Lisa Pritchard, Photography Agency Owner
Lisa Pritchard opened her own photography agency after years of building experience in the industry and developing her own contacts. She spoke to us about what the day to day work involves.
I am originally from a small village in Warwickshire. I moved to London when I was 18. I now work in Covent Garden, and live in London and the New Forest.
What job do you do?
I run photography agency LPA (Lisa Pritchard Agency). We are photographers' agents and shoot producers. I also write books, conduct portfolio reviews to photographers without agents and do some guest speaking.
What qualifications do you have?
I actually have a B.A in Classics, from UCL, London University. So, nothing to do with photography. Although, strangely the Latin and Ancient Greek does come in handy sometimes!
How did you become a Photographers' Agent?
At the time I do think it was easier to land an interesting job (25 years ago!) I simply applied for a job I saw in the Media Guardian. I was just looking for any interesting job in the creative industry really as I had no clue what I wanted to do, but I saw myself as more ‘creative’ than ‘suit’ and loved art at school.
I knew I didn’t want to be an archaeologist or Latin teacher anyway. I actually fancied working in an advertising agency originally.
I got a job at a place called Image Bank which was a photo library and is now part of Getty Images. This gave me a good grounding of the world of commercial photography and understanding of who buys stock photography. This came in handy when I became a photographers agent as it’s the same people that commission photography.
It helped me continue to build up my list of contacts in the advertising and design industries.
After four happy years here, I saw another job advertised in Campaign magazine for a photographers' agent. The photographers were more pack shot photographers, which was a good initial learning curve, seeing photographers shoot stuff from scratch to a brief. It helped me continue to build up my list of contacts in the advertising and design industries. I also learnt about pricing for bespoke photography and organising a shoot and the whole process.
My first big break however, in terms of representing photographers, came when I was offered a job representing some well-known photojournalists (including Tom Stoddart and Zed Nelson amongst others) at a place called Independent Photographers Group (sadly now also sold to a bigger company).
So over the years I built up my experience and contacts and also a good eye for photography. Then finally I set up my own agency in my early 30’s, when I felt I knew just enough to break out on my own.
These days I think you need to try and get a few good work experience references down on your CV to be given the same breaks. However hard work and building a good reputation usually pays off once you are on the ladder!
What do you do for your job?
Now I run the day to day of my agency, overseeing my team of four, keeping in touch with all the 15 photographers we represent. I’m always thinking of ideas to move the agency forward and keep us up there as one of the U.K’s leading agents.
In one week I can be doing anything from catching up with a photographer we represent to chat about their new project to meeting with a new possible photographer to sign. I could be checking a shoot contract, advising on usage fees or advising on legal obligations or shoot suppliers for a shoot.
I could be meeting one of my contacts in an advertising or design agency to update them, interviewing for new staff or attending a meeting with fellow agents or other associations I’m a member of. Sometimes I’m judging a photography award, writing for the LPA blog or one of my books, analysing our marketing tactics- the list goes on really!
As a photographers' agent, in general a lot of our time is spent on promoting our photographers in various ways.
As a photographers' agent, in general a lot of our time is spent on promoting our photographers in various ways. This includes taking their portfolios to advertising and design agencies, being active on social media and proactive with digital marketing and hosting events and competitions to gain recognition and keep my agency in the limelight. We also work closely with our photography roster in terms of developing their portfolios, and editing their work for our website and blog and other marketing tools.
The other main side of our business is quoting and bidding for jobs and also shoot production. In terms of the estimates, when we receive a brief from an agency we then put all the costs together for the shoot. This could be anything from a glass of whiskey on a bar, to a tractor in a field, to a group of friends on an exotic beach!
We work mostly with advertising and design agencies. The end client is often a big global brand, but our photographers shoot for all different types of clients as well - from small start-ups to charities to cookbook publishers.
When bidding for a job, we then often also put a presentation together, or a treatment as it is known, of relevant images from the photographer and how they will approach the shoot. It’s a competitive industry and often we are ‘bidding’ against several other photographers. After a period of negotiation and considering contracts and timelines, if we are lucky enough to win the job we then produce the shoot.
What is the best thing about your job?
Tricky, as even though I’ve been doing this job for years, there are many aspects I love and I can’t possibly choose one.
I still get a buzz when a new brief comes in
I love the fact that I get to spend a lot of my time looking at so many brilliant images. I still get a buzz when a new brief comes in and an even bigger one when one of my photographers gets the job.
I also really enjoy discovering new photography talent. We actually run a competition every two years called LPA Futures to do just that.
And the worst thing?
Hmmm, maybe a client with an unrealistic shoot budget and time frame and an unreasonable contract. It’s better to turn work away sometimes than accept one on terms you feel uncomfortable with.
But also it’s a tough one when one of our photographers has a quiet period, despite producing strong personal work or doesn’t get a job when we thought they were so perfect for it. It can be a very unpredictable career being a professional photographer and it’s also very competitive.
How do I become a photographers' agent.
As I mentioned above, the best thing to do is really to try and get some relevant work experience and be on the look-out for a job or an opportunity! It’s a rather niche little industry and there aren’t that many photographers' agents. I had no idea you could be one, almost until I was one!
You could try and get some experience or a junior job with either a photographers' agent or also a related job, such as in art buying with an advertising agency or picture editing on a magazine.
The best thing to do is really to try and get some relevant work experience and be on the look-out for a job or an opportunity
You could even get experience working with a particular photographer and set yourself up as an agent. However as there are so many things to learn, and so many mistakes to be made if you don’t know what you are doing, this isn’t the easiest route. You might be best starting off as the photographers personal assistant.
When I look to employ people at entry level I do look for relevant experience but also something to prove they are interested in the visual world, or the world of branding and communications or even PR, as that is all relevant. Understanding what a photographers' agent does is even more of a bonus!
You don’t necessarily need a degree in photography, I certainly didn’t have one. Although obviously that does demonstrate an interest in the world of photography. Then once you get the chance of an interview, the most important thing is the right personality fit and an enthusiastic, genuine attitude.
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