranteed Work: Having an agent doesn’t 100% guarantee you work, and although it does make it more likely, you can still have periods without enough work. It’s actually quite common that as a photographer the agency might even expect you to bring your own clients to them. This is partly because the agencies only want to spend their resources working with a photographer who has already invested in their career and is seeking to continue to grow it.
- Agencies Aren’t For Beginners: If you’re an absolutely new photographer then you will find it hard to be taken on by an agency because they prefer to work with more established professionals. This means that if you are just starting out in the industry they probably won’t be able to help you although there are exceptions so don’t be put off from getting in touch, since they might be able to give you some useful advice even if they don’t’ sign you up.
- You Still Have To Find Clients: The agency is going to expect that you continue to look for new clients, make new connections and keep on networking; even after you’ve joined them. There is a general understanding in the industry that as a photographer you should still be expanding your contacts and not relying entirely on the agency to do it for you. It’s more like a team relationship than anything else, so both parties need to pull their weight for it to succeed.
- The Agency Will Take A Cut Of The Profits: No agency will work with you for free so you need to factor in the fees that they will charge you for their services. Most agents work on the basis of taking a percentage of the proceeds from your projects and sales that you get through them. The usual fee rate that you will have to pay your agent is between 25% and 30% of your income. This may sound like a lot but you only need to pay them for the work that they get you so if you find your own clients then you can keep the whole of that amount.
If you are a photographer with a large and loyal client base then signing up with an agency might actually harm you financially so you need to carefully consider your position before signing any contracts. Still, that shouldn’t stop you from exploring your options throughout your career and deciding whether it’s the right time for you to join forces with a photography agent.
How Do You Find A Photography Agent?
When you are looking for an agent it’s actually a lot like finding new clients! There are several different ways that you can approach it but it’s usually best to spread your net as widely as you can when you first begin your search.
A very useful free online resource that you can use to begin your search is The Agent List. You can use this site to search for agencies all over the world and the location based search bar is extremely helpful to get you started.
- Get Your Photos Ready To Showcase Your Best Work: The first, and most important thing that you need to do is to get your work ready. It’s essential that you have your work in good order so that you can showcase your top photos to a potential agent. This means that you should have your portfolio up to date and ideally have a physical version of it as well. You can print out your photos and put them in a nice presentation album or book which you can take with you to any future meetings you have with an agent.
- Set A Budget: Photography agents will charge you a fee for their services and so before you start out you need to clearly define your own budget so you can quickly rule out any agencies that are charging more than that. You should also decide what types of services you want from the agent before you approach them; and although after speaking with them you might change your mind you should still have a good idea of what you need from the outset.
- Ask Your Peers: When you decide to find an agent a great place to start is by asking your fellow photographers about their experiences. Not only can they give you a recommendation with the agency they work with but they can also give you an insider’s review of how it works and what they like and don’t like about the agency.
- Do Your Research: It’s critical that you do plenty of research before you start getting in touch with any agencies. You should take the time to look through some of the work that an agency is involved with to see if you think that your photography would fit in with their style, genre and niche.
- Email Potential Agents To Arrange A Meeting: When you are emailing a potential agent try to keep in mind that they will be busy, so you want to keep your message short and to the point. Briefly introduce yourself, provide a link to your digital portfolio or website, and offer to come into the office to meet in person. One of the most important elements of a successful relationship with your agent is trust so you will have to meet up with your potential agent in person before you can sign any contracts or move forward with the relationship. Always write to your agent in a professional, formal and polite manner when contacting them so try not to be too chatty.
- Try To Show Your Portfolio In Person: It’s very easy to fire off emails with links attached to your portfolio to the agencies that you are interested in working with but you can make a far more lasting impression if you can arrange to meet with an agency representative and go over your portfolio in person. This will give you the chance to explain your ethos, values and the techniques that make your work unique as well as giving you the opportunity to get a feel for the agency and the way that they work with their photographers.
- Stay Proactive And Overcome Rejections: When you are applying to work with agencies you are most likely to face being rejected on more than one occasion, so try not to let this get you down or put you off! In many cases, you might be rejected simply because the agency isn’t looking to expand their pool of photographers at the time; so don’t take it to mean that you aren’t up to scratch. If you are rejected you can always try to approach the agency again later if you are still looking for representation. Stay proactive in your approach and keep trying new things. Always push to improve your portfolio and keep on networking with other photographers to get the inside scoop on what works in terms of finding an agent.
Questions You Should Ask Yourself When Researching For An Agency.
- Does the photography agency specialize in a specific genre such as fashion, retail or commercial photography, and if so do you also specialize in that genre?
- Does the agency already have a photographer who produces extremely similar work to what you produce? In some cases this might make them more reluctant to take you on.
- Is your style a good match for what the agency generally represents?
- Who are the agency’s main clients and could you see yourself potentially working with them in the future?
- Who are the photographers that are already on the agency’s books? Spend some time to do some research into the agency’s talent and try to find out how much work they have been doing recently. This can give you an indication of how proactive the agency is in finding their photographers jobs and projects and whether it would be a good opportunity for you as well.
- Is the agency primarily based locally or do they have national and international clients as well?
Arranging An In Person Meeting To Show Your Portfolio.
To arrange an in person meeting you should call the office rather than sending an email, although you can do both. Once you have secured a meeting, you should prepare the following to take with you:
- A physical printed portfolio that contains between 10-25 images. Try to show a wide diversity of your work to emphasize your flexibility and adaptability – both of which are qualities that an agency will be looking for in their photographers. It’s a good idea to include shots which are taken in full length, portrait and landscape formats. You should also pick images that express the aesthetic of your overall work. Always use high quality paper when you print your photos out because this will make them look more professional.
- Take a digital version of your portfolio that you can leave with the agency so they can look over it again later. The easiest way to do this is to copy it onto a memory stick. If you really want to make an impression you can have your name embossed on the memory stick and even use a wooden casing for it! Just make sure that the images on the memory stick have been uploaded in the highest quality possible.
Taking both physical and digital versions of your portfolio will give the agency an idea of how your images look in both formats as well as projecting a professional attitude.
While you are going over your portfolio be prepared to answer questions about the images and how you plan to move forward in your career.
Finding The Right Agent Can Supercharge Your Career.
Once you have decided to find an agent to represent you in the photography industry you’ll have to approach it with flexibility, determination and professionalism. As competition is so high in the photography industry having a representative can be an invaluable asset in your career.
You should always meet with a potential agent in person before you commit because the relationship is one of mutual support, collective strategy making and using the reach of the agency to promote your photography to the right clients and audiences.
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