Ask an Agent / Q&A Special / Great Eastern Bear

Lisa Portrait This week LPA hosted a Q&A session at the Great Eastern Bear in conjunction with our LPA Futures 2013 exhibition.

The theme of the evening was photography professional practice, a subject close to our hearts as agents. The photography industry is so competitive that only the super professional photographers are likely to succeed. Things like a badly edited folio, not having the right insurance or a proper set of business terms could be seriously detrimental to your careers.

We gathered a panel of industry experts from the fields of advertising, design, shoot production, insurance and of course photographers agents to tackle 5 preselected questions.

So for this weeks Ask an Agent we thought we’d share just a few of the pearls of wisdom from the session.

The panel:

Danielle Bouchard       Production / LPA Tom Carson              Managing Director / Williamson Carson Sarah Knight                          Senior Project Manager & Producer / WCRS Lisa Pritchard                         Founder / LPA Paul West                              Partner / Form

The Q&A’s:

Question One:

When you need to find a commercial photographer for an assignment, where are you most likely to look?  Do you use directory services like Le Book, Workbook, Wonderful Machine, Dripbook, Agency Access etc, and if so, which ones do you use most often?

Erika Szostak

Paul said he rarely uses directories, the thing that works for him is receiving a PDF of images by email, but with an image that really ‘blows your brains out’, or meeting the actual photographer and being inspired by them.

Sarah agreed, it’s important to meet the photographer, usually by way of a folio meeting. The art directors in ad agencies particularly like meeting with photographers as it’s them that will be collaborating on a potential project. They love seeing personal work too. She also mentioned that she quite likes a mailer.

Lisa said there’s rarely one directory that is the solution, it’s more about generally being ‘out there’ and in the forefront of people’s minds for when a suitable commission comes along. Whether this is by being in the trade press or blogs with your work, having an exhibition, sending a mailer or an email, showing your folio, you need to adopt an all round proactive marketing approach.

But whatever you do, get your brand right first as your just wasting your time with any marketing strategy, something that Paul heartily agrees with as a designer.


Question Two:

If you are organising an outdoor shoot is it advisable to get weather insurance? 

Katie Higson

Tom said it’s very rare that people get weather insurance and the last time he sold weather insurance was about 15 years ago. The cost is usually prohibitive to clients, it’s around 30% of the production costs.

Dani said she’s never had to cancel a shoot because of weather, photographers can usually work around it. It usually works out cheaper to postpone the shoot and pay a smaller percentage of cancellation fees to crew. We always try to work with flexible crew and suppliers at LPA so we can all pull together to get the shots. If a shoot is very weather dependent it's worth building in a contingency weather day too.

Lisa said she’s never known a shoot to be cancelled because of weather either in 25 years ( famous last words!). The only time she’s had a shoot cancelled was because of the ash cloud grounding flights but that was slightly different. She’s produced many ‘summer beach’ shoots in November in the UK (usually shoots that were meant to be shot in August but were delayed for one reason or an another) where the client has been worried about the weather. The photographer has always somehow made them look like a summer day, the models and crew suffer a bit though!

Sarah agreed, she’s had shoots where you need nice weather and it’s been raining most of the day, but there is usually a half an hour or so when the weather breaks and you can get the shot.

sun © Nick Daly


Question Three:

What should be the first steps for a fairly experienced young photographer who is coming to London from a different city or country to establish themselves if they do not have any connections in London and not really interesting in assisting anymore?

Teresa Haszprunarova

Sarah said, if you want to get work from advertising agencies the first thing is to pull together the right contact details at the agencies (e.g the art buyers) and send them an email.  She always looks at emails and will get in touch if it something that she is looking for.

Lisa said make contact with people, not just with potential clients but with peers as well. Attend events, (just as Teresa was doing at the Q&A) join associations, network on social media. Immerse yourself in the industry.

And when you are approaching potential commissioners, give it some thought. At the end of the day we are talking about customers buying a product as in any business. Make sure the product (your photography and your brand) is right for the market you are offering it to, and also make sure you are offering it to the right market. Devise a proper marketing plan. If you can’t shout about your work who will? Don’t be shy!

Paul agreed about the brand. Don’t forget you are likely to be approaching highly visual people (e.g designers). The whole look and feel needs to be right, from the typeface to the layout (of a PDF for example). Don’t be annoying and send through a 7 MB file.  Paul also said he likes blogs as they can be interesting and give more background to the photographer, therefore making them more memorable.

Dani agreed and recalls one photographers who got a job because the behind the scenes shots on his blog looked so much fun.


Question Four:

What is the best portfolio format (type/size) that you would recommend me to go for and do you have any further ideas/suggestions on presentation of books for clients?

Andrew Fox

Sarah and Paul agreed that it’s nice to see a proper printed folio rather than digital images, although an iPad is good to show additional work and maybe moving image.

Lisa showed a couple of the LPA folios as examples of how it should be done, Julian Calverley’s and Rowan Fee’s.


Amongst her tips were:

  • Invest in a good folio case , they can be expensive but it’s a small investment in the big scheme of things. A3 or A3 plus is a good size.


  • Avoid acetate sleeves as they scratch and are reflective, get some really good prints.


  • Include relevant contact details in the folio: name, website, where to want to folio to go back to, perhaps a client list or thumbnails in back with captions, like an index.


  • Really think about the edit, the folio should have a beginning a middle and an end. The work should be consistent and have a strong voice.


Sarah agreed with the edit, don’t show too many of the same images. 25 – 50 images is about right. Get feedback from as many people as possible about your folio – e.g, art buyers, designers , art directors and agents – they’ll be pretty honest.

Lisa cheekily chipped in with the fact that LPA are now offering portfolio reviews.


Question Five:

Who should have production insurance: the photographer, the producer or the agent?

Katherine Thompson

Tom said the bottom line is who will get sued if things goes wrong, it’s them that should have the insurance.

Sarah felt it was a grey area, but the client will come to them if something goes wrong, as the contractual agreement is between the agency and the client.

Lisa agreed that its all about the paper trail and the contracts, so in turn the agent or the producer would have the contract with the agency and is therefore potentially liable? LPA has full production insurance just in case.

Dani mentioned that certain insurance, i.e public liability is necessary before you can confirm locations.

But it’s something photographers without agents need to be aware of, you can have a water tight set of business terms to cover yourself for the unexpected and look into insurance to cover things like digital files, props, models, non appearance etc. You can charge it back in your estimates and it will be a percentage of your total costs of productions per year.

And to conclude, Tom recaps a story when a stylist ironed a skirt on a model. Two years later the case is still in court as the stylist didn’t have insurance! Tree -

So there we have it, everyone agreed the evening was a real success and it was great to have so much interaction and positive feedback from the packed room. We might even do some more, so watch this space.