Today I wanted to share with you my tips and tricks about working with model agencies. A got asked about it on the latest webinar and I see that there are some details worth noticing.

So basically the student told me "I wrote to a model agency to request a model and they just sent me a quote with her hourly rate". Which is fine, after all it's their job to do that. At the same time I worked with many model agencies in the US and Europe and I never once had to pay then (oftentimes they paid me), so I thought I will share my experience here.

My first interaction with a model agency happened during second year of my photography in Moscow. At that point I worked with a lot of semi-professional models and one of them took this big step to join Slava Zaitsev Model School. As she got in, she started to recommend me to the other models for tests and posing classes. I was cheap and effective so very soon agent learned about me and starter to send me models as well.

When I moved to Europe, I started to schedule meetings with different model agencies to talk about partnership. Well, first I was trying to simply drop-by, but in Switzerland it was considered rude, so I quickly adopted and had my process - I would first shoot them an email and follow up with a phone-call in a week or so - then a meeting.

At that stage I got one small agency that just hired me with my ongoing rates. They sent a lot of business my way and I also met a lot of future connections there:

Then I had another big agency in Zurich that told me that my rates are too high, and for that money they can send a model to Paris to get pictures, so we devised a special day for them when I they would send me 8-10 models and just pay my day-rate + light retouch. I would have one hour per model and only do comp-cards, not the full portfolio: With them I actually tried to mix business and collabs - I would work with some models for free for my ideas and for some models I would get paid to make comp-cards. It was not the best idea in foresight.

So I moved my editorials to this agency: they are the best agency in Switzerland and every model from there was spectacular.

I also worked with agencies like Time, Scout, KaiZen - but not closely.

When I came to Boston I knew the drill. I did my research online and found 3 main agencies: Maggie Inc, Dynasty and Models Club. I picked Maggie Inc as a partner because I had great connection with an agent there. I explained to her my biggest concern when working with a model through the agency: sometimes they send you a model, without showing her your work first or giving her as much as the theme of the photoshoot. In this scenario it's hard for me to connect with a model because I am just another assignment to her. Patty (the agent) got my point and she always allowed me to talk to the model before the shoot and explain my idea and also often showed my work to best models and let me know they are open to work with me.

With two other agencies I came in and showed my portfolio and got models from them from time to time. Dynasty wanted to get the deal I gave to Fotogen, but we never got around to it. I also did some pictures for the model who was Dynasty's receptionist one summer and that brought me a lot of good referrals :)

So with that said, here are my 3 biggest takeaways for working with and agency:

  1. Don't contact them as a client would, but use the channels a potential partner would use.
  2. If you feel unsure, ask to work with New Faces - they always have a lot of girls who just joined and need to build a portfolio.
  3. You probably won't be able to earn enough if you do model tests and try to find your clients "out in the wild". You can be a portrait photographer, who occasionally gets model as a client; or you can be a photographer who targets agencies, not models; or just be a brand photographer all together like me - it's less boring :)