Good things happen to those who stop waiting and work hard instead. As a photographer, you probably dream of waking up one day to a message from your favorite brand requesting a collaboration with you. You’re not alone, hundreds of millions of photographers around the world share that same hope. Even those with an outstanding photography website and remarkable social activity are likely to fall short of this dream unless they start taking action.
Putting together a collaboration proposal might sound daunting, especially if you have never worked on such a project before. This is why we have written down some guidelines to help you take the first steps towards this unfamiliar territory. From concept to completion, here is everything you need to know about how to reach out to brands as a photographer.
Curate your content
It’s no secret that the identity of photographers lies in the images that they create. Developing a unique style is the one thing that can truly set you apart from the crowd. This originality will become one of the major players in your success throughout this journey. A main objective of brands is to be perceived as unique. Because of this, they are more likely to collaborate with photographers who have set their work apart from the rest.
Makes sense, right? This is why you shouldn’t be in a rush to start reaching out to brands before you have developed your style and high-quality portfolio. If you try to get ahead of yourself, this will only result in missed opportunities and frustration. Be the turtle in a world full of unoriginal rabbits.
Build your online presence
Collaborations between brands and photographers usually take place on social media, and most commonly on Instagram. This is primarily because Instagram is the preferred social media channel for the majority of photographers. As a result, the strongest photo communities are found on this platform. By using this same platforms for the collaborations, brands can combine the strength of their follower base with that of the photographer they are working with.
Building an engaged community around your work is the second major thing you should do before you start contacting brands. Notice that we use the term ‘engaged community,’ rather than ‘big community’. Brands are interested in photographers with active audiences, rather than those with a large, unengaged follower base.
In order to build a powerful community, you will need to dedicate a significant amount of time and effort to communicating with your audience and sharing interesting content. Creating original images will make this step significantly simpler, as users will be able to easily associate your work with your name. Another way to improve your social engagement is by using your professional photographer website and its SEO capabilities to increase the number of people who reach your channels.
Create a media kit
Once you have built a strong portfolio and community, it’s time to put it on (digital) paper. A media kit is the document that sums up your achievements. That is, key stats of your website and social media, noteworthy commissions and clients, and examples of previous collaborations. A brief introduction to your journey as a photographer is also a great addition. Just like your “About Me” page, this section will allow people to connect to you and your work in a deeper way.
Essentially, a media kit is a visual and straightforward explanation of why a brand should work with you. You can see it as a formal way to say “I am great and we could be so amazing together”. Needless to say, this kit is a core piece of your brand and, as such, it should embody your online presence, style, and tone.
Media kits are commonly sent as interactive files attached to the first-contact email. However, you might want to consider including an up-to-date version of it as a hidden page on your website. This will allow you to grant access to it only to those with the URL. By doing so, brands will have an additional way to view your work and will be able to see your latest stats at any time.
Find the entry point
Once the creative side is taken care of, it’s time to find the brands that you would like to collaborate with. Aim high, but keep your feet on the ground. Start by doing some research to gather information about which kinds of companies are collaborating with photographers that produce work similar to your style. It’s also a good practice to see which companies partner with the photographers that you follow are partnering with. Two amazing examples of Wix photographers who regularly work with well-known brands include travel photographer Nikk La and Sony ambassador Albert Dros.
Initially, you should focus on medium-sized brands – the ones that typically have around 100k followers. This will increase your chance of success and help you avoid frustration early on. Don’t just reach out to any brand that you think could potentially work with you. Make sure that it is the right fit and that a collaboration can be beneficial for both of you. Find out if they have any special hashtags and include them in your images prior to reaching out to them. When it comes to who to reach out, you should look for their press contact email or send them a private message on social media asking for the correct email address to write to.
Write a pitch email
It’s showtime! Reaching out to brands as a photographer can be quite nerve-racking at first. However, you can ease your stress as you will learn how to craft great pitch emails in no time. You’ll want to keep these initial messages short and straight-to-the-point. There are two main reasons behind this: business people receive hundreds of emails every day, and everything you want them to know is already in your media kit.
Your pitch email should start with a very brief introduction of yourself, followed by another short paragraph about why you want to collaborate with them. Focus on what makes your work unique and how their brand can benefit from it. Don’t forget to include links to your portfolio and social media. They’ll want to see what you can do before they bother to read what you have to say.
This initial message should also contain a few lines about the type of collaboration that you’re proposing. Maybe you’re thinking about an Instagram Stories takeover or getting a free product in exchange of mentioning it on your social channels. If you choose to do so, make sure to mention that you are open to hearing other ideas. While the initial plan is likely to change significantly before a deal is actually signed, it will give a more clear vision of your idea as well as show professionalism. Speaking of which, having a personalized inbox, a stunning photography logo, and a formal signature are easy ways to improve how brands perceive your pitch emails.
There may actually be some truth in the saying “good things come to those who wait”. Once you have reached out to a brand, it might be some time before you hear back. Even then, it can take even longer to finally reach an agreement on the terms of the collaboration and move forward with it. Usually, the reason behind this delay is the number of people involved in the in-house conversation. From the person you contacted to designers, media creators, and partnership managers, so many departments will be involved in this decision.
During these waiting periods, you should check-in regularly to make sure that the collaboration has not fallen through the cracks. Sending reminders and follow-ups shows proactivity. Doing so will give you some additional points in the eyes of those answering the emails. Finding the balance between waiting too much and not appearing desperate will be key to moving on with the process.
Learn from the experience
You should be able to learn at least one lesson from each time you reach out to a bran. Regardless if the collaboration moves forward or not. In addition to the things that you can detect on your own, make sure to ask for feedback. If they say no, ask about what they look for in photographers that they have already chosen to partner with. If the collaboration does happen, take some time afterward to think about what you can improve on for future projects.