These brand photography tips come from my own experience as a small business owner. I finally took the plunge and did a brand shoot so I could get some head shots and other photos to use on social media, as well as video for my website.
I don’t like many photos of myself, and truth be told, I’m usually the photographer rather than the subject of photos. However, when it comes to my business, I knew I had to have some professional photos taken sooner or later. I kept putting it off. Maybe I’d wait until I was thinner? Or until my skin was clearer? Or my hair was on point?
But then my mentor Kate Toon asked for a headshot and all I had was the crappy iPhone photo I had been using. It looked very amateurish compared to everyone else’s. So I thought, this is it. It’s now or never. Time to get serious and be professional.
This was an experience completely out of my comfort zone. But in the end, it was a lot of fun and so worth it. These are my tips. And if you’re like me and don’t like having your photo taken, know that you CAN do it and all will be okay!
1. Look at Other Brand Shoots
It helps to have an idea what sort of photos you like and don’t like. What captures your personality and what doesn’t. So I started off by stalking all my beautiful copywriting friends and I took screenshots of their headshots. I created a little collection that I could later show the photographer.
Having a collection of ideas was a great way to visualise what I wanted and communicate it to the photographer.
2. Research Photographers (as well as Videographers and Hair and Makeup Artists)
In my case, I decided to go the whole way with the brand shoot. So I needed a videographer as well. I actually started off asking a family friend if he wouldn’t mind taking some photos and video. Alex Arcuri is an up-and-coming young gun in videography and photography. He’s worked with the likes of Guy and Jules Sebastian, Human Nature, Aussie label Pasduchas and a whole host of young musicians and models.
In the meantime, I contacted Sandra Glynn, makeup artist to the stars and all-round great human. I had never met Sandra in person but we had a running DM dialogue on Instagram about US and Australian politics, as well as a range of human rights issues. I had always admired her makeup style as she makes people look naturally beautiful. Sandra is Turia Pitt’s go-to makeup artist and the day before my shoot, she was at the Bachelor mansion doing hair and makeup for the girls there. I thought this was hilarious – what a change from one day to the next!
Alex and Sandra had worked together before and they suggested the gorgeous Ale Gabin as the photographer I needed in my life. Ale specialises in brand shoots – for women who don’t like to be in front of the camera. As soon as I looked at her work, I knew she was amazing. All her clients looked gorgeous!
So research is a big part of getting your brand shoot right and feeling comfortable. Photographers, videographers and makeup artists all have different styles – and you need to find people that work in your style.
3. Meet and Discuss
If possible, meet with your photographer and discuss your shoot. I met up with Ale some weeks before the shoot at a local cafe. It helped break the ice and confirmed she was a good fit for me. Imagine turning up to your brand shoot and not gelling with your photographer. This is not the time you want to feel uncomfortable.
I’ve known Alex since he was a little kid and I had chatted to Sandra heaps of times online so felt like I knew her too. But we still had a phone chat about the sort of makeup look I wanted for the day. I don’t generally wear a lot of makeup so I wanted it to look as natural as possible. And because I had long stalked Sandra’s Instagram, I knew she had the skills to pull that off.
But back to the meeting with Ale. It was an opportunity for me to show her photos of other brand shoots I had collected. I told her what I liked or didn’t like about myself. We discussed a brief for the shoot – and Ale took a great deal of notes.
In keeping with my brand values and my brand personality, I wanted to come across as warm, friendly and approachable. And I couldn’t have been more happy with the results. When I showed my copywriting group some of the photos, they used those same words to describe the shots.
4. Location! Location! Location!
This is extremely important. Some photographers have their own studio but Ale’s home was unavailable during the period we were shooting. My house which I would have loved because it’s comfortable and familiar, did not have enough natural light.
So the hunt began for local venues that we could shoot at. We needed somewhere that had more than one background option. Some places were unavailable, some were under renovation…with a week to go before the shoot, we were getting desperate. Ale even put out an Instagram story calling for someone to lend us their home!
Then I had a bright idea and rang my husband to put the plan into action. Family connections can come in quite handy at times. I ended up shooting across four beautiful Lily Homes at their display village in Emerald Hills. Suddenly, we had a whole range of backdrops in styled homes that also fit perfectly with my copywriting niche as a construction writer.
Ale and I visited the homes before the photo shoot and took random phone photos to test lighting and decide which backgrounds we liked. The ground work was important because it saved us time on the day.
5. Wardrobe Style
It probably goes without saying that you should choose clothes you like and are comfortable in for your brand shoot. You want to feel as relaxed as possible.
My wardrobe needed an update so I bought new clothes and shoes and assembled a collection of old and new pieces that we transported to the display village on the morning of the shoot. In the end out of all the outfits I took there, I ended up wearing four.
We chose outfits based on the styling and colour palette of the homes. I had also given consideration to my brand colours as I knew at least some of the photos and videos would end up on my website. I wanted them to match and fit right in.
My hot tip within a tip is to maybe not wear brand new heels that you haven’t broken in. I ended up with a strained calf muscle and couldn’t walk for over a week! How embarrassing! Who knew you had to stretch before a photo shoot?! So please, do some stretches beforehand because if you’re not used to standing and posing in heels all day, it could be a little painful.
Another thing I considered and discussed with the photographer before the shoot was the use of props. I wanted to inject some of my personality into the photos and bring along things that wouldn’t be in the homes.
I chose to bring along books of women I admire (my mentor Kate Toon’s and a photo book of feminist queen Marilyn Monroe). I also brought along things like a coffee mug, my house plans, my laptop, diary and pen and even my much loved pink measuring tape that was a Mother’s Day gift from one of my boys. They know me well! The only prop regret I have is not having time to grab some flowers.
Having props let us set up scenes and gave me something to work with, so I wasn’t just standing around awkwardly in a strange house.
I’ve seen other people even include pets – so take along whatever you’re permitted to that will help make the experience personal.
7. Have Fun ????
My last tip is simply to relax and enjoy the day. I was really nervous beforehand but Ale, Sandra (who stayed around for most of the day fixing my hair and makeup) and Alex made me feel relaxed. They cranked up the music and we had a lot of fun.
By the end of the day, I wasn’t even (too) phased when people were walking through the display homes to have a look at them. “Don’t mind us, we’re just doing a shoot!”
It’s not everyday you get to get dressed up and fussed over while someone takes photos and videos of you. So make the most of it.
Ale even offers photoshopping in her packages. But you know what? Despite all my insecurities, when I saw the photos, I didn’t want to change a thing. I could have requested smooth skin, no laugh lines around my eyes and maybe a size 6 body from 1999 or something – but that wouldn’t be me.
I am my brand – authentically me. I genuinely want to help people grow their businesses and succeed. So I wanted my photos to be as real as possible (albeit with a little styling and great lighting).
You’ll see the photos and videos from my brand shoot across this website and scattered across my social media platforms.
I highly recommend “my” dream team for an amazing brand photography experience. But whoever you choose, if you follow the tips above, I’m sure you’ll be very happy with the results.