Working with Other Creatives: Collaboration Etiquette Guide

“If you’re going to do something, do it right.” – basically every adult role model ever.

Now, I’ve been photographing and modeling for 4 years and in that time I’ve worked with more people than I can remember. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the best makeup artists, the coolest hairstylists, and the most creative models & photographers. Some of them reached out to me, I reached out to some of them, but all of us have received countless messages asking about a collaborative project. We’ve gotten the good and the bad, and hopefully you can pick up some tips from our experiences! Read to the end for some general tips.

REACHING OUT

First, make sure the person you’re reaching out to is open to collaboration. Some people have it listed on their profiles if they’re open to working with others on unpaid projects. Next, come up with a concept. You may or may not actually use your concept, but it is good to have one on hand at all times. Usually, the best way of increasing your chances of collaborating is to find a creative who has a similar vision or style. Then comes one of the most important parts – sliding into their DMs.

Which message would you send?
A) “Collab?”
B) “Hey, I love you work and would love to model for you sometime!”
C) “Hey! I saw your work on Jessica’s page and loved what you did with her! Please let me know if you have any concepts I may be a good fit for.”
D) “Hi Jordan, my name is Mary and I’m a model based in Detroit. I love how you do things and I have a concept for a shoot that I think would go really well with your style, or I would be happy to model for one of your concepts as well! Please let me know if you might be interested in collaborating on a project together. If you’re busy, I completely understand! Hope to hear from you soon :)”

If you chose A, please never speak to me again. Nothing has infuriated me more than the messages I’ve gotten that only say “wanna collab” or “let’s work”. I might cry, and I will more than likely not respond. You put no effort into your message, I’m not certain you’ll put effort into our hypothetical shoot.

If you chose B, good on you for writing more than two words. However, chances are that unless you have an incredible profile photo, I’m not going to check out your feed. If you do, and you have an amazing IG feed, I will probably be impressed and consider you, but I also might just say thank you and forget you ever messaged me. I can only have so many mental tabs running at once. If you really would love to model for me sometime, please consider hiring me! I have actually worked with models after they’ve hired me for shoots because they were incredible to work with.

If you chose C, thank you for providing some context to where you found me. While it demonstrates a bit more effort and willingness, I will also probably say thank you and forget that you messaged me. I’m bad at non-email messages.

If you chose D, congratulations! You have shown more consideration and effort than the average person. This message tells me that you have something in mind, which means I won’t have to tap into my creative reserve and plan everything. Collaboration doesn’t mean free work, it means that you’re coming together to share skills and resources while creating. This message also creates space to say no, which is always nice. Creatives are often bad at declining opportunities, especially when they’re just starting off, getting a sense of their style, and refining their skills.

Up to this point, I’ve been assuming that you’re working with a small team. The previous tips apply to anyone – model, photographer, hairstylist, or makeup artist. And the messages could be sent to anyone by anyone.

PLANNING YOUR SHOOT

YAY! The photographer/model/stylist you’ve reached out to is interested in your concept and wants to work with you. Now what? It’s time to plan. The necessary details for all shoots: what, when, and where? Finalize the details of your concept and collect any wardrobe, props, or other gear you need for your shoot. Decide where the model & HMUA are meeting (if applicable), where you’re meeting to start the shoot, and where you will be shooting. And of course – figure out a time that works for everyone. Sometimes, hairstylists and makeup artists like being on set to help out with touchups, so check with them to see if they want to come along. (Shout out to Lacey Rich, Monique Giselle, Norma Sundquist, Jessica Pudelek, Shannon Wood, Robbin Kujus, and Dayna Durantini! Y’all are the best. Thanks for hanging out with me at shoots!)

By the way, if you really want to do something cool, ask for your HMUAs input. They tend to have some of the coolest concepts, but so often they aren’t given as much room to play.

It’s in good practice to get a group chat or email group started for planning and sharing images. Leading up to the shoot, you can share inspo, talk specifics, and confirm that everyone is available and excited. It’s usually good to confirm 1-3 days before your shoot just to make sure everyone has what they need, and it also gives people a chance to reschedule if something has come up.

THE SHOOT

Show up on time. Show up on time. Show up on time. It’s a matter of respect – if you are running late, make sure to communicate that. Most people will be gracious and understanding if traffic sucks or it took a little longer to do your hair. Stuff happens. And if you show up on time and someone is running late, be kind and give them some leeway. How much time you want to allot is up to you, but a little bit of patience can go a long way in getting referrals.

While you’re shooting, keep communicating. Hype up your team! Good art happens when there are good vibes being shared. When you wrap your shoot and finish up, make sure to let your team know you had a great time (if you did). Photographers, let both the HMUA and models know an estimate of when they can expect finished photos.

USING THE IMAGES

When you get the photos back, say something! Nobody likes staring into the abyss and hearing nothing back. If I wanted to do that, I would just go look at my bank account. Tell the HMUA what you liked about the look (if applicable), tell the photographer what you thought of the lighting, and share your favorites with the group!

If you are planning to post the images on social media, for the love of all things good in this world, TAG YOUR TEAM. Nothing will get you booted from the creative sphere faster than not tagging your team during a collaborative shoot. Actually tagging them in the post is helpful so that if their name changes on either Facebook or Instagram, there will still be a link to their profile; but you really should credit them in the captions as well. Seeing random tags doesn’t help your followers who might be interested in finding out who did you hair and makeup, who took the photo, or who owns that gorgeous face in the photo.

If the people you worked with have pages where you can leave a review, you should do it. It really does help them book additional clients and bring in business. Sometimes, a well-written review can mean the difference between someone getting booked or not.

GENERAL DO’S AND DON’TS

Do: Ask someone what they would like to try/what genres they do.
Don’t: Ask someone to shoot something well outside their comfort zone. Discussions of boundaries should always take place well before the shoot takes place, especially with anything involving nudity.

Do: Advocate for yourself. Let your team know if you need a break because something is bugging you. This includes if you’re having wardrobe issues, hair or makeup needs to be touched up, or you need some time to think.
Don’t: Be a diva. If something about your hair is bugging you, ask the hairstylist to adjust it for you. If there’s an lash strip stabbing you in the eye, ask your makeup artist to fix it for you.

Do: Openly discuss ideas for your shoot with your team, even if they come up last minute.
Don’t: Change plans on them last minute. That means not showing up with bright red lipstick when the plan was to do a soft, natural look.

Do: Ask if your team wants some BTS photos taken.
Don’t: Disappear completely during the shoot prep period. Sticking around means you can build rapport and learn more about what others do to prepare for shoots.

Do: Wait until the images are finished to post them.
Do: Turn back photos within a reasonable time frame, and communicate clearly about the number of photos.
Don’t: Facetune your makeup, that’s rude as heck to your makeup artists. Don’t: Ask photographers for RAW photos unless discussed previously. This is something that’s tricky to navigate, as some photographers will provide unedited images for proofing, but don’t want them posted. Just ask!!

Well, that’s all I have for you right now. Check back in a couple days for another post outlining the specific experience of working with me!

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