I’ve always discouraged fellow bloggers from working with just anyone that owns a camera but I thought that it was about time that I shared my experience of how I came to find the right photographers. As a side note, whilst I realise that a lot of the posts on here are becoming a lot more blogger-related than general fashion, this one does let you in on a little tip I have to keep my images more on the ‘editorial’ side than an OOTD shot.

That magic portfolio

For the sake of standardisation, let’s just assume that you like my blog and Instagram and the kind of shots and feel you’re looking for will be similar. When choosing a photographer to work with, if their portfolio doesn’t affect you on an emotional level, you’re not going to make magic. And those ‘feels’, that tug within you that makes you want to get up and grab a camera, paintbrush, swing open your wardrobe door, whatever medium you use to express yourself – that’s what a real fashion image does. Of course if you find a photographer whose work you love but it doesn’t move you, you can still have a great shoot. It’s just that in my experience, if you’re not inspired before the photos are taken, how will your vision translate in the final product?

I’ve worked with Irwin (who shot the set in this blog post) a couple of times in London and Hong Kong and based on our personal preferences and the response from our respective audiences, our pictures get better each time. The same goes for other photographers I’ve worked with whose portfolio I’ve fallen for immediately, like Chrystal and Audrey , whose photos do more justice to my ideas than I could have imagined.

hong kong rooftop peggy hartanto


If the photographer that you’re working with refuses to give you the RAW files or at least unedited JPEGs of your photos, there should be some alarm bells. If you’re operating on a collaboration basis, you have as much right to those images as they do. They’re not obliged to edit everything for you and as you’re not paying them, it’s impolite to ask for re-edits over and over again. Additionally, it’s more professional to edit the images yourself from scratch, instead of adding filters over the photographer’s original work if you’re not happy with the final product.

Crediting is so essential for both parties. Unless the photos of the same set has been posted so many times that it’s painfully obvious who the subject is, I believe that the photographer should credit in the caption of Instagram as well as a tag. I’m pressed to think of many other reasons why anyone would work on a collaboration basis other than for exposure, so it’s important to respect proper crediting.

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Understanding your brand

Just like all partnerships, photographer-blogger ones need a balance, especially when everyone has their own idea of what they want to create. I’ve had the abhorrent experience of a handful of photographers telling me what to wear and as a fashion blogger, this is an insult. If you don’t like my style, why would you want to work with me? When I take photos of bloggers, we generally agree on a ‘look’ but I never make bold suggestions because I chose to work with them as I love their sense of fashion. I believe that the best photos are the ones where both parties are at ease and feel confident, so unless this is a modelling gig, don’t force yourself into a situation where you’ve been strongly recommended to take on a certain look that just doesn’t represent who you are as a brand.

hong kong street style peggy hartanto

Less is more

When it comes to Instagram photographers (as opposed to professional ones that run an Instagram account casually), less is definitely more. I am immediately put off if I see a photographer that has a different model in every other photo. Frankly, the first thing this says to me is ‘I’m shooting anyone that says yes because I want more exposure’, and with that kind of attitude comes a host of problems. I’ve had photographers stalk my friends that I’ve shot before and use my name to try to get them to agree to take photos with them! Major creep alert. Whilst this rule of less is more doesn’t affect us bloggers as much, it’s still important to work with a select few, even if you’re in control of your own editing.

As a personal rule, I try to limit the amount of photographers I work on a regular basis with per city to about three or four. The rest of my snaps are taken by my friends or boyfriend. It keeps my pictures looking organic, there’s quality control in place and my aesthetic isn’t as compromised when it comes to the photographer’s edited version of the same photo. (Why does this matter? Please read my post on protecting your brand and identity here.)

Another practical reason is that many photographers on Instagram don’t specialise in fashion shots but portrait or landscape. You won’t realise it at first but there’ll be a point where you’re distracted by the lovely photos you’re receiving that you start to post things that are less fashion and a lot more ‘Instagram model’. That was one critical mistake I made when I first started out and was working with lots of photographers back in Singapore. It took a while for brands to recognise that I wasn’t a promotional clothes horse and whether or not this is a direct correlation, it was very noticeable to me that I wasn’t approached by half as many fashion and beauty companies at the 3-8k follower mark, compared to some fellow bloggers of that size that I know.

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Photos by Irwin, @irwinsychan

Peggy Hartanto dress c/o Take II

Charles and Keith heels

Jaxks London duster coat

Valentino bag