Dealing with Agencies - Part II
Dan Grant, Publisher
(continued from Part I)Physical books are less common than they used to be and if tablets haven't completely replaced them in a few years, I'll be surprised.
In Part I we talked about different things a Toronto photographer should consider before booking a model for a creative.
One thing we didn't discuss however, was what to charge. Again, as I mentioned before, I'm not setting the rules here, just providing some direction based on my varied discussions with many of the photographers in T.O.
Photographers in this city normally charge $25 - $40 for prints or $10 - $25 for high-res files (and if the agency chooses prints, the photographer usually includes the corresponding high-res files for free, since the touch-ups are already done).
It is expected there may be a small extra charge for a double-page spread, but definitely not double the cost. You're not doing any extra retouching, so anything more than an extra $5 - $10 in material costs isn't realistic.
What are the advantages to an agency just getting high-res file?
Some Toronto agencies will take on a girl that will never work in the city, but can make a good living overseas. In this case, they may build an online portfolio to promote the model to certain markets, but will never require the physical copy.
Other times - especially with a new model - they may just need something to build an online presence to pique editorial interest.
If there is a big disparity in the price you're charging for prints and high-res, the agency may prefer to upload the file to their local print shop's FTP or cloud, and pick it up themselves.
If you aren't going to drop by the agency for a few days, it might just be faster to do that as well.
And, let's be truthful, there are certain agencies that like to tweak the images in Photoshop before releasing them to the world. Sometimes it's a tighter crop, other times they'll stretch the subject. Not cool, I know, but I'm just being honest.
So now that you've sold your shots, what can you do with them? According to the Copyright Act (Canada, 1985), nothing, unless you have the model's consent. Once payment has been made you cede ownership; a fact which technically forbids you from reproducing the image without approval. It also means you can't prevent the agency from manipulating your work.
If the model hasn't paid for the image however, it's yours to publish, just not to sell (without the agency's approval).
Fortunately, most of what happens in this industry is informal and respectful. So let's talk about what normally happens.
If you've shot a creative at the behest of an agency (Scenario 3)
Following the shoot, you're expected to send a gallery of images to the agency. It doesn't have to be every image (unlike a test shoot, when the agency can choose from everything available), but should be a reasonable number for them to select from.
If you're only sending the three or four selects that you've already determined you're putting in your own book, then you've positioned the shoot into something that benefits you as much or more than the model (and that's fine too, if they're really the only shots you're comfortable putting your name to), so again, you probably shouldn't charge for those same shots.
*To put this in the most basic terms: You should only be charging the agency for shots you specifically retouched for the model
If you're very proud of the results and want to submit them for publication, still share the images with the agency, but ask them to please hold off putting them anywhere visible until you know whether they will be picked up elsewhere.
In this case, however, the agency probably isn't going to want to pay for prints if "tearsheets" will follow, and should still get some say in which mags you're courting.
Most agencies would prefer you didn't the release any images - even on your own blog - until you have let them see which ones you're using. It's the agent's job to make sure their models are seen in the most flattering light, and often what best feeds your artistic soul can be harmful to the subject. For instance, if you're only showing the model from the neck down or with an enormous black wig that obstructs the face, it can be embarrassing for the model, whether or not you attached the name.
That having been said, you're within your rights to go ahead and blog the ones you feel most strongly about, even if the agency doesn't like them (you just can't sell them). The agency might not say anything, but they will be more hesitant about sending you models in the future.
Even though the agency asked you to do the shoot in the first place, it's entirely possible they won't order anything.
With a new model, a good agent will set up a dozen or so creatives in the first few weeks. Photographers that are really good at putting a model at ease are often at the start of the cycle, and from there it's about building a diverse selection from which to piece together a portfolio.
Not every photo shoot is a winner (for the model or the photographer), so the agency obviously isn't going to put forward their model's money. Other times two or more photographers will offer up very similar galleries. In this case, the agency is probably going to only order prints from the better of the sessions.
Keep in mind that that this is still an open market economy, and if you're consistently producing images that raise the model's value, agencies will keep buying what you're selling... unless you've done something to really upset the booking table.
In Part III we'll look at ways to not piss off the agencies.