Building Your Brand & Portfolio Through Partnerships with Leonardo Volturo
This month, I want to share a few stories and give you some tips on how we were able to create and leverage relationships to build our existing wedding portfolio, as well as build a new portfolio from scratch for our new studio. The end result was not simply ending up with new images, but getting our names out there in different markets and other types of photography—and cultivating vendor relationships.
Let’s dig into approaching a bridal salon. The goal is to build a relationship for referrals, display your work and gain the use of the shop’s dresses to build your portfolio.
A good starting point is to look back at your previous weddings and see where the brides got their dresses, and use those images as a way in. You can then show up with a 20×30 canvas featuring one of their brides for them to showcase. Shops love featuring their own real brides versus stock images from dress designers.
Before approaching shops, we asked ourselves, “How can we help them help us?” You can’t walk into any of these situations and simply ask for product or if you can leave your marketing info there. You need to make it more about them and show interest in their business and a willingness to do things to help them grow. Dale Carnegie said, “You can make more friends in two months by being interested in other people than in two years of trying to get people interested in you.”
So with that in mind, we quickly came up with ideas of things we could do for them that would be mutually beneficial. We set up a meeting with an owner and her two daughters, and presented some of our ideas. First, we let them give away a free engagement session with us to brides who spent a certain amount of money. That of course brings us brides and also encourages their brides to spend a little more with that added incentive.
Then we worked a cross promotion, and used them as one of our preferred vendors, offering our brides $100 off their purchase.
Next, we wanted to work in a way of gaining access to their dresses. We offered them canvas prints from our shoots to be hung in the store. This part can get expensive, depending on how big the shop is and how many images you want to put in there. It’s great exposure. We printed up 24×36 canvases and put them at the entrance, by the mirrors and in the dressing rooms.
Think about how many brides go into those dressing rooms and are now staring at your images with your watermark as they change in and out of dresses. That is great exposure for your brand. You’re building your portfolio, and you’re allowing the store to showcase its dresses on “real” brides rather than just stock imagery.
This shop also does prom dresses. Prom dresses equal junior and senior high girls. They’d been sending out marketing pieces several times a year to their list of high school girls. As we did for bridal, we offered to photograph some of their girls featuring several prom dresses they wanted to showcase. We were able to piggyback off of these shoots to create images for our portfolio and feature our images on their marketing pieces. All of which didn’t cost us anything but our time.
We then helped them put together a prom fashion show that we photographed. We used the fashion show to market ourselves with promotional postcards featuring the shoots we did of other girls.
This one simple relationship we were able to build landed us exposure and a relationship on multiple levels. It’s an integral piece of marketing and networking that you should be doing when you’re looking to build both your relationships and portfolio. We covered all of our bases stemming from one simple conversation and by being genuinely interested in someone else’s business and success.
The New Studio
Earlier this year, we moved from our old office/showroom space into a full-on studio with an infinity wall, sales area and office. Our expenses went up across the board for this larger space. We went in there with a plan for how to monetize the space to its fullest potential. We wanted to do headshots, fashion style shoots, creative portraits and more. To begin to monetize those other avenues, we needed a portfolio before we could even begin marketing.
Rewind back to April of this year. We were heading to Costa Rica for an engagement session, and the client’s hair and makeup artist, Rogelio Morales, was flying with us. We hadn’t met before. We hit it off right away and worked closely over several days on styling and planning our shoots. During that time, we’d discussed how Rogelio wanted to build his portfolio. So after the trip, we set up a meeting to see how we could start working together regularly. We planned portfolio-building shoots and concept shoots that were also used for Shutter articles. The opportunities and relationships began rolling in the more we collaborated and got to know one another.
A great opportunity for us to make a connection and build our portfolio came when Rogelio told us he was friends with a business owner who had a new makeup line, Brugal Makeup. The owner was about to launch her first store in a mall, and was in the process of rebranding. We collaborated with Rogelio and Brugal, deciding on looks based on the products they offered. We wanted to show the looks that could be achieved with their various palettes. We chose models and concepts, paired them with various looks and colors and even seasons. We teamed up with designer Lisu Vega to source wardrobe to complement those looks. Brugal needed promotional content, we wanted to build our portfolio and Rogelio wanted to build his. It was a win for everyone.
Following that, we were introduced to the pageant world. I needed a model for an upcoming Shutter article, and Rogelio mentioned that a friend of his was the head of a pageant and represented some girls. We were quickly scheduled to photograph Miss Cuba Queen of the Continents (my model for last month’s article). I got the shots I needed for my article, and they got the shots they needed. They were so happy with us and our work that they wanted us to photograph another one of their girls, Miss Teen Cuba, the model in this article.
What began as a simple shoot for trade turned into a future well-paying session, a new relationship and an entry into a brand-new realm for our business. In a short amount of time, our portfolio was growing exponentially and we were making money in our new space.
We began offering Rogelio as our in-house hair and makeup artist for engagement sessions and weddings. That’s given us the confidence of working with a proven stylist on a regular basis, while he gets a new income source.
All you need to do is be genuinely interested in others to snag so many opportunities and avenues out there, to make connections and build your business. Make everything a two-way street. Be willing to go that extra mile for someone else, and you will be repaid many times over.