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Bloggers have problems but so do our photographers and it’s mainly because of us. Just like how we find it difficult to stomach doing an entire campaign with deadlines and approvals when a brand says ‘we have no budget’, I’ve heard the same complaint from my friends behind the camera. A lot of people have asked me how to collaborate with photographers upon noticing how talented the ones that I work with are, and they especially want to know how I’ve never paid for photos. That’s not to say it’s because I won’t or I never will, it’s because of an unique set of reasons that I hope will become evident in this post. I also hope it will explain why photographers charge some bloggers but not others (and no it actually has little to do with the size of your following or how pretty they think you are). So here are the opinions of some of my talented friends around the world, from Singapore, London, LA and Hong Kong and their advice on how to collaborate with photographers.
How to collaborate with photographers 101
Paid shoots versus collaborations
London: There are so many bloggers who suggest that we collaborate, and the moment you say that you charge for services they stop replying.
Singapore: I have charged bloggers before, usually it’s if they want the creative control and I don’t think I’d be able to use the photos for my own feed.
Hong Kong: Once I was like, “I charge because I don’t have that much time [as I have another job],” and usually I’ll get blanked after that. Or they’ll go, “let me talk to my team” – like what team?!
So correct me if I’m wrong but I’m willing to collaborate on vision and direction, I always do shout outs and credit fully and no one’s asked to charge me, probably knowing that. Am I right in thinking it’s because I do all of the above?
Singapore: Yes, that’s quite accurate! I think you bring a lot to the table because you have really unique clothes and accessories to style so it doesn’t come out looking like a generic OOTD. For bloggers with ‘vanilla’ style, I’d be more likely to charge.
So how much does a blogger’s style, aesthetic or following factor into your decision to collaborate rather than charge?
Los Angeles: 100% – I can only shoot on the weekend, so I want to collaborate with the person who has unique ideas that I can make into reality. Otherwise I’d rather do a paid shoot.
Hong Kong: I’m not expecting them to get me new followers or increased engagement [so it doesn’t matter to me]. I would if they have a cool style I might collaborate but I always ask what the purpose [of the shoot] is. Also, I don’t think it’s fair to go, ‘I’ll charge for creative direction because you pose like a sloth’.
Singapore: She should definitely be paying if she’s big because that means she’s earning quite a bit. I’m more willing to shoot small time influencers that don’t really get paid much. It’s about whether you can afford it.
What cut should photographers get of a paid campaign?
Singapore: The photographer can’t put the brand on their portfolio so she doesn’t get a lot out of it. Honestly, if I was sponsored something I wouldn’t offer the model half, simply because the brand approached me and want me to do it. By that logic, you should be able to have the bulk of whatever is earned.
But if I said, I’ll give you $30 for example, isn’t that kind of insulting?
Singapore: The thing is, if it weren’t for that then there wouldn’t be the opportunity to earn that $30.
Los Angeles: I don’t think I would take a cut. I’ll give my rate based on hours and the number of final images. But if the brand is high profile, I’ll consider doing for free.
London: I suppose 30%? Hard to say because I understand that you need to write the blog post, research and earn the money in the first place. Say that a blogger gets £80 for one image – but a photoshoot for an hour with me for the same price is too much, when I spend six hours in total and return at least 20 photos. I feel I could charge way more than that but if I were to work with bloggers, they wouldn’t pay it.
The problem with that scenario is that if we’re paid for one image, then we only need one image. So to pay for an entire set becomes redundant.
London: I suppose it’s best to know down to a point before the shoot what is needed.
Hong Kong: Only one? I never thought of that – in that case it’ll be charging per photo…
Is it okay to charge friends or fans?
Singapore: I would charge much less and if I don’t even need to edit I might just do it for free but paid shoots take priority. But it depends, if they are shooting for commercial reasons someone needs to be paid, it doesn’t need to be me, but [if there’s no payment] the whole photography industry would crumble.
Hong Kong: If it’s a friend I wouldn’t, I’d see it as catching up.
What about ‘fans’ or followers that admire your work?
Los Angeles: It doesn’t matter. Concept is key – I have to love that first if I want to help my friend.
Hong Kong: If they ask genuinely, I might consider meeting for coffee and some shots. Usually, models are like “send me the pics” then it’s bye, no contact or follow.
The blogging industry is the little sister of Fashion and as I can attest, in these creative sectors, we work for free or live off ‘expenses’ for at least a year before snapping up a level-entry job that our taxes and rent suck dry. It’s the same for photographers, whether or not they consider it to be their profession or it’s supplementary income. We’re in it together and I think we can all forget that sometimes. This is why I believe collaborations are so important, to grow our portfolios mutually, but there are some instances where this isn’t possible. The key take-aways from talking to these photographers was that following and looks don’t matter. It’s all about sharing a vision and having a style that stands out enough that they’ll want to work with you, for you. And it’s because of this that I think to myself, if I didn’t have any brand collaborations, would I still want to shoot? And the answer is yes, without hesitation.