After the success of my earlier blog about shooting 101: collaborations (Designers) ; I wanted to write a piece about contacting models or designers and my experiences with it.
First of all: I can only speak about how I approach models or how I appreciate being approached as photographer and based on the conversations I had with models and fellow photographers. My word isn't law but it might still be interesting to read for those who are just starting out or who want a more in depth look at how it goes.
Just like contacting designers to collaborate (or anyone else) a good first impression can make all the difference; be it for working together, be it for future references or teaming up or when being recommended. You never know how a ball can roll.
When you contact someone - no matter why - it's always good to keep in mind you're the asking party. You are asking them to make time free for you based on a mutual benefit of creating. However: just like contacting designers, a model or photographer might decline for many reasons as well.
How to start:
No matter if you're starting out or already an established name, it's always healthy to keep your two foot on the ground. We all have a website or social media right now with at least a short description and I usually go check for those first. Does it say they're open for tf (time for)/unpaid work? Does it say limited collaborations? Does it say completely no unpaid work? Do they have somewhere a pinned post or maybe a header stating they're op for certain services? Are they a professional or a hobbyist? Where are you experience wise?
When reaching out to certain models or photographers, it's always good to go through their page (in case you don't know them yet or just discovered them) before contacting them asking to collaborate and also see what you offer portfolio wise. And what your experience is.
- Communication what (not) to do.
Everything rises and falls with clear communication. Start with your research. Always be polite.
Asking is free, however: don't pretend like you didn't see the "no collabs" if you read it. You can mention you saw they don't but you still wanted to inquire. And if you really want it so badly, make up your mind if you want it bad enough to pay for it.
Don't send a generic message. We can séé it when you just copy paste and spam. And messages often don't "disappear". I had once the same message twice over the course of a few months. Needless to say, I think if you want to work with someone: contact the person directly. Don't "save time" by hitting message-and-run.
Include your portfolio. Which that I actually mean a portfolio.
Don't send more then 10 photos, even preferable 5 photos. Only your best. And have some variety as well. We don't want to dig through a whole page to see what you got. It's a fast world and we all like to know quick what we're up too.
Models: full body, 3/4, headshot(s). So we can see what you have to offer as model to us photographers. Make sure they're also up to date. We don't care about shots older then a year because a body and person changes. It you're chameleon and change your appearance and/or hair a lot or have weight gain/loss, be clear about that too. As well as things like (big) tattoos and where. I for example prefer to have no tattoos as it interferes with the style of my work and I prefer not to edit out pieces of art on someone their skin (as well as I simply don't have the time in collabs to do such an intensive retouching job).
Photographers: include 5 to 10 photos. If you're reaching out to a model, make sure you add modeling photos and not animals or landscapes. Try to keep it coherent as well, if you're still starting out and find your style include the shots you want to do with a model. Don't send glamour when you want to do fantasy & vice versa.
Including your social media(s) and/or facebook or best off: a website. If they want to see more they will check but it's always good to know who and what is contacting us right away.
In case you get a:
NO and they reply they aren't interested or have no time: send a polite message back, keep it short & strong and thank them for getting back to you. No need to get bitchy about it because they really might not have the time or interest. But who knows what the future holds ... However, do not keep your hopes up either: they might be doing this professionally which doesn't allow them to accept any morecollabs out of various reasons or preferences. It's all about getting back to communication.
If they reply with their rates: don't ever communicate back "you're willing to work for free for them though!". It's very rude and disrespectfull and showing you're not even appreciating their art. If they wanted to work for free for you, they would have said in the beginning. If you want it so badly, paying for a service is worth it. If you are an aspiring model and you want to build a portfolio with really that style and photographer ... this speaks for itself.
In these days photography is so widly accessible it's often a grey zone but photography is also still an industry. While there are plenty out there willing to work for free ... there are also those who have it as a job. Respect that and you will come a long way.
When people say no: often this is nothing personal and there can be many reasons for their decision. Simply don't argue about it and always keep polite. Don't push it. As said: you're asking someone to offer their time and material up for free. For a stranger. And no, a facebook frienship doesn't count!
Hope this gave some insight! Below are some more pointers that might help you out to reach to (new) people to work with and to avoid disappointment or misunderstandings in anyway.
If they say YES: discuss, discuss, discuss! Be clear on what you want from all parties involved, which styles, which themes, which delivery dates, are there any expenses you want/can share, what material do the model and/or photographer have to bring to set? Be sure to work inside the box you discussed: if you want to experiment, be clear. Make sure its worth the time of everyone involved.
For photographers: make sure to actually deliver the photos. And not like 6 months later or worse. It's useless for the model(s) and/or team members. If you don't have time to edit something within at least within 2 or max 3 weeks ... I'm from the strong opinion you shouldn't be shooting at all. Don't waste time. Or you let it retouch by someone else. Just deliver at least something.
For models: make sure you are "presentable" as a model. Don't lie about height or weight or appearance. Communicate on what you have to bring to set clothing wise & make-up. Do your legs or armpits needs to be shaved or not? You have colored hair = make sure your roots are done. There is a make-up artist on set? Don't come with makeup.
HAVE FUN! I cannot stress this enough. Collaborations are hard work for everyone but they should be a mutual benefit and a good time anyway!
Some good pointers to keep in mind when reaching out:
- What is your style?
There is no point in messaging someone who has a certain specialisation already when your specialisation is something completely else. For example, if you're a glamour and bikini model, it's difficult to almost impossible to convince a fantasy or art photographer that you're a good fit for their portfolio because it's such a big diversity.
If you have a certain style and you want to break free; there are two options:
1. Find model/photographers in that style who might be interested despite your lack of portfolio in that style, you can always explain them and maybe they're up to a challenge.
2. If you're already an established model/photographer and you want a certain level of expertise and quality, you might want to consider paying for the service.
- Investments: Why, how & when?
If you're starting out or even when you're a more established photographer/model: no pay, no gain. Its a simple as that. It can be paying for a service, renting out that one specific costume you want, paying for shipping costs and import taxes, buying make-up or taking a make-up course, getting that one dress out the second hand store, traveling to a new place, going to business meetings or events, ... there is so much you can do. Investing in a portfolio always comes around. And if you're doing it as a hobby ... approach it as a hobby as well.
So while the last sentence above might be a bit bluntly put, it's also the truth for my next point: if you're a hobbyist ... don't expect professional results.
Its a choice you make, if you want to do it just for fun ... just don't expect someone who's doing it more serious as aspiring professional or a professional to work for free. Thats a combination of points "Whats your style?" & ''Investments". There is NOTHING wrong with doing it for fun, its how I started. My hobby escalated. But also repeating one of my first points in this blog: keep your two feet on the ground. It will always bring you further because nobody likes someone who's full of him/herself.
That doesn't mean that if you want to go next level, you can't. It might require a bit of an investment and as portrait photographer myself; it's definitely worth to have a professional portrait taken. For now, for later, for your kids and grandkids. But thats for another blog.
And last but not least:
I can say so much about collaborations, but most of all it's important to keep three pointers in mind: Communication, Respect & Fun. Collaborations are very hard work but it's also one of the most rewarding things for yourself and your portfolio. Have fun with it. Enjoy the ride. Enjoy the moments. Work hard but laugh even more. And go with the flow. We all start somewhere.
Again, these are just my opinions and experiences. Some people might do it different but you can never go wrong with respectfully approaching and communicating with anyone. Just do that alone and you will come a long way. Needless to say why ... :)