Alternative Repping

The following eye-opener on what a rep really does is the first of a series by Louisa on how to get seen, how to get business, and how to prosper in the business of creative arts.

“Alternative Repping”
as published on MacTribe

Louisa Curtis is the owner of Chatterbox Enterprises, providing “photography services for creatives and creative services for photographers.”  Her long experience in commercial photography marketing has taught her the importance of “the business side of things” and what artists most often overlook.


Louisa Curtis:

Most photographers think a rep will solve all of their problems. Do they really know what a rep does? Are they aware what it’s going to cost them to sign up with a rep? Let’s be realistic here – it’s always going to cost you money to make money. A traditional rep would typically ask that their talent pay at least a portion of their promotional and operational costs.

For instance, many reps insist that the artist take out a page or a spread in one of the annual Source Books. That can potentially cost anything from $3,000 to $10,000, which may not include design fees and production costs. Then the rep will need a minimum of at least 3 to 5 portfolios, which can start at around $200 each and go up as high as $1,000 (and that’s without a carrying case or bag!) It might also be a requirement to have one or more online portfolios to increase web presence, which can cost an additional $1,000 a year. Then there are monthly Messenger and Fed Ex bills for shipping out books – these expenses may also be passed along to the photographers or artists.

Is this for you?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  What’s the background of your rep, what’s the success rate, the breadth of clients, and who else are they repping?

Depending upon the rep, you will generally be asked to pay something towards direct mail and promotional pieces.  You may be asked to sign a contract. After a year your rep might also want a percentage of your House Accounts. Put it this way, one way or another a rep has running costs too. So, if they’re not asking you to contribute to them directly, then they may well take a higher commission when they do book a job. What they might miss on the peanuts, they’ll make up on the popcorn. In any event, all this adds up to a substantial amount of money.

Gone are the days of huge budgets, fat accounts and wasted excess. As we move towards the Age of Aquarius, ruler of Photography, it is only fitting that we now find ourselves in a new technological age of cell phones, computers, the Internet and digital photography. Not only does it require that we learn new skills, but it has also allowed for more people to enter into the photography profession than ever before. So, as the colleges continue to turn out their fresh young talent, competition is fierce and the seasoned professionals have to constantly seek out new ways of reinventing themselves.

For some photographers signing with a rep can be an ideal solution, but perhaps not always the entire solution. A rep cannot necessarily be responsible for finding all of your assignments. There just aren’t enough big advertising jobs to keep everyone busy. So, a photographer should consider shooting for editorial, stock, exhibitions and competitions – anything that will increase their exposure and provide them with additional income streams.

I wanted to approach artist representation from a different angle, as a “rep for hire,” with an alternative and more flexible approach in order to match the ever-changing times and evolution of the commercial photography world. Not everyone needs a rep all the time, or full time, but they may need one just some of the time.

The Chatterbox Enterprises website is a marketing vehicle with flexible arrangements for photographers. This allows them the freedom to still pursue other avenues and run their own businesses. I’m not reinventing the wheel; I’m simply helping to make the wheel run more efficiently, while increasing the potential for success. My strategy is this, if I bring you work, you pay me – simple. No strings attached, no contracts, no complicated arrangements.

Chatterbox is a twofold affair – providing both photography services for creatives and creative services for photographers. We are an online photography portfolio website with a rep and creative consultant on the end of the phone.  It is what I call “active” advertising instead of passive. Most online portfolio websites are just that – online portfolios.

Many photographers just don’t like the idea of dealing with the “business side of things.” They would much rather just concentrate on taking beautiful pictures. Chatterbox Enterprises offers you guidance as to how to build your business around your creative vision.

December 2007

December produced the usual round of Holiday parties which were literally all one after the other! ADC was first, followed quickly by the rest… and so 2007 came to a fast and festive close!
You can catch a photo of “yours truly” with my Producer friend Mahalia Watson on the APA website!

We had lots of fun at the APA “do” which was held at the “Beauty Bar” this year and not only did we receive drinks tickets but free manicures as well – how cool was that!

ASMP/NY Holiday Party
Friday, December 7th 2007
At Calumet

ASPP/NY Holiday Party
Monday, December 10th 2007
At Essex Restaurant

APA|NY Holiday Party
Tuesday, December 11th at 7:30pm
At Beauty Bar