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The problem with this whole blog thing is that lots of great stories get pushed off the page every day and ends up in our growing archives. If you haven’t checked out the categories along the left side of RESOLVE, we think it will be worth your time.
We also know that sometimes you just want to click and not wander, so we’re going to pick some gems from our past posts and throw them back up for your enjoyment every week or so — starting today. This one is the first of several posts from Jasmine DeFoore at Redux Pictures about getting editorial representation and getting the most out of it. Click below to read the original story; her later posts are linked in the intro.
Q. What was the initial concept for American Youth? Why did you want to approach this topic?
A. Our original idea was to produce a promo piece about one topic, something that art buyers and photo editors wouldn’t automatically chuck in the trash can.
Q. Marcel Saba [director of Redux] came up with the general topic of American youth and then Redux photographers shot new work exploring that topic. Did you know there were specific aspects of the youth culture you wanted to touch on, or did those develop organically from the projects photographers came up with?
A. We knew we wanted a cross section of Americans documented. Most people had their own ideas but as the photographers started sending in their work, we saw some holes in coverage. For instance, we lacked any stories about poverty, or war widows, or something on kids who are into extreme sports. So we assigned stories to fill those gaps.
Q. Did you help the photographers in the book with their stories so they would work best for what you envisioned?
A. The advantage of working on something long term is you have time to shoot, look at the work, and then maybe shoot some more. For example, John Keatley did a series on street youth in Seattle, and we were able to offer feedback to him on what was working and what wasn’t. He went out and did more, and it turned out great.
Q. You brought in a lot of guest editors to make the (close to) final edit. Did you give them some guidelines or did the edit style evolve through that process?
A. We asked the editors to narrow the work down to 5-10 of their favorite images from each shoot. We wanted to publish everything they chose but it wasn’t possible, so in the end Marcel and I narrowed it down, along with great input from the book designer, Gilbert Li.
Special challenges arose because we were editing a collection of different stories by many photographers. We had to choose images that could tell a complete story, but that also worked with the flow of other people’s work.
Q. Aside from the great exposure, what other benefits might a photographer expect from being part of a group book like this?
A. The best thing about American Youth is that it motivated all the photographers to create something new for it. Shooting personal work isn’t always at the top of people’s priority lists, but look at the benefits! The book has gotten a lot of attention on blogs, has been part of the NY Photo Festival, will be on exhibit at LOOK3 in Charlottesville, and was recently reviewed by The Washington Post. We’ve also had slideshows on NPR, The Daily Beast and Time.com and a story in PDN. This exposure will continue to bring attention to the photographers which is always a good thing.
Aside from the promotional benefits, some photographers are continuing work on their projects. Gina LeVay is continuing to photograph young war widows. A number of shots are making it into people’s portfolios and their promo pieces.
Most agent fees are either 75/25 or 70/30. As far as I know, they don’t vary by level of photography or industry.
At Redux: Assignment fees are split 70/30, stock sales are split 50/50. Photographers being represented can expect the agency to send out their portfolios, target clients, design, print, and mail regular promotions, help edit your portfolio and website, submit bills to clients and collect payment from them, give an advance if needed, set up meetings for you, pitch story ideas to clients, work on ways to build your portfolio, split expenses 70/30 on mailing/promotion and stories for portfolio use and resale. Photographers considering an agency should ask if the above are done for them, when they will get paid, how often their books go out, and to whom. Same goes for promo pieces.
We do one big agency promotion per year at Redux, which is usually a promo piece featuring the best photography of the last year and that we expect buyers to keep. We also send out individual photographers’ promo pieces throughout the year, usually once a quarter. We also do a monthly Redux email newsletter that goes out to clients. That email includes information on special photographer whereabouts, new feature stories, notable tear sheets, upcoming Redux events, and photographer exhibitions.
Photographers who license stock through Redux can expect that we are packaging and pitching relevant work during newsworthy events, keywording and captioning their work for optimal searching, syndicating their work overseas through a network of experienced and trustworthy international agencies, and making sure their work is available for licensing as soon as it is off embargo.
* Click here for more images from the America Youth book.
Finding agencies to approach requires research. There are agencies that specialize in editorial or commercial, assignments or stock. Some do all four, some do just one or two.
There are good lists out there, like this and this at Rob Haggart’s “A Photo Editor” blog (although he still lists Digital Railroad, which abruptly went out of business recently… plus they were never an agency, more of a stock portal). Frank Neimeir’s list is bigger and more international, but it could take a long time to slog through. This list is more specifically geared towards repping firms (who might not do stock).
If you are an editorial photographer, look in publications that you like, and take note of the agency credits that appear next to the photographers’ names. Read the industry trade magazines to see who is shooting interesting commercial jobs and find out who their agents are.
Do your homework and understand what the agency is about. Does your work fit in? Would it make sense as part of their roster? Once you’ve identified who makes sense for you to pursue, start working your contacts to see if you know someone who knows someone at the agency. You don’t need to have an “in,” but it sure does help.
If you are cold calling, introduce yourself, tell them what kind of work you do, and where you are based. Let them know that you’ll be following up with an email and a link to your website. You probably won’t hear back unless you are offering something amazing (more on that below), so call to follow up a few days later (it’s like getting someone’s number at a bar… there’s no exact science to how many days you should wait). More »
Finding the right time to approach a rep is a delicate thing. If you go before you have work that will impress them, then you stand the chance of making a bad first impression and not getting a second chance. But if you wait until you think you have the perfect book, you might miss a valuable opportunity for feedback that can improve your work. It is always great if you can make a first strong impression, but it’s not necessary. What you do need is work that catches the eye of the rep so they keep you in mind. That way they let you stay in touch and give you a chance to come back and see them when you have new work.
I think for photographers with personal projects or feature stories they are working on, it’s fine to contact a rep early on to show them the project and get feedback. Be up front when you initially contact a rep; let them know that you have a story that might interest them, and that you are looking for feedback. At Redux we are always looking for interesting stories to consider syndicating, so we get something out of these meetings too.
In 2004 I was turned on to a new photographer, Christopher LaMarca, who had recently completed the documentary program at ICP. He was working on a story about young environmental activists in Oregon, and he had been arrested on one of his first trips. He came to Redux to show us the work he had and to get feedback. The story was strong, he was shooting it in an interesting way, and we wanted to help him continue the project. We ended up covering half of his expenses to go back to Oregon to shoot more, one thing led to another, we started showing his work for assignments, and now we represent him.
If you have a portfolio instead of a specific story (say you’re a food or interiors photographer), be sure that what is in the book is high quality and that you are proud of each picture before showing it. If that means that you have to take out half the images and are left with only 20 pictures, then so be it. It’s better that you show 20 solid images than 50 mediocre ones.
No matter when you see a rep, try to get them to give you constructive criticism. Don’t leave with a vague “thanks for sharing your work, stay in touch.” Find out what specifically they liked, what images they would take out, and how they prefer to stay in touch.