Phil Toledano / Casey
No one understands how to execute photography marketing like a photographers’ agent. With so many semi-professionals and photography enthusiasts looking to break into full time photography, it’s important to keep in mind that carving out a successful career in this area requires dedication and a plan – one that an agent is an expert carrying out. We recently managed to catch up with seasoned Creative Director and photographers’ agent, Patrick Casey, at CASEY in New York. Patrick is second generation of the Casey name, which has been in the agent business for 30+ years, working with the biggest and best advertising agencies in New York and around the world.
“In the past, if someone was talented you could put together a plan for them and if followed in a formulaic way, 9 times out of 10 it would work. Now it’s a little more unpredictable.” Patrick admits as we discuss how marketing is more important than ever. Luck and timing is much more of a factor now due to market saturation. “A great agent has to find smart and interesting ways of showing a photographer’s work and forge the right connections in the industry” says Patrick. Early on, however, a photographer is going to have to do this himself (or herself) before even trying to find an agent. Generally, a photographers’ agent will only sign a new artist who has an established client base. “The launching time to get photographers off the ground is so long now that photographers need to be able to sustain themselves, as well as the agency, during this period. Being an agent is still one of the only jobs that works on spec and it may take years for the artist to start making real money.”
Criteria For Success
Before even thinking about your photography marketing, take a step back and consider what an agent and an art buyer looks for in a professional photographer. “Talent and personality are very important attributes” Patrick tells us. “Being a smart business person with good business relationships is also an important component”. Being likable and possessing the right personality type has become increasingly important now that talent is more readily available than it ever has been.
Patrick offers, “Don’t make the mistake of trying to go after a specific area of the commercial marketplace. In the beginning, creativity trumps. I really think that someone needs to be shooting and working from the heart and passionate about the work they’re producing and that’s the very first priority. You need to make sure that you’re producing work that you love. Don’t worry so much about what piece of the market you fall into, just create work and then figure out how to package it.” Once you develop your own style, you can think about what discipline to hone in on.
Over time, you’ll want to be known for a certain style if you want to stand out as a professional photographer. “It’s about a client, over a period of time, remembering that a photographer or director is good in particular areas so when they have a campaign that falls into that area, the photographer is in the top couple of people that they think of.” You don’t have to limit yourself to just one category, however. “Anyone can shoot multiple things as long as there’s a concise thread to their work. A great advertising lifestyle photographer could also shoot great still life if those two genres are linked together through their style. For example, one of my guys, Bill Diodato, shoots still life, fashion, accessories and beauty.”
Photography Marketing to Advertising Agencies
These days, it’s a combination of doing really widespread marketing as well as very niche marketing. “It’s very hard nowadays because no one is in agreement on how they want to be solicited.” This means, you need a smart and varied photography marketing campaign that speaks to all people, so including email, print and picking up the phone to call people are all necessary. “Go as wide as you can with as many mediums as you can afford and then also target the people that would be specifically interested in your work.”
Try email campaigns and putting together a small print run to send out. “Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to call people and set up meetings. Forging relationships and meeting people is also one of the best things you can do. It’s an absolute must for people to see if you’re the kind of person they would like to work with.”
Remember, creation of personal work is the most important thing and that’s not just to develop as a professional. “You should always be marketing from your personal work, no matter what stage of your career you’re at. Using your personal work as much as possible is truly important.”
Who to Target
You need both bigger picture marketing and to specifically target people. “It’s not limiting yourself to one creative type or another, like photo editors only or just art producers. You want to cast as wide of a net as possible, but at the same time, there are lots of great art buyers and art producers out there that it would be wise to build a relationship with one-on-one”. In the end, if given an opportunity of going out to lunch with someone versus doing a portfolio showing to a creative team, Patrick would prefer the lunch for a more direct opportunity to build a relationship.
Relationships & Negotiation
Although it’s the next step beyond your actual photography marketing, keeping a tight and trusted relationship is key when it comes to positioning in the mind of your client and how well you can negotiate your fees. “I think an honest and true dialogue with your art producer is the best thing that you could have” admits Patrick. “I think you really need to trust your relationship with the person that you’re negotiating with.” Patrick suggests figuring out what the job is worth in a real sense and not between inflated senses. “If you don’t have that relationship with the person or if you’re not getting the information you need, it’s always good to have a little bit of breathing room. Chances are, you are going to be asked to requote or rebid to bring your numbers down regardless of where you’re coming in. Don’t drop all of your cards to the lowest price or exactly the number that you want to get from the beginning. You won’t get what you want. You’ll be disappointed.”
In fact, the thought that made the most impact on us was how Patrick defines what makes an agent exceptional: “they have to handle pricing and negotiation in such a way that is ethically minded in terms of helping the industry as well.” All aspiring professionals should remember that your work as an artist has a value and having that value reflected by setting fair fees is critical.
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Posted by Ed Burrows