Business of Commercial Food Photography

 

Lesson Info

The Importance of Representation and How To Get It

Call my agent. Now getting and having representation in your career is a really big step, and there are different levels of representation. I have multiple representatives that represent me in different venues. So I have a print representative, and I have a motion representative and those things are different. I don't yet have an entertainment representative, but I'm looking for one. Jim do you want to represent me? Sure. Alright good. These things that we rely on our representation for are the things that is the buffer and the insulation from the client side that as your business gets bigger they don't want to deal with the artist. The advertising companies don't want to deal with you. They want to deal with your agent. Because the other thing about having representation on the highest levels is you plan a two million dollar photo shoot and that whole thing hinges on one guy or one girl. Right. On your photographer and what happens if the plane goes down what happens if you get si...

ck. What happens if something happens in emergency. But when that- then you know what that person- in an emergency if you're unrepresented they're not going to want to deal with you because there's no backup plan. But if they hire me, through my rep and something happens to me, there two other photographers in the stable that can pick up the slack if something happens in an emergency. So all that money doesn't go to waste. And really it's as simple as that. And then when somebody told me that I was so surprised. That why is it so hard for me to get advertising work without an agent. I was like I got the work, I'm obviously well known in the industry, I'm established. They're like you don't got a rep. Because what happens if something happens to you, all that money goes down the tubes. Somebody else can't step in and take your place. I was like wow that's interesting, 'cause I never thought of that. It's a really interesting thing, so if you have a rep and I'm going to talk about getting a rep in a bit. But if you have a rep you're going to have that person have signed contract with that person. And that con- those terms are negotiable. Standard is that they're gonna take 25 percent of your creative fees. That doesn't include expenses. So like if the production is, if the production's a million dollar production it doesn't mean that the agent gets 250,000 dollars. It means that the agent is going to get whatever piece of your creative fee, meaning your day rate and your usage. And that goes on in perpetuity. So let's say you license that image for two years, and then two years later, that client wants to buy that image again for two more years. Well your client, your agent also gets a piece of that. So whatever work they negotiate for you, they're getting a piece of it. And it sounds like a lot of money, but when you think about how hard it is to get advertising work without a repra- without representation you realize it's worth every penny. And they do a lot of work for you. And they insulate you from a lot of nonsense too. Which is really important. And most of the time now, your agent is kinda going to be the backbone of your production. So they have producers either on staff or in a stable of freelancers that they are comfortable with and have all their paperwork and whatever. So they're able to help you build through the production without you having to get that involved. So having representation for editorial work everybody I know that has an agent for editorial work that's not fair, not everybody is unhappy, but a lot of them are. Because the margins are so thin that you travel to a place, you work for 500 dollars a day rate, you shoot for two days and you're handing over your agent a quarter of that. And you did all the traveling and you did all the work, and it's not a lot of money and it's really frustrating. So I never had an editorial agent, I still negotiate all my editorial and publishing myself because that's the comfort zone for the client too. Editorial publications don't necessarily want to deal with your agent. Unless you're like a travel photographer and they're sending you abroad. Or something like that, that's when it's important. But if you're local or you're a national photographer working editorially through an agent, it's not always the best case scenario. So that's my two cents on it. I mean I'm sure there'll be people who disagree with that because they've had a lot of success in that arena, but a lot of photographers I know have not been happy in that because it's, there's not a lot of money to go around. And the pros of cons of those things I think I've kinda obviously gone over a lot of the pros of that. And I would say having to give 25 percent of anything to anybody is, that's a con. But it is a balanced one that you have to understand is part of doing business. And if you're comfortable with the idea of other people talking for you too. So like my agent and I have a very we have a good understanding about which clients I'm gonna talk to. Because they're long standing clients, people that have been I have had a longstanding relationship with and that would be odd or weird for someone else to speak for me at this point. So that's part of that. We'd like to know out here, potentially could you end up with a lot of people representing you for advertising, for editorial, for your video? Like one person, or different people? Different people or how does that- what's standard for that? I would say yeah because the venues are different. You could have one photo agent representing you in editorial and advertising which is common. Which is the trade off. You know which is the trade off, you know like you do some editorial work, then they'll get you an advertising job so everybody's, there's always a constant flow of money. But when it comes to motion it's a different thing, you know and your print agent could negotiate a motion deal as a pa- but the idea is once you start to cross over into film you start talking about a- you start talking about, what's the word I'm looking for Jim. You can't (laughs) you start talking about unions right. And once you've crossed over into the union world, you're in a whole 'nother ball game, it's a whole 'nother arena. And you need to be able to negotiate on that level. And sometimes people who have lived in the print world don't know that world, they're very different. So smaller jobs, social media branded content, throw a little video in there. You already got an editor picked out blah blah blah that's one thing. Full blown commercials, that's a whole different ball game. You need production company representation for that. Great, thank you. Okay so we're gonna move on, talk a little bit more about representation. Getting a rep, now that's the thing that's really the most challenging right? Who do I want to represent me, it's not just any old person right. You want to know, you want to look at rosters of existing representation agencies. The more prestigious the better clearly. And you look at their roster, and this has been my experience on a number of occasions, and I say okay one food photographer, two food photographers, three food photographers, they don't need me, next. I like their style, one food photographer, two food photographers. Oh they only have two food photographers, I may fit their. Put in a call. Love to show you my portfolio, blah blah blah. See where we're at. That is the process. Is work involved. You have to basically see where you fit creatively as well. So if you look on the roster of a particular agent and there's three food photographers on there, and they all shoot just like you, well clearly you're not the priority in that situation. But if you look on the roster and you see that there's a spot for you. And then you look at the creative on it and you say well that guy shoots pop arty and that girl kind of does lots of you know this, but I do this. And nobody else does that so I fit. So it's a puzzle, right. And then once you've gotten to that point, where you've narrowed it down to I would like to have this agency rep me, or I want this agency to rep me. Then you've got to ask yourself what do I bring to the table. Right what's my value? Because here's the thing, they're not just going to take you based on the fact that you're a good photographer. They're going to take you based on who your clients are. So it's a real catch 22 when it comes to advertising work. Because it's like if you're not bringing any of that value to the table, they're not as invested in taking you on as a client. So you have to show a progression. Right. I started here, I worked up here, I did a couple of ad jobs on the small side, I self produced this. And you show that you got the potential to be saleable, sellable, to bigger clients. And then the agency will say okay we're going to take a chance on you because you have the creative that we want. So you have to bring value. So and the more house clients you bring to the table, the more attractive you are as a potential client. 'Cause if you're bringing a bunch of house clients in and you know, the agency knows they're going to make 25 percent on some of that, now some agencies insist that you share your house clients with them and some don't. That's one of those things you need to be aware of and ask the question. You have to say I have X, Y, and Z clients that I'm not willing to share. Well that might be a deal breaker for some people. And then you have to start to figure out negotiation wise what am I willing to give up for what I'm gonna get. That's a really, that's a really important aspect of that. So your rep is going to help you with your negotiations and your bidding. So basically any kind of monetary negotiation you're gonna do and any bid that you're going to make on a job is going to go through your agent now. If you have representation. And what that means is they're going to consult with you about what your comfort zone on everything. They're going to say- they're going to know what your rate is, the day rate. As far as just going and open your bag, that's it. That's what day rate means. And we will go into that later in depth. But I want that to be really clear and I want to hammer away at it on multiple occasions. Your day rate is just to show up. Your usage is what they should be paying you to use your images. Those two things are different. We will go into it in much much more detail. But I can't stress that enough, 'cause it's a misconception that what you're getting paid as a photographer includes both of those things. And if it is, it should be a much bigger number. Your marketing, now you have someone else out there. I'm doing this wrong because I'm looking at the wrong screen. Your marketing now, is not just your responsibility, it is now your agents responsibility because now they are have stake in your success. So they're going to promote you on their own website, on their own social media channels, they're going to push you out to art buyers. They're going to push you out to agencies. They're going to ask you to do promos. They're gonna ask you to enter contests, all the stuff we've already talked about doing as an individual, you are still going to do those things. The other thing that's really important about it is that you're going to be now insulated from certain things that will protect your image and your brand by having representation. It also insulates you from things that you don't want to deal with anymore once you get to a certain point in your career. And if that's negotiation and that's the one thing that you just can't stand doing. Well man that is worth it just by itself. Because talking about money is really hard for people, particularly people who do what we do creatively. And once you have an agent who can do that talking for you, and knows how to do it and knows the people they're talking to, that's another big part of it. Is that the network that your agent has is really important into who she is or who he is. Right, that network is really important because they know all the producers, they know all the art buyers before you do. So it speaks to the art buyer who your agent is and how they- what relationships they have with them. So if they have good relationships with food clients already and that was part of the negotiations as well. When I walked into the office, who are your food clients? Well we had this one photographer who's now retired who had a lot of food clients, but that person is now retired so now those clients are out there without a photographer, we'd love you to be stepping into that void right. That's a great conversation to have because now you know you're wanted and you're needed and there's clients there that need your help. So all of that communication with a potential agency is going to be very important to how much you're needed, and how much you're wanted, and how fast they're gonna get you out into the market working. The production support I talked about earlier right. When basically they're connected to production facilities, production companies, studies, all of those things they have great connections and it's much easier for you 'cause you don't have to do that homework, but they will ask you: do you have a studio that you're really comfortable shooting in? And I say yeah I like to shoot in this one and they say okay well we'll form a relationship with them because we don't really know them yet. Or something to that effect. So there's this ongoing kind of dialogue between you and your agent about all of the ancillary pieces that go into building a food production. Or any photo production for that matter. A treatment, and now a treatment is something that you do to present your work on a particular topic to a client. So, if I'm building a treatment for let's say an advertising campaign I'm gonna listen to what- we're gonna have a creative meeting right. We're going to talk to the agency, we're going to talk to the client. We're all going to sit around the table and we're gonna talk about what is the creative vision for this particular job. And they're going to say X, Y, and Z and we write down notes and then we go back as a team and we build what's called a treatment. And the treatment is basically my vision of what I can do with this client and this particular job, and I'll put pictures to support that, and I will write dialogue to support that. And learning how to do treatments is important in both film and photography. You do them in both venues and they're even more in depth when you talk about doing them in films. So I learned how to do treatments as a director before I was actually doing them as a photographer. Because the first treatment I ever did as a photographer, it was so bad, it's a wonder I've never gotten a call back from that agency, 'cause it was god awful 'cause I had no idea what I was doing. And then I learned as a director how to really do them, and now my photo ones are much better. But it's a challenge and if you don't- if you've never seen one, just google them. Look it up see if you can find a couple online, and if not you can always email me and I'll send you a copy of one of mine so you can see what they look like. Maybe we can kind of do that. Because that's not- well I mean I hope I don't get 35,000 emails tonight looking for a treatment, but you should be able to google it and find somebody who's done a treatment just to get an idea of what it looks like. And it's usually multiple pages, with different aspects of what the conversation was. So it's very interesting when you're sitting in a creative meeting around the table with the client and the agency and whatever, you listen. It's very important to listen to what's important to them. Key words that they keep throwing out there. And how to interpret that information into your creative vision. All of that's really important when you're thinking about doing treatments and your agent should be really on those calls with you, they should be on the creative calls at the table because she's the person that has the experience, right. And has been at that table a hundred times more than you have. Because she represents many more people. So understanding how to interpret that, those conversations is really important. You're production people could be on those calls too. As many people as you put on a call it's like you have, the bigger your team the more impressive it is. So if they know you're on with your whole team, that you have a whole team behind you, you have producers, you have creative directors, you have all these people around you. It's important that they know that. You know these people on the call, they're just listening in or whatever. They know that you're for real. And the prestige that comes along with it. You know it's the joke in the beginning of this is call my agent right. It's the joke that we say when we're so fancy right. Put- Just call my agent whatever. But the reality is it's real. The prestige of having good representation is real. And it will pay benefits if you get to that point. And it may seem out of reach at this stage in your career, but there is a point if you continue to strive and grow that you will get to the point where this information will be very valid in your life. And it's important to know that the progression in business you, wherever you're stepping into the fray here, ultimately if you want it bad enough, you'll get there. It's about, you know it's not just about talent at this point, right. If you have talent you're probably sitting in the audience because you have talent or you're listening because you know you have talent, and somebodies told you you have talent. And the rest of that is the meat and potatoes here. How you get an agent. How you find one? Well I think part of that was the earlier part of this where you have to basically look and do your own research as to how you want to find the place where you fit. So once you've done that research and you look at agencies and you say I fit here. Then you start to make calls. And you start to bring your portfolio, and you start to have meetings. So they may say we're not looking for anybody. We're closed right now, you know our roster's closed right now. That would be the terminology. Or they'll say, sure we would love to meet with you. And you may have to go to 50 of those meetings. Before you find what you want. You know. Or you find the right fit. 'Cause sometimes it might work for you, maybe sometimes it doesn't work for them and vice versa. They want you, but you don't think they have a lot to offer you. So it's really about doing your homework, having- being prepared, having all your you know client base kinda solidified, but I think it's kind of- I don't think if you don't have a client base looking for an agent is really worth your time. If you have a client base, because you're never going to get an agent if you don't have a client base and you don't have a body of work to show. You have to build your body of work first, be able to show it, because if you're essentially a new professional, or an amateur with a good portfolio, it's going to be really hard to get an agent. It's just you need to have a certain measure of- but let me tell you something, if you have 125,000 Instagram followers, and your portfolio is really tight, you may get an agent. So that's a different, it's a different landscape we live in now. Maybe you don't have a big client base, but if you have the potential to sell on social media, you'll get an agent. Absolutely you will. So that, don't just think it's about clients in terms of oh I've worked for this food company, and this restaurant, and this chef, I have 150,000 Instagram followers, well then now we're talking. That's currency. So it's not just that. So don't be- you know if it's like well I don't have a lot of clients yet, but it's not like that. There's other things that you bring value to and mad social media is a big one. Anybody out there wanna follow me feel free. (laughter) Question from Rodney Bedslow, who is like Oh yeah we know Rodney you know Rodney right from New York. Oh hey how's it going. So he's been hearing that generally, and you and I talked about this earlier, it's sort of the cart before the horse. Yeah Generally agents unless you have a body of work don't bring you in and so, where's that, where's that happy time of when you start looking for an agent. Do you think it's after maybe 10 clients, or 10 projects, is there a number? I think not necessarily a number, but the quality of those clients. So if it's like 10 local restaurants, that's probably not going to work for you, but if you've got a mix of things like you have some decent editorial and you've done maybe one or two ad jobs, and you're starting to build a portfolio of other types of clients and you're tight, your portfolio's very tight and focused. I think you can start to look for sure, and get an understanding. But that's where those things like portfolio reviews and showcases come in too. Because if you start doing that work, and you start to pick up a client here or pick up a client there. Sometimes all it takes is one monster client, and once you've got that monster client in your pocket, everybody's looking to work with you. So sometimes that's all it takes. Great and Prince would like to know if agents approach you in your career at this point. Yes, that was one of the things, I'd had agents approach me several times in my career and one time I signed and a couple times I didn't, and then I gave up on the idea of an agent for a while because I was directing and I thought that was going to be my kind of end around into print advertising because now I'm being exposed to advertising companies through a production company which essentially was acting like my representation. And then I was approached by a much bigger agency that really wanted to work with me and that process was not like oh do you want to work with us, oh yeah sure I'll work with you. It wasn't like that. It was a courtship. It really was. It was a courtship that worked both ways. Are we gonna be able to be in a relationship together and that took three or four months until we were all saying yup this is what we want, we're comfortable let's get on board with this. And that's how it happened. You know and I had gotten to the point where I didn't think I needed print representation because I had motion representation, but I realized that those two things are very separate and that was a mistake on my part so.

Being confident in your photography is only the start of growing your success as a food photographer. Knowing how to pitch yourself to clients, communicate with vendors, and set yourself apart from a populated market are just some of the business techniques that are essential in seeing you profit from your work. Andrew Scrivani joins CreativeLive to help you take your photography and business to a place where you can start making it a successful career. He’ll cover: 

  • How to get work in the Food Photography Industry 
  • How to promote and network yourself to grow your client list 
  • Techniques on communicating with your vendors and clients on set and off 
Make your photography work for you and make money while shooting what you love.  

 
 
 
 

Reviews

  • I highly recommend this course! Andrew is an engaging and thoroughly knowledgable teacher. This class is less about how to photograph food - although there are some terrific tips - and more about the "nuts and bolts" or rather, "bread and butter" of running a successful business. A lot of the information is relevant to business in general, but the specific tips about food photography are especially exciting to implement! I found the hands-on portion during the morning of day 2 especially helpful in assimilating the general or more abstract ideas covered in day 1, which laid a fantastic foundation. 5 stars!
  • Andrew is not only a funny, incredibly entertaining person, he's a seriously great teacher. Being in the live studio audience for this class was such a treat. I was able to learn a lot of the nitty gritty lived-in details of what it takes to be a successful food photographer. Things that are hard to come by in books and online! I would highly recommend this class for anyone who wants to take their passion to the next step: making a living.
  • While I'm not quite ready to focus my business on food photography, this class gave me a much clearer idea of what options and challenges there are in the food photography industry. Andrew covered everything from what jobs might be like when starting out on a tight budget to what options open up as the photographer becomes more experienced and successful. I already did my own internet research about the food photography business before the class, but this was more comprehensive and easy to understand in a short amount of time. Now I feel more confident about setting my business goals, who to look for to collaborate with on projects and eventually the kinds of clients I'd like to work with. He also gave many tips that are immediately applicable in my current photography business that isn't yet focused on food.