How to Prep for a Brand Photography Shoot

Branding Photography, Communications

Aug 22, 2018

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Let’s just set the record straight here, friends. No longer are iPhone selfies acceptable offerings for your professional headshot. Nor is a poorly lit photo where you’re wearing a t-shirt from 10 years ago.

Agreed? Agreed.

Ok, so with that being said, let’s talk about what that means.

Quality branded imagery can make all the difference for your brand: for your website, your social media, and even your level of perceived professionalism.

Sure there is gorgeous stock imagery available from countless places, but there is something special that can set you apart from the crowd when you have custom shot imagery for your brand that fits your color palette, style, and speaks to your ideal client.

With a few branding sessions on the books these days for some amazing clients, I have been getting questions from you all about how to prepare for a brand photography shoot. I’m here to share a few key ways to prepare for your brand shoot & uplevel the images that represent who you are and what your brand is all about.

I even had Camille Vlahos, personal stylist & owner of Aiken Styling, share a few of her tips for finding the right color palette, props & outfits for your shoot!

How to incorporate your brand vision & visuals into your session

Even before you begin planning your photoshoot, there is one thing you really must be rock solid on – what is your brand identity & who is your target client? It’s important to list out what your goals are for your business in general, as well as for the photoshoot you’re prepping for. Sure, you want an updated headshot, but what else do you need? Being confident in your brand voice, having a set visual identity (this includes your brand’s key color palette), and creating a list of qualities & values your ideal client has is a great place to begin if you’re not sure exactly what you’re looking for. This is your chance to get more than just a headshot… so take advantage of it.

Camille of Aiken Styling said: “The overall look of the images should compliment the already established look of your brand. As a personal stylist, I knew that I wanted a refined, styled and feminine feel to my brand imagery. Try to nail down some adjectives that are inline with your business and brand. Once you have those to work with, see what kind of vision comes to mind. And hey, Pinterest is always a great source to consult.”

List out 5 adjectives that describe your brand & how you want others to feel when they experience your brand imagery. And when pinning on Pinterest, look for colors, textures, vibes, & feels, instead of specific poses, as every person, brand, & shoot is different. By having a general description & vibe, we can capture the essence of your brand, not just a replica of someone else’s.

How to select clothing & props for your brand shoot

We’ll let the personal stylist expert kick off this portion! 🤗 Camille said: “This is by far my favorite part of prepping for a brand photoshoot! It really comes down to making sure you’re choosing outfits and accessories that are cohesive to your brand. Don’t stress over trying to pull together an outfit with every color in your logo though!

On-brand outfitting can be as easy as layering a necklace in one of your brand’s key colors over a great fitting black dress, pairing a pop-of-color blazer with denim and a neutral top or keeping it simple with dark skinnies, a white or off-white top and fun accessories and shoes in your brand’s signature color!

So whether you’re a calligrapher with a boho edge and you feel your best in a blousy top or you’re a restaurant owner in your element wearing dark denim and a tailored shirt, always stay true to your personal style and keep your brand’s voice in mind when putting together an outfit.
And just like when it came down to choosing outfits and accessories for your photoshoot, props don’t necessarily have to be matchy-matchy to your branding for things to work. Instead, find pieces that you actually use in your day-to-day work to create authenticity. Choose props that contain your branding (like a PDF you created), use items that incorporate your colors or complimentary colors like flowers, coasters, books or pens and pencils, and include some neutrals to balance the color.”
My best recommendation: scour your office space & home for items you already use on a day-to-day basis & pair those with a few key purchases that elevate your brand from the everyday to the big sister version. Think of your brand in 5 years. What does it look like then compared to now? Let’s shoot for that, and let your imagery help you get to that 5 year down the road point.
And a few extra photographer & styling tips:
  • Don’t choose outfits with super loud, busy patterns. They take away from your natural beauty & can be distracting in photos.
  • Heels (even if you’re not a heels gal) elongate the legs, making great lines in photos. Additionally, clothes that fit well & aren’t too baggy photograph best!
  • Be sure to let your photographer know if you have a “good side” – while I think every side is my client’s good side, I also know that they are more likely to love (and make use of!) the photos if they feel their best in them! I’ll even show clients a few images on the back of the camera while shooting to ensure we’re on the same page & feeling great about the setup!

How to choose a location for your branding shoot

Your office space? Out & about? A studio? Selecting a location can make all the difference in the style of imagery captured. Referencing your pre-shoot prep & brand vision is key in this stage. If you have an office that is perfectly styled for your brand & filled with gorgeous light, use it. No brainer. But what happens when that isn’t the case? I’ve heard from many of you about what exactly to do in various situations, so we’ll run through a couple scenarios:

  • You have an office with no natural light: If your brand vision is full of light & airy photos filled with sunshine, you may reevaluate, but discussing with your photographer about his or her artificial light capabilities is key. Being realistic here can make or break your final product. For example: I always aim to find at least a window where natural light can filter in, because I love the look of natural light, but am always equipped & ready to supplement with artificial light. In fact, I use it at some point in nearly every indoor shoot, as it can add the perfect amount of extra fill light in moments when we need it (and moments when we can’t control the weather!).
  • You want a mix of professional & lifestyle imagery but don’t have an office: Searching for places to shoot on things like Peerspace & Airbnb is a perfect option here. Plus, if you can select a photoshoot spot near one of your favorite places in town, you can capture some more “day in the life” lifestyle imagery, as well, giving a perfect mix of professional & lifestyle photos for your brand. Getting an idea in advance of your locations will help create a shot list that communicates your brand & voice as a whole instead of just a portion of it
  • You would love to shoot at another business’ studio or shop: Just ask! You never know until you ask… Let the business know what it would require of them (for example: at a coffee shop, you just might need a corner table near the window for an hour or so) and what is in it for them. Making it clear what to expect from the shoot can often ease some of the nerves about the photoshoot hindering their business. Plus, I always love to offer for the business to have access to using the imagery for marketing purposes if they’d like! Some places I’ve captured branding imagery have designated studio rental fees for anyone to use the space (like the fabulous Park Studios in Atlanta and the amazing Field in Augusta – where we shot Aiken Branding’s branding portraits!). Others have never had anyone take photos at their business before & are thrilled to see it be put to use in that way. And finally, others will just flat out say no. That’s ok – keep an eye out for other potential locations – I always am! That way when a client comes to me with questions, I have an idea for them!

how to create a shot list for your branding photography

How to create a branding shoot shot list

What would you love to see come out of your branding shoot? Write it down.

Where do you intend to use the images? Go to those spots & look to see what you need specifically. A hero image as a header for your website? Write that down.

Want a flat lay with props specific to your brand? 1. Be sure to have all those props curated. And 2. Let your photographer know… not every photographer also is a stylist, so some require photo stylists to be on set & present for every branding shoot. These stylists work wonders & can also help you select props & outfits to tie it all together. I particularly love the prop styling element of flat lays, so if you work with me & want one, you just let me know in advance. However, these do take a bit extra of time to properly style & capture, but can be oh, so worth it for that one key header image!

Finally: things you can never have enough of? Quality headshots in different outfits/settings and special detail imagery that is specific to your brand. Think: your own personal stock imagery gallery that was shot & curated just for you!

That will sell your brand, product, & services above and beyond what you can imagine!

(but also hear me when I say this, quality stock imagery that you can find elsewhere is still a better alternative than nothing at all! So if you don’t have the budget yet for custom branding photography, stay on the right track with quality stock imagery!)

What are your top tips for prepping for a branding photography shoot? Comment below with anything you’ve done to get ready for the imagery of your dreams!

You can find some of my branding imagery here to get examples of a few favorite shoots!

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