Dealing with Agencies - Part III

Dan Grant, Publisher

(continued from Part II)

Part II closed with me saying that if you're consistently producing images that will raise the model's value, agencies will keep buying what you're selling.

That includes test shoots. There's still a place for them in a market like Toronto where commercial models need to keep their books fresh, but aren't getting portfolio quality tearsheets from the catalogue studios.

Tests are all about making the model more marketable and if you can do it, agencies will happily remunerate your talent.

They won't be pleased however, if they learn you're charging their models while shooting another agency's for free.

Want more ways to limit your access to agency models? Read on...

  • Working too closely with one agency Agencies can be intimidating places for new photographers. Some will dismiss you outright if your book isn't up to their standard, while others will give you their vision for your work without really going into specifics.

    Ideally you find someone that will tell you what they do and do not like in a constructive manner, and make an ongoing effort to help you grow in the industry.

    If you find that special agent, great! Build that relationship. But just because they're helping you to get better, doesn't mean you should limit yourself to shooting with only their models. Right or not, if you're shooting every model on their board and not reaching out to others you'll get labelled as that agency's lackey, and find it difficult to broaden your base later.

  • Giving models bad advice If you're telling models what markets they should be working in, or which agency they should be with, you are:
    a) Probably wrong
    b) Going to have a harder time getting models in the future
  • Humiliating models on set Typically the model is the most vulnerable person on set, putting herself/himself on display. Even if you're not happy with some element of what the model is giving you, stay professional about it and take it up with the agency instead.

  • Surprising models If you've told the agency you're shooting Concept A, don't present the model with Concept B unless you have already cleared it with the agency (who, presumably, has also cleared it with the model).

  • Using the models for your Photoshop experiments If an agency and model are going to go through the time and effort to contribute to your project, the last thing they want to see is a freakishly distorted version of the person that showed up on set. Maybe it's cool and interesting, but unless it's published somewhere really good it probably isn't usable.

  • Releasing too much behind-the-scenes video We all like watching a project come to life, but photo shoots are about capturing the very best moments. Video not only strips away some of the magic, but can show the model in less-than-flattering ways.

    For more, see our November 2011 interview with Liisa Winkler.
  • Too much nudity on the website Let's face it, Toronto is not Europe (that sound you hear is Montréal laughing). If your website is full of nudes it makes it difficult for an agent to show a young model's parents why you're the one she needs to shoot with.

  • Not delivering images in a timely manner If you're looking for a guaranteed way to piss agents off, photograph their models, then ask to shoot more when you haven't delivered anything from the earlier sessions.

  • Not opening the package they sent you Here's something you probably didn't expect: When agencies send you "books" through their online system, they can track whether or not you opened it. In fact, some of the systems will prepare reports telling them how often clients have or have not opened packages. Maybe don't go asking for suggestions if you can't be bothered to look at what they send.

  • Wasting time on set There's usually plenty of time to trawl the depths of YouTube or drag out lengthy personal conversations when the model is in makeup. If the model is ready to go, but your attention is still elsewhere, that's awfully inconsiderate.

  • Showing up really late You don't like when they do it to you.

  • Pitching to undesirable magazines I mentioned this one earlier. Some magazines especially online ones that border on pornography just aren't good places for models of a certain calibre to appear.

  • Approaching models directly for your projects (especially if you don't know them) You've got a great idea and you know just the model to nail it... but the agency said no. If you EVER want to work with that agency's roster, don't turn to Facebook and try to track down the model yourself. It undermines the agency, and puts the model in a very uncomfortable position.

    In the next article we'll look at the rising popularity of video, and some factors photographers should consider before initiating that booking.

    Dan Grant

  • Interact

    Blogs We Follow

    Cailin Hill (The Model Burnbook)

    Models x Models (Models x Models)

    Liis Windischmann's (14+ LouLou blog)

    Laura Kell (A Model Life)

    Madison Schill (Chic Greek Geek)

    Kathleen Burbridge (Kathleen in Wonderland)

    Ania Boniecka (A n i a . B)

    Shawn Dezan (motivated//ambition)