I believe collaborations are very important at any stage of a photographer’s career. If you are just starting out they will lay the foundation of your portfolio and can help you land your first paid job. If you are an established professional, collaborations can help keep your work fresh and interesting, because, let’s face it, commercial work isn’t always fun and doesn’t always let you unleash your full potential.
If you are looking to expand your portfolio as a photographer/model/make up artist/stylist/retoucher there are some tips I can give you, as I have arranged many collabs in the past.
1. Find people to work with
The first step is to find people you want to work with and searching hashtags on Instagram is great for that! #ModelNYC #PhotographerLondon #StylistParis…just combine the job title of who you want to work with and their location. Bookmark a few interesting profiles, the more the better. You’d be surprised how many interesting and talented people you can discover just by looking at the right hashtags.
2. Approach people
Approach people that are within your range, with a similar level of experience and a style that fits with yours. If you have 300 followers on social media and your portfolio is still developing there’s very little chance that a well-known influencer with 300K (or even 30K) followers will consider your request to collaborate. Gradually as your profile grows you’ll be able to approach influencers and industry professionals. Remember collaborations need to be mutually beneficial for all involved.
If the person you want to work with has an email address in their profile—use it. DMs from strangers are often left unread for weeks. Plus, in an email you can properly describe your project, attach a mood board and links to your work. If a DM is the only means of contact make sure to leave a comment under one of their pictures, something along the lines of “Hi, I love your work and would love to collab! Check your DMs please”. This greatly increases your chances of getting a quick response.
3. Offer something of value
What can you offer to the other person that they could benefit from? It can be anything from an idea for the shoot to having sorted out the outfits, locations, makeup, props, or perhaps you can get the work published. Figure out what you can offer and lead with that, get straight to business and mention what you have to offer in your first message. I’m getting lots of requests for collabs and very rarely do I take those seriously, mainly because there’s very little thought or effort behind such requests.
If exposure and cross promotion is important to you, learn how to spot real influencers and fake ones. Often people buy hundreds of thousands of followers to look like a celebrity. Collabs with such ‘influencers’ won’t bring you any real exposure. If someone wants a freebie from you in exchange for a shoutout, do your research. It’s ok to ask for a screenshot of their stats.
4. Get more people involved
You can take your work to the next level by going the extra mile and reaching out to brands—perhaps an emerging fashion designer can provide outfits or accessories for your shoot, hotels and restaurants can provide you with locations. The more people are on board the more exposure your photos will get when everyone shares them. Try looking for smaller brands that don’t have a huge following yet, often they will be interested in collaborations as they need quality content for their social media.
5. Create a mood board
If you are planning to approach professional models, big-name influencers and brands a mood board can be very helpful. Hotels in particular like to see what style of images you are looking to create (to see whether your vision is in line with their brand). You can attach reference images to the email or present them more neatly in a PDF file. Hotels get hundreds of collaboration requests they have to deal with—a well-presented mood board could help set you apart as a professional who takes their work seriously.
6. Agree on the details
Agree on all the details BEFORE the shoot to minimise potential conflicts. Will the model get raw files or only edited photos? Who will select images for retouching? How many pictures will be retouched? Don’t just assume these things and then go demand something after the shoot. If something isn’t clear just ask to double check and get things in writing. ⠀
7. Give credit
Always give credit to everyone involved. This seems like an obvious one to me but you’ve no idea how many people share pictures in their portfolio or on social media which are taken from a collaborative shoot without giving any credit to people involved. That’s just bad manners, let’s leave it at that.
About the creator
Alina is a photographer and content creator based in London. She started her photography business Girl who shoots in 2017 after years working freelance as a cinematographer for music videos and documentaries. She now specialises in editorial and fashion shoots, as well as studio and live music photography.
Alina uses Affinity Photo to do much of her retouching work.