Part III: An Open Letter From A Photographers Agent

Recently I received an email from photographer Scott Teitler that struck home and was so significant I felt compelled to share it with each of you.

This particular letter was directed towards photographers, however I think it’s extremely relative to all the creatives we work with throughout this business.  Much like Photography Rep, Heather Elder mentioned, I too feel extremely fortunate to work with such gifted people.  You continue to inspire me and make me love what I do more and each day.

Below is the last of three installments of ‘An Open Letter From A Photographers Agent’ I hope you find it as honest and inspiring as I have. If you missed the first part, check it out here and the second part here.

We are in business together. When you do not get a job, neither do we.  I know it hurts your wallet and ego but it does ours too.

•  We have expenses too. Big ones.  We may not spend a lot of time sharing them with you but they exist and just like your expenses, ours keep going up and up too.  We do not get to pass any of our expenses on to a project and we do not have cost centers where we can cover items that go over in other areas. At Heather Elder Represents, we do not pass along our travel and promotional expenses, but in other groups they do.  I am hearing more and more that rep agencies are requiring photographers to pay for travel and even charge consulting fees for projects such as portfolio and website reviews.  I suspect these type of trends will continue.

• Our time is our inventory.  So when you ask us to cut our fees because your friend referred you a job or because you had to remove travel from the estimate or you handled the estimate on your own, please remember that we do not charge you by the hour and there are so many things that our fees need to cover.  If you look back at the end of the year and do not think we were worth the dollar amount you paid us then please speak up.  But I am guessing that if we are doing our job, then the dollar amount is a fair representation of what we accomplished together with you.

•  For those of us agents that still do not handle the billing for our photographers, please recognize that we are often last in a very long line to get paid.  If you owe us money, please pay us.  Do not put us last on your list.  And, please honor your contract and pay within the stated time after receiving your payment.  We understand you may be busy, but waiting until timing is more manageable, causes us cash flow problems.   If you cannot pay us, tell us.  Do not avoid the issue.  Please do come up with a plan to pay, even if it is a little bit at a time.

•  Please return our calls, emails and other requests for to do list items.  Our needs for imagery, emailers, mailers, blog posts and other marketing tools are never ending.  But, it is for all of our benefit. Without them, we cannot market your work and are left with no promotional tools.  We understand that you cannot get to every email or every request – especially when you are on the road.  But, when we have to continuously follow up with you, it is not a good use of our time.  Wouldn’t you rather us working to get you new work rather than annoying you again with our requests?

• If you don’t currently have an agent, do not email or call asking us if we will represent you.  Consider a different approach.  If we are not looking to add to our roster, the conversation is over as soon as we tell you that we aren’t looking.  Why not open the door for a connection?  Ask for an opinion, let us know that you will be looking for a rep in the future and will be keeping us updated on your work.  We may not always reply but we are usually good at looking at your new work.  When the time comes, if we start looking for someone new, we always start with the photographers that have consistently kept in touch with us.  Every rep has a short list of photographers that they stay connected with in the hopes that someday we can partner together.

Thank you again for all of your trust and support.  Thank you for your creativity and resourcefulness.  Thank you for your patience.  And, of course, thank you for your friendship.

I hope that this letter starts a conversation between us and I welcome the questions, comments, input and feedback.  Please do consider writing your own letter as I would love to share it with the photography and agent community.  The more we keep talking the more we will understand each other and the stronger our relationships will be in the future.