Ask an Agent / What's a Chemistry Meeting?

Ask an Agent is a regular monthly column tackling all your dilemmas about the photography industry – the photography industry’s first Agony Aunt! If you have any questions you’d like to ask a photographers agent please send them to askanagent@lisapritchard.comQuestions can be on anything to do with the photography business, such as photoshoots, marketing, professional practice, pricing, contracts, legal stuff – anything!


© Andy Smith / Cassie at LPA

Dear Ask an Agent,

I recently quoted for a shoot for an ad campaign and have now been asked to go into the ad agency for a chemistry meeting. I wondered if you could tell me what this is it and what they will be expecting from me?

Andrew Sullivan, Photographer

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for your question. Well done on getting this far and let’s see if we can give you some advice to get to the next stage.

A chemistry meeting is part of the selection process when ad and design agencies are looking to commission a photographer for a shoot. It’s likely they are sold on the photography and now they want to check the collaboration will be successful on other levels. It is, to a certain extent, what is sounds like – an opportunity to check the ‘chemistry’ is right. The creatives wants to ensure they will gel with the photographer on a personal level, that they share the same vision for the project and can work together as a team. The meeting should also give them the opportunity to hear how the photographer will approach the job on a technical, creative and logistical level. And, which I’m sure you’ll agree is fair enough, the photographer who is the most reassuring is most likely to win the pitch.

It’s usual for the agency to invite a shortlist of around 3 in for a chemistry meeting, although I have experienced an agency asking to see 6 photographers! Sometimes the meeting will just be the art director or designer and the photographer and sometimes the art buyer , account director or project manager also want to get involved at this stage. If it’s the latter, and a complex shoot involving production, you might want to consider taking a producer along and your assistant.

One of our producers Cassie has been to a fair few chemistry meetings recently and so I asked her to give us a few dos and dont’s.

AS © Andy Smith


• Prepare. Make sure you are fully au fait with the brief and have had a good think about how you want to approach it on a creative and practical level before the meeting. Be ready to deliver your ideas clearly and positively. For example, if it’s a very tight schedule you could have 2 teams and set ups going on or , on a composite still life shoot, you might suggest shooting several separate elements and your retoucher being present on the shoot. It’s also an idea to take your portfolio and other relevant examples of your work. • Be confident. An air of authority about yourself and your work will make the agency feel more confident about hiring you. A chemistry meeting is not a time to just take instruction, the agency are waiting for you to tell them how the final images will be achieved. • Be enthusiastic. The creatives will be looking for someone to share their passion for the project and contribute their ideas.


• Just go along with the creative ideas if you feel their approach isn’t the best plan. Lesser experienced creatives might not realise that it’s not possible to simply turn up and shoot at a certain location without getting permission beforehand for example, or that getting a real tiger to walk around Primrose Hill might not be a good idea. It’s your job to come up with ideas or alternative suggestions to make the shoot run smoothly. • Be negative or find problems. It can be a good thing to flag up potential issues, but make sure you also have a solution. For example, you can’t shoot at a school in the week as it will be busy, but you can shoot there at the weekend. Or, you can’t guarantee it won’t rain, but generally you can compensate with lighting and still achieve what they need. If the shoot is heavily weather dependent you and your crew can be as flexible as possible near the shoot day and build in a weather contingency day. • Be late. You don’t want to give an initial bad impression by keeping people waiting. And you don’t want to start the meeting feeling flustered.

Generally you need to be communicative, collaborative, confident and helpful. It’s your time to shine. Hope that helps and you have a productive meeting.

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