by Christopher Armstrong on Dec. 15, 2016
There's not a day or an event that goes by where I'm not inundated with questions from aspiring (and even veteran) photographers asking me questions about how to best go about getting an agent and what to expect when finally finding what will hopefully be the beginning of a long and prosperous working relationship.
I've compiled a list of questions that I feel relevant as well as a few questions that have been asked of me recently and posed them to Los Angeles agent Andrea Stern from SternRep. I hope this helps shed some light on some of the do's and don'ts in approaching an agent, managing realistic and unrealistic expectations, and with any luck, signing with the right one.
Are you a photographer with an agent? Leave a comment and tell us about your experience (good and bad). It's well worth celebrating the unsung heroes in this industry.
CA: How often do you get approached by photographers who are looking for representation?
AS: Every day.
CA: How often do you find yourself in a position to take on a new photographer?
AS: This is a business. The truth is, I am always open to finding someone who would fit in well with my roster, but by virtue of being particular and having certain niches filled already, it has to be the right person.
CA: What are some things that photographers have done to get your attention? What worked and what didn’t?
AS: A short quick email works. They also need to address the email to me, so I know it’s not a mass email blast.
I started as a photographer myself, and I am familiar with the grit it takes to make it in this industry, so when I started this agency, I made the promise to myself that I would always respond to photographers when they send me an email.
CA: Do you take on more than one photographer in any particular category? If so, how do you handle any conflicts that may arise from the perceived competition?
AS: There are a couple different kinds of reps. Some reps have all of the same category of photographer and some reps have a lot of photographers that have very similar styles.
I started my business with the strategy to be a one stop shop, representing a photographer within each major category.
As my business evolved I decided to expand who I represented in the lifestyle and car world. Styles for car and lifestyle jobs can be so incredibly varied that it felt important to represent photographers with different aesthetics within these categories. Each of my car and lifestyle photographers have a unique perspective and way of shooting…and that is very important to me. The truth is that the client is going to choose whichever style works for the job, so competition is a bit of an illusion, when you have photographers with very different styles.
CA: Have you ever loved the work from a photographer but just realized that they weren’t quite right for your roster? If so, do you make the effort to help them find the right agent?
AS: I often meet photographers whose work I love but I simply do not work within their industries. I don’t work with many fashion/journalistic/entertainment clients so I wouldn’t take on a photographer who primarily does that kind of work.
I always do my best to help people in whatever way I can but I don’t typically recommend other reps, especially because I am most well versed in the world of commercial advertising.
CA: After signing a new photographer, how do you manage their expectations around how a rep will immediately get them work?
AS: It’s a growth process. We begin by evaluating their portfolio. I see where their career could go, we discuss what we both want to see happen and work hand in hand to get them there. The book has to be strong and the photographer needs to continue to be hungry for their own success and do everything in their power to also grow their business.
CA: While I’d love to ask you who your favorite photographers on your roster are, I know that wouldn’t be a fair question. Name three legendary photographers who you would have liked to have represented and why you would’ve been the right choice for them.
AS: Annie Lebovitz: She’s an out lesbian. When I was a photographer she was my hero…I hung next to my bed a torn New York Times front page article with a picture of her shooting on some tall building. She represented the ultimate success to me. She uses humor and captures the spirit and essence of whoever is in front of her camera. I believe what I’m seeing, which is the magic of effective commercial advertising.
I think I’d be an excellent rep for her because of how much I love her work. I’m not a car salesmen or an actress, I represent photographers who I can sell effortlessly because I absolutely love their work and believe in what they do.
So Annie, if you’re out there, I still want to rep you, 20 years later!
CA: What’s next for SternRep? Where do you see yourself going and more importantly, where do you see the business going?
AS: Well, I started small…for about 15 years representing three or four photographers. In 2014 I had one of the biggest jobs of my career with product photographer Toby Pederson for Google Store. I felt inspired and I was having such a good time that I just wanted to do more.
I also realized I didn’t want to do it all alone, I wanted to come out of my box and try something new… so I hired Olivia, my new Director of Operations.
I had so many ideas over the years…but not always the bandwidth to execute these big projects, so I wanted to see what other people would bring into the mix and what would be possible with a bigger team. I want to continue to grow. And SternRep has some really exciting projects in store, so stay tuned.
Photographers Currently Represented by SternRep
©2016 Brian Garland
©2016 Paul Barshon
©2016 Toby Pederson
©2016 Khaz Studios
As the owner of SternRep, I’ve discovered just how good life can be when you immerse yourself in what you enjoy most. Over the past 20 years, my appreciation for connecting with people and building long-lasting relationships has led me to work with some of the biggest creative clients in the industry.
SternRep’s approach combines professional strategy with hands-on involvement, backed by my personal background in photography as a graduate of the Brooks Institute.
I’m a natural cultivator of relationships on both the artist and client side. It’s a trademark of my own personality, but one I’ve built my agency around as well: I love to connect, and SternRep is known for its personable, intelligent approach. That kind of connection is the cornerstone of our success and the reason we continue to bring together the most talented artists and successful clients together year after year. We get it done.