Collaborate online to produce incredible new work for your portfolio!

Whats a collab shoot like when it's virtual as a oppose to in-person? 

When we first heard about members setting up fashion shoots online, we couldn't figure out how they were doing it. A lot of the work on a collaboration shoot requires a hands-on approach - a makeup artist applying a look on the face of a model, a photographer positioning the subject, a designer building a set or an assistant adjusting the lighting... so how were they able to produce results without physically being able to interact? 

And more importantly, 'are the results any good?'. Can a team produce work to a high enough standard to add to their portfolio without having to leave their home? 

Pre-pandemic, the suitability of remote collaboration has always varied depending on the project. At one end of the spectrum you might find designers, developers and project managers taking part in a 'Hackathon' - a design sprint-like event whereby teams collaborate intensively on software projects.

Somewhere in the middle, small teams would connect online to discuss a concept before meeting in person to produce the work. Whether it's a traditional beauty or fashion test shoot, a collaboration between a dancer and video producer, graphic designer and photographer, animators and art directors... the combinations are endless but the process very similar. Portfolios are matched, messages are swapped and moodboards are shared. Once the concept is agreed, the work often takes place on location or in a studio. 


However, there were many months last year when it was not possible to meet in person and teams had to improvise. The aforementioned video producer ended up directing the dancer via a video conference call and recording the session to edit afterwards in post production. The dancer prepared the 'set' (her roof terrace) and made sure that the quality of the recording was good enough for the editor to produce results. 

Freelance Technical Producer, Richard Williams, has been involved in streaming conferences of late. His tip is to A/B test as much as possible before the project begins. Technology can be your best friend or your worst enemy when collaborating.  

A couple of days before the agreed call times we created a 'virtual greenroom' setup and two dedicated dial-in's for each participant and emailed them with simple instructions and asked them to connect via laptop and via their phones at the designated times. The streaming guys then decided which of the two were best.

Freelance model, Natasha Pinder, and fashion photographer Chris Harris arranged a fashion collaboration shoot using Facetime. Chris directed Natasha, however, they found that with Natasha holding the phone, it was limiting the shots they could take. In the end, Natasha had to rope in her boyfriend to help position the camera to enable her to move more freely.  

Fashion teams, who typically shoot with four or five creatives, have additional challenges to solve. How can a hair and makeup artist produce the look they want? How can a stylist dress the model? Can the photographer capture the shots in high-res? Will the model be able to pose freely if they have to operate the camera at the same time? 

Speaking with Freelancer Club members, we learned that stylists would send the model clothes in the post, sometimes with instructions, hair and makeup consulted with the model beforehand to see which products they had and sent them anything that they were missing before guiding them through the process on Zoom.

To capture the images, photographers asked the model to position the laptop or phone and directed them whilst screen-grabbing as if clicking the exposure button on a camera.

Zoom, Facetime, Skype and Google Hangouts were all used with mixed results. In all cases, it's was model who had to step up and take direction from all members of the team, not just the director.

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Freelance Model, Natasha Pinder, shoot by Chris Harris over Facetime. 

Some teams took it to the next level and asked models to create a harness that they could attach to themselves and move with the camera. We heard about one team that produced a classic beauty look in a bath of milk. The model prepared the set, sent the measurements of the bath and the photographer posted her a homemade tripod complete with an iPhone clip to attach to the sides of the tub so they could capture an aerial view. 

Creative people are problem solvers. They overcome challenges on set all the time so why not find solutions to remote shooting!

And what about the benefits? One big advantage of online collaboration is that we can connect with creatives from all over the world, produce unique work for our portfolio and add credits of international talent to our books. Imagine collaborating with a team across different continents! The time difference might be a pain but just think of the cultural cross-overs and diverse ideas. 

Now, to the big question. Does it work? Can creative teams collaborate online and produce work that is strong enough to use in a portfolio. Just like collaborating in person, the results can be mixed and the more you do it, the better you get. Online collaboration certainly involves a set of new challenges to overcome. Clear communication, a strong wifi signal and lots of ingenuity for starters. It requires more creative solutions to new problems but it can result in really interesting work. 

As with collaborating offline, online collaboration feeds the creative soul, helps build your network and, if the work is strong, adds to your portfolio. It's also a pretty great story to tell potential clients and your social followers. 

If you were asking yourself 'Whats a collab shoot like when it's virtual as a oppose to in person?' when you clicked into this article, we hope we've given you the answers you were looking for and more.

Stay creative in 2021 and arrange an online collaboration or test shoot for free


What to learn more about photography collaborations and how to pull of a successful collaboration shoot? Check out How to Plan and Organise a Test Shoot.

Whats a collab shoot like from the perspective of other Freelancer Club members? Orion Zuyderhoff- Grey tell us about his photography collaborations with other creatives in Photographer Orion Zuyderhoff- Grey: Collaborating His Way Around The World. Ivan Weiss also share the importance of his photography collaborations to date in Photographer Ivan Weiss: How Freelancer Club Supported Me Throughout The Pandemic.