A 10-Part Guide To Photo Reps | Part 1
WHAT DOES AN AGENT DO?
A rep is short for "representative" and is often referred to as a Photo Agent or Photographic Agent. An agent can come in many forms and contribute various faculties to a photographer's business, especially with a marketing plan. A standard or traditional type of rep acts as a liaison that handles various parts of the business side of photography and can give an alternative point of view or perspective for the photographer to help them stay competitive. The term "rep" can vary dramatically depending on the type of work the photographer does. Still, many tend to promote and win new business for the photographer and take a fee or percentage of the job on the back end. This can vary as well with being represented by an entire agency and not just one rep. This means that a photographer could be represented by a whole agency that may have many staff roles to help manage and promote a group of photographers. The job description from agent to agent can drastically differ depending on the market, location, country, and clients involved.
"We concentrate on the marketing, which is really what the photographer needs" — BILL CRAMER
WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DOES A PHOTO AGENT NEED?
On set an agent may help facilitate, advise, and work directly with the clients on behalf of the photographer, if available or in-house. Often times, though an agent may never be a part of the shoot.
Frequently you will see reps coming from similar industries such as an art director, commercial producer, art buyer, art producer, or even a photo editor background. All of them tend to also work as a type of project manager for the photographer in one way or another.
This is common because they have the most experience in art buying, working on the client side, or in a role of high creative integrity. This is beneficial to a photographer because they can frequently not know the range of pricing from photographer to photographer or how the budgets and variances may differe from company to company.
This can also vary drastically in pricing from a Los Angeles market to Miami, or even London, where the pricing to license can vary or even how a photographer can or cannot charge as much for things like pre-production. This is especially true for a Fine Art Photographer looking for help in pricing their work.
One of the most well-known Photo Editors is Rob Haggart. He publishes valuable content on his site A Photo Editor. He spends a lot of time posting marketing materials, portfolios, and many types of creative print materials that photographers send out to be front-of-mind. He also has published a very comprehensive resource for printers to give you a leg up on where to start. It's one of our all-time favorite sites that shows an honest and transparent look at what photographers are doing, often breaking down estimates from commercial jobs.
Pricing photography is more of an art form than a science. Photo reps help bridge the gap between the client and the photographer and typically have much more experience from a long career in working with budgets and estimates.
This has changed in the age of social media and free portfolio websites online like Behance. Self-promotion for photographers has become so much easier through the myriad of online free social media sites and the usability of hashtags and search capabilities.
So many photographers today are one-man solopreneurs often siloed away alone running every aspect of their business. Over time, this can be detrimental without having the outside perspective on how the industry may be changing. It's always good to have another set of eyes and experiences helping you along the way.
WHAT HAS CHANGED IN THE AGENCY INDUSTRY?
This has drastically disrupted the agency industry for creatives. Reps have typically taken a commission of all or some of the photographer's work. Today, many talented photographers opt not to use photo reps because of the low barriers to self promote online. We should note while this may be easier, a good agent can be priceless.
Traditionally one of the only ways photographers could promote was in quarterly publications from companies like AtEdge, Lurzhers Archive, and Workbook, to name a few. Photographers would advertise their services by paying per page to get their work in front of potential clients.
These books would be sent directly to national and international art buyers around the world. In comparison to the reach of free social media and the costs of up to $10,000 or more per page in a book, many younger photographers opt to go the free route and reach more for a lot less.
Whatever the case, the rep has traditionally focused on building relationships with ad agencies and art buyers on behalf of their photographer. This networking was critical to ensure that their working photographers were always front of mind and just a phone call away when a job came up.
A great rep would consistently work with clients. This is also incredibly time-consuming and inefficient, considering one agent can only have so many in-person meetings and one-on-one portfolio showings at a time. Compare that to a platform like Behance, and the two methods barely compare.
HOW DO YOU WORK WITH A REP?
In the video above, Bill Cramer from Wonderful Machine sits down with Rob Grimm to discuss and define what an agent does. It’s an interesting look and discussion at the marketing materials they may use to help the photographer to market themselves, how many people work with agents, and the traditional versus modern photo agencies that exist today. Bill's conversation with Rob is full of great advice for younger photographers coming up. It helps lay out the pro's and cons of working with a rep today and what to expect. It’s certainly an interesting and modern approach for an agent representing a large amount of photographers.