In this article, I’m going to be breaking down very tactical and easy steps to help you land more collaborations with Instagram influencers. If you follow this guide, using the framework and template that I’ve provided, you will find success.
Step 1. Shoot great work with friends
First things first. You can’t suck. It doesn’t matter how nice or polite you are, influencers aren’t going to shoot with you if your work is terrible. How do you make great work? Get out there and shoot.
Have your camera on you at all times, but also come up with highly planned out and interesting ideas. The more original the better. Avoid places that have been shot to death.
Make sure your friend or model is someone who can pull off the look you are going for. It helps if these people are either familiar with having their photo taken and/or naturally have the look you want to portray. As you build your Instagram with these images, make sure you have some sort of unifying element to your work. People want to know that the great image you shot wasn’t a one-off and is something you can replicate for them.
Step 2. Understand their style
Although you want to have a unifying element to your work, make sure that element isn’t in complete contradiction to the style of the people you want to shoot with. Influencers are very good at curating their work. They might be deterred if the majority of images you shoot are very high key when their style is much more low-key.
This applies not only to the edit, but to their clothing and captions as well. Influencers often have a niche — it could be fitness, men’s style, comedy, swimwear, whatever. Just make sure you have some similar content on your feed so they feel like they can relate to you as a person too.
Step 3. Support them… silently
If you listened to Step 2 and have taken the time to review their feed and style, you probably have liked some of their work. Watch their stories. Post a comment on the photos that are particularly good. While you do this, however, it’s important to not go crazy.
Don’t write a book. Keep compliments short and sweet. Even better, show your taste and be very specific with what you like about an image. Don’t like more than a few photos at a time. This is because you don’t want to set off red flags or come off as a creep. These people have tens if not hundreds of thousands of followers. Some of those followers are really weird. You WILL get stonewalled if you like 50 photos and write a book of love for each of them.
Step 4. Have a great shoot idea and set it up
After you have built a strong feed and have taken the time to understand their style, go ahead and come up with a great idea that you feel would resonate with their following. Make sure it’s something specific and interesting that hasn’t been done a million times.
Once you have your idea, make sure you have the resources to set it up should they oblige you. Influencers are traveling all the time and have very busy schedules. If someone agrees to shoot with you and it takes you another 2 weeks to get everything together, you could very well lose the opportunity. Also, expect them to add to your idea and be ready to make it happen.
Step 5. Ask — preferably in person
Now that you’ve got a shoot idea and have set it up, it’s time to ask. This is one of the most important parts of the process and often the part where people fall apart. Do NOT write them an emotional 5 paragraph essay confessing your undying love for their work with your life story attached.
Again, the key in this communication is to not come off as desperate. Don’t even include every detail of your shoot. Just be short and concise. Here is a quick template you can use if you’re not really sure how to begin:
I’ve been thinking about doing a shoot that involves X and would be set in Y with a Z feel.
I’ve kept up with your work for a while and feel like you could kill that look and that it would resonate well with your feed.
I’m busy this week, but maybe we could get together sometime after and make it happen if you’re interested.
Let me know your thoughts and have a great week/weekend!
Now, that’s if you message them on Instagram or send them an e-mail, but the best way to guarantee a shoot is to go up and talk to them in person. It’s not uncommon for them to invite followers to come say hello while sitting down for coffee or attending an event. If you happen to get the chance to meet them in person, again, do NOT come off as some desperate weirdo.
They are just people who work hard to bring you cool content.
Don’t immediately pitch them your idea. Just talk to them about life or their day. This is where taking the time to understand their feed will come in handy and help in natural and interesting conversation that they enjoy. Before you leave, if they aren’t rushed, mention the shoot and see what their thoughts are. If they are rushed, ask if it would be ok for you to DM them with a shoot idea you had.
If you follow those 5 steps, you should find yourself landing more shoots with influencers.
The great thing about shooting with even one influencer is that it builds your perception of value to all influencers. It’s a small group of people who do what they do, and most of them know each other. If they see you have shot with their friend, you can bet that your life just got a lot easier for the next ask.
P.S. Feel free to let me know how these tips worked for you by tagging me (@gavindoran) on the shoots you land!
About the author: Gavin Doran is a Brooklyn-based photographer best known for his cinematic portraiture and dynamic lifestyle imagery. You can find more of his work on his website or by following him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.