Photographers Dining Club / The Proud Archivist / Getting Commissioned
Last Thursday Lisa hosted a panel discussion on 'Getting Commissioned' at brilliant new venture The Photographers Dining Club with an A-list of industry guests.
Set at the smart venue The Proud Archivist on Regents Canal, this is the third Photographers Dining Club event, a concept founded by photographer and event organiser Anton. Each event has limited seating to ensure an intimate feel, focuses on a particular theme and invites eminent figures from the business to share their insights and experiences and provoke discussion. Originally titled Start up Photo Talks & Dining Club the event has now been rebranded to the simply Photographers Dining Club, and LPA are proud to announce that they are now an official partner.
Kicking off with talks by legendary photographers David Stewart, Chris Floyd and Harry Borden, participants then enjoyed a two course dinner before sitting back to listen to a fascinating Q&A session. Joining the three photographers on the panel were influential commissioners Emma Bowkett, photo editor at the Financial Times FT Weekend Magazine, plus senior art buyers from two of London's top advertising agencies, Christine De Blangy from Leo Burnett and Daniel Moorey from Adam & Eve DDB.
This is what Lisa had to say about the evening. "I was having such a great time at the bar beforehand, catching up with the panel and some other familiar faces, that I almost forgot I was there to host a Q&A discussion with the industry's finest! But the night just got better really. For me it was a pleasure to look at some amazing images and hear the stories from the three photographers in the talks before the Q&A session, as an agent you can sometimes get side tracked with estimates, logistics of shoots and the day to day running of a business. It’s also really important I think to get a true picture of the industry by networking with a wider circle of photographers, and of course it was a privilege to hear what these high profile guests had to say, if they didn’t have the answers to 'getting commissioned’ I don’t know who does."
The panel, from left to right: Photographers Agent Lisa Pritchard, Photographer David Stewart, Photographer Chris Floyd, Head of print Daniel Moorey from Adam & Eve DDB, Photo Editor Emma Bowkett from the Financial Times Weekend Magazine, Photographer Harry Borden and Art Buyer Christine de Blangy from Leo Burnett.
After a delicious dinner and a couple of glasses of fine wine the panel then tackled some preselected questions posed by the audience.
Here’s just a few snippets from the evening...
Question One: What do you think is the most effective approach to getting commissioned? A: Approaching clients directly with fully formed ideas the client just needs to find space and budget for. B: Approaching clients directly with your portfolio and letting them know you're available for commissions of their choice. C: Putting work out there through your own channels and waiting for clients to contact you. Andy Waterman
What had already become apparent from the photographers points of view in their talks is that if you are passionate and motivated by what you do, you create your own luck. It’s not really so much about having a planned marketing approach when it comes to getting commissioned. Harry talked about how a love for the image is far more important than hunting for a commission, that should follow naturally. David expressed how important personal work was and Chris demonstrated with examples how most of his commissions were a direct result of a personal project.
But this was an interesting question in terms of how it differs in the worlds of editorial and advertising, as it turned out it’s all pretty similar. Emma is happy to see nascent ideas but a folio is ‘incredibly important’ to see. Daniel and Christine agreed that art directors had their own ideas for campaigns of course but liked to see a photographers ideas too as inspiration and also just to see how the photographer looks at the world. Christine added that it’s a no no to pad your work out with images that aren’t your strongest and that having a good agent is worth its weight in gold- we’d agree with that!
This led us nicely onto the next question ... Question Two:To specialise or not. When viewing a folio would you like to see a variety of work or only the most relevant images? Travis Hodges
Both David and Chris agreed that you should pick a body of work that follows a narrative, it’s important for there to be consistency and a voice coming through strongly. Daniel also added that a tone can unify a book regardless of subject matter, but that also seeing commissions is a must. Lisa asked Emma if advertising commissions put her off and vice versa to Daniel and Christine, the answer was a resolute no.
Question Three: Getting commissions isn't just about attracting clients attention, can you clarify what happens at the estimating stage? Do you get several quotes and then choose which photographer to go with based on cost? Jonathan Nixon
Christine admitted that she looks at quotes fairly and is happy to push back on the client if the budget doesn’t cover what is being asked for. Daniel expressed that content is key, and due to growth in mediums more was being asked for. Emma said there was often a flat day rate in editorial but not always. And David confessed that he doesn’t always walk away from low budgets if it's an interesting project it could be worth doing for the awards.
Question Four: There's an old adage or truism in business that people buy from people. So, should photographers be thinking about building productive relationships with commissioners rather than expecting to make a pitch based on their portfolio, abilities, skills, experience, equipment, contacts etc? Alec Leggat
Harry certainly thinks it's worth time investing in relationships with commissioners. The panel also all agreed that it’s important to provide a high level of customer service and be flexible, people do buy from people so be nice and surround yourself with helpful people that are interested in meeting a clients needs, whether that’s your assistant, your agent or your producer.
And finally Question Five: If you can give us one tip or insider bit of information to get more commissions what would it be? Christopher Everard
Christine mentioned agents again (hoorah!), as it gives faith at the commissioning stage. (apologies for the hard sell put if you don’t have an agent and need help with a commission check out our ‘Pop Up Agent’ service here!) Chris's tip is to always research your subject to get the most out of your shoot, although interestingly Harry says the opposite, he doesn’t like to do any research on his subjects.
And finally Daniel has a word of warning, always deliver, you're only as good as your last shoot!
Prizes were given out at the end of the evening to those who asked the best questions, including a personal portfolio review with Lisa Pritchard, copies of Hungry Eye magazine, and a prints from Metro Imaging. There were also fun Moo stickers for participants to personalise and free Field Notes notebooks to write down handy tips learnt from the pro's. Everyone agreed that the evening was a runaway success, giving everyone a chance to share and connect, bringing together photographers and commissioners and tackling such a pertinent subject as Getting Commissioned.
And a final word from Lisa…
"I came away thinking what a lovely relaxed, convivial, sharing kind of evening it was. Not only was it an opportunity to hear it straight from the experts but also the chance for photographers to meet with peers, share experiences and connect. Chatting to people at the event, it was evident that there is a real need for these kinds of evenings in the photographic community, several mourning the old days when photographers bumped into each other at Metro when waiting for their film to be developed or more recently at the former AOP gallery. The Photographers Dining Club is certainly filling a gap here. Well done to Anton for coming up with the idea and I’m definitely looking forward to being involved in future events, so watch this space!"
Look out for Lisa's Ask an Agent column later this month where she'll answer the above questions too. "I was a bit too busy playing David Dimbleby to say as much as I wanted to on the night!"
If you'd like more information on Photographers Dining Club please visit www.lotsoflittleideas.com. You can join the mailing list to be notified of upcoming events first, which might not be a bad idea as this event was sold out in 2 hours!
All images of event copyright of Chris Brock