On the phone, through email, and in person, we connect with industry leaders every day. As part of an ongoing series, we’ll be interviewing those people in the industry who we feel have something worth sharing.
Photography has always been my passion. At one point, my dream job was to be a pro baseball photographer. When I first began, I was shooting the stills for commercials and movie sets and then took the leap and went to Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara. That is where I learned that I really enjoyed the business aspect of this industry more than the actual shooting.
Annie Lebovitz’s work influenced me the most, and I always held onto that inspiration, knowing that someday I would be involved in that world. In 1991 (I was 26), I went to Israel for six months to “find myself.” On my wall, I posted an image ripped out of the NY Times of Annie on top of an NYC building photographing someone. I’d look at that torn-out scenario every morning, knowing it was helping me to find my way. I guess it was kind of like my personal vision board.
My business sense always focuses on doing what we are best at. I enjoy people and creating sincere relationships. I built this foundation to offer the variety that my clients would be looking for as my business strategy. It’s always been quality over quantity. I want photographers who stand out to me. They need to know who they are and have an aesthetic that stands apart from the rest. With that said, I sometimes temp-rep for photographers who need some part-time help, not everyone needs a full-time rep, and this is a great way to get help only when you need it.
Each photographer is different, so I need to understand how each of them works. They are individuals, and I’m not a cookie-cutter corporate rep. Each person needs something different to do their best. My job is to help them to be their best. Whether you are repped or not, getting work is going to be about having a strong, cohesive, unique body of work to show to clients. It’s also about continuing to test, get out there and meet people, keep learning and growing as an artist and honing in on what is uniquely yours. Ultimately, if you have the right portfolio, you will get hired.
Can I make them money? Do I love their work? Can I trust them? Will they let me be the rep? Are they marketable?
Stay up on the business. Educate yourself so you can have an objective eye when looking at your own work. Figure out your style of marketing. Test. Stay HOT. Create a buzz. Stay engaged on social media. Get to know your clients. Know your market. Use the resources that are there for you. Be creative. If you need help with something, ask for it.
I enjoy seeing what’s out there. Sending me a short email with a link to their website is the best way to get in front of me. There can be a lot of ambiguity in this industry, and I do my best to give back, so if a photographer sends me a question via email (which they often do), I answer it. That was the inspiration behind @asksternrep, an Instagram account that shares pertinent industry tips and wisdom. It’s a free and open forum where photographers can submit their questions to my team and me, and we answer them once a week.
Social media has really changed the market. Now a photographer has to be a part of the whole marketing process and help to get their branding noticed. There is a bigger range of lifestyle work, and a lot of client-direct companies do not use ad agencies. The world of CGI takes a lot of car and product jobs. Bloggers + “influencers” are getting work that only professional photographers used to get. At one point, it was only A-level shooters that were getting work, but now it seems that anyone can be a photographer… so there are fewer jobs available. It’s really been a kick in the ass for photographers, and it means that everyone has to step up their game.
Because of social media, it’s easier for beginners or less experienced photographers to get work. Also, so many clients are doing in-house work and “influencers” are getting hired based on their social media following. This is all very new, and everyone in my position is in a state of flux. But I do see openings for new photographers in a way I did not before.
More video, more CGI, more money in social media advertising. But truthfully, my hope is that more work comes through ad agencies as they help educate the client in ways that we cannot. The challenge is that in client-direct work, clients often do not know about usage, production value, copyright, the cost + time of location scouting, casting, etc. These costs are ALWAYS taken into account with agency work, and specific people are assigned to manage each role. Often with client-direct work, the photographer ends up with a huge load of work and the budget is smaller. The photographer must scout the location(s), find models, at times face the reality of maybe not be paid properly for usage, etc. It really comes down to budget and education. Working with agencies is much easier because we are supported in all the aspects of our business. It’s fair.
It’s not that influencers are low-balling; they simply may not know what they could or should be asking for as payment for their work, perhaps because of not having worked with an agency before. If a big client-direct company comes to an influencer and says, “hey we’d love to repost your images, we are going to own them, but you are going to get exposure to millions of people,” a lot of photographers/influencers are going to be tempted by this because it IS exciting. And it could bring future work via this exposure. But the honest truth is that the photographer SHOULD be getting paid whenever their images are used for a company’s advertising. I think influencers can get a bad reputation for low-balling when in truth, maybe no one has taught them about all their options and how the business works.
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