Header image for the post, reads "Photography collaborations – 7 reasons to embrace them and grow a successful business."

Photography collaborations – 7 reasons to embrace them and grow a successful business.

Today, I’m going to be talking about photography collaborations. I’ll give you 7 reasons to embrace them and explain how they’ll help you to grow a successful photography business.

During my last post we discussed why goal setting for your photography business is so important, but today we take it a step further.

We are talking about creating goals around collaboration partnerships and setting aside time to achieve them.

I’ll explain what a successful photography collaboration looks like and highlight some of the pitfalls that you may encounter along the way.

I’m going to show you how to create a system to ensure that you follow up and make those collaborations happen. It’s so easy to forget about this amid doing a thousand and one other things but I promise you, with consistency and repeated attempts to create these relationships you will see huge improvements in what you are doing.

Collaborations can be great fun to set up and having a reciprocal arrangement in place with another business is an empowering (and lucrative) tool in your business.

What is collaboration?

Collaboration or joint ventures can be a major opportunity for photographers, but before we get started, let’s get really clear on what collaboration is.

The dictionary quite literally defines collaboration as:

Image with a jigsaw in the background and the text

At first glance, it’s not a complicated concept to understand.

Where it tends to get complicated for us is in understanding how they happen, what the benefits are for us, and, once convinced, how to ensure that the time we spend results in huge successes for everyone involved.

I speak with photographers all the time who aren’t sure how to set them up, what businesses to approach, what commercials should be put in place, as well as what not to do.  – when is it not a good time to collaborate, or who is not worth collaborating with?

I’m going to cover all of that and more below.

Photography collaborations are sometimes also known as joint ventures. But what are they, and how can they really improve your business?

Collaboration – why you must reach out.

Collaborating is a terrific way to help grow your authority, to build relationships, and to create amazing valuable content. And it works for both parties equally, which is why it’s so powerful.

There are so many opportunities to collaborate out there, but many photographers simply fail to reach out to them. These truly are missed opportunities.

You are missing out on growing your business, selling more products, reaching new audiences, creating variety in the offer that you take to market, meeting new people, thinking differently about the industry you serve, and even thinking differently about your own craft.

I’ve said in the past that photographers have a habit of staying “in your lane” – being stuck in your own ways. I know you are busy, you’re also focusing on the other important things that need to be done, and perhaps this sounds like just another thing to add to your list.

I’m going to explain to you today why it’s not just another thing to do, and I’m going to teach you how to create and manage a system to enable you to make sure it gets done (without getting in the way of everything else you need to do).

An image of a pinboard with brightly coloured letters pinned to it. The letters read

Photography collaborations – 7 reasons to embrace them and grow a successful business.

  • You build your authority by being associated with a complimentary person, business, or service offering.
  • You’ll drive additional traffic to your website. I see this every time I successfully collaborate, and more visits to your website inevitably result in….
  • More enquiries from new clients.
  • Whether as an explicit arrangement with the collaboration (e.g. a voucher scheme) or through increased exposure, you’re likely to receive new bookings and extra business.
  • You’ll increase your own social media reach. A collaboration done well these days also includes lots of social sharing across both their platforms and your own.
  • They’re fun & you’ll meet new people. Photographers often work alone or in very small teams. Collaboration exposes you to working with and meeting new people.
  • You’ll look at your own business differently – by collaborating with someone else, you will see opportunities where you’d never have seen them alone.

Examples of photography collaborations or joint ventures

There are some incredible opportunities out there for every photographer.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a commercial photographer, industrial photographer, or brand photographer – there are businesses in your niche that will want to collaborate with you.

It really is just a case of identifying and approaching them. For that, you need a consistent habit and a process. I’ll talk about that shortly.

An example of a great collaboration that worked well is one from my own experience as a successful wedding photographer.

We approached bridal shops in the area that we wanted to develop. This was a well thought out strategy for us. One of the elements of a good collaboration is to understand at what point in the buying cycle your ideal client is when they approach each of the businesses.

We realised that both sides of the collaboration were at the same stage in the buying cycle for a bride.

Photo of a bride with champagne and friends trying on her dress. Demonstrating that she is at the right stage in the buying cycle for these photography collaborations.
The right time to introduce a photographer.

There would have been little point in us collaborating with a cake maker or a wedding car provider because, by the time a bride approaches these suppliers, they have ALREADY signed a venue, booked their photographer and they’ve ordered their dress.

A bride usually selects the venue, and then books the photographer and arranges their wedding dress. The rest comes later.

It’s important to consider these details when you are looking for businesses or people to collaborate with.

So, back to the collaboration. There were two bridal shops that we mainly partnered with. The arrangement was for a voucher-based scheme in which all parties benefitted.

  • The staff at the shop were able to earn a small commission of £50 on each voucher that was used.
  • The bride was incentivised – with money off for their engagement portrait shoot package or a storybook style album, or a free product (such as a framed print), when they booked their wedding photography with us.
  • Of course, we benefited from additional wedding bookings!

So, everyone got something from this little arrangement.

We positioned the vouchers as “VIP” vouchers – they weren’t out on the counter for anyone to pick up. The girl who was serving had to literally go behind the counter and give them to the bride – this ensured that they felt exclusive.

The shop was able to show that they had something special for their premium customers, the bride felt special, and we picked up plenty of new bookings.

Now the critical part of this was that it worked for everyone.

So, when you create a joint venture, it needs to be good for the people who receive the benefit of the arrangement, plus for those that help distribute it. All of this should be considered by both parties, jointly, when you set up this arrangement with your joint venture partner.

Where to look for opportunities

Look for business vendors in your niche that already serve your ideal client. It provides a constant flow of excited and pre-qualified clients to your business.

They’re pre-qualified because they’ve been recommended to you by someone that they already know, like and trust. Someone that already has authority in the space where they hang out.

You’ll also know that their price bracket suits yours as well. Always make sure that you collaborate with businesses that service the same price end of the market as yourself.

Some places where you might start to look for opportunities:

  • Shops that serve your market or industry.
  • Blogs that serve your niche.
  • Becoming the recommended supplier for a third party in your niche.
  • Collaboration on content with someone. Complimentary content collaborations can be really powerful.
  • Writing tips or how-to posts for magazines or online publishers.
  • Podcasts that you can appear on.
  • Webinars that you can support – either by appearing as a guest or by setting up with a collaborative partner.

Share your own skills and experience as a photographer in your niche, as this is what you are offering that’s different to the person you are trying to collaborate with.

Two lightbulbs, filled with water. They look like goldfish bowls, in the smaller bulb are several goldfish swimming around. They are jumping, one at a time, into the larger bulb which bears the word

How to approach a joint venture opportunity

Firstly, you must remember that any collaboration needs to benefit both parties. You’ll need to build a relationship with the other person or organisation so that you can brainstorm ideas together and create something that really does work for both of you.

You want to wow your collaboration partner, but equally don’t venture into something if it’s not going to result in rewards for yourself or position you as an authority in your niche. Be selective.

If you’re not sure where to start, begin by brainstorming opportunities in the niche you serve, and start reaching out to people. The worst thing that will happen is they’ll say no, in which case, onto the next one.

Look out for industry experts or people who already work with your ideal clients. These are the people you want to be seen with -you are looking for people who have a strong social media following and a great reputation.

What is not a great photography collaboration?

Getting involved with a third party at the correct stage of the buying or choosing process for your clients is critical.

As with the earlier example of a wedding photography collaboration, there are similar pitfalls in other niches.

So, for example, if you are a commercial photographer or a brand photographer, your collaborations need to be offered when clients are making decisions about their brand visuals.

If you collaborate with a printer, that’s too late in the buying process. If you collaborate with a web designer or a graphics designer, that’s much more likely to be successful, as they are talking to the client at the exact time that they are deciding how they want their brand to look.

Additionally, you want to look at where the competition is – if everyone is pitching or succeeding in collaborations with one business or business type, try and look around the corner, perhaps slightly earlier in the buying cycle for your client.

Ensure that any collaboration you choose is with a business that also serves your ideal client – and ideally serves them en masse (look at their social following and their reviews for initial research).

This may sound like a daft thing to say, but it’s so easy to get carried away with a nice idea whilst you are chatting over a coffee or a beer with someone that you get on with. Make sure you are both serving the same people before you go too far down the line with your idea.

People sitting in a cafe having a coffee and writing notes and ideas down in their notepads. Sunlight streams in from the window.

What is authority?

Authority is the ability to “influence or command thought, opinion or behaviour” or “an individual cited or appealed to as an expert”.

Building your authority as a small business owner is incredibly important and very powerful. However, many of us are put off by it (perhaps it’s our innate issues of self-worth – a topic for another day!).

It doesn’t really need to be so frightening though – I have built my authority within the photography community over many years by getting out there consistently, spreading the message, being helpful, AND being connected with big brands or established brands in the industry.

Collaboration is an incredible tool to help you to build authority in your niche, and I highly recommend you see what happens to your reputation, and the leads that you start to receive once you begin.

As a side note: Influencer marketing is set to be a hot trend in 2022. The more that you are collaborating with organisations and people that your clients know and trust already, the more you’ll extend your authority beyond your current environment, and the more influence you will have in your niche.

Setting time aside to reach out for collaboration – Opportunity Wednesdays

I suggest this to all the photographers in my mentoring programme, and I believe in it so much, I even included a whole chapter in my book “The Ambitious Photographer’s Journal”.

This is where I suggest that you set aside just 15 minutes every week to progress your collaborations, whether that is drafting an email, making a new connection, or picking up the phone and making the call. Once you get in the habit of doing this every week you will be amazed at what comes your way.

If you’d like to learn everything there is to know about my goal-setting and collaboration techniques, my book The Ambitious Photographer’s Journal is available on Amazon.

Image of Jeff Brown's book The Ambitious Photographer's Journal

During this 52-week journal, I take you through my entire goal-setting method. It’s full of examples and much more detail about how to go about setting those all-important goals, including sections dedicated to ensuring you keep up with those Opportunity Wednesdays.

You have sections for your big ideas, your 90-day milestones, and goal trackers for every month of the year, right down to your daily tasks and habits to ensure you reach those BIG goals. If you’d like to read more about my goal-setting techniques, you can read them here.

The genius of the journal and you can start using it ANY TIME you like. It’s not date or time-limited, so if you wanted to start in the middle of April or September, you can just do that. There’s no need to wait.

Flat lay image of the Ambitious Photographer's Journal. This includes open pages showing the sections in the book for goal tracking, weekly routines, 3 month milestone goals and end of year reviews.

Click here to buy The Ambitious Photographer's Journal book now from Amazon image (links to Amazon page)

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My next post will be about Growing your following using LinkedIn Creator Mode, such a misunderstood element in the LinkedIn toolkit, but one I think more photographers should be taking advantage of. 

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