In a world filled with instagram influencers and countless photographers & vendors, figuring out how to book a collaboration can be scary and overwhelming.
“Where do I start?”
“What if no one wants to work with me?”
These and a million other questions ran through my mind. I had considered registering for a styled shoot, but the thought of having to pay a couple hundred dollars only to be 1 of 15-20 photographers shooting a bride/groom and details just wasn’t very appealing to me.
Now, at the time I stumbled upon this opportunity I was not looking for a collaboration. Instead, I was looking for second shooter opportunities in order to better myself and build my wedding portfolio.
I’m sure you’re thinking “ok, so where exactly where you looking for those opportunities at?” and the answer might surprise you. HoneyBook. If you don’t know what HoneyBook is, it is a client management system. I highly recommend you check it out and think about implementing it into your business (ask me for my discount code for 50% off your first year), but that’s a post for another day.
Although HoneyBook is used primarily for client management, it also has a lot of other helpful and neat resources for photographers and other vendors. The one I find myself using often is the “Opportunities” tab. In short, this is a place where photographers and other vendors can post, you guessed it, opportunities.
There’s everything from second shooting opportunities to wedding referrals, collaborations, model calls, and more! Brady and I were models for a couples shoot once — so stinking fun. You can also set up e-mail notifications for your area, so when someone posts an opportunity near you, you get an email and are the first to know!
Long story short, one day I got an e-mail from HoneyBook stating there was a new opportunity listed near me. I checked it out and saw that Heather, from The Portable Powder Room, was looking for a photographer to collaborate with. Y’all, I’m not kidding when I say there were probably 20 other photographers (who seemed much better suited for this and obviously far more experienced than I was) who had commented on the post stating they were interested. Regardless, I left a comment with my information and portfolio.
A few days later I received an e-mail from Heather saying she would love to collaborate with me, assuming I was willing since she’s based out of North Austin and I was based in Boerne. I couldn’t believe it. Of all the people who were interested she chose me!! I was ecstatic to say the least.
We set up a time and place and met up for coffee to talk things over and start planning.
By the end of our meeting we had set a date and had a game plan. We still needed to find a florist, wedding gowns, models, and a calligrapher (because who doesn’t love flatlays and wedding details). Over the next two months I reached out to a number of florists and calligraphers. It was not easy by any means. I had to put myself out there and more often than not I didn’t hear back from these vendors after I gave them more details about the collaboration (why they didn’t send a quick “I’m not interested but thanks” e-mail I will never understand, but I rest my case).
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t stink. After a month of rejection e-mails and being ghosted by vendors I felt really discouraged. I decided I could live without having stationary for the collaboration. At the end of the day I could always shoot flatlays at home and it was not something we absolutely needed. Gowns weren’t easy to find either. We had planned on using Heather’s wedding dress, as well as investing in an infinity gown. If you haven’t heard of an infinity gown, like I hadn’t, it’s a gown you can style multiple different ways to create different looks (seriously, google it. It is pretty stinking neat). As for the florals, we decided if we could not find a florist we could go to HEB and make some ourselves.
As the collaboration date approached we were able to find gowns, stationary, and a florist. Our first florist had requested we collaborate with a venue, so we were in the process of finding one whose date worked with ours. Long story short that florist wound up falling through and we were back to square one. Luckily we were able to find a replacement, Mad Flowers Co., who was awesome and provided us with some beautiful bouquets (and a stunning flower crown, might I add).
In terms of the venue, I still liked the idea of collaborating with one, so we moved forward with finding one. Heather was the one who actually found the venue we wound up working with, Shiraz Gardens. The only thing was, the venue would only agree to collaborate if there were two additional photographers on board. Heather consulted me to see what my thoughts were. I went back and forth on whether or not I was comfortable with this. I felt as if this was my big debut and Heather and I (mainly Heather) were the ones who put it all together and planned it all out. Did I really want to let two other photographers just hop on board and reap the benefits without having put in any work?
I know, I know, that seems closed minded and kind of rude, especially considering this was my very first collaboration and it’s not like I was a well-seasoned pro. After a day of going back and forth on whether or not I wanted to agree to the venues terms, I decided that having two more photographers at the shoot might actually be beneficial. For one, I could learn a thing or two from them, and at the end of the day it’s not like I had to showcase that there were other photographers there. In addition, our styles were all so different that no two pictures would look alike at all.
In hindsight, I stand by my decision. I learned a lot just by watching the other photographers work and interact with both the models and fellow vendors. For one, I learned a lot about posing brides individually (so beneficial for those bridal portraits!!). I also learned what not to do when interacting and communicating with fellow vendors, as well as which vendors I would and would not want to work with again.
Now don’t go thinking this collaboration was a walk in the park. It was most definitely not sunshine and rainbows. It required a lot of planning and coordinating ahead of time and even day-of. We had 5 models (lol we had one cancel the day-of and were fortunate enough to find a replacement) and had to stay on schedule to make sure we had adequate time to drive to each location (the venue property was quite large), shoot, drive back, and get some BTS photos of the other girls getting their makeup done. We started shooting around 12 pm and did not finish until 7 pm. It was definitely a busy day. Not to mention, I had to drive 3 hour round trip to and from the venue location. I was pooped by the end of the day.
Then you take into account culling and editing over 1200 images from the day. The final gallery I delivered had almost 700 photos in it! I’m not tooting my own horn, but I did want to make sure it was delivered within a timely manner (got it delivered in about 3 weeks, while also working 40+ hours a week, woot-woot!) since there were a large number of vendors involved.
In short, this collaboration was a lot of work and had a lot of ups and downs, but at the end of the day is was so worth it. I learned not only how to plan and coordinate a styled shoot, but also got some awesome content for my portfolio. Not to mention I made some pretty awesome friends (I’m looking at you, Heather) along the way.
If you’re thinking about booking your first styled shoot I highly encourage you to do so! Don’t be discouraged either, I had inquired multiple times before being selected for and booking this one. They are truly a wonderful learning experience and I made so many awesome relationships with fellow vendors, whom I know I will be reaching out to for future collaborations, as well as recommending to clients!