Considering a Long Distance Rep Relationship? Here are 5 ways to make it work.

Our latest contribution to Agency Access’  blog The Lab is posting today.  It offers advise for photographers considering partnering with an agent that lives in a different city.   Be sure to link to the blog directly to read answers from industry experts on many more questions.

Question: How important is it that I live near my rep? How can I acquire a rep in a major commercial city if I live in a small town?

Years ago, I would have said it’s very important to live near your rep and even more important that you live in a major commercial city. But nowadays, I wouldn’t say that at all. The world has become a small enough place that it doesn’t matter where you live.

We represent photographers in Idaho, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Rhode Island – all of whom are as busy as the ones we represent in San Francisco. We don’t talk to them any less because they’re in a different time zone. Some may even joke that we see them more because they travel to San Francisco often on shoots.

While proximity is always nice, here are some tips to help you have a successful long-distance agent relationship:

Invest in Good Photo Management Software

Programs such as iPhoto, Aperture or Light Box work nicely. While it would be nice to spend the day at a studio reviewing images and choosing the order for the website or portfolio, we can now do all of this online. It’s much easier for us to review work with photo management software than to sift through boxes of images. You and your agent can create websites of potential images and website or portfolio orders/flows to review and share the links via email. We do this with everyone in our group – even the local photographers.

Know When to Pick up the Phone

We all fall victim to emailing instead of talking, even when we’re sitting at the desk right next to someone! So, be extra careful not to just rely on email when you have something to discuss. Consider Skype or FaceTime for bigger meetings and phone calls for smaller day-to-day discussions.

Be Willing to Jump on a Plane

There’s nothing like a face-to-face meeting every once in a while. So much of the photographer/agent relationship is about friendship and trust that seeing each other in person is always a plus. Consider meeting your agent on a trip he or she is taking to show portfolios. Or, schedule some extra time during a shoot in their city. Invite them to come to you to see you in your own environment. The most solid relationships always make time for an in-person meeting.

As for acquiring a rep in a major commercial city when you live in a small town, in addition to being open to the above tips, I would add the following:

Own Your Backyard

If you’re just starting out and are fortunate enough to live in an area that has clients for you to target, you need to make sure you make a name for yourself in that market. If you’re not able to do this in a smaller market, you may not be able to do so in a larger one. You may very well outgrow your backyard, but you will have built invaluable experience and made important connections that you may not have been able to do as quickly if you had started in a larger city.

Grow Beyond Your Region

So many photographers make the mistake of limiting their photography to what inspires them locally. Since the light, the talent and the locations all begin to take on a similar energy, the work has a tendency to feel regional. It’s important to expand your vision beyond your backyard and seek out new locations, new talent, new light and new influences. If Andy Anderson just photographed what was interesting to him in Idaho, we would no doubt be impressed, but would be hard-pressed to get him work.

On a Final Note

Regardless of where you and your agent live, the most effective agent/photographer relationships are based on strong communication and mutual respect. If you work just as hard at talking as you do at listening, no physical distance can stand in the way of your shared success.

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