How to Prepare for a Personal Brand Photoshoot

Daunted by getting your photos taken? Here are answers to the most common questions so you can feel prepared before, during, and after your shoot!
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Published on  December 11, 2019

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Great photos are essential in today’s online world. You need photos for social media, for your website, for emails…for basically everything! Photos are content and content is king.

So, how do you prepare for a brand photoshoot, especially if your brand is YOU?

I’ve never been one to be camera shy – I’ve always loved having photos taken. But, I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea or comfort zone, so, in this blog, I’ll share with you how to be strategic about your personal brand photos (and how to have fun with it, too)!

First, let’s start with a story…

The Power of My First Personal Brand Photoshoot

This is a shot from my first-ever photoshoot for my personal brand.

Photo Credit: Vienna Glenn

At the time, I was still working under the business name Sukha Creative. “Sukha” is a Sanskrit word regularly defined as “ease” and “contentment.” That’s what I wanted my business to feel like. Collaborative, comfortable, and easeful.

Pretty soon after I founded my business, I learned that it also means “bitch” in Russian.

So, in 2015 – three years into my business – I knew it was time for a change. I had noticed that people weren’t hiring me because of my company name.

They were hiring me for me.

I had also started speaking at conferences representing a client of mine, and I knew it would be important that I could build my own credentials and reputation through those opportunities.

So I decided to go all-in, nix my Russian-slur-of-a-company-name and transition to a personal brand. I hired a photographer whose work I loved (still the most $$$ I’ve spent on photos, but worth it), and we traipsed around Downtown Phoenix, snapping shots in front of my favorite mural, at coffee shops I loved, and while riding bikes.

Basically all of the things that are recognizable in my current brand started that sweaty June day over four years ago.

Photo Credit: Vienna Glenn

I started to understand how I could lean into who I was authentically and infuse it into every part of my business. Those photos showed me that I didn’t need to hide behind a company name anymore and that I was ready to show my face (literally) and hone my voice.

If you check out my Instagram, you’ll see the seeds we planted that day weaved throughout all my current brand photography.

So, how do you start down your own photo path and really bring YOU to life through a photoshoot? Here’s where to start…

Curating your Personal Brand Image

Before you take any photos, it is imperative that you hone in on what your personal brand visual identity is!

Maybe you’re thinking: “Well, isn’t my personal brand just me?!”

My answer: Yes, of course it’s you. But your personal brand should be a curated version of yourself. I know that may sound a little weird in the age of authenticity we live in, but your brand exists to help you meet certain goals, and you have to be strategic about how you craft its image.

People should be able to tell something about your brand just by looking at the pictures. Odds are your customers are subconsciously searching for slivers of themselves in you and they need to be able to understand and relate to it.

If you’re having a hard time thinking of your brand objectively, step outside of yourself and ask this question:

“If my brand was a specific version of myself, who would that “me” be?”

Through personifying this version of you, you’re able to bring your brand to life. Think about:

  • What is their style?
  • What colors do they lean towards? Away from?
  • What are 3 adjectives that best represent them?
  • What do they want people to feel when they look at them?

All of these will aid in narrowing down the plethora of directions that may be overwhelming you.

Your personal brand photography should be a representation of how you want the world to see you based on your business goals and target audience.

Take me for example: I really lean into my love of urban life, vibrant colors, and twirling in front of murals. My brand is always bright and colorful, and although that IS very me, it isn’t me 100% all of the time. This doesn’t mean its “fake” or inauthentic, it’s simply a curated vision I have built for a specific reason.

This is intentionally crafted to represent the vibrancy and creativity that I want my students, community members, and clients to feel when they work with me or learn from me. After all, my purpose is to help people bring their ideas to life, the most empowering journey you could undertake!

This visual identity helps support that goal.

Photo Credit: Danielle Heinson

Top 10 Questions to Ask Before Your Brand Photoshoot

If you’re new to getting your photos taken for your business, here are some fundamental questions you should be answering first with some tips and context. I hope they will help you feel prepared and strategic before, during, and after your shoot!

1. What is the story you want to tell?

This is so important to know so that you can convey your thoughts to the photographer. So ask yourself:

What story do I want to tell my audience about my brand and how can I convey that through my photos?

My most recent brand photoshoot was with a local Phoenix photographer, Delight in the Desert. I knew before going into the shoot that I needed to tell the story of being a colorful, vibrant entrepreneur out in the city who is also passionate about mindfulness and purpose.

My photos are bright and clean with lots of color pops in different settings as we meandered around Downtown Phoenix – the place I actually call home.

2. What shots do you need to tell that story?

Next, curate a list or lookbook of shots you want to get to tell that story.

If you aren’t sure about this, look for some inspiration. Pinterest is a great place to find shots you may want to get or images that could be recreated cohesively for your brand. If you happen to be scrolling through Instagram and see a photo you like, save it for times like this, or intentionally browse related hashtags or competitor accounts.

Going back to my most recent shoot, again, I wanted to capture my life as a colorful, urban, and purposeful entrepreneur. To me this translated into capturing curated shots of my everyday life, with this shot list:

  • Riding a bike
  • Strolling on a colorful sidewalk
  • Creating content on my phone
  • Meditating
  • Mindful journaling
  • Fun action shots in front of murals

Same thing goes for you: think about what photos would best tell your story. If you’re a team management consultant, you definitely need to get shots of you with a group of people. Are you a personal life coach? Shoot you and a client talking intimately. On and on the ideas can go!

3. Where will your photos be used?

Always keep in mind where you plan on using these photos.

Are your photos going on your website, social media, marketing assets, or a combo of all three?

For some shots, you may only have one platform in mind. Maybe you want the shots just for the purposes of using it on Instagram, so getting some portrait orientation shots are great because they fit perfectly into Stories and crop well for 4:5 photos on the feed. Need images for your website? Aim for landscape since you want them to fill the screen on desktop.

If you have a specific usage in mind, you’ll want to make sure to communicate this to your photographer ahead of time and think through what location would be best to get them.

4. What formats should you ask for?

There are few formats you’ll want to ask your photographer for: landscape, portrait, website, and social media.

This involves shooting from different distances and angles. If you plan on cropping them for Instagram, be sure there is enough negative space so you don’t have to crop an important part of the image. For example, if you want an outfit shot for Instagram, you’ll want to be sure the photo is taken at a far enough distance so you won’t have to crop your feet or part of your head.

Change up the perspective as well. Take some closer up, others far away, some at an angle and others straight on. Vary your poses. Sit for some and stand for others. Get creative and make sure you’re getting the more high-resolution photos your photographer has so you can edit them down the road for different usages.

Photo credit: Taylor Bellais Photo.

5. What should you wear?

First, take a look at your closet. Does your everyday style accurately represent your brand, your personality, and ultimately the vibe you want to give off to attract your customers? If it does, then that’s great! It should be relatively simple to plan outfits if what you already own is on-brand. Stay true to you. If your every day is a simple top and jeans, why change it? Don’t pull out business professional outfits if that’s not the version of yourself you want to put out there.

If your everyday dress isn’t reflective of your brand, that’s okay too… it’s just an excuse to go shopping and buy pieces that embody the feeling you want to convey! I still remember hustling to the mall the night before my first shoot to find brightly colored tops that matched my brand colors. Now, I have a whole closet full of them 🙂

Keep location in mind when you’re choosing outfits as well. Maybe the cafe you want to shoot at is the perfect setting for that cute dress you just bought, but odds are, you’ll want to change into something more casual for riding a bike or walking through a park. Although these photos are curated, you’ll still want them to be somewhat candid.

6. How do I find and choose a photographer?

Finding the right photographer is VITAL. Getting high-quality photos that are on-brand is easier said than done, but finding someone who is the right fit goes a long way.

Here are three ideas where you can find some:

  1. Search local hashtags on Instagram: Look for your city + photographer (e.g. #phoenixphotographer) and see who shows up. Photographers love to use Instagram to find new clients!
  2. Look at local bloggers and influencers: Check out their websites or Instagram to see who took their photos. Again – #phoenixblogger in my case would be a perfect place to start. I say this because bloggers are always getting photos taken for their projects and often these photographers are really good at lifestyle shots and may not charge as much as traditional ones.
  3. Ask for referrals: This is often the best way to get great recommendations! Ask your friends, family, or check in local business groups on Facebook.

When it comes to choosing a photographer, for me, it always comes down to their style and past work. I lean toward candid, lively shots in my personal brand, so I look for people who do that. I don’t want boring corporate headshots and I definitely don’t want photographers who stick to moody palettes and dark lighting!

Check out their portfolio and social channels and then reach out to start the conversation.

7. What should I tell my photographer?

Be up-front and clear on what you expect from your personal brand photoshoot. Your photographer will appreciate it and you will both be on the same page before ever shooting. Here’s an actual document I send to photographers when I first reach out, where I share:

  • My business goals at the time
  • Target audience info
  • What I do and who I do it for
  • Personal branding keywords
  • My vibe
  • Moodboard
  • Shots I need at the moment

Feel free to adapt my doc for yourself! Every photographer I’ve sent this to LOVES it and I’ve never been unhappy with my photos.

8. How much should I pay?

This will vary from photographer to photographer.

In my experience, most short personal brand sessions can cost anywhere between $150-$400 for 1-2 hours of shooting and edited photos.

If you reach out to really established editorial or print photographers, it may be much more and not be what you need at the end of the day.

Photographers will either provide you with a set number of photos (usually you select your favorites) or they’ll give you as many good ones as they got within a certain range. I typically prefer getting as many as possible since I use my photos so much across all channels.

9. How should I pose?

Go back to your personal brand qualities and general aesthetic. Is it contemplative, bubbly, moody, edgy? This vibe should come across in your photos. I recommend using the communication guidelines listed in #7 to give your photographer a clear idea of what you want out of your shoot. The best ones will give you lots of guidance on posing and make you feel comfortable and at ease.

Here’s my biggest tip on posing:

Make an utter fool of yourself. The more awkward you feel, the better the photos will likely be! Fake laugh, move, grab your hair! Movement makes for awesome photos and your personality will shine through much more.

Photo Credit: Vienna Glenn

10. How should I use my photos?

Your options are truly endless!

If you’ve answered the previous questions, then you already have a great idea of what story you want to tell and what shots you’ll need to tell it with. Now, you get to be creative! Pop them in email headers, overlay text on them for Instagram, or use them in your marketing decks. I can’t wait to see what you do!

Did you find this guide helpful? What other questions do you have? Pop me a note in the comments below!

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2 Comments

  1. Emily on 11th December 2019 at 9:45 am

    As a personal brand photographer, this info is spot on! Quinn has done a fantastic job introducing us to what’s involved in planning a branding session, which can be really fun, but also overwhelming if it’s not the sort of thing you’re used to doing. Follow these tips and you’re sure to end up with engaging images that attract your target audience like moths to a flame. I’ll be sharing some of these ideas with my own photography clients to help them feel more prepared and at ease. Thank you for the great content, Quinn!

    • Quinn Tempest on 11th December 2019 at 1:30 pm

      Oh my gosh Emily, this made my day!!! Thanks for such a glowing review of this blog. I’ve absolutely loved every photographer I’ve worked with and they seem to love how prepared I am with what I want, so this guide is intended to help other people find that same great connection…and photos! Thanks so much for reading and commenting 🙂