There are three ways photographers can approach representation: They can represent themselves, use a personal rep, or use a photographic agency. Over the course of a career, a photographer may use all three of these approaches.
Whether it makes sense for you to seek agency representation has a lot to do with your personality. Some photographers, for example, do not like to relinquish control of any functions related to their business. For them, neither an agency nor a personal representative makes sense.
However, if you’re the kind of photographer who wants to be fully absorbed in the creative side of your job — and who considers everything else a necessary evil — an agency can dramatically enhance your quality of life, as well as your business success.
Photographers who seek to work with agencies generally do so for one or more of the following reasons:
1. Greater variety of assignments. The photographic agency works best for photographers who want to be part of an organization that has a broad and diverse  clientele. Diversity is reflected both in the type of work (editorial, corporate or advertising) and the locations of assignments.
2. Help in getting assignments. The agency is always selling itself, its services and its photographers. For photographers who dislike the sales process, this function is invaluable.
3. Fewer surprises. Agencies typically vet their clients, making unhappy surprises with new clients less likely. Agencies also pay the photographer’s out-of-pocket expenses, reducing the photographer’s financial risk.
4. Less of the boring stuff. Many photographers are attracted by the idea of handing off the “dull” parts of their job — pricing, billing, collection, etc. — to an agency. When the agency is paid by the client, it pays the photographer and provides statements that eliminate bookkeeping functions for the photographer.
Many photographers object to agencies simply because they don’t want to pay the agency a commission. This attitude is logical for the photographer whose assignments come from clients he could easily approach himself. It does not makes sense, however, when the assignments are coming from clients who would never find or use the photographer if not for his agency.
In many cases, there are longstanding relationships between clients and agencies. Clients can rely on the agency to deliver on assignments based on past performance. And because agency rates are similar to the rates charged directly by the photographer, the client generally does not pay more to receive the agency’s services.
[tags]Ben Chapnick, photographic agencies [/tags]