How to prepare for a branding photography session

I recently had the pleasure of having new branding photos taken by the fantastic Jade Tinkler photography.

Like most women (and a few men) I hate having my photo taken. I always see the flaws – the squashed nose, several chins and the “baby weight” I’m still carrying (plus some more) 14+ years since I gave birth to my last “baby”. Nonetheless I really enjoyed the couple of hours with Jade and I am delighted with the end result. No, I don’t look like a supermodel. I still have a squashed nose, several chins (although not all of them are showing – thank you Jade!) and the excess weight. It is me. But it is me looking at my best.

The fact I’m pleased with them is no coincidence. I had thoroughly prepared for the photoshoot before the day to ensure that end result. This is what I did.

Think about who the photos are for

These photos aren’t for me.

Your branding photos aren’t for you. They are for visitors to your website (and your social media). They’re there to make your website look aesthetically pleasing (that does matter) and to tell a story – the story of what it is like to work with you (or the story of your products if you’re a product based business)

Branding photography is all part of getting people to know and like you and see you as an authority.

Which means you need to think about the kind of clients you want to attract – your ideal clients.

Consider how you want to be seen

Similarly you need to think about how you want to be perceived. Are you friendly, or no-nonsense tell it like it is? Formal or informal? Think about what you are like and what appeals to your Ideal Client. This should be exactly as you come across in person. I met a personal trainer once who was energetic, informal and so much fun. But the photos on her website looked very different. It was clearly the same person but so formal and, well, dull. That caused me to wonder which version I’d get and it can also, subconsciously, reduce the level of trust.

Spend some time thinking about how you are with clients. We want the images to look like you as your clients see you (on a good day!)

This is hugely important as it influences the poses you want to adopt, what you wear, where the images are taken and even the props you may use.

If you’re a no-nonsense business coach you don’t want images of you looking soft and fluffy drinking a cup of coffee like you would with a friend.

Think about what to wear

No, this isn’t about what you think makes you looks the slimmest. Sorry!

When thinking about what to wear you need to consider:

  • who your Ideal Client is
  • how you want to be perceived
  • your brand colours
  • comfort

I always think you want to look like you working (or as your Ideal Clients might perceive you working), but on a good day. So dress as you would for your ideal clients. If you wear a “uniform” for work (even if it is activewear because you’re a personal trainer) then have at least some of your photos taken in that uniform. Choose the best ones of course (this is not the place to wear those old comfy leggings with a hole in them). We do want to give a good impression!

You don’t need to dress head to toe in your brand colours (in fact I suggest you don’t), but think about the visual impact of your photos on your website. You want some brand colours in your images (at least in some of them) – this can be through something you wear (it doesn’t need to be your top/dress – it can be a scarf or necklace), your nail polish or a prop such as a notebook, cup or even pen. That way your images will be visually coherent with everything else in your website. Just as importantly is not wearing colours which clash with your brand colours. My brand colours are a dark teal and berry colour. So you won’t find me wearing orange or green as these would clash. Neutral colours can work well.

Try to incorporate a few changes of outfit in your photo session. It gives variety in your photos. It also means if an outfit doesn’t work as well as you expect your session isn’t wasted.

You might be surprised to see comfort on the list. But it is difficult to smile and look relaxed if you’re wearing shoes that are killing your feet…

Don’t forget underwear either. Choose underwear that helps your shape but not the kind that makes it hard to breathe!

What about props?

Props make a big difference to your photos. Again thinking about your Ideal Client and how you want to be perceived. That photo clutching a cup of coffee might be seen a lot, but there is good reason for it. It shows you as approachable, friendly and the kind of person you’d sit down and have a chat with.

Think about the equipment you might use at work and incorporate that into your photos. So a yoga teacher would have mats and yoga blocks. A business coach might have a laptop, notebook and pens. A nutritionist can include food and all sorts of kitchen equipment.

In addition to using these as props to add interest to images of you, you might also want some images of them styled which you can use as “stock photos”.

If you work with clients it can be good to show you interacting with “clients”. It doesn’t need to be actual clients. This can be family or friends but make sure they’re the kind of person you might have as a client. So if you want to target women don’t use your husband in photos. However handsome he might be! You don’t need to show client faces. In fact it can be better to show them from behind or their shoulder/hand. It can make it easier for someone to see themselves in their place

If you’re a parent and work with children you might think about including your (or someone else’s) children in at least some of your photos. You might (as I do) choose not to show your family (to be fair they’re teenagers and wouldn’t pose for me anyway!). At the very least you might want to include some photo frames with family images in within your background.

If you’re struggling for inspiration take a look at competitors/others in your industry and see what they have used. Pinterest is another good source of inspiration – try searching for branding photography + your industry.

Locations and poses

Again you need to think about your Ideal Clients and how you want to be perceived/your values when thinking about both locations and poses.

I’ve had photos taken at home (in my office, kitchen and on my sofa) and also out and about.

Given the nature of the work I do, I like to work in my office on my trusty old Mac with a large screen, old fashioned keyboard and mouse (can’t get away with a tracker!). I’m no digital nomad!!

But supporting local businesses is a key value of mine and I have had photos taken in my local town, Sevenoaks, at several cafes, in the street and outside a florist. I look like I’m working on many of these images – I’ve got my laptop, notebook and pen plus coffee (and even cake). They give interest.

If you’re using another business premises it is good courtesy to ask before using. We’ve never had a problem with someone saying no (and we always tag them in social media too).

Look at other websites/social media in your industry and/or related industries and Pinterest for ideas. It is a good idea to do a Pinterest board to share what you like with your photographer.

Don’t forget images that don’t just show your face – you don’t want your website to be full of images of you. Include some of your props (especially if in brand colours) and also of you working where you don’t show your face. Perhaps showing your hands at work instead.

How the images are going to be used

As a website designer I get frustrated when I’m given some great images but can’t use them because they’re not the right size or shape for what is needed.

If you love websites where the images go all the way across the screen then it is not helpful to have all your photos taken in portrait mode with a close up of you. You need landscape images with plenty of space around.

Thinking about the layout of websites you like and the kind of images they use can save a lot of grief later!

Choosing a photographer

This is so important. I always recommend using a professional branding photographer because they really know what they’re doing. Sadly I’ve had some lovely images sent by clients that have used eg a family photographer or wedding photographer but they don’t tell the story of your brand in the same way.

Take a look at images they have taken so you can see their style and check it is the kind of thing you’re looking for. Ask for recommendations from others you know (us website designers tend to know a few and can give recommendations).

Make sure to talk to anyone you’re thinking of using before you book them. You want someone that you click with. They need to make you smile and feel confident!

Conclusion

Getting good branding photos taken can really make a difference to getting bookings through your website and are definitely worth the investment. But I get they are a big investment for many businesses especially if you’re just starting out. So make sure you get good ones! The best way to do that is to prepare well.

Most importantly is to understand who these images are for and the kind of impression you want to give them. Then think about clothing, props, locations and poses. Also consider how the images are going to be used so you get usable photos!

Book a hair and make up appointment for the day of the shoot so you look and feel your best.

And finally enjoy the day. It’s not often you get to play at being a model!

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