Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.


A perennial here on the blog is the Rep/Agent question and it’s always good to do another take on it because it’s such an important topic for photographers.

Amanda and Suzanne:

We definitely feel like a rep can be a great asset, but you have to be willing to still do the dirty work and get out there. One of our favorite reps once said “A photographer once asked me ‘what have you done for me lately’ and I responded with ‘you should be asking me, what can I do to help you?’”

REP 1:

What do you require from your talent in order to create a successful partnership?
mutual respect

What do you look for in talent?
unique talent, business acumen, adaptable personalities

What really gets you upset with your talent (i.e. not growing and shooting, no marketing)?
not being a collaborative partner

Do you do your estimates for your talent?

Do you like your talent to market in conjunction with your marketing?

What are the biggest changes you are seeing in the industry?
the way companies are advertising is changing and that of course impacts photography
less emphasis on print portfolios, more online
cg and post production alter the entire realm of what is possible

Do you think print is dying?
not dying, but the emphasis is shifting and other media are taking precedence


Do you look for photographers who have a rep? Does it make a difference?
It doesn’t make a difference as long as I’m being appropriately serviced. That said, many photographers are not as versed as seasoned reps in who to contact. There is sometimes also a prestige associated with having a rep that may open doors faster.

Do you think that some reps can make or break a photographer?
I don’t think it’s “make or break” as much as it’s possible that a poor rep can, at best, not help the photographer, and at worst, damage a photographer’s reputation. It’s about “the company you keep” in this business. That doesn’t mean that photographers should play the victim: a rep cannot effectively service a photographer without essential tools. This includes a continuous stream of new, relevant work. No excuses. An effective photographer/rep partnership requires full engagement in and commitment to the relationship by both parties.

How do you feel with the talent accompanies a rep on a portfolio showing?
It’s fine either way. I know that some art directors like to meet the artists directly.

What are the biggest changes you are seeing in the industry?
Number one, it’s still not robust out there. New photographers are having a difficult time breaking into the business and I fear they will simply find other careers before the economy recovers. Two, the integration of still and moving imagery is becoming more and more prevalent. Three, the use of CGI is replacing extensive shoots, such as cars. I’m predicting a time in the not-too-distant future in which CGI-generated people will supplement or replace expensive models.

Do you think print is dying?
No, I think it is EVOLVING. We have to stop thinking of photography in terms of Print and instead think if IMAGES in terms of ASSETS. Those assets can be still or moving and can be used across a variety of media.


I  have a rep and my relationship with them is like a partnership. They handle a big part of the business that I don’t have to deal with any more, and it’s all commissioned based. I don’t think that “having a rep” automatically gets you work, because ultimately it’s your portfolio of work that gets you paid work. A rep is like a channel that, gets your portfolio out there into the world for people to see. It’s still up to me as the photographer to create better work, and the brand that goes with that. I do think that having a rep will improve your chances when you break down being successful in this industry it comes down to making better images, and showing more people. In a sense you are the one that has to make better images, but a rep will help you show more people. More than that, a lot of times art buyers will use reps as resources to recommend a type of photographer. Another great thing is to be accompanied by a good roster of talent. If you are with a good rep who has great credible talent, that puts you in that status which in turn builds your credibility. If you’re a younger photographer in the game, that credibility (and the credibility of having a rep that’s been in the business vouching for you)is an asset into getting bigger jobs.

Changes in the industry?
More digital, more photographers, more market saturation + crashing economy = less jobs which means you have to be even more at the top of your game to play with the big boys.

Is print dying?
Maybe a slow death. I hope not though. There’s always something great about feeling a printed piece in your hands. Hopefully that’s enough to suffice and not let it die.

To Summarize:

Reps do get you work, but they alone can’t do it by themselves. You have to step up to the plate and bring your game. Also, you have to connect with the right rep, do your research. We have consulted with reps and photographers hiring reps. We asked the hard questions that no one wants to talk about. At the end of the day 3 things matter: Money, Creative ability and belief in work and Personal Skills (these answers apply to the following: getting an estimate request, getting the job, finding a rep, a rep showing interest in you, etc…).

Call To Action:

If you want a rep – Do your research when trying to find a rep. Go to the workbook and find reps whose roster of talent speaks to you the most (visually). Then ask a client (with whom you have great relations with) if they could recommend a rep to you that meshes with your style and personality.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.” Amanda and Suzanne review your comments for 2 days, and then they are off researching next week’s question.

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  1. I would love to have the area of “collaboration” expanded on. What does this mean in more exacting definition? And who in the end controls what, post shoot? Price control of sales of prints via exhibitions? ownership of images? licensing? etc.? Outside of the obvious of working together, the post production splits I have found, have different expectations depending on the group? What are the post shoot expectations of who gets to control what, with regards to the financial terms post production from your point of view? Thank you ahead of time.

  2. Collaboration would mean that the photographer would be giving the agent what the she needs to do her job. The photographer needs to create new work frequently, update their website and portfolios with new work, possibly have a blog, come to portfolio showings if the agent wants them to come along. If a photographer has a group of clients, he should stay in consistent contact with them. The photographer should friend his existing clients on facebook, email them new work from time to time, give them a call. A rep can do that for you, but at the end of the day, many clients would like to keep in touch with a photographer directly after they have shot together. Collaboration would also mean that the agent would advise the shooter on what types of new work would help them get more work.

    An agent hears a lot of trends that are happening in the industry and should be advising the photographer on how to evolve in these changing times. (and believe me, things are changing faster and faster!)

    Sometimes I go to my photographers’ shoots for their portfolios, and sometimes I do not have the time. I do not think it is customary for reps to attend their photographer’s portfolio shoots, but I like to do this because I do think it is important for my collaboration with them. The photographer always own the copyright, even if I am playing the role of the art director at a portfolio shoot. That is not any different than the way a commercial ad shoot works- the photographer always maintains the copyright (unless it is negotiated that it is to be sold to the client).

    All of the agents that I know work on commission. They are paid 25 – 30%, (sometimes 35%) of the creative fees / usage / pre & post production fees that the photographer is paid. There are also misc. charges a representative may have, such as messenger and FED EX fees.

    • @Erica Chadwick, Thank you for the elaboration on the term “collaboration” from your perspective. Anyone else like to chime in on their interpretation? Anything else to add, or a different point of view? Thank you ahead of time.

      • @Debra Frieden, I think Erica did an amazing job of explaining it. I would add that the rep should have a subscription to Adweek and AdAge and ALWAYS know what is going on with accounts. The Martin Agency just got Tylenol, Pizza Hut and Morgan Stanley- a perfect time to get in touch with the buyers to congratulate them and get on their radar. In fact think about sending them some Tylenol with a collection of your work with a note saying “I am a photographer or rep here to help you with your headaches looking for the right talent”

  3. How soon before we see *photography* reps adding CGI artists and studios to their group of represented artists?

    • @Bob,

      There are agents that only have photographers on their rosters right now. And there are some that already represent CGI artists. My guess is that more reps will pick up CGI artists, just as they will pick up more videographers.

      Representatives will evolve with who they represent based on the demands of the industry.

    • @Bob, Hey Bob. Several already do for example Elizabeth Poje- electric art, Stockland Martel’s Jim Fiscus had an opening several months ago with a CGI exhibit.

      • @Suzanne and Amanda & Erica Chadwick ,

        Hey guys, I mean complete CGI. I mean complete CGI – start to finish. No cameras, no captured images. Images (I won’t call them photographs cause they aren’t) which are heavily retouched already look CGI. But the CGI process is different than photography based imagery.

        • @Bob,

          Yes, I am speaking about completely computer generated images. There are reps that work with these artists already.

          Reps are interested in promoting what agencies want to purchase, and if CGI is selling, they will sell it.

    • @Greg Ceo, 20k out of pocket for photog the first year with a rep?

  4. Great insight into the business of business relationships. The Art Producer’s commentary about expensive models being replaced with CGI is interesting and part of the reason I started TalentSoup. While I would agree, CG people are around the corner, democratizing our industry and serving our photographers will bridge the gap long before “pixel people” are a mainstay.
    Thanks for the articles!

    • @Radford Harrell, I have a friend who works for a huge ad firm in NY. This is accurate. Real people for CGI.

  5. Great article, especially for those trying to break into this side of photography. It is worth the time to investigate all the aspects of having a rep.

  6. […] A Photo Editor, in his weekly “Ask Anything” feature, examines this question: Does a photographer need a rep and do they really get you work? […]

  7. As a long time rep I can certainly agree that “the times they are a changing.” I find that today while all of the electronic tools involved do help me in trying to promote a talent, the old fashioned idea of actually speaking to someone is still a powerful component. Calling the agencies and actually talking with an AD or CD is labor intensive but it is vital.
    Now for a gripe, the business of denying reps, and talents access to the lists of the people we need to contact is wrong!!! The excuse is that a “headhunter” is going to contact the people on the creative list and recruit them, however, people come and go anyway in business, to punish people looking to make their way by denying them access to the people they need to contact to show their wares is wrong!! Particularly in this economy when everyone needs to be able to access markets in order to survive.
    One final gripe, for the most part Art Buyers are professional, helpful, and friendly but are also extremely busy and should not be abused by anyone in the pursuit of asking them to look at talent. How often should they be called is a dicey proposition. Reps can easily fall out of favor with an Art Buyer and that is a bad situation made worse when the rep continues to try to get his/talents looked at, a rep can be hurt very badly by this and of course his/her talents pay the price.
    I have known many Art Buyers over the years and I will say that once an Art Buyer takes a dislike to a rep it lasts forever, this is also wrong, it destroys any chance that a great talent will get in front of the creatives that should see the work. Some of the best Art Buyers in the business were reps and know what it takes to launch a talent and are generous in their help to a rep or the talent. Some of the worst Art Buyers in the business were also reps and can be very destructive to reps and talent by having an attitude of disrespect and denying the rep or the talent any access to people and jobs. I love working with new talent and Art Buyers and Art Directors, attitude is all, we are in this together and the creative community should have no room for grudges just opportunity.

    • @Tom Maloney, Wow! I love your artists/photographers work. Great group.

      • @Debra Frieden, Thank you Debra for your note and your praise of the talent.
        Best to you,

        • @Tom Maloney, As former art buyers we think it is their job not to review talent, be un-bias to a rep and should get information first hand and not through a rumor mill. Yes, there were reps I didn’t like but if I still wanted to use their talent, I got past that. I know of talent that I had a “situations” with in the past but was grown up enough to put the cards on the table to the rep and we went a head with the shoot. Actually the photographer became great friends to me later because we were honest. I have seen buyers try and sabotage one photographer because they liked another photographer or their rep better. It is unfair but it does happen. And it happens in other industries besides our.

          • @Suzanne and Amanda, Thank you very much for your note. Yes the human condition will always prevail and it is true that while we are asked to love everyone we cannot always like everyone. I am planning to attend the APA event on Monday March 15 to air a few concerns about the Art Buyer, Rep,and Talent relationship.
            I have forty-two years of working this profession and I want to impart just a little of what I have learned to new photographers and illustrators and reps. in their dealings with Art Buyers and Art Directors. I hope that I will be able to speak briefly on that topic.
            Thank you both again for taking time to write and yes resentments can be cleared up by grown-up behavior which as you know can be in short supply in our industry.

  8. Great information.

    I’m still curious about the catch 22’s before a photographer able to sign with their first rep, or what I like to call, “which came first the client or the rep?”. I find it challenging and I hear from other photographers in New York City in various stages of their career (i.e photographers with rep’s and clients and one’s without one or the other or neither) how hard it is to try and convince either a well respected good paying client or rep to take the leap with them before the photographer has secured the other. It has many photographers running a hamster-wheel.

    Also I understand that fundamentally a rep works for a photographer or why else would a photographer give up a percentage of their income otherwise? But this doesn’t seem to play this way in reality. So I’m still really curious about the real balance and relationship between a photographer and their first rep when obviously the photographer is usually just happy to have representation and unfortunately sometimes the rep just padding their roster but really focusing on their top tier talent and the new photographer still getting the majority of their gigs on their own (and in which sometimes the rep wants a cuts anyways). I’m not making accusations that all reps do this, nor do I think really this is all that bad and probably a necessary “evil” of this business for anyone to be successful at it, but it still leaves me wondering how to navigate through it all.

    • @christopherlovenguth,

      Reps do not work for photographers. They collaborate with photographers. I would never work with a photographer that thinks I work for him or her, because they simply do not get the dynamic of the relationship or value my contribution.

      Photographers do not give up their income. Working with a rep is a long term process. You must commit to at least a year or two to see if a rep is a good partnership for you.

      Reps do not take on “new” talent because they are padding their roster. I have taken on many younger, un-established talent over the years. It is a lot more work for the rep to get work for someone that is not established. My reason for taking them on is because I see potential for them, and I want to be with them for the long haul. There is a great sense of accomplishment that comes with being a big part of growing someone’s business.

      • @Erica Chadwick,

        Thanks for your thoughts on this Erica but unfortunately some of what I said that you replied to isn’t just how I think it is but what I’ve heard from reliable sources. Doesn’t mean it’s the case for you, but you also can’t speak for all reps out there in general either.

        I have in fact in more than one conversation with a reps at an agency had them tell me that they work for the photographer and that is how a photographer should approach the situation if they go in to business with an agency, or it doesn’t work. I was also at a talk last year in NYC where a rep was telling emerging photographers about how to approach an agency. They also brought up how when a photographer is at that point of crossing the bridge to seek out representation, that a photographer shouldn’t be acting out of “all or nothing” desperation in getting a rep since you as a photographer are paying the rep/agency for them to provide you with a service.

        On my other point, I have also had more then one photographer friend tell me when they got their first representation they where mostly ignored for years even with constant meetings and strategies on how to market themselves and what direction to take their portfolio (with most of the cost for these “strategies” to the photographer and little if any to the agency). These photographers having to still get more then 90% of their own work/clients only to have the reps take a cut and put those clients then in their roster afterwards. Two photographers I know had this situation happen to them and when then moved to another agency who actually focused on them, whereas at the previous agency there might be up to 15 photographers but really only 1-3 of those photographers where getting 75%-80% of all the work the rep was pulling in, they all of a sudden had too much work being offered to them almost instantly on moving to another agency. I would say these where mostly lateral moves as well, not going from a small agency to a more established one, instead going from a mid-size to a mid-size agency.

        So why I agree with what your intentions are as a professional and at it’s purest core the philosophy of your collaboration position, please don’t think there aren’t reps out there acting in the way I described (I actually did write that not all reps out there do this so, I don’t know why your took it personal) but you also can’t claim that every rep has the best interest of who they are representing. I believe that representation is a tool for a photographer, just like any other business consultant. A photographer must believe that hiring a rep and what that person brings to the table is best for the photographer’s business and not just for the agency. If not, then why have representation as a photographer? What I find a little upsetting at this concept of collaboration in the way you present it, that you would never work with a photographer that thinks you work for him or her, is that some line gets blurred if you really believe this. To me, a rep is supposed to have the keys to the doors and knows what is expected on the other-side when the photographer walks through it. For this service, the rep/agency gets reimbursed. A collaboration would mean you both walk through that door, in that situation, does the rep have the photographer’s best interest or are they also or only looking out for themselves? Again, I’m not suggesting that you Erica do this nor do I believe most reps out there act in this way, but I am concerned of the way collaboration is being used here. My accountant might have ways for me to save money for my photographer business that involve long-term strategies and planning, doesn’t mean they are collaborating with me on the processes I go through as a photographer or successful business. There is a big difference between a partnership or consultant and collaboration.

        • @christopherlovenguth, The thing to remember is that there are good reps and bad reps. There are good photographers and bad photographers. Reputation in this business is everything. Having a contract with a rep is essential because money and egos are involved, it is like a marriage. The marriage can last for years through good times and bad. It can also result in a “divorce” which can be very costly on the severance. Both parties need to do their research on each other before joining together.

        • @christopherlovenguth,

          I was not taking your post personally in any way at all. Some of what you have posted is commonly debated. The largest debate being the:photographer works for rep: train of thought. I believe you that there are photographers that really think this, the believe it to the core. There is also the other side of the coin- the group of photographers who want to collaborate. I want nothing to do with the first group, and everything to do with the second..

          I have to be honest that I have heard a lot of photographers say that over the years “my rep didn’t do anything for me, I got 90% of my work.” Half of the photographers I have heard say that were not being honest with themselves, and half were right.

          You are correct that a photographer should only sign with a rep that they have researched fully. Don’t just sign with a rep to get one.

          The most important thing anyone can do here is read Richard Weisgrau’s post below. He spells it out brilliantly. The only addition I would make is that if it took a year for the rep to get him new accounts back then, assume it would take 2-3 times that amount of time to get the ball rolling like that in this great recession.

          The line is never blurry because I do not make decisions at ad agencies. I do my best to get my photographers’ work in front of the right people. At the end of the day the agencies choose the correct photographer for the brand and their project. My keys to the door can’t get a photographer shooting an account if they are simply not right for that account.

  9. I keep saying to myself, I am going to move into the direction of getting a great photographers rep……..but I moved in a different direction (for now). I want a rep, but the love of working, vs. stopping for major self marketing overruled my sensibilities. I decided to balance out my portfolio with some documentary photography which broadens my portfolio. In doing this, my photographs are being moved into a collection at the Smithsonian. A very surreal shift happened, taking “the road less taken” for me. I also live in Atlanta, not exactly the hub of photo agencies. I would have to work more like a satellite out of Atlanta/Hartsfield airport.

    Photographer to photographer, I understand the confusion, as the definitions of who is suppose to do what for you as a rep has crafted a kaleidoscope of confusion. I have found that building the work, and following the “art heart”, opened different doors along the way. I hope you explore in areas you find interesting, and push the boundaries too. It keeps our work interesting.

    I have a friend who took her book to 26 agencies for consideration in NYC before she secured a rep. She is working full time now, and just completed a shoot for Italian Vogue. My other friend who works for a huge Photo Agency in NYC has a completely different experience with his rep. He works, but does not seem as fulfilled with his agency (keep in mind, this does not necessarily mean its the agency’s fault). Apples and oranges I am coming to find out. I think the best advice, is to find a rep who you love, and loves your work, and vice versa.

  10. Admittedly, my opinion is based upon my experiences from the mid 70s through the late 80s when I was operating a studio with staff, production capability, and a reputation as good photographer. Today, at 68 y.o., I dabble in the art and profession.

    In 1975 I made a deal with a rep. It was a difficult negotiation because I had house accounts that provided over $350,000 in annual revenues (that was big money in the 70’s). I didn’t need a rep to get the repeat business from the house accounts, but the rep wanted a piece of it for tending to that business too.

    Quandry 1: Do I pay a commission on work the rep did not secure? Decision: Yes, because I am so busy with admin and shooting that I have little time to hand hold clients. If I decide pay 12.5% on that business to the rep, it means I have increased my expenses by 12.5% on existing business with no additional revenue. I have to make it up somehow because after all expenses including my salary, I don’t have a 12.5% net profit.

    Quandry 2: The new business the rep brings in has a 25% debit automatically attached to it because he gets that % commission. He is unlikely to get that much more over my regular fees so he has to get substantially more business to pay for himself.

    Quandry 3: How to deal with 1 and 2 above.

    Resolution: The rep and I decide on a 6 month contractual trial period because there is no way he will prove to me except by doing that he will pay for himself and increase my profitability. Nothing ventured is nothing gained, so I decide to risk the possible short term loss to see if I can get a long term gain.

    Result: My revenues increase by 40% over a 12 month period. He gets 25% so I get 15%, but that 15% is pure profit. We work together for over a decade and it only gets better. I love it because I don’t enjoy the selling aspect of the business.

    Wanting a rep and being able to afford a rep are two very different considerations, if you have house accounts. If not, you still have to appreciate that, if the rep does not bring in enough new business, you are likely to lose money from the added commission expense on the jobs the rep brings in. However, if you already have a successful (profitable) business, from a sales perspective you almost can’t go wrong with a good rep. Selling is an art in itself, and with some exceptions photographers are often not very good it. Sales is the lifeblood of any business, and the better that is done the better the business is. If a photographer can get a rep, it is a smart thing to do, if it is affordable.

    • @Richard Weisgrau, As always Richard, you words are of wisdom and greatly appreciated!!!

    • @Richard Weisgrau,
      great post

    • @Richard Weisgrau, with all due respect because of the age you are a moron. I agree that the rep is getting you money because with your skills you won’t get to far. 40% with a 25% you get 75% (out a sum you prefer not to disclose). The percentage is relative.

      • @Ion Ion, It would be good for you to learn to read, write and do math before you level you hostile criticism at someone. I was speaking of my experience int he 1970s when I earned over $350,000 a year BEFORE I had a rep. The rep wanted to work for me because I was good at what I did then. My work today is that of a mostly retired (because I did so well) photographer who shoots only what he enjoys shooting. Finally, while you erroneously add 40 and 25 to get 75 (it is actually 65) in my post I was making making a percentage comparison and not doing addition. Maybe I am, as you called me, a moron, but I think that puts me one step above you.

        • @Richard Weisgrau, I quote you:
          “Result: My revenues increase by 40% over a 12 month period. He gets 25% so I get 15%, but that 15% is pure profit.”
          Your initial sum is going to be called X. It is 100% of X. 40% over that means 140% of X. The rep is getting 25% out of any sum – be it 100% X or 140% X or 2500% X. His 25% mean you are left with 75% (100-25=75).

          So the weird parts are:
          * how come the 40% increase (relative to X, or the initial sum) can be added to 25% comision (relative to the final sum – in your words including those 40%) to reach 65% (out of what?) to prove me wrong?
          * how come his 40% increase and 25% comision can lead to you gaining 15%? And those 15% are relative to what?

          Anyway, for those reading this and having the schooling of RW: if the numbers are right the poor man made only a 5% increase to his initial sum… and, of course, the rep paid himself out of the rest thus his fee was null. Now, given that the 40% increase in revenue is more or less proportional with the increase in consumed energy and working time THAT is a terrible way to work more for about the same amount of money. Those extra 5% after taxes might not mean that much after all, although I admit it I know nothing about US book keeping and tax system.

          What is even more dangerous is the message that misinformed speakers can send to the new generation. Say, for the sake of clarity, that I work 100 hours a month for any given sum. It’s far from economicaly sound to spend 140 hours a month from now on to get only 5% _before_ tax. Those 40 hours can be spend far better to improve one’s education, training a sense of aestetics or just building relationships which might lead to double the income for the same 100 hours a month.

            • @Richard Weisgrau, please, please try not to preach that has a relation to math. I have no idea how one with your arithmetic skills can be creative with the light so probably the photos are all the same as the ones on your site – using the same couple of light formulas learned from books and let the others do the rest. At this point I noticed why the grand ego and why Erica and Suzanne feel a need to congratulate you on something they probably understood as well as yourself. It’s because of people like this that someone like yourself got in such high position.

              Initially I had no idea who you are or what your credentials are (besides that whining about $350k). I felt it was unexplicable how the large photo associations of US are so much interested into protecting anything but the interest of their own members in the last couple of years. Sadly now the answer is obvious, they actually beleive what the Getty marketing guys are writing.

              @Rob, AKA A Photo Editor: if you want you can erase my comments if you feel the need to protect the ego of this senior executive.

  11. What great timing on this. I have been really pushing on getting myself a rep. For the longest time I have been repping myself and in house. I have a full time assistant that is making phone calls, sending out emails and every day looking on Adbase . I fully understand reps and what they can do for a photographers. A GOOD rep lets a photographer get more creative and shoot. No to worry so much about all the business stuff. But at the same time a great photographer will market, promote, test shoot, push himself harder every day in order to get bigger jobs.

    after reading this of course it makes me really want a rep more. As a younger photographer I notice just getting your foot in the door with new clients is not easy. It all about who you know and who they know. A reps job in knowing.

    Great write up.

    also this bring up something I have been thinking about a lot.
    Do you think photographer need or should have some kind of Union / SAG thing. Like actors. I think so many photographer mess up the photo world because they think they should do a job for free or super low budget because it will lead to bigger jobs and open doors.
    Your thoughts on this

    • @john hildebrand, There is an entire thread on this site about a union for photographers. It is illegal, and not going to happen.

      Shooting for free or reduced rates demonstrates only one thing: the photographer’s work is not worth much.

      • @Richard Weisgrau, didn’t know that good to know. thanks

        and soo true on the photographers note.

      • @Richard Weisgrau, I’d like to see that thread about the pros and cons of a photographer’s guild. You see, Rob (A Photo Editor) and I traded email’s about this exact same thing as I was an actor in the 90’s and worked for ABC, Paramount, WB, yada, yada, to name a few. I had health insurance, both vision and mental if you can believe that… all free. I felt having a union was wonderful! It kept us as a cohesive bargaining force against low balling producers and studios; it gave us leverage, and more importantly it was also was a benchmark for pricing a day rate! Anything less was illegal. Now as a photographer I DONT have that… I would give both of my arms for a Photographers Guild of America. Publisher’s know their positions of power and since everyone now has a camera, editor in chief’s can say, “well buddy, there’s plenty of other people out there who can do it for less than or even free…”! And they do it… And these are magazine’s you can find on the stands. Every one’s desperate for exposure in building their name and business no matter if it’s fashion or editorial. Fashion on the west coast is the redheaded step child making it a smaller pool to work from; making it doubly hard to break into. Publisher’s feel this is quantifiable and that NO PAY IS OK… you get advertising for yourself as a trade off. This is true to a point but a person has to pay for food, transpo, camera, and studio too… Things a have changed since the 70’s, sir. I wish we could roll back to those halcyon days but it’s 2010. The future is here and looks a bit dark. But I’ve always been a bit o pessimistic I suppose… Just my five cent’s worth.

        • @Jan, When I joined the ASMP in 1973 it was still a guild operating primarily in New York, which was then the magazine Mecca. ASMP had union status in NY at that time and because ASMP did not have to operate across state lies to negotiate with magazines, the federal law did not really impair ASMP’s ability to set the day rate. All that changed by the early 80s, and ASMP met the DOJ and FTC in a couple of contests which the feds won. The situation went downhill from that point and the day rate only inched up over the next ten years. The it stopped.

          I agree that we would be better off with a guild that could set rates, at least minimum rates, but that has little chance of happening in this day and age because the fight is legislative and that means spending big bucks, which photographers do not have.

          When I was ASMP CEO I tried to set up a co-op because if we all joined a co-op the co-op could set rates. The problem was that it was an expensive endeavor. It needed 1,000 photographers to commit to a $1,000 one-time membership fee to finance it. Photographers would not pay it. I arranged financing through the National Co-op Bank, and then the membership fee dropped to $100. 700 photographers signed up within a month. The 9-11 happened, and the bank withdrew its commitment to fund. That killed it.

          Personally, I am put of answers because it takes money to make things happen and photographers have little money to invest in such efforts.

          • @Richard Weisgrau, That’s wonderful that you even tried to set up a co-op, again in the 90’s. I wonder if the APA, EPA, Mr Greenfield (lawyer specializing in the business of photography), and a couple of big photographer’s (editorial and fashion) for name recognition could turn the pipe dream into a reality someday.

            • @Jan, I doubt that they can. My doubt is based upon the fact that photographers are unlikely to put up the money needed to get such a venture going. That was the problem when I tried, and I was able to get a bank with a mission of starting co-ops to ante up some money.. That is not going to happen again. Banks don’t do such things today. Private investors are out, because a co-op is built on membership certificates and not shares of stock. One man-one certificate – one vote.

              Add to that the will to fight the big guy pitted against the aspiring photographer’s desire to get published. It is like a symphony of self-destruction.

              Photographers cannot win unless they embrace collective action, and that is hard for rugged individualists to do.

            • @Jan, It indeed is a very different world. I started college in 1994, and graduated with a BFA in 1998, then watched everything change in creative professions. At least when I was doing illustration work, I had the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook of Pricing. The downside was that creative temp agencies largely took over that industry, and they set the rates of pay (usually hourly).

              I suppose photography could head down that path too, with temp agencies taking over many projects, and rates set to hourly pay levels (and likely no usage rights for the photographer). The longer photographers sit on their hands, and listen to people telling them it’s not possible, then the more likely this will happen.

              We have some amazing tools and resources available to us, yet somehow we cannot put them to use to our advantage. Social media is huge, and can get any message out quickly. Yet search for ASMP or APA on Facebook, and you’ll find less followers than the average cute kitten.

              Pricing is all over the place currently. As you indicated, many emerging photographers will under-cut for exposure. Why would publishers pay for content when they can get it at no expense. There is no guide similar to the GAG Handbook, but it is needed in photography.

              I am of the mind-set of do-it-first, and then deal with the consequences. I don’t give a shit if I get hauled in front of the US Congress for pushing some standardized rate structures for photographers. There are already numerous professions with standardized rates across the US, and in parts of the EU, yet I don’t see plumbers, mechanics, attorneys, insurance salesmen, nor anyone else appearing to answer “anti-trust” concerns.

              The constant fear mongering is complete bullshit. As professionals we need to take control of the future direction of our profession. We need to be fair to our clients, and be fair to ourselves. It is in our clients best interest that we stay in business and create the best possible images for them.

              • @Gordon Moat, “The constant fear mongering is complete bullshit. As professionals we need to take control of the future direction of our profession. We need to be fair to our clients, and be fair to ourselves. It is in our clients best interest that we stay in business and create the best possible images for them.” Aye!

                As for pricing images, has an online guide. Now if the average Jack and Jill understood this we’d be getting somewhere. …I’d think the average rep would be have similar pricing as the above estimator…

        • @Jan, NOTE: The lawyer whose name I was trying to reference is Ed Greenberg.

  12. Thanks for a great post, once again.

  13. […] Haggart at has been on a roll lately: Ask Anything – Does a photographer need a rep and do they really get you work?, The Value Of A News Photograph, Ask Anything – Should You Tell Your Clients If You Are Pregnant […]

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  15. Hello!
    Thanks for all of the interesting information. Is there a “master list” of reps or a best place online to look for this? Any help is appreciated.


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