Friday, December 12, 2008

Photographer's Agents

Special, or Just a Secret?

I think it's about time that I found myself an agent. Or, to give them their correct epithet: a Photographer's Representative.

It would put paid to a lot of my problems as a jobbing, self-employed photographer. Well, not all of my problems, but it might it increase my flow of work, somewhat. The big problem with being a one-person-band, as a freelance photographer, is that you have to be, not only a good photographer, but also a good marketing manager and booking agent.

I think I'm a good photographer. No, scratch that: I know I'm a good photographer (it took many, many long years of self-hypnosis for me to be able to write that, but I got there in the end). But that's only half the battle - in fact getting the job done well is only a third of the battle. The other two thirds are finding the job and then getting well paid for it at the end - and in my book they are much bigger thirds (don't tell my Maths teacher I said that).

I have always felt that having an agent would enhance my kudos and standing (even if it is only a superficial perception) but much, much more importantly (for me) they would point me towards the work. Then, I'd just turn up and do it - and do it well. I'm convinced that I'd be much more effective when I've harnessed 100% of my photography skills into taking (or making) photographs, than having it dissipated by trying to be a marketer and job-finder. OK, that might sound like a cop-out (as they say where I'm from: replace with "lame", "wimpy" or "gauche", to suit) but it's something I genuinely believe would work for me.

I've never been a great seller - especially of myself - and so I think a photography agent (not to be confused with a a picture agent or stock agency - I have two of those) would be perfect for me. I'm also a terrible fee negotiator. I often become almost too embarrassed to ask for a fee that I know I would more than earn - especially when I'm working in the commercial sector - and I'm convinced that an agent would get me a bigger slice of that "cake" even after they have taken their 25% fee.

But finding one is easier said than done. Most of the photographer's agents that I have been in contact with say that they have very small lists of photographers, for whom they are working flat out or that my work doesn't "fit" with their existing portfolios.

In a recent Professional Photographer magazine article, Adele Rider the Director of Photographer's Agency Shoot said that she gets an average of two approaches a day, from photographers looking for representation. She says:

"Most of the time it's either a case of them being completely wrong and not having really looked at our website, or the pictures are nice but nothing special. And I think you need a lot more that nice pictures now it has to be the compete package. Personality, luck, hard work, and the skill is actually quite a small part of it..."

Well, apart from the personality, luck and skill - I think I have what you're looking for Adele (or any other Photographer's Representative out there.) I certainly work hard. And I can take "quirky" shots. One day I might also get lucky.


  1. A strange thought crossed my mind when you explained how hard it was to get an agent. Do they only want people from whom the work sells itself so that their job is easier? Taking well established people and getting your cut would seem a lot less difficult than breaking someone new into a market. All of the attributes she says she is looking for seem to be the ones you were looking to offload on to her agency. Maybe I am just grouchy late on a Friday night.

  2. A friend of mine was just wrestling with this very thing. He'd had several agents, but didn't ever feel they made him a priority.

    He found a partner, who had the sole job of selling. He's making great money now...and he's a happier camper.


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