I get this question all the time: "How did you get those dresses for that photoshoot - they're so beautiful?!" To me, the answer is simple... I just asked! But what is obvious to me, might not be obvious to everyone else. So rather than leave you all hanging, with no idea how to get access to the clothes of your dreams, my friend Ailsa Munro and I worked together to write up exactly how you should go about asking. Ailsa is a bespoke wedding dress designer based in Cornwall, who I've been lucky enough to work with many times. Her dresses are beautiful, and she's going to do big things! Whether you're interested in photographing wedding dresses, or a stylist approaching PR agencies, or a student approaching a new brand in London, the principals listed by Ailsa below apply to everyone. So, without further ado, let me pass you on to Ailsa, for her words of wisdom!
Olivia talked about how to get items to use in photoshoots the other day on her Instagram story. How you approach a designer is extremely important, and somethingthat I think she does very well. I am very lucky to be in a position where people like my work enough to want to photograph it, and I'm so grateful to the photographers who choose to support me and my work rather than a big brand.I'm a huge fan of sending emails that feel a little cheeky, in the spirit of “if you never ask you'll never know.” My business certainly wouldn't have grown as it has without emails of those kind. Through them I've met some amazing people, and worked on amazing collaborations (including 3 with Olivia to date!). In fact, this very blog post started because I sent Olivia a message asking if she'd like me to write her a guest post. So here are my top tips on how to approach a designer and maker if you ever want to borrow anything from them.
Introduce yourself and add a link to your portfolio. Your portfolio doesn't have to be huge, but I would expect to see some images of models (not just landscapes). A link to an Instagram account or a really simple website is perfect, I don't want to have to hunt for images and I'm probably not going to look at more than about 30 pictures. When Olivia first approached me, she didn't have anything bridal in her portfolio but she had a lot of very pretty pictures of young women in really great lighting, and I could clearly see how that was going to translate to bridal editorial.
Ask for something specific, but be open to alternatives. Some of my dresses are very delicate and difficult to make, and I wouldn't lend them to a photographer I didn't know unless they were very established and I was going to be there to look after it (you wouldn't believe the number of models who try and eat or drink in white silk sample dresses!). Others are more robust, or easier to clean and mend. The best way to get a response is to say which is your preferred dress, but be clear that you'd be flexible.
Be really specific about what you want to borrow it for. I get a lot of photographers emailing me with no real plan in place, or idea of what they’ll be shooting. I’ll never give a dress out to these photographers, because I'm very careful about which shoots are going to make my dresses shine. When you email, outline exactly what you want to do with the shoot, what sort of theme and genre you expect the images to have, who else you hope to collaborate with, and where you would like to shoot. I'm a creative, so I understand that these plans may change, but I'm much more likely to get excited and reply if you can give me a clear idea of what the images will look like. Mood boards are great for this, but so is Pinterest. As a rule of thumb, I am much more relaxed about lending my dresses for indoor photo shoots, rather than for walks on the beach or through muddy fields.
Look after the dresses, and keep the designer updated on what is happening with the images! The best way to make sure you can borrow from a designer more than once is to edit the images promptly, and to make sure that I've seen them and know where you are planning on submitting them. I understand when this process takes a month or two, but nothing puts me off more than lending to a photographer than having to wait months and months for images, by which point they start to look out of season.
The most important thing is that you are genuine, and that you don't let setbacks knock your confidence. I can't lend dresses to every photographer that gets in touch, and it's often more of a logistical issue than a personal one. I hope these can tips help you successfully build a portfolio full of wonderful, locally made products.
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