Noah Fecks is a Brooklyn-based travel, food and portrait photographer with a BFA in photography from Parsons School of Design, where he is now a visiting professor in the Photography Department. The 42-year-old photographer started assisting when he was 17 and shooting professionally in 2008. He’s been with Anderson Hopkins, his “first and forever rep” for five years. Fecks’s recent clients include The New York Times, Clarkson Potter, Jarry Magazine, Ketel One, Coca-Cola, Modern Luxury and Samsung.
Why did you decide to seek representation, and how did that transition happen for you?
At the time, the market really opened up for food. I was doing a lot of cookbooks, periodicals and editorial work. I was doing a little bit of advertising work, but I wasn’t getting it with consistency. Things started to really balloon where I was doing higher level productions and had more accounting and accountability needs. I wasn’t getting into trouble, but I was getting in over my head with things like communications and production and accounting.
I had met with John Hopkins and Stephanie Anderson at the agency Anderson Hopkins and I told them that I was working a lot and I was busy. I was shooting almost 300 days a year but I couldn’t find the time to work on my portfolio and make creative decks and answer the phone. I really needed help, and I went to them for help.
Why did you choose Anderson Hopkins?
I had a relationship with them because I had assisted some of their other photographers over the years. I wanted to have a straight advertising rep. They specialized more in advertising whereas a lot of agents specialize in fashion. I was looking to them as a venerable agency that I knew could handle the high level advertising requests I was getting. I felt like they really understood the landscape. Anderson Hopkins seemed to have everything I was interested in, and I was right. We’re a very good fit for each other.
How did your first meeting go?
I met with them and showed them a lot of work. I was able to show them a lot of things that weren’t on my website or in my portfolio. We talked about clients, and then it went directly to, “Where do you feel like you’re falling short? Where do you feel like you need help?”
I think I was coming to them as a more developed artist, but I’ve also developed a lot as an artist under their guidance. I think it was a good meeting point. I had done a lot but I had a lot of room to grow.
What are some red flags that an agent might not be a good fit?
My agent and I have wonderful communication. We’ll speak on the phone, e-mail, text message, whatever. We’re very friendly and cordial, and it’s supereasy to talk on the phone. I feel like if you don’t feel like that with the person who’s representing you, that would be a red flag. Bad communication or lack of communication can be really problematic. I can get answers to questions really easily, and I try to make myself reachable and available to them as much as I can.
What is one of the biggest changes that happened after you signed with the agency?
I think what changed immediately in my work was that the production value became much higher and the quality of the work was much higher because I had an agent and a production company behind me on every job. You can do amazing things with a low production value, but you can’t do that again and again and again. You’ll get burned out and exhausted. When I was on my own, if I was having a problem with cash flow and I couldn’t rent the equipment that I needed, I would say, “Oh screw it, I’ll just shoot it without it.” I would never do that again. I have an agent who will make sure that never happens again.
What else does your agent help you with?
My agent is really helpful with accounting, production, sales and marketing. Things that I’m not too good at myself, and things that I’m too busy to be doing because I’m shooting. For an artist, an agent is like an extra set of hands, another you. They can answer the phone if you’re on set. They can give rates if you’re on a plane. It’s great, but to think that an agent’s going to make you super human is erroneous.
An agent’s going to help you, but they are not going to make you something that you are not. I think a lot of people have that idea that once they’re represented, they’re done.
What kind of questions should photograhers ask when they’re meeting with potential agents?
It’s a two-way street because you’re each bringing something to the table. Ask questions about who’ve they’ve represented and what kind of work they’re getting. Who are the clients they are meeting with? What ad agencies are they showing portfolios at? Those are the questions that I asked. They were asking me, who are you shooting for, what are your rates, what is the turnaround time? Do you have any clients that don’t pay you? If the agent doesn’t ask you about good experiences and bad experiences, it’s not a good and fruitful meeting.
Do you have any tips about how to handle the contract negotiations with an agent?
I think that no matter what you’re doing as an artist, if you’re going to sign a contract, whether it’s with a client or an agent, you’re going to want a lawyer to look at it. I think a really good agent would expect that. A reputable agent and a reputable business person would likely be impressed that you wanted time to review a contract and you were taking going into business together quite seriously.
How would you suggest photographers research different agencies?
I think a good place to start would be LeBook.com, because it will tell you which production companies are producing which campaigns. Then find out who represents them. Vis a vis that process you can look more closely at the photographers and agencies behind the kind of work you want to be doing. Look at those agencies and see what kind of work they’re showing, see what kind of work is on their website.
You want to research very deeply. You want to take a harsh look at yourself and say, “Is my work up to snuff?”
Then I would just cold call and say “Hi, are you looking at new work? Are you meeting with photographers? I’d like to show you some work.”
How would a photographer know that they’re ready to be taken seriously by agencies?
It’s a hard question to answer. I came to my agency because I was already working as an artist and was having these realistic problems that I needed to solve. I think it was a matter of them recognizing that the work was original and worth representing. They were able to help but I think they also liked the work that I was doing.
What tips do you have for keeping a good relationship with your agent?
It boils down to kindness; there’s so much mutual kindness between my business and their business. I’ve watched photographers cop a real attitude and then wonder why their agent didn’t want to work with them anymore.
You have to have great work, you have to have original work, and you have to be easy to work with. If you’re a jerk, who wants to work with you? Your clients don’t want to work with you, your agent doesn’t want to represent you.
All photos © Noah Fecks
For more tips to lock down a rep and seal the deal, check out Tips to Getting a Photo Rep.