[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest contributor is Melissa Rodwell, one of the founders of the Breed Network. Breed is an online community of Fashion Photographers. The Breed community gives fashion photographers a place to connect, collaborate, share and critique work while learning valuable lessons about the historically guarded and highly competitive industry of fashion photography].
There will come a time in your photography career where you will start to think about representation. Developing and maintaining a solid relationship with your agent is a necessary part of our career development and your first agent is a big stepping-stone on your journey. But finding a good agent isn’t as easy as it may appear. A good agent can be great for your career. However, a not-so-good agent can have detrimental consequences if you’re not careful. Of course, it’s a Catch-22 in the beginning because a good agent usually isn’t interested in a young photographer who is just starting out.
A good agent is looking for a photographer who is already being published by some larger magazines or even on-line magazines and already shooting for some somewhat large ad gigs. But it’s hard to get those larger gigs and better magazines when you’re not represented. I know it can be extremely frustrating in the beginning so I’ve come up with a list of things to consider when you’re reaching out to agencies.
The first and foremost thing you want to keep in mind when approaching agencies is to make sure you are contacting an agent that has experience in the kind of work you shoot. So in other words, if the agency you have heard about as being reputable mainly only reps car shooters or product shooters, you might want to rethink approaching them because their client roster won’t have the type of clients you want to shoot for. If you’re only going to shoot fashion, make sure the agent you contact has a big network of fashion clients. Once you’ve made a list of the agencies you want to reach out to, here is some tips to help you reach out to them.
8 Tips on Approaching An Agent For Your Photographic Work
1. Keep your initial email to them short. Agents are busy people, they don’t want to hear about your entire history of fashion photography. Just simply introduce yourself, send them a link to your website and end the email by letting them know you’d be willing to meet them and show them your work.
That’s it! They know why you’re writing them…..you need an agent! So don’t over-explain yourself. Keep it simple!
2. If they write you back and sound interested, jump around, tell your friends, have a little 5 minute party and then write them back to suggest a time and place to meet if they haven’t done so. Again, keep it simple. They haven’t signed you on yet so keep your excitement under wraps. And I say this too because you don’t know if you’re even going to like them!
3. If they haven’t written back you can either follow up in a few days with another short email or a phone call. Just ask them if they have had a chance to look at your website and would they be interested in meeting you. If you don’t hear back from them after the second email or they don’t return your call, they’re probably not interested. Just move on. There are more reps out there.
4. So let’s say you get your foot in the door and you land a meeting with the prospective agent. This meeting is as much about you interviewing them as it is of them interviewing you. Like I said previously, you have to make sure that the agent is a good fit for you! Do you like them? What is your overall first impression of them? Were they on time for your meeting? Did they take their time looking through your book? Or were they on their cell phone the entire time while they casually flipped through your book? It’s important that you take mental notes on your gut feeling about this person because after all, they are going to be representing you and your work.
5. It’s very important that you like your agent as much as they like you. The photographer/agent relationship is much like a marriage. You have to trust this person because this person will bid on your jobs, handle getting the money from the client to you, handle any damage control when things goes awry (and trust me, it happens). They are really supposed to have your back and the trust between the two of you must be very mutual. If you blow a relationship with a client, you might have destroyed a relationship between your agent and that client that your rep has nurtured for years. And vice versa. So make sure you really get along and see eye to eye with your potential agent.
6. It’s really important to see where your agent conducts his or her business. Is it a clean office environment that is separate from where they live? Or are they working from a home office? Home offices are fine but not when too much of their personal life is distracting them from representing you properly. Is the dog barking the whole time, are their young kids coming in and out of the workspace? These are things to keep in mind when you first meet the agent and where you meet them.
More times than not, an agent will want to meet you somewhere outside of the office. I think this has more to do with them not wanting you to feel “at home” just yet. They want to meet you first, see if there is a good chemistry between the two of you, and then they will invite you for the second meeting at their office.
7. A good agent is hard to find, and even harder to get signed with. Obviously, the higher up in your career that you move, the easier this will become. I had a Breed member write me recently to ask me if I think it’s better to reach out to an agent first or wait for an agent to contact you first. Of course it’s always better when an agent contacts you first. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go out and try to contact some agencies. It’s always good to meet people. If you’re not a good fit for them, they may know of an agent that is, that maybe you’ve never heard of.
8. Lastly, I want to empathize something very important: Because your agent is such an important part of your business, you must keep the two, business and personal, separated. I have made the mistake in the past of getting too friendly with my agent, making them a “buddy.” It’s obviously very good to like your agent, but don’t get too personal. By this I mean, don’t “hang out” or party-hop together. Don’t divulge too much personal drama on them.
Don’t vent about your personal life to them. You have friends you can call to complain about your life stuff. Your agent is not your therapist or your sounding board. If it’s not about business, don’t call them. It wastes their valuable time, which they should be using to get you work!
About the Guest Contributor
After graduating from the Art Center College of Design Melissa Rodwell embarked on a globe-spanning career as a fashion photographer. She has lived and worked all over the world, photographing for Ralph Lauren, Nike, Coca Cola, Honda, NBC Television, and Dell computers. Her editorial assignments have lead to her being published in Harpers Bazaar, Kurv, Jimon, Flaunt, and Playboy. Simultaneously, Melissa Rodwell has had numerous solo exhibitions in Amsterdam, Sydney, Los Angeles, and Miami.
In 2008 Melissa started the Fashion Photography Blog and published Fashion Photography Exposed. For five years, her blog became the single most sought after resource for educating aspiring fashion photographers. She has taught workshops in NYC, LA and Berlin. She’s been a guest lecturer in Dubai at GPP, Orlando, Florida at SNAP! and in LA. She has been interviewed by countless magazines including PDN Magazine and Digital Pro Photographer. Her blog brought her esteemed recognition in the world of educating fashion photographers.
In 2013, together with Marius Troy, founder of Ben Trovato Magazine, Melissa founded Breed Networks. Breed is an online community of Fashion Photographers. Breed writers and staff are experienced Fashion photographers teaching and sharing current fashion photography insight through a series of videos, editorials, interviews and product reviews.