Jana Cruder has been shooting fashion and entertainment projects for over 10 years. The LA-based artist studied photography at Rochester Institute of Photography and shoots in LA, New York and around the world for commercial and editorial clients like APPLE, People Magazine, Zip Car, Harpers Bazaar, Time Inc, Maxim, ELLE China, Rodale, Wells Fargo, Discovery, OWN Network, Mens Health, Fitness Magazine and Tatler. Three years ago, she signed with Day Reps.
What were you looking for in an agent?
When I signed with Day Reps, I was looking for somebody to have those harder conversations about money. In negotiating, I always felt like I was leaving money on the table or taking whatever offer was being sent to me. I’d wanted to transition my business from a ton of look book type of work to more advertising. I wanted to do higher paying jobs. I was looking for somebody who could package me the way that the ad world could get me and then nurture those relationships.
How do you know if you’re ready to have a relationship like this with a rep, career-wise?
You’ll get to the point where you’ll feel ready. You’ll also be busy enough that you’ll be on a shoot, and because you didn’t get back to a potential client quick enough, they hired someone else.
What are your tips for reaching out to potential reps?
In my experience when I’ve cold-called or emailed, I get nothing back from that. Whether I’m contacting a gallery for representation or I’m contacting a commercial agent for representation, I get nothing. We’re talking hundreds of attempts at that. Nothing.
I try to meet them in person. I think the best way to do that is portfolio reviews. I’ll meet someone at a portfolio review and maybe I’m not a good fit for them, but maybe they talk to someone else and mention meeting me.
How can you make you and your work stand out in a crowded field of photographers?
I think we have to be more strategic. I don’t think it will ever be the way it was in the heyday of the ‘60s and ‘70s and ‘80s where photography was a mystery and only a few select people could do it, or did do it. Everybody can do it fairly decently. I decided to get more creative with Instagram. Be in their world. It’s the way to get people to understand you.
My advice would be to research the influencers of the people who you feel you could be a good fit with. Start liking their pages, start commenting on their Instagrams. Go to the influencers, the high fashion stylists and the photographers that are shooting for them now, and go to their pages and like their posts and comment on it. It’s a web. That web is still very small. At the end of the day, there are so many of us and so few of them.
Pick five people that you would like to know about you and do some research to figure out how you can get a referral.
What other social networks do you recommend spending time on?
I’m doing most of my promotion on Instagram these days, but LinkedIn is also a great resource. That’s the first place people go. They want to look at your recommendations, they want to know who you’ve worked with.
I’ve had success with writing articles on LinkedIn. I only have three, but they have brought the most profile views—incredible industry profile views—than any posting I’ve put up.
What are some other ways to meet influencers and make connections?
Go to industry-related events. If you’re in New York, you can go to the Art Directors Club meeting. If you want to shoot fashion, go to Fashion Week. If you want to shoot celebrities, go to film festivals. If you want to shoot music, go to festivals like Coachella.
I took all the money and time I used to put into promotions, and I put it into taking me places, and I’ve been able to start to shift my business to the work I ultimately want to be doing. I attend Art Basel every year. I come out with not only gallery contacts and stuff to move my fine arts career ahead, but I come out with agency people and magazines. You have to literally put yourself out there and talk to people and let them know who you are.
What kinds of questions would you suggest that a photographer who’s entering this process would want to ask potential agencies when they are trying to put something together?
I want someone to be in love with me and in love with what I do. I think those are the best relationships that work in regards to photographer and agent. They have to be infatuated.
I want to know how I am going to be pitched. I want to understand how they are talking about me. Especially in these big agencies if you’re one of 50 to 100 artists. When Jane Smith at so-and-so magazine calls and says, “I want to send a photographer to Morocco, who do you suggest?” They have their top five or 10 people. How do other people get into that mix.
I would also ask what are their client relationships that they are already thinking about you being a good fit for? Are those clients the people you want to be talking to? Are they good for what you’re doing?
Talk to anybody else in the industry that has a representative selling their work. Talk to a completely unrelated industry, talk to somebody who makes jewelry who has a company that sells their wears. Get some advice from other advice on structuring relationships.
To be safe, have a lawyer look at your agreement. Make sure you really understand what you’re signing up for.
Once you have an agent’s interest, what are some questions you should ask them?
There’s the standard questions of who’s paying for promotion? What part of promotion am I still responsible for? What is the agent doing on their end to promote you? Are they calling on your dream client list every month? And then also what’s the the strategy for where you are now and where you want to be, and how they’re going to help you get there.
It’s important to ask when you are setting up an agent relationship, when is it my money? When is it your money? When is it our money? How do we differentiate the flow of people to the work? If a client has been a client of mine for 10 years, is the comission different than when you find me work? Those are hard questions, but those are important.
How can you signal to an agent that you’re going to be a good photographer to work with?
Agents want to make sure that you are insured, reputable, you have a level of honesty, that you are going to do what it takes to help them to do the best that they can for you. They want to know that you’re going to be easy to work with, but also you’re going to get the job done no matter what. It’s their ass on the line. An agent wants a low-risk factor.
As an emerging photographer, I feel it’s always better to err on the side of being awesome, great to work with, honest, reputable, and I feel that agents will respect that.
All photos © Jana Cruder
For more tips to lock down a rep and seal the deal, check out Tips to Getting a Photo Rep.