The Pros and Cons To Having A Photography Agent

Photo by Hadis Safari

As your photography career begins to grow, you may be considering seeking professional representation through an agency. While having a photography agent can be a beneficial way to grow your creative career, there are both pros and cons to having someone represent your work. Here is a breakdown of what to consider before signing with a talent agent:

The Pros of Having an Agent

They Will Help With Client Relations

The main selling point of having a photography agent is the guidance and direction they will give when working with clients. In various instances, an agent will be the first point of contact for a client who is interested in your work. This means that if you are approached by a new brand, your agent can act as the middleman, discussing this potential client’s needs and expectations of a creative, professional relationship.  

The most important role of an agent is their dealings in problem management. If tension arises with your client, your agent will be able to act as the voice of reason and aim to fix any issues that may occur. Not every single project will be smooth sailing, but in the instances where a misunderstanding or discrepancy is brought to light – you can expect your agent to take the lead on finding a resolution.   

They Aid in Financial Negotiations

Let’s be honest, no one really enjoys discussing money – especially when it comes to negotiating rates for your work. During these situations, having an agent is truly helpful. Your agent is always in your corner and will work tirelessly to land you the compensation you deserve. This is due to the fact that an agent is only as successful as his or her clients – therefore, making your relationship a mutually beneficial financial experience.

Having your agent discuss finances and rates, removes your personal feelings from a matter that is strictly professional. We often become too encompassed in our own emotions about what our work is worth, that we forget this is first and foremost a business transaction. An agent is able to withdraw themselves and act as a level-headed third-party negotiator to alleviate your stress and navigate this complicated landscape.

Having an Agent Gives You More Time to Shoot

The final positive aspect of representation is the delegation of tasks that become handled by your agent. When you are running a successful photography business or studio, you may be bogged down by the menial and repetitive acts of administration, filing or even invoicing. Although these are necessary skills to master for your career, they often take away the time you could be dedicating to your process and shooting.

As your representative, an agent will manage the business aspects assigned by the client while you can focus more on your creativity and production. You can expect to utilize your agent for tasks such as drafting contracts, invoicing and organizing the aspects of final deliverables.

Photo by Shannon Ciricillo

The Cons of Having an Agent

 An Agent Doesn’t Guarantee New Work

The classic debate of whether or not to seek representation comes down to one question – does having an agent guarantee you new work? In truth, this answer is often no. As a photographer seeking an agent, you will be expected to bring existing clients with you to the agency. This is due to the fact that agents want to represent photographers who have already invested in and worked hard to build and flourish in their creative career.

The expectations of an agent – photographer relationship are rooted in the mutual understanding that both parties will actively seek out work opportunities. It is unrealistic of a photographer to place all of the responsibility on their agent to bring in new clients. You should be as equally interested in finding clients, projects and building relationships despite having a talent representative.

While an agent can definitely bring their clients new work, it is not a guarantee. An agent will have industry connections that they have built and maintained over the years and will attempt to place your work in front of the right eyes in the proper situations. Yet, as a photographer, you should look for an agent to help you manage your existing clientele, rather than expecting them to single-handedly build your career.

You Could Lose Client Connections

Although having an agent handle your client connections can be a positive aspect of representation, it can be equally detrimental depending on the outcome of your relationship. In some situations, a photographer and agent will no longer see eye to eye and their professional agreement will be terminated. If during this time you allowed your agent to take the reign on all matters pertaining to your clients, you may find yourselves in a bit of an uncomfortable situation.

This is not to say that a satisfied client would immediately disassociate with you, but rather that their loyalties and trust have been placed in their relationship with your agent. When signing with an agent, it is best to emphasize your interest in having a personal relationship with the clients you work with. Make an attempt to be present, personable and gain the respects of these individuals outside of the expected professional setting. This way if relations with your agent ever went south, you are able to personally maintain your connection with your clients.

They Will Take a Financial Cut

The final aspect of having an agent that may be of concern to you as an artist is a financial cut that they will take from your projects. Since an agent handles the majority of your business aspects and client management, they work on a percentage basis, receiving a financial cut from the work you gain while being represented by them.

The majority of agent fees will hover around a 25 to 30 % cut from your income. Although this may seem high, a successful working photographer will gladly give a portion of their earnings to delegate tasks that take them away from the production of their work. The impact of this financial cut is determined by each individual photographer and the current number of projects they have on their deck.

If you are a photographer who is still building a dedicated client list, having an agent may hurt your financial success rather than help it. It is best to determine your current income stream and living expectations before deciding to sign with an agency.

As you can see, being represented by a photography agent can have both pros and cons. Depending on your current clientele, expectations of projects and financial fluidity, signing with an agent may or may not be the next logical step in your career. Do you have any insight or opinion on whether you need a photography agent to advance as a creative? Share with us your insight in the comments below.