A rep is someone who REP-PRESENTS you. A rep wants to be the voice of someone they believe in, someone they trust, and someone they want to be associated with. A rep and a photographer have a relationship that has often been referred to as a “marriage”. It’s a two-way street; it goes both ways. Trust me, you want a rep who you feel this way about as well. As a business owner for over 20 years, I pride myself on keeping a high caliber of professionalism. That being said, these are my top five non-negotiable, red flags that I will not compromise on:
The Red Flags:
1.) You aren’t the kind of photographer I represent (i.e., I rep commercial advertising photographers) The clients I have relationships with are very specific. I don’t do fashion or fine art, just not my thing. A photographer must approach the right rep for their work.
2.) Bad reputation. If you’re not nice or have a bad reputation, that’s an immediate red flag for me.
3.) Your work isn’t strong enough yet. I am not a salesperson. I have to really believe in the work and the people I represent in order for me to do my best job.
4.) No vision. Your book is not cohesive and it’s hard for me to sense the direction you are headed or want to head in with your work. You haven’t quite made a decision about what kind of photographer you are. I want photographers who specialize in something and have a very consistent aesthetic throughout their work.
5.) Unprofessional. If you’re not professional and I can’t trust that you are going to show up well on a big set, I’m not going to put you on my roster. Clients learn to trust reps, therefore if I recommend you for a job, I expect you to be a top-notch professional. However, sometimes I don’t know this information about an artist until we work a little bit together. My recommendation would be to find a rep you are interested in and work with them on a few bids to really get to know one another before making any long-term commitments. This will help you know if they are your cup of tea and vice versa.
The Yellow Flags:
It’s impossible for everyone to be perfect throughout every aspect of their business. We all have room for improvement. Yellow flags are things that I have noticed through my years as a rep that makes me a bit nervous or weary of signing someone. Sometimes these things change over time but sometimes they don’t. The honest truth is that if the book is strong enough, I may take a chance on some of these with the hope that we, together as a team, can make improvements as we continue forward.
1.) You think you know better than me and won’t let me do my job. I want a photographer that does their job and does it well so that I can do mine in the same capacity.
2.) I can tell that you’re looking for a different kind of rep. I am involved with my photographers on a personal, day-to-day basis. I ask them about what they’re testing, how their kids are, etc. I try to be extremely communicative with my artists. This is the kind of relationship I want with my photographers and they need to want it too.
3.) They play the blame game. You blame other people for your challenges.
4.) You don’t seem to have the hustle or passion. You need to constantly be out there, learning, testing, making promos, networking, putting your work out there in every possible way. If you’re not, that can become a challenge.
5.) Uneducated. You don’t know very much about the business.
Ultimately, getting a rep is about knowing who you are as a photographer and finding the RIGHT rep for you. Know your market and where you want to head. Find the rep that matches your long-term plan. Don’t just jump at the first rep you meet, make sure they match you and they’re really the right fit. Find a rep who is going to help you get to where you want to go. Cultivate an attitude of hustle, commitment, creativity, and tenacity. And always remember: DON’T GIVE UP!
Check out some of my favorite images my roster has created:
Based in Los Angeles, SternRep is an international boutique agency representing a group of passionate and talented commercial photographers in the product, food, automotive and lifestyle industries among others. Founder Andrea Stern opened shop in Venice in 1995 after attending Brooks Institute, bringing with her a diverse creative professional background. Drawing on her experience in commercial production, film sets still photography, and boxing training, Andrea developed a uniquely genuine and enthusiastic style of representation.
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