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
I am wondering if we might hear from some reps, consultants and photographers about what they think the rough breakdown is for rep commissions and what a photographer should be expecting in return for these fees. I currently pay 25% of my fees on jobs my agent negotiates. My rep is not participating in social media AT ALL and is often unavailable to do quotes leaving me to either do them myself or revise them myself if I want the deal closed. I am not entirely sure how many meetings they go on every month, but would love opinions on what I could reasonable expect here. I am also not sure there is much beyond e-promos being done on my agent’s part, I do a LOT of my own promotion and do not rely on my agent for much in that department. Since I am very active in promotion myself we are often bidding with clients I have been pursuing through my own efforts for years before I started working with my agent. Perhaps this is just one of the many struggles of the photog/rep relationship but I am wondering at what point I ask about a percentage reduction if I can’t get certain things from my agent, and what might some others in the industry feel those standards are?
Amanda and Suzanne:
Having a rep requires open communication. Does a rep relationship change over time, of course it does. But you have to both have an understanding of what each of you will do. Many of our clients assume that marketing can cease once a rep comes into play. In our opinion, a rep’s goal #1 is to be there to negotiate, projects and land the job. A rep’s 2nd goal is to help you keep up your exposure, but it’s a role that is not one sided, both parties need to commit to a plan that works for everyone.
While every agent/artist relationship is different, the one thing that is constant is that you are partners working toward a mutually beneficial goal. You are a team and there are times each one needs to help the other. It is reasonable to expect your agent to go on appointments and be available for estimates. There is no set number of meetings every month and getting appointments is much harder than it used to be (many creative shops are limiting portfolio reviews to once or twice a year).
As for social media & other forms of promotion, it sounds like you both need to have a conversation and discuss/define each others expectations and who’s handling what. If after that, there is no clear cut definition, then a percentage reduction is probably not the answer. It might be time to sever the relationship.
As I am sure you know, every rep/photographer relationship is different. It is important to discuss expectations at the onset of the partnership. These questions should have been answered prior to the agreement. That being said, I think it is critical that the agent be involved in the estimating and negotiating process. If your agent is good, this is where they earn their commission. I find it strange that the agent in question is not involved during those critical times. As an agent, I love this part of the job and know that I create a lot of value for my artists in this area. Rather than a percentage reduction, I would suggest a serious discussion regarding responsibilities and expectations. Even if the agent in question agreed to a percentage reduction, I would imagine that their level of commitment and actual work for you as an artist would subsequently be “reduced.” If a discussion doesn’t work or is not desirable, it may be time to look for a new rep. Good luck!
Regarding our respective obligations, we first and foremost view our relationship with all of our talent as a collaborative one and feel that to be successful, we must have great communication, mutual trust, a shared vision and a firm belief in the value of both parties’ contributions towards realizing that vision. We are fortunate to have had longer lasting relationships with our talent than normal in this business and are quite proud of that fact. While there have been and will be challenges, we’ve worked through them due to our shared interests, respect and trust.
We strive for excellent communication and complete transparency with regards to what we are doing on our talent’s behalf. To that end, we provide quarterly call report summaries to each party detailing all of the calls that we received pertinent to them, the source of the calls (if that can be ascertained) and the results. In addition, we also provide follow up summaries after all of our portfolio shows, specifying where we went and who saw the work. We also encourage anyone in the group who is free and interested, to join us for the shows (locally or out-of-town).
Our financial arrangement is consistent with all of our photographers, as we feel that a common agreement is most fair. Our commission is 25% of all negotiated fees (travel/prep/shoot/post) and any retouching fees not being expensed to either an outside or studio staff person. We are the exclusive representatives for all of our photographers in North America, and worldwide for those who don’t have international representation. We would assume the same would apply to you, specific to your print/still photography business. We are also interested in bringing you motion projects, and given your relationship with outside production companies, need to work out the specifics on how that might work to the satisfaction of all.
Our photographers cover 100% of any individual marketing efforts they do or have us do on their behalf, plus the cost of creating and updating their portfolios/sites and any general mailing/shipping specific to them.
Historically, out of pocket expenses for each talent have been in the $8k -11K range per year, but have been reduced significantly lately as everyone is more concerned about expenses. Whatever the budget ends up being, payments are spread out over time, so there aren’t any major surprises. Of course, I get everyone’s approval prior to making any group marketing commitment, and they all have input along the way.
We see the AGENCY’s primary responsibilities are as follows:
– To build awareness for our photographers’ work through consistent and well-coordinated direct sales, promotion and PR efforts.
– To identify and pursue market opportunities for individual photographers as feasible.
– To develop production budgets with input from photographers and producers and negotiate those budgets with the clients to which they apply.
– To review all contracts/purchase orders and handle all billing and administration duties related to our photographers’ productions.
– To provide timely feedback/input from our sales activities, in-coming calls and pertinent results.
– To provide input on portfolio imagery.
– To aid in the development and execution of any individual marketing efforts done in addition to the group campaigns we coordinate.
Our photographers’ primary responsibilities are:
– To maintain updated, professional portfolio materials (individual and group books).
– To provide a minimum number of portfolios needed to meet market demands.
– To provide timely updates to their individual web sites, and rep website.
– To provide the necessary files and and proofs for any promotional efforts we coordinate, in a timely manner.
– Oh yeah! – to handle the communication and creative challenges of high level advertising productions with great aplomb!
In addition to all of the above, the only other item we need to discuss is whether or not we will be involved with any of your existing/current clients or “house accounts”, and either way, detailing who they are and how we intend to work with them. Normally, I would a define a “current client or house account” as someone with whom you’ve worked with within the past six months, or on a regular basis over a longer period of time, but am open to your interpretation.
Obviously every relationship is different but it is important to communicate with each other regularly. Both photographers and agents wear so many more hats these days and must keep up with the new frontier, which includes social media. Both need to get on this bandwagon, but need to coordinate their efforts. Coordination with emails blasts, social sites, portfolio shows and estimating projects is so very important.
Both photographers and agents need to speak up if either feels something is missing. It sounds like this artist is pissed but may not be expressing his concerns to his rep. This is the first think you need to do. NOW! Frankly I can’t understand the quote thing. That’s what we live for. Maybe it’s time for a new relationship? A fee reduction, no matter who’s offering it, is always insulting.
PHOTOGRAPHER WITH AGENT:
I’m sure others will say, a rep relationship is like any other partnership, including marriage, and is based on trust and mutual respect. Without these things there isn’t much you can count on. I am working with my second rep, the first was not successful in my eyes based upon their lack of participation in promoting their own brand (and therefore my brand) outside of email blasts. They did not seem to have a plan for marketing and advertising but instead saw the possibility of success based upon adding more talent to their roster, cheating their current core talent of resources already in shortage.
With the second rep, it is the polar opposite. There is a strong communication, dollars invested in making our target audience aware of our talents, and respect for ideas expressed.
I have also seen the rep relationship up close when working as an assistant. What I have come to expect is that the talent and the rep should all be contributing to the marketing efforts, and it costs money for everyone. As far as I know 25% is still the norm though I have seen 30%. A photographer cannot expect a rep to handle all of these costs or efforts, and neither can a rep expect the photographer to do it alone (otherwise why would you need a rep?). Once you have a rep, you still have to be as diligent as ever in keeping contacts alive and well.
The contract that my ex agent had drawn up spelled out everything I had to pay for, but didn’t specify what they would do. We went on to have a successful run for quite awhile, but it was never spelled out specifically what they would do other than generalities like “best efforts” or “best judgment”…. that was a mistake. Seems like that could be the source of your problem in that it’s not mutually clear what their responsibilities are. I think what you’re describing is reaching the point where it’s time to move on. If your confidence in them is questioned, it’s tough to rebuild that through revising compensation. Once you start taking money away through less of a commission, you’re removing incentive. What makes you think they will be equally or more motivated by working for less money?
What I would expect from a rep is the same thing I expect in a relationship with a significant other. Honesty, Integrity, an ally, loyalty, protection. When I was with my old agent I felt I was easily sold out. More like someone to fill in a hole. It was more about him and the photo editor/art buyer then me and the work. I once had to call a client to tell them sorry the job had been under bid by my agent and could not be done for that fee. Then I had to rewrite the estimate. A huge chunk of change taken out, but I was not able to buy into their health insurance plan. I had to pay for photo insurance and all expenses up front, yet any type of mark up was frowned upon. I had to find my own support staff, i.e. assistants, stylists and do all of the billing which they retyped up. Managed rights were caved in on faster then a mine in Chile. In the end reps know 98 % of us are disposable and they get what they can out of us. I found more empathy/ support comes from art directors and other creatives.
I am capable of buying AD/ AB picture editors, lunch or a nice gift at the end of the year myself.
Let me start by saying that I am leaving my current Agency this week because I have realized that we are not a proper fit. I too am frustrated by an even more unfair split and even more lack of communication and involvement on my agency’s part with my marketing and promotion.
Currently my “Agency” is taking 35% from clients that they introduce me to and 20% for jobs I bring to them to negotiate. Then the billing is going through them if they negotiate which is also another issue. This split is not to my liking but at the time I joined the roster I did not feel I had too much to negotiate with as the economy was horrible and I felt the need for representation to expand from my editorial work into the commercial advertising market. I did not have to bring in any of my existing clients or current billing to them, which was a plus and has proven to my benefit over the past year. The arrangement was to grow, together, into new markets, both for myself and the agency. They did not have anyone that was doing the type of work I was doing or going after so I had no internal competition for assignments. (This might have been my first warning sign that we might not be a good fit.)
In the two years that we have been working together, the first testing the waters and the second as a full time member of their roster, I have only seen a few emails that were promoting my work. The meetings that they have arranged and taken me to (less then 10) have only resulted in two or three small editorial job and two decent commercial jobs with an art director that I had known prior to signing with them. They only accounted for a disappointing 5% of all of my billings last year. I have found that they were only making phone calls on my behalf when I would call to complain and ask them directly to set up a meeting or follow up with an email that I had already sent to a photo editor or art buyer.
I had a meeting during the summer with them to address my disagreement with the split and was quickly dismissed by being told that everyone has the same split and that is that. I again had a meeting with them before the holidays to address the split and other billing issues. I have yet to see them address any of the issues. I have also mentioned many times in face to face meetings and phone calls a desire to form a clear joint marketing strategy that we can all work on together. There was a clear lack in desire to help me promote myself, and not the agency as a whole. Currently none of these issues have been resolved and don’t see them being addressed anytime soon.
I do not think that these problems are mine alone but I do not think that they are the norm. One of my mentors has a very up and down relationship his current agent that he has been with for many years. I have heard them fight over many different issues including splits and portfolios but in the end his agent has stepped up and fought for higher fees (and got them), stood behind him on expenses and picked up the phone for him. I believe his current split is between 20-25%. He has told me that there is no way he would have been able to handle negotiating some of the jobs he has be awarded in recent years without his agent there to close the deal. He, like me and most of us are not the best negotiators. We have agents not just to make us look more respectable and established but to do the dirty work of standing firm and being the fighter. They are our “bad cop” before the shoot and we are the good cop on set.
Personally I find it completely unacceptable for an agent to be unavailable to negotiate on a photographer’s behalf. This is their most important task as an agent, they are they to fight for our fees (so they can get paid) and to back us up on our expenses. They are there to close the deal even if they are not the ones to start the deal in the first place. We cannot depend on our agencies or reps to be picking up the phone every day just for us. They have to work with many photographers on a roster to stay in business themselves. We have to be able to pick up the phone, write an email, send out a promo and speak for ourselves. In my current search for a new agent I am looking for someone that understands me, my work, and will be a partner in marketing. Ideally I would like a split of less or equal to 20% on all new clients and a 10-15% split on all current clients. I would not be too upset with 25% but more is totally unacceptable to me. I think as a general rule it has to be a symbiotic relationship between photographer and agent, it should take both parties efforts to make things happen. If it is a one sided relationship you need to step back and evaluate the situation and see if you really benefit from it or are you even being hurt by it.
Is one party guiltier than the other? No. The cliché saying “it takes 2 to tango” is really true. A rep is only as good as their communication, estimate deliveries, client support and marketing exposure delivered. The photographer is only as good their communication, the work they produce and their marketing efforts. When a photographer says my rep is taking 30% and they do nothing. Stop there and ask yourself what are they doing for that 30%. Who likes to talk money? 20, 25, 30% is an agreement to have representation that is there to truly represent you (it doesn’t mean a full-time assistant). On the other side, when a rep says a photographer isn’t doing their fair share, we hope they stop as well and look at what the photographer has time to do, what budget is realistic to their marketing plan. Sometimes just stopping and talking it out OVER THE PHONE or IN PERSON can really cover a lot of ground and educate everyone involved and open the eyes to both parties and then a common ground can be met.
Call To Action:
Put yourself in the shoes of that agent and see what their life is like and what it’s like to juggle the multiple positions and talents. I hope agents will do the same thing. Put yourself in the shoes of that one artist and see what their focus is and what truly worries and bothers them. Having had the role as a rep, it’s hard to juggle everything. Having had the role to consultant with both rep and photographers, both sides have it hard. It’s a tough industry and if everyone can see both sides of the coin – it can be a happier union. Basic call to action: Know what you want, express it, offer support where you can, and then put your goals into action, without depending on the other to get it done for you.
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.”
Would love to have names for reference. I know, probably not going to happen. Agency three sounds top notch.
@Chris Schultz, Wish we could kiss and tell but we can’t. Do your research when looking for an agent.
Very good stuff, thanks Amanda and Suzanne!
@Jesse Dittmar, you are so welcome!!
Thank you to the whole panel and to Amanda and Suzanne for sharing their thoughts on this very pertinent topic! Good stuff!
@John Early, Thanks John!!!
Hi Rob, Suzanne, Amanda, and Anons….
There is a lot here, but I wanted to comment on just a few points. As many of you know, in addition to my consulting work with both individual photographers (and agents too), and many of these issues have also been raised in a private online forum I run for reps.
First of all, that word….. Marriage. I don’t really like that analogy. In our business, it really isn’t one in the sense that most people mean it with respect to agents/photographers, i.e., an equal partnership. I mean, I don’t think most people would be that happy in a marriage that was 75/25 or some similar split of finances and responsibility. So I do agree with one of your writers, that it’s more of a symbiosis.
Also, yes it’s true. Every agency is a little bit different, but most “troubled” relationships are doomed at the start by 3 things. Or that these issues arise mid-stream.
1. An artist’s uninformed or unrealistic perspective of the realities of getting work in this market/economy. Or even what agents do.
2. The early crush: either party’s assumption that their association with the the other could make or break their business.
3. Un-articulated expectations by either party beyond what it says in the talent/agent contract. I mean exactly “who does what”. Day to day.
4. Regular contact between the parties.
5. An exit strategy.
For many photographers who are entering into relationships with reps, (see #3) in addition to the hope and excitement of what that association might bring, there is a pervasive, and (in my opinion) unhealthy sort of abdication of responsibility of having anything to do with their own marketing and sales (this seems not to be the case in your writer’s example – bravo!). I can’t even count the number of times that photographers have said words to the effect of …” If I could just get an agent to deal with all of this stuff, then i could go back to just taking pictures, and my career will be amazing, and everything will be better”. This is pure fantasy.
Agents can sometimes also can get caught up a similar fantasy : “If I could just take on ________ (big name money making photographer name goes there), then it will change my whole business”.
My disdain for the marriage analogy lies in the above 2 scenarios: (and agents, don’t kill me for saying this next paragraph. I am only illustrating the problem with many photographers perspectives).
If as a photographer, you saw your business in more traditional, structural business terms, i.e., that the agent component is more akin to any company’s “sales department”, then it makes less sense to saddle them with 100% of the responsibility of selling and marketing you, and other elements of running your business, (although billing and production are a separate issue, which i will get to later). Like any CEO, (and of course, with input and direction from your sales department), you should be in charge of both the costs and implementation of product development of your images and portfolio or website, providing your sales team with marketing materials, disseminating news and public relations, managing your networks, etc. All of this in addition to the regular day to day financial and managerial aspects. And things that need to be in place whether you have an agent or not. You may need an employee or an intern, or someone else to help you do these things, but the more you participate in providing “sales support” to your rep, the more time they can spend on selling and researching new business on your behalf, and closing sales, which, is ultimately how you both make money.
Agents need to be CEO’s too. Manage their own separate businesses, and the marketing and promotion associated with it. And can sometimes be hesitant to ask their big name headlining photographer to carry their weight as described above. This can cause problems, and resentment later, especially if business declines. But aside from that situation, generally speaking, many agents are also expected to take on more and more of their photographer’s fundamental business responsibilities. Detailed, hands-on portfolio development and creative direction, editing, and many other tasks that would normally be within the scope of a studio manager, (and in some cases, personal assistant). Agents who charge a percentage of more than 25% usually are taking on the above responsibilities, which are outside of pure sales and sales development, and in many cases, staffing up to do so. So an increase of 5 or 10 more percent is designed to offset the extra overhead needed to cover these areas.
With respect to billing, I am a firm believer in the “tip to tail” stewardship of an assignment by an agent. From the first book call or inquiry to the estimate, production management, and the final bill and collection, it is better client service to have one person interact with them on your behalf. Plus, as one writer said, it leaves the photographer to be the good cop; to focus on the creative collaboration, and to not muddle the waters between the business end, and the picture making.
In the end, for this relationship to work, it is an all-hands-on-deck proposition, and yes, a partnership of sorts–based on a clear understanding specifically of what everyone has agreed to do. We’ve all seen these relationships disintegrate because of a lack of communication, and clarity. But if both sides carry their weight, speak openly about how to proceed as a team, and not devolve into the negative trap of arguing about who should be doing what, but isn’t, because they didnt sort it out beforehand…
Then they just might make it….
@Allegra, Thanks for this info! Very helpful!
@Allegra, Thanks for taking so much time to write this out and add to the responses we had gotten. You make some valuable statements- I have heard from the mouths of photographers and from agents looking for the big name. On both sides, you must assess all the information you get from each other and your research to figure out what is best for your business.
Hi Allegra and Suzanne,
Having a rep/agent is like a “marriage,” so what happens when they get divorced? Can you elaborate more on the exit strategy? What is the standard for severance payment?
[…] A photo rep.. […]
“We strive for excellent communication and complete transparency with regards to what we are doing on our talent’s behalf. To that end, we provide quarterly call report summaries to each party detailing all of the calls that we received pertinent to them, the source of the calls (if that can be ascertained) and the results. In addition, we also provide follow up summaries after all of our portfolio shows, specifying where we went and who saw the work. ”
I believe that a rep should be willing to fully disclose what they are doing on your behalf, after all it is your name and reputation. What I’m wondering is if a rep is wrong to refuse such information or use the excuse that they couldn’t possibly keep track. I’m also wondering about reps who ask their photographers not to market their work on their own. It seems everyone else expects you to do some of your own marketing. Seems strange to me that a rep would ask you not to do any marketing on your own but won’t disclose what they are doing for you.
I’m also wondering what a photographer should do if their agent takes on other photographers who do similar work.
@Anonymous, relationships that work and have longevity have to start with a level of trust, and in my experience, good communication provides a basis for building that trust. I tell my photogs the good, the bad and the ugly – even when it’s not what they want to hear. As far as the level of promo activity you take on, my philpsophy is “the more the merrier!” We do things as a group which we coordinate, but we also encourage our talent to do their own (which we help facilitate). In fact, we won’t do more than one major email blast each month for fear of annoying our clients, but STRONGLY encourage each of our talent to send their own as well. On the last point you raised, it’s becoming more difficult to avoid crossover conflicts between our talent, as photography becomes more like illustration (ie: more post-dependent than in-camera). Styles are more easily replicated, whether unconsciously or not, as everything has become more about manipulating the data captured, and everyone has the same tools. No more lighting or processing trickery. In reality, the elements that separate one shooter from the next that have always applied (general aesthetic, taste, unique concepts) are more relevant now then ever, and the photogs I rep who work the most don’t care who else is on the roster.
To me, the easiest way to gauge the success rate of any agency is the number of artists vs. the size of their infrastructure. It’s sort of like the P/L ratio you can use to evaluate the agency.
Consider this: if the average/standard commission is 25%, then it takes 3 photographers to provide the agent with the same income as the average of the photographers. The commission rate is even higher with stylists, hair, makeup, creative directors, art directors, and illustrators. Add to this the fact that MANY agencies charge their artists “website fees” of between $50-100 per month.
For example, I know one agency with which I am very familar represents photographers, stylists, hair, makeup, and manicurists with 64 artists on their roster. They charge a $100 website fee to the artists for a wordpress agency website. Do the math: that’s at least $84,000 per year WITHOUT getting the artists a single job.
They have 9 employees, including the owners of the company. That’s over 7 artists per employee (many of whom are assistants and not earning a terribly high income). This means the agency revenue is well over double the average of the artists’ income.
This also means they can afford (and do, in my experience) treat the artists as interchangeable. For example: this particular agency, on a few occasions, has been known to pull confirmed hair/makeup artists the night before a shoot saying “s/he’s sick” or “family emergency” and conveniently offering up one of their less-established (and often less trained) artists to fill in.
Overall, I would say there are very, very few agencies with low artist to employee ratios. One which comes to mind has 10 artists (all of whom are at the top of the industry, or quickly rising) and 5 employees in two offices (NYC and Paris). This agent, when he first started out on his own, was repping only ONE, very successful photographer.
This speaks of an agency which invests in their artists and has the goal of getting them work, not to hedge bets and take on more artists when the economy is down.
@dude, I’m a rep with a low artist to employee ratio. I do appreciate your opinion as it makes my company shine. I have to say, all of this depends on the photographer. We all have such different styles as we are all unique people. I bring to my company who I am, and my hope is to bring out the best creative professional in my photographers. I don’t believe I am right for everyone. When business gets stressful this relationship only works if we see it in a similar way. If I don’t have my photographers trust I won’t be a good rep for them.
I always tell photographers to know what they want. Know what inspires you, know what makes you a stronger creative thinker, what annoys you, and what type of partner makes you want to work harder.
The rep is not the answer to having a good portfolio, but perhaps the right rep can help you find the kernel in yourself to create the right portfolio. Know what the options are and how the rep thinks, but first know how you work best and what you need.
I have to add something to this based on a situation yesterday. I was reminded the key point to what makes or breaks a relationship for me with my photographer. I had to use my judgement and go in the opposite direction of our norm. I saw what was important and stressed this to my photographer. He was surprised with my turn of attitude. He trusted my judgement and agreed to my request. That sums it all up for me. If a photographer does not trust the reps judgement they should run for the hills. If I repped a photographer who did not trust my judgement I could not be a good rep for them. That, is the partnership and what they need from me.
Wanted to ask you guys for your opinion on a rep matter.
My rep has about 10 photographers, and a few sylists. They´re two people working there at the moment.
I´ve been with them for a year now (it´s my first rep), and during this time they´ve booked me some meetings with ad agencies and mags, but not tons. They´ve also helped me with the invoicing and estimates where I´m sure they´ve gotten me more cash than I could have gotten on my own.
My concern is that in these 12 months they have not been able to get me a single shoot. The only stuff I´ve been doing is from my old contacts/clients, and the shitty part is that they demand a 25% cut on all jobs I do, even the ones they had nothing to do with. I know, I signed the papers, but expecting that they´d get me work.
So now I´ve paid them around 30-35´000 US in a year. I´m thinking about dropping them or at least ask for another deal, but would be nice to hear it from someone else too, I should demand more from my rep right?
Cheers / Danny
@Danny, yes you should expect more! otherwise you’d just need a studio manager. i think its time for the industry to rethink the agent system.
@blacktrees, through the years I have known several national shooters who, when things were hopping, decided that they didn’t need to give up 25% of their earnings to have a rep when they could have someone in-house handle the marketing. There’s only one that I can think of who didn’t give up on it after a short time, and I haven’t seen that person anywhere in the past few years, so he might be out of the business. A GOOD rep will bring a lot more to the table than even the most experienced studio manager or other in-house person. Having multiple talent allows us to develop a broader perspective from the experiences we go through with them, and I often apply things I’ve learned from one to the others. Done right, there is strength through numbers (that’s why shopping malls exist), and everyone benefits from being part of a vibrant, active collective. I agree with Danny that the artist-rep ratio is an important indicator to keep in mind when evaluating a rep. However, numbers don’t tell the complete story. More later…I gotta go cook dinner!
@dude,just realized I credited Danny for the rep-artist ratio point that you made. Sorry ’bout that. My bad.
Shouldn’t an agent match the amount of $$ of a photographer in a year?? Let’s say as a photographer i sign with an agent and i bring about 150K in business, shouldn’t the agent match the same amount(basically the 25% or whatever the fee is)? If an agent is that good and wants a piece of my action shouldn’t he guaranteed to match whatever $$ i am bringing to him? And since i will have to pay for messenger fees and any other promotional stuff shouldn’t the agent pay 25%(or whatever fee) for his part? And when a photographer buy expensive portfolios and makes prints shouldn’t the agent pay 25% of that?? Just some stupid questions, maybe i am wrong but i feel that this strange business procedures are found only in this “photography” business.
@john, actually, some reps do share in the marketing expenses. This business IS different than a typical sales rep relationship in many regards. Most manufacturers with outside sales reps provide them with ALL of the marketing and sales materials they need. I would argue that portfolios and promotion expenses should be paid by the photogs, as no one covers the costs of our travel, catering, etc., for all of the portfolio shows we do – a cost that exceeds the $ spent by any one of our photogs spends annually on their promotion/portfolios. Unfortunately, this debate can turn ugly pretty quickly, but if everyone has a sense of fairness and respects the value that each brings to the relationship, a balance can be worked out.
@John Sharpe, since i have you here and since you are a well respected agent that has been in the business for a long time, if i may i would like to ask a question: would you ever take a photographer that brings you no advertising or catalogue clients? would you take a “project” if there’s enough editorial work(for major magazines) or do the photographer has to bring you some $$ to your agency?
thank you John
@john, we are focused on advertising agency clients, so there must be at least a strong potential for a photographer’s work to apply there for us to seriously consider committing to a relationship with him/her. Most photographers start with editorial assignments before getting into the ad world, so only having editorial clients in and of itself is not a deal breaker. Since much of out work is conceptually oriented and we have a long history with that genre, we tend to get regular editorial projects in addition to ad jobs, but we make our $$ in advertising.
…another post, another typo…
I HATE realizing I’ve posted something with a typo in it after-the-fact!
With a draft of my small photo book for children complete; and, the ability to market it myself, are there companies that can produce the book for me in quantities as small as 100 with a price that makes it feasible to resell? Since I am not looking to make a lot of money off of this project, I do not feel the need for an agent.
@Janet, there are companies that specialize in small run, digital printing. Check out magcloud.com as one example.
@John Sharpe, Thank you!
This is an excellent discussion to have. As a seasoned rep (I have been at this for almost ten years) I understand the complexity of a photographer/agent relationship. One thing I think photographers need to realize is that their agents work on 100% commission. That means they are taking a bet on the photographer, willing to forego immediate salary for a long term job “prospect.” I belive so strongly in the work of my photographers that I am willing to help them brand themselves even while I am not yet paid. I cannot begin to count the number of hours I spend helping my photographers edit and shape their books, discuss their work, market their work and hold their hand when times are slow. I pay for my own travel, my own accomodations and my own agency marketing. It is a long term relationship and while at times it may seem “lopsided,” in the end, in my experience we both get the good value from the realtionship. 25% seems like a fine fee for having someone who is your biggest fan, trusted advocate, negotiator and sometimes handholder. It’s complicated but as someone said in an earlier comment it is a realtionship built on trust and mutual respect.
Should I expect to pay an agent a commission on usage payments or just for the initial shoot? Or should I be prepared to pay 25% ish percent to my agent for any money I make?
I pay on the shoot, but of course not for costs you have to do the shoot, and the usage fee.
I was asked by my sister to be her rep in puerto Rico and I have no clue on what the job entails or where to even start. Please help