When I moved to Hong Kong, I made it a point to email all the model agencies I could to set-up test shoots. I’m happy to share that every single model agency I reached out to sent me a reply back with a list of models available for test shoots.
It wasn’t luck, but a strategic effort with different parts that led to my 100% reply rate. I go into each of the factors in this article below and I include the exact emails I sent out that got me replies back every time I’ve reached out to model agencies at the end.
I’ve been able to deepen relationships with these agencies, been offered commercial shoots from those relationships and now have a steady stream of models available to shoot with. And if you’re an aspiring photographer, I want the same for you.
KISS - Keep It Short & Simple
One of the main points to keep in mind when reaching out to model agency bookers is that they are extremely busy.
This means your subject line, opening paragraph, examples of your work and your call to action need to be clear and concise.
Let’s go through each of the parts of the email together now.
- Subject Line
- Opening Paragraph
- Examples of Your Work
- Call to Action
- Ending Salutation
- Email Signature
Here’s the subject line I used when I first moved to Hong Kong: “Test Shoot Inquiry - LA Beauty Photographer in HK”
The first part - “Test Shoot Inquiry” - makes it obvious what the email is going to be about.
The second part - “LA Beauty Photographer in HK” - sets me apart from the existing photographers already in Hong Kong (because I’m from LA) while defining what I do (“Beauty Photographer”).
Another subject line option I’d use would be: “Test Shoot Inquiry – Beauty Concepts for [MODEL NAME]”.
This subject line makes the email appealing to open because I’m clearly offering a photoshoot I’ve thought about to one of their existing models. There’s a value add here and the cost is just opening the email.
You want to be as direct as possible with your subject line. Most bookers will open up the email for a test shoot as a good agency is always looking for new talent to partner with on both sides of the camera.
This leads us to the opening paragraph.
Your opening paragraph should be an introduction into who you are (a photographer of some sort), what you want (to test shoot) and when you want it (a specific timeframe recent to the email send date).
Here’s what I use:
My name is Leo Thom and I’m a commercial beauty photographer from Los Angeles. I’ve recently relocated to Hong Kong and am looking to do test shoots beginning in September.
Short, simple, to the point. Let’s move onto examples of your work.
Examples of Your Work
I like to include 3 low resolution images embedded into the email. This guarantees that if the booker opens the email, they will get a visual representation of what I do.
Do not rely on people to click into your portfolio link, your social media link or any email attachments you may include. Making someone click on your link to see your work introduces another action for someone else to do, and fundamentally, we are all lazy. Serve your work to the booker on a platter by embedding it into the email.
Here’s what I do:
I like to place my website portfolio link immediately after the embedded images. The email images act like a teaser for your larger body of work at your portfolio.
Let’s move onto your call-to-action.
It’s not enough to simply declare your interest and show how good you are. You need to give the booker an action to follow-up on.
Here’s what I would use as a call-to-action:
I would love to schedule test shoots with any new faces / models in town that you may have available for the next two weeks. Can you please send me their comp cards?
If you have a specific model in mind, here’s what I’d say:
I would love to schedule a test shoot with [MODEL NAME]. I’ve attached a moodboard for your consideration. Are they available to test in the next two weeks?
I like to end with a question because it’s a clear call-to-action for the booker to execute against.
Ending the email – Salutation
Politeness goes a long way in business. No one likes dealing with someone cold and difficult. Try to bring fresh and warm energy to your communications.
I like to end my emails with:
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
As the requesting photographer, you need to respect the power dynamic that the booker has in this initial email. They are the ones with the power to either ignore your request or to find time in their busy schedule to make it happen. Be polite.
Your email signature is the final piece to demonstrate your professionalism. Here’s my email signature:
Leo Henry Thom
WhatsApp: +123 4567 8910
I like to give my cell phone / WhatsApp (a popular messaging app in Hong Kong) in the email signature. Some bookers would prefer to hop on a call or send a message via WhatsApp. I’ve had both happen to me. Be open to multiple methods of communication.
Although you’ve already linked your portfolio earlier in the email, it doesn’t hurt to link it again. The email signature, in my opinion, is an appropriate place to have your Instagram account link. You may want to share it in the body of your email, but that’s up to you. Adding in my LinkedIn account link is just my personal way to elevate the professionalism of email correspondence.
Now let’s put everything together into a template you can re-use and change up for multiple agencies.
Outreach Email Template
Dear [MODEL AGENCY],
My name is [YOUR NAME] and I’m a commercial beauty photographer based in [YOUR CITY].
I would love to schedule test shoots with any new faces / models in town that you may have available for the next two weeks. Can you please send me available comp cards?
Below are examples of my work:
[EMBED 3 IMAGES]
More can be seen at my portfolio:
[YOUR PORTFOLIO LINK]
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
[YOUR PHONE NUMBER]
[YOUR LINKS, IE PORTFOLIO, INSTAGRAM, ETC.]