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10 August 2010

Q&A: How Do I Find a Photo Agency to Represent Me?

Question: How can I find a photography agency to work for, who will get my work out there by representing me?

Answer: Great question! Actually, there are two equally important answers to this question. Finding a photography agency to represent you and your work requires both the skill of learning how to market and present yourself, as well as learning exactly how to source out the right agency for you. Naturally, the specifics on how to do all this will ultimately be different for each individual. We all have different strengths to play to, different genres of photography we enjoy shooting, and a wide range of geographic considerations. Hopefully the following tips can lead you in the right direction to finding the best agency suited for you.

How to market (sell) yourself

If you are interested in becoming a professional photographer, marketing yourself is going to be the most important skill you can have (even more important than the great quality of your photos). First, people have to be able to locate you easily. Second, they have to be able to effortlessly have access to viewing your work.

Should you have a website?

If you want to put yourself  “out there,” then the quickest and most cost effective way is to make sure you have your own website. Not only does it instill a sense of professional reputation for your potential agency, it also puts you on a more level playing field to all of the other professionals who have their web galleries going for them. If possible, I strongly recommend setting up your own web gallery with your name as the domain name. Sometimes this may not be possible if you have a popular name such as “John Smith,” and you’ll have to get creative in this case.

If you have no experience in creating websites, it really doesn’t have to be difficult. There are some great web hosting companies like 1and1, Bluehost, etc.. which offer pre-made photo gallery templates for your site; all you have to do is upload your photography. Also, if you are a Photoshop, Lightroom, or Photoshop Elements user, these programs now have built in photo-gallery website creation tools built-in. It’s become as easy as choosing a template and picking the photos you would like to showcase on your website. The software creates a folder containing all of the website code, structure, and files, then you simply upload it to your web hosting service.

At the very least, if you do not wish to have your own website (as an aspiring professional, I can’t imagine why not!), there are some great free services you can use such as free sites like Flickr for photo-sharing. However, you are going to present a more professional impression by having your own website.

Traditional Portfolio

One of the things which many people neglect these days is maintaining a traditional portfolio. “What’s that?” you say… Prints in a digital world?! There is a huge beneficial “wow” factor when presenting physical prints of your work in a nicely bound portfolio. Now days, most photographers direct potential employers to their website, which is good, but lacks a real personal touch. Giving a potential employer something tangible to see and feel will help you to leave a more lasting impression. It also demonstrates that you know what you are doing when it comes to both photography and PRESENTATION.

Remember, there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of aspiring professionals also looking to get hired. You can’t presume that your great work is any better than theirs, but you can give yourself a leg-up on them by not only selling your work, but also selling yourself. Before you can even do that much, you’ve got to find an agency to sell yourself to!

How to find an agency

This will be the most challenging step in getting hired. Agencies are typically highly competitive, but that shouldn’t discourage you. There is a need for photographers in all genres and at all levels of experience too. Some agencies may be after high-end, fine art photographers who’s work they can sell in the tens of thousands of dollars, while other agencies may need more affordable work such as shots for non-profit agency brochures.

Of course, you should keep an eye on the local job websites and places like Monster.com or Workopolis.com, but there is also something positive to be said for “pounding the pavement.” By that, I mean actually going out and making calls, or visiting the human resources departments of companies you would like to shoot for. I work with many photographers who do professional work for companies that they approached, and these were companies who were not even hiring at the time. Many organizations are happy to hire freelance photographers as jobs arise, especially if you are willing to do good work and prove your reliability to them. Always keep resumes on hand!

Ultimately, you can seek out and keep applying to agencies to hire you. Once you are hired, you will work for them when projects arise. However, if you are willing to try putting yourself out there and approaching the types of companies who would normally hire out from an agency, you may find that you are your own best agent!

Thanks for the question, and good luck in your search. Until next time, happy photographing!

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3 Responses

  1. John Locke

    Thanks for this posting Dave. I never considered making a “real life” portfolio before and I can see how that would make a better impression as you said. Its a great tip that I will put into practice. A+ man

  2. Photoshop Tim

    Awesome article!! I agree with you there is something to be said for making the attempt at going freelance yourself. There’s so much competition out there for agency work and by going freelance, the imporatant thing is that you have total control over yourself.

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