Dan Grant, Publisher
It's becoming increasingly apparent that Toronto needs some sort of framework when it comes to the photo shoots we call creatives. As I mentioned in the Digging Deeper series, this city's better agencies don't arrange very many paid tests anymore. Instead, they set their models up with creatives, which give the agency less control in the direction of the shoot, but increase the odds of getting back something resembling tearsheets.
Part I - Dealing With Agencies
Photographers are dying to shoot creatives that they can submit to online magazines. They know ad firms, designers and other well heeled clients are spending ridiculous amounts of time crawling the web, keeping up with the newest fashion sites and scouring the credits to find new photographers. Everyone knows that there is too much paid work in Toronto, and not enough talent to do it.
So why don't all photographers spend more time submitting and less time invoicing agencies for prints?
Because, of course, most of the second paragraph is untrue. There definitely are photographers anxious to shoot creatives they then submit, but even if their stories do get picked up there aren't a lot of clients taking note.
The fact is, although it is easier than ever for photographers to get their work out there, the real opportunity comes not in getting published, but in promoting that you've been published. Getting into an online mag in the U.K. or Germany is a coup for some photographers, but let's be honest, no one at BBDO is checking the latest British eZine for Canadian content.
Emerging photographers that want to get noticed need to be blogging, facebooking, tweeting and tumbling that they've been published – and bullying everyone else listed in the credits to do the same! If the industry knows a photographer is consistently producing tearsheets, model agencies are more inclined to give better models, artist agencies are more likely to give stronger artists and ideally the photographer's own book gets strong enough that they can feel confident walking it into MacLaren McCann... where, still, nobody knows them.
If a Toronto photographer is lucky, they will have pretty much perfected their technique about the time paying clients remember to subscribe to their RSS feed. (If they're truly fortunate, Chris Nicholls and Gabor Jurina will simultaneously decide shooting just isn't fun anymore, because that would open up a lot of lucrative gigs for others)
Until that time, most are going to have to decide between:
A) Getting a paid job, and shooting when time permits
B) Shooting creatives like mad and charging for prints
This is where it gets sticky. There are plenty of good photographers in Toronto and not all of them are making the same choice. Some would rather take a side job and shoot for the love of it (not charging models for prints), while others are going batty shooting, retouching and invoicing.
Given the choice, most agencies – those that aren't trying to buy photographers' favour with their models' money (again, going back to Digging Deeper #4) - are usually going to select those that don't charge, because their responsibility is to the models. That having been said, a photographer that does charge for prints will still get the opportunity to shoot agency models if they're delivering something different and useful.
No agency wants to see photographers going broke. They just don't want their own developing models (typically students with very limited cash themselves) paying any more than necessary.
From listening to photographers it seems that most get that. Their frustration isn't with the agencies or even with other photographers. It's with not understanding what the hell is going on. Who decides how much to charge for prints? Do you charge the same if the agency only wants high-res digital files? If the story is picked up by an online magazine, do you still charge for prints?
Okay, I don't set the rules, but I did ask a lot of photographers to suggest what they think is fair. Because there is no formal group overseeing fashion photographers, there is no obligation for anyone to follow these recommendations. These are simply suggestions based on my experience as an agent and the feedback that I've been getting from photographers over the past two years.
First off, a list of things to think about before you even contact an agency.