Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ryan Pyle Blog: Corporate Media or Corporate Agent?

I got an email in December '05 about a corporate job. It was for a large multinational company (MNC) but the person who contacted me was not from the MNC but from a European Corporate Media company who was in charge of putting together the project, from hiring photographers to putting together the layout and getting it all printed. They were basically a one stop shop for corporate projects.

Anyways, a few emails go back and forth and we begin to lock down a date and price. I was offered a one day rate of US$550 per day, plus an extra US$250 for make-up and studio rental. It was a one day shoot and the job required me to organize a series of portraits, requiring a studio, lights and make-up and the whole nine.

So I started thinking. Corporate Media + MNC DOES NOT = US$550 per day. Something must be up. Jobs like this, where you don't have to travel to other cities should be in that US$1500-2500 range. Add the Corporate Media and a monster MNC, and I reckon I was getting ripped off. The bargaining began.

I bargained hard enough not too insult. I got the price raised up to about US$800. Still well well well below market rate. But I decided to take the job. It was corporate, I could use the practice and my schedule was wide open. I have never really felt very comfortable in the studio so I always jump at the chance to confront my fears and get over it. Had I been busier I may have passed but cash is cash any way you cut it.

So I took the job, it went smoothly. Corporate Media was happy and massive MNC was happy. I felt a little shunned by getting low-balled on the fee but I shook it off and moved on to my next project.

A few weeks later someone working in Asia for the MNC contacted me personally. This was not someone who had dealth with the Corporate Media company, that was all Europe based. But, that's right, someone from the massive MNC who had got my contact details from the web. They wanted to thank me for all of my work and they insisted that I travel to another city in Asia to complete another shoot of similar style. This was a job offer that had not gone through Europe, it was Asia based. I stopped for a moment to think, should I be dealing directly with the client? Is this a no-no?

Is the Corporate Media company that first contacted me my agent for this large MNC? Should all contact with the large MNC go through them? I had signed no contract, there was no 70/30 or 60/40 split for assignments fees negotiated. I thought to myself what should I do.

I decided that a Corporate Agent is someone who you have a contract with, as well as pre-negoiated terms. For example, people who work with Getty and Corbis will be on a 70/30 or a 60/40 split for the photographer. Meaning that the agent will bargain high: US$2500 per day and pay the photographer 70% of that fee, while the agency retains the rest. This usually does not include expenses which are extra.

But a Corporate Media company is an institution who brings me a job, with an incredible client, but there is no contract and no talk about a revenue split or percentages. This is a Corporate Media company that initially offered me US$550 per day when they were hiring me out for about US$2500 per day. That is about a 20/80 split in favor of the Corporate Media company.

So, my dilemma. Do I deal directly with the massive MNC, negotiate my own contract and get paid properly while keeping a large MNC happy, OR do a stay loyal to a Corporate Media company that profited from me, but introduced me to the client in the first place?

My basic question is: Does a 20/80 split in favor of a Corporate Media company include client exclusivity? Without a doubt I respect the client exclusivity for my Corporate Agents who I have a 70/30 split with. But this job came through Asia not Europe, it was from someone outside of the loop with the Corporate Media company and the head office of the MNC. It is a difficult and delicate situation.

But can this European based Corporate Media company claim WORLD WIDE client exclusivity offering up prices/rates/splits like that? Even when the job is asian based and not Europe based?

What should I do? What would you do?

Your thoughts?

Ryan Pyle
Skype: ryanpyle


  1. I find it amazing that no photographer out there has replied to this post. Even anonymously. There is so much of this going on in the industry, surely someone else has something they would like to add or speak out about.

    Come on folks. Dialog is useful.


  2. Personally, I think it has come to the point where corporate agents can take advantage of photographers in an unfair way because of our fear of the change the industry is taking. We fear that we have become so small that to keep up with the fast pace of the market we have to whore ourselves out to whatever publication contacts us and at whatever rate they are “kind” enough to give us, because if you don’t take it, they can contact the next photographer they find on flickr, lightstalkers, or in the google ads and give the job to them. I also think the feeling of loyalty we have to an agency that introduces us to a client is unnecessary. Have they done you a favor by taking 80% of a reasonable fee? Sure they introduced you to the client, and maybe they will use you for more work (with the 20/80 split of course), but you’re a resource, and an underpaid resource at that.
    By working directly with the client you are getting paid more, and the client, who may not require all the other services offered by the agent, can deal directly with you. They may also have had problems with the agency on their previous project, or perhaps they think they can get a better deal by working directly with you. So based mostly on the fact that you have no contract with the agent, and since they pretty much shafted you the first time, I say why not deal directly with the client.


    Chad Ingraham

  3. Chad raises a good point, and it is one that I have mentioned in the past as well, photography is a game of supply and demand.

    Chad, I agree with you that these agencies are ruthless and are all about the bottom line, and they'll use un-professional or in-experienced photographers just to save a few bucks. Flickr and LightStalkers are full of photographers willing to work for almost anything.

    So, are the days of photography as a profession finished? Will it become a pass time of the rich?

    It is an ever changing world, and this industry is getting turned on its head, and big business is learning how to turn big profits by stomping on the profession of photography.

    Should we all learn how to use video camera's? I know some of my colleagues are starting to make the switch now, but I don't think I could stomach it. I am old school, I am a die hard fan of the still image.

    Ryan Pyle
    Skype: ryanpyle



This is Ryan Pyle. I appreciate you adding a comment to my blog and I hope that this space has offered you something useful and interesting. I look forward to staying in touch and I'm glad you took the time to comment.

Ryan Pyle