Out of the mouths of reps

On Tuesday, I went to a panel discussion led by creative consultant Louisa Curtis that centered on the photo industry from the reps’ perspective. The event was geared toward photographers, so the questions were mostly about how the reps market their agencies and their photographers; what they expect from someone they rep; and the importance of relationships and networking.

The panelists were Neil Binkley of Wonderful Machine, David Laidler of Aurora Select, Frank Meo of Meo Represents, Laura Reid of Redux, Tricia Scott of MergeLeft, Robert Bacall of Robert Bacall Representatives, and Gary Hurewitz of Greenhouse Reps.

For me, these were some of the most interesting points made at the event, which was held at Adorama:


Product photography is going the way of CGI. Robert Bacall noted that still life used to be his bread and butter. Then he gestured to a water bottle at his side and remarked that you might see that bottle in an ad, but it never actually existed—it was all created on the computer.

It’s not enough to shoot great photos. Many of the reps are encouraging their photographers to expand into video. At Stockland Martel, we’ve been referring to our talent as image makers, an intentionally broad term. Bacall uses the term “media solution providers.”

E-blasts are out, and direct mail is back in. Well, that’s how the panelists first explained their take on the efficacy of email marketing. They eventually acknowledged that they all still send out e-blasts, but they weren’t very enthusiastic about them as a marketing tool. Everyone talked about how art buyers and creatives spend half their day just deleting emails from their inbox without reading them because they are overwhelmed. A print piece that shows up in their stack of snail mail, on the other hand, at least guarantees that the recipient will see the image and the name. Gary Hurewitz said he’d all but abandoned e-blasts a couple of years ago, when he noticed that everyone else was doing it. He figured if there were fewer direct-mail pieces going out, then his had a better chance of being seen. Makes sense.

Photographers need to market themselves and not rely on Mommy and Daddy (I mean, their reps) to do it all for them. No further explanation needed on that one…

This is a relationship business, and you have to network. Get out there and make a physical appearance in the photo community, urged Tricia Scott. Facebooking and emailing are not enough; the old-fashioned in-person conversation is still king when it comes to making a solid connection with someone.

Because this is a relationship business, people want to work with photographers they get along with. The reps have a brand they’re trying to protect too (for the benefit of their talent as well as themselves), and it’s just not an option to send out a photographer who’s going to ego-trip his way through a project and irritates the client. That’s why, the panelists explained, when a rep looks at a potential new photographer, they assess not just the work but also the personality behind it.

You have to spend money to make money. A major cliché, I know. But it came up several times. Bacall once ponied up $22,000 to promote a photographer’s baby images. The promo, which was as clever as it was costly, consisted of Fisher Price View Masters for which he had created custom reels of the photographer’s work. A cute way to get potential clients to look at the work while providing a tangible indication of the photographer’s affinity with kids.
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Louisa tells me that she lists upcoming events in her monthly Chatterbulletin, which she archives at her blog.

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6 Comments

  1. Posted 10/04/2009 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much Kristina for attending and blogging about our Reps Panel. I thought it was a great group and enjoyed the opportunity to put the event together and moderate the discussion.
    As you mentioned, I do list upcoming events in my monthly bulletin and if anyone would like to be added to the mailing list, please email me at Louisa@chatterboxenterprises
    Thanks!
    Louisa

  2. Joey M.
    Posted 10/16/2009 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    So basically, to be successful, you already have to be rich and well-connected? Shooting video is incredibly expensive. And a $22,000 promo? HA! You’ve GOT to be kidding me. Plus, how are you supposed to “network” with people if they are just deleting emails half their day?

    Who does the “information” in this article appeal to exactly?

    • Posted 10/17/2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      @Joey M. Yes, you have to have a great deal of $$$ to get into this game. Every rep is going to want you to have new books (or newly edited books) with new prints. Usually a rep will want you to send out about 4 snail mail promos a year (5000 pieces bulk mailed is around $3000 to $5000 depending upon the size of the card.) Some reps have an “Agency Promo” that all their photographers pay for… usually these are about 4k to 5k a year or more. Then there are the fed-x and messenger charges for the books, and the “Agency Breakfasts” where a rep will show your book: some reps charge for this and some do not. Then there are the “Source Books and/or websites: this is 8k for a book and then about $1000 to $1500 per website.) So you do the math: I’m thinking in your first year, about 30k to 35k to get into the game. Then you get your first job and a rep takes between 25% and 30%. Who knows, maybe you get hot and start working a lot and it’s all worth it!

      • William Wallis
        Posted 04/21/2010 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

        Ha now we see how the reps really make their money…

  3. ahem
    Posted 02/09/2012 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    er, missing something? ROI for that 22k video?

  4. Posted 04/04/2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Good info. I know this all sound like a lot of work and expensive, but nobody ever said being a photographer was easy. Thanks for the post.


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