Welcome to our 5th series of posts where we share the results from our conversations held directly with community leaders about top-of-mind photo-industry issues Community Table was formed from the collective efforts of Matt Nycz and Kate Chase of Brite Productions and Heather Elder and Lauranne Lospalluto of Heather Elder Represents with the idea that there is nothing more powerful in our industry than education.
And for this series, we discussed changing it up a bit, setting a place for a new category of community leader to have a seat at our table. So we invited and thusly tapped into the minds of some of the countries best artists’ agents while they were in town to attend LeBook’s ConnectionsSF.
Post roundtable, we then got really excited to share with you the results of our time spent with them — time spent asking about not only what keeps these agents motivated and inspired but also what they have learned during their years on the front-lines of selling and marketing creativity. And then most importantly, getting their thoughts on what is now necessary to survive in the picture-making industry.
So with that, we welcome you back to Community Table and collective insights from:
Deb Ayerst, Ayerst Artists’ Agent
Howard Bernstein, Bernstein & Andrulli
Marge Casey, Wave Represents
Jen Jenkins, Giant Artists
Carol LeFlufy, Eye-Forward
Kate Chase, Brite Productions
Heather Elder, Heather Elder Represents
Do you still believe that in order to be a professional, commercial photographer, all you need to do is work hard at making great images to stand out in today’s marketplace? Does it differ for emerging photographers vs those that are more experienced?
• It is important to collaborate with creatives, your agent, your peers and your crew. You must be open to having an open dialog at all times and you must have a strong marketing plan.
• Being successful means the photographer must be responsible for their own marketing and their own business. It is not just up to the agent anymore, it is very important that the photographer is 100% engaged. And the only difference between emerging and experienced is that the younger ones enter the market with a greater understanding of how to share themselves through social media vs the experienced ones. But that is changing for those experienced photographers willing to try to new things too.
• Many successful photographers have recognized that they need to have some one on the inside handle their personal marketing and work with the agents to help check things off of the to do list. Photographers need to be responsible for more than just imagery and remember that they are a business.
• The most successful photographers in our group put themselves out there all the time. They perfect “the call” and they always send a treatment.
• Talent drives the business,that has not changed But photographers need to engage and help move things along, get their work and themselves known. They must be willing participants. We need their support.
• We have represented talent that have agreed to business coaching. It has been very helpful to help them understand the business side of things and how to manage everything that is required of them.
• The less a photographer does, the less work they will get. We believe that the more new work, the more cooperation and the more connections, the more work.
• A successful photographer needs to evolve their work and they need to have a point of view. A photographic style is not a static thing. They should not chase trends. Rather, they should set the trends and push the boundaries.
What do you think is the key to your success as an agent?
• The measure for success is not that different for agents than any other profession. It takes hard work, and dedication. Beyond that, it is important to put the effort in, believe in your talent and have an ability to sell.
• Partnership is paramount. An ability to work hard and be competitive.
• The understanding that your group will need to evolve. Being able to look towards the future and determine how you fit into the market in crucial.
• You need to have a business strategy and pay attention to what is coming next. Do not get comfortable where you are at currently.
• If you have been in the business for awhile, your experience is your greatest asset. However, you cannot let it get in the way and you need to remember to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking.
• Learn the rules, move the ball forward at all times.
• Be a problem solver. Think ahead.
How do you stay inspired?
• Our jobs have built in changeability; the projects, the rules, the players. There is always something new.
• Changing the roster is always inspiring.
• Not being afraid to fail is very inspiring. It makes me take chances and try new things. I become more creative and strategic.
• How can you not be inspired? Every day is different, you never know who will call. It drives to us to work harder and hard works pays off.
• Every job has its own challenges. It is like solving a puzzle and I like puzzles!
Why do you sign talent? Why do you part ways with talent?
• Toxic behavior is never tolerated. I used to hang on too long. It is important to have positivity in the group. We all work way too hard to have partners that are not on the same page. We do not want complainers. We want talent that can move things along without drama. No jerks!
• We sign the talent that draws us in. We are attracted to personality and those that have a business sense.
• Signing talent is a major decision. Maybe I over-think it, but it is really important. I don’t want to walk down the aisle and realize it was a mistake. Signing new talent is a serious decision.
• It is not always your choice – who stays and who goes.
• Before we part ways with someone, we look at the energy they put into their work and their marketing and then we ask ourselves if we have been doing what we are supposed to be doing? Where is the plan falling short?
• Setting expectations and having the hard conversations early make parting easier. When we finally do have the conversation where we are parting ways, it should not be the first time they are hearing my thoughts. It should not be a surprise. Giving and receiving feedback is a skill that we work hard at in our group
Before you sign with new talent, do you discuss potential conflicts with the others in your group?
• We try very hard not to have competitive talent on our roster. Given how much everyone is trying to broaden their spectrum of work nowadays, it is harder and harder. Therefore, it becomes more about style than category. We always make sure to talk to the group and get their read on the work and listen to any concerns they have. We are a team and this is important to us.
• We are a large agency so each agent has his/her own umbrella of talent so they do not have to worry about conflicts in the big picture.
• We aim for being stylistically different but if they are in the same category that is fine.
• I always aim for diversity. So, conflicts haven’t been an issue
Tune in Thursday for more collective thoughts on the usage model and our insights on marketing today. Also to see previous Community Tables posts from Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City please link here.