Social media can be a powerful tool to connect with individuals you didn’t realize you were hoping to discover. After graduating from university, I moved back home, away from friends who I constantly collaborated with for my blog and creative projects. As someone who yearns for another being to bounce ideas off of and create with, I discovered local photographers through Instagram. Among other close-knit, supportive Instagram communities I’ve come across (yoga enthusiasts, body positive motivators, social justice news feeds, local artists), I also noticed a strong local photographer community. I used to think nothing of hashtags and wondered what the point was, but through a black hole of clicking one hashtag to the next, leading from one account to another, I’ve come across so many individuals I now follow, have messaged for advice, and actually met in person (or hope to meet soon).


Among those many creatives is photographer Billy Wakefield, known as @reallynotbilly on Instagram. My initial goal of discovering local photographers began by clicking through several hashtags, which led me to discover Billy’s photography account. After some time, I noticed one of his posts was a call-out for anyone interested to be a test model to informally practice photography. Interested by his past photo posts, I sent him a DM (direct message) and inquired about potentially connecting. It was my first time connecting with a photographer who was not already my friend or someone I knew from other connections, so I didn’t know what to expect. The morning ended up being a great informal photoshoot walking around a fairly empty downtown scene, and even bumping into another photographer who was doing a take-over for a social project Instagram account @smileaday. Both Billy and I got to participate, answer the question “What makes us smile?”, and got to be featured in the project! In the end, I was able to connect in person and digitally with not just one, but two talented photographers.

I value one-on-one connections as I can focus all my attention on that person, and really get a chance to learn more about them. I realized if I wanted to get to know other local creatives, it was all about these face to face interactions. Looking back, this was a stepping stone to connecting with others for my Brown Papaya project (learn more on Instagram @unconventionalbliss and @brownpapaya).


Some tips when you are connecting with an Instagram photographer you do not know (from my own experiences):

  • Look through their photos to see if their style aligns with your vision/personal brand
  • From their photos, check if their models are tagged. If so, message a few of the most recent ones and ask their experience working with that photographer, providing a better insight on who you might potentially want to (or not want to) work with
  • Check the photographer’s bio if they prefer DMs or email, and follow that preference out of respect for their personal contacting process. This allows you to reach them more efficiently, plus they may be more willing to respond back to you if you respond to their contact preference.
  • Now you’re thinking about your first message in a potential series of correspondence for a collaboration. Grammar and correct spelling are simple, but can make you appear professional and serious about your inquiry if you pay attention to those details. Also, be respectful about asking about their creative labor and service fees. Many underestimate the labor that goes into producing creative content, so respect the photographer’s time, education to learning their craft, investment in tools, and efforts that go into making their products (this goes for all creatives)! Also ask about any creative contracts that are needed, which may go over how you may or may not use their photos (such as allowing to post on your social media or not being allowed to edit their photos), how to properly credit the photographer, etc.
  • When you’ve asked the basic questions, and you still for some reason know you will not pursue their services, respectfully thank them for their time in answering your questions and wish them luck on their future creative endeavors, instead of dropping your contact with them out of the blue and ignoring them.
  • If you do pursue a working relationship, make sure to let a family member, friend, or someone you trust know where and when you will be meeting with the photographer, and what time you anticipate to finish the photoshoot. Remember, they are probably a complete stranger, so safety precautions are a must!
  • Even if the photographer is a stranger, use this opportunity to develop a potentially great creative connection to build your local network! Don’t think of them as just a networking opportunity, because this may produce artificial conversation. Even though you may be the model, treat the experience as an opportunity to get to know a new creative and engage in conversation. Who knows, they may one day help you in a future creative project of your own (a photographer I met through a friend two years ago is now a huge part of my Brown Papaya passion project today, and is providing her creative labor pro bono because she believes in the mission! Be genuinely kind and respectful, it can go a long way!)


I wish you all luck in growing your creative network of amazing crafty individuals. Comment, email, or DM me what you think of these tips, if you have any tips of your own that you’d like to share, or how your experiences have been when connecting with photographers or models online!

Photographer: Billy Wakefield


  1. Community is a powerful thing! So happy to witness the seeds you’ve planted with Brown Papaya as it blossoms more and more each day. ♥️ Also, love these helpful tips for reaching out and collaborating with local photographers!


    1. Yes, it definitely is! I truly appreciate your support for my Brown Papaya project, and am so glad that my experiences provided a new perspective for your own future collaborations!


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