Q&A with Photo Consultants Patti and Lisa

January 11, 2018

By Ian Spanier

© Will Sanders

For photographers when it comes to our own work it’s often a challenge to remove ourselves from the image. Ansel Adams put it best when he stated, “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.” Therein lies the problem- we often can’t remove ourselves as a part of the image when it comes to editing. As we try to make sense of what we think our potential clients want to see in our portfolios a very useful and vital collaboration has grown over the years.

Working with a photography consultant can often bridge the gap between the photographers and those potential clients out there. As photographers, we can try to know the trends but, let’s face it- far too often we are the outsiders.

Straight off the streets of New York and Los Angeles (now both live in Los Angeles) the team of Patti Silverstein and Lisa Thackaberry joined forces to help us lost souls shed some light. This month, we get a glimpse into their world and how they’ve bridged that gap from photographer to client:

IS: Tell us a bit about who you are, some of your work history, and how/when you came to form Patti & Lisa

Patti: I started at a celebrity stock agency, selling stock images and also representing a few of their photographers for assignment work. I eventually went off on my own to represent commercial photographers and then fine art photographers. As I was transitioning out of commercial representation, I started editing for photographers. After moving to Los Angeles I met Lisa who was also editing and we decided it would be great to team up.

Lisa: Most of my career was as a magazine photo editor for publications including LA Magazine, LA Times Sunday magazine, Home, GQ and Angeleno. I had my own repping agency for 6 years but missed the creative side so returned to photo editing. Since leaving magazines I’ve worked on book projects, teach a couple of photography classes at Art Center in Pasadena and edit for photographers. When Patti and I met a couple years ago we realized we were doing the same work and wanted to collaborate.

IS: What made you all ultimately decide to move away from the client side to consulting?

Patti: The commercial business was changing drastically and I knew my passion was really helping and guiding photographers with their visual presentations.

Lisa: I was laid off during the recession and decided to start exploring book editing. I fell into consulting, photographers that I knew started asking me to help out. I discovered I really enjoyed it and was a natural extension of teaching. I was definitely ready for the transition.

IS: When it comes to editing your own work, many, if not most photographers find it to be a difficult task to say the least. What is your mentality or should we call it your methodology when it comes to working with the photographer, and ultimately creating an edit of their work?

Patti: It is a difficult task for photographers because they tend to want to show everything, plus they are emotionally attached to many of their images. The most important part of the process is letting the photographer talk about their work and listening very carefully. Photographers know what they want to say so our job is to make sure the edited body of work actually communicates those intentions. Once we are clear about the message and identifying the best images, then explore the most dynamic sequencing based on narrative, composition, color palette etc. This is the creative part and where an artist can stand out to distinguish themselves.

IS: How do you see the photography industry has changed in the time you have moved around the business? And as a result, what has changed in the way you work with your clients?

Lisa: Where to begin! Yes, there has been quite a bit of change over the years. How and where to get clients and overall budgets have changed, there are so many more photographers vying for the small amount of jobs available. It used to be that you called on magazines, advertising agencies or design firms. Now you have to really think beyond that and cast a much wider client net. Photographers who succeed today must be able to produce content and not just execute jobs.

IS: Photographer’s often don’t see the value in a consultant, sure when they are starting out there’s uncertainty about how to put a portfolio together, even seasoned pros can use some help from time to time. Do you have an elevator pitch of why and how working with a consultant can aid photographers of all levels?

Patti: For all stages of a photographer’s career it helps to have fresh eyes look at the work they are showing. Emerging photographers need help get them going on the path that fits them best. For seasoned photographers, they’ve been looking at their images for a long time and possibly have gotten stuck in a rut. It’s exciting to discover new avenues and interests and breathe new life into established bodies of work. We can definitely help with that.

IS: If you were to give one piece of advice to photographers- what would it be?

Lisa: Stay true to who you are and where your passions are, don’t try to become something you’re not. Be prepared to work hard and to be open to all possibilities. Have purpose beyond making a living, the best photographers of any generation always had this but it’s crucial now.

IS: Finally, what’s the future hold for Patti & Lisa?

Patti: We want to continue to grow and expand as the industry changes staying as current as we can with trends and open to new opportunities where our editing skills can be utilized. We are also excited about are upcoming editing workshops with APA and LACP and look forward to doing more.

Go see what Patti and Lisa are up to at