by Catriona Mitchell
We live in exciting times. Never before in history have women had such expansive opportunities for work freedom, financial autonomy, getting our ideas out into the world. Never before have we been able to reach out to a global marketplace with the click of a button or two.
More and more frequently, as artists and entrepreneurs, we can expect to meet our readers / audience / clients online before they meet us in person – if they meet us in person at all.
This is why a great personal branding photo shoot is important. If a picture speaks a thousand words, and impressions are formed in 3 seconds, you’ll want your online presence to provide an instant, captivating and accurate window onto you and your work.
Personally I close a website in a nanosecond if the photos I see aren’t both high-calibre and evocative. Poor pictures immediately discredit the person behind the images. Perhaps that’s unfair; but I want to be told at a glance that I’m dealing with people who put maximum effort into their business. Don’t you?
Below you’ll find 5 useful steps to ensuring your personal branding photos are as enthralling and magnetic as possible. As a result, people who haven’t experienced being with you in person will experience your charisma through the images alone; and they’ll also get a clear sense of your message. All this leads to better business.
STEP #1: THIS ISN’T ABOUT LOOKING PRETTY
Having a personal branding photo shoot has little to do with creating ‘pretty pictures’. Of course you’ll want to look your best, but much more than this, your photos should tell a story about you and your work.
Images imitating the style of fashion magazines or commercial shoots may look impressive at first glance, but don’t necessarily provide information about who you are on the inside, and ultimately won’t serve your business. They’ll risk feeling cold, remote or just plain anonymous.
Instead, your personal branding photos should capture you in ways that make you personable and transparent. They should tell your story, capture some of your warmth and character, and give clues about the nature of your work, so that your potential clients immediately feel that they connect with, understand, know and can trust you.
This way, those who are ‘meeting’ you online for the first time feel immediately drawn to buying your products or services.
STEP #2: FINDING THE RIGHT PHOTOGRAPHER
It’s helpful to seek out a photographer who specialises in personal branding photography. No matter how skilled a more traditional portrait artist may be, s/he may not be concerned with the details you need to communicate through your images for marketing purposes: that is, layering them with visual clues about your work, so they’re deliberately offering information about the message as well as the messenger.
Finding a personal recommendation for a photographer is ideal. Comb rigorously through your photographer’s portfolio to make sure their aesthetic is in alignment with yours. You’d be amazed at how every photographer sees their subject differently, and as a result how differently you can come across in your images, depending on who’s behind the camera.
Also, make sure you book someone you feel comfortable with. Talk on the phone prior to locking in the booking, if you can’t meet in person. You’ll need to be at ease with your photographer for best results, able to be your most radiant and uninhibited self during the shoot. Make sure the photographer is genuinely interested in you and your and message, and has a supportive, encouraging attitude.
Some photographers will include hair and make-up, and even a stylist to help with clothing. Be sure to ask what your package includes.
STEP #3: THE IMPORTANCE OF BRAND ALIGNMENT
For maximum impact, your visual identity must be in direct alignment with your core business message.* Choice of clothing, setting, colour palette, accessories and props… all these carry visual meaning and contribute towards the overall effect of your images.
Location and clothing are the biggest considerations. Accessories, props and colour palette are also important. What specific details will you use to create a mood? What tools or equipment could you bring in, to evoke the feeling of your work?
Be sure you’re clear on the kind of note you wish to strike. Do you want to be seen as affluent, confident, businesslike? If so, you might choose to be photographed in an opulent hotel lobby. Are you a healer of some kind, for example a naturopath? If so, perhaps you want to be photographed outdoors, amid flowers and sunlight?
If there’s any discrepancy in your messaging, your prospective clients will feel it. Make sure your shoot gets the subtle, but telling, details right by giving each one careful consideration.
STEP #4: PREPARING FOR YOUR SHOOT
Above all, ensure that the look of your shoot connects directly to the message you wish to convey.
One way to design your shoot is to envisage exactly who you’d like to attract, in terms of customers or clients. Narrow this down to one imaginary person – your dream client – and then create a shoot that you believe would visually appeal to him/her. Choose your locations and outfits accordingly. This will create resonance with the right people for you; and have the added benefit of deterring the people who wouldn’t be right for you anyway (because they have different values and taste).
If you’ve booked a full-day shoot, you ought to have time for five different locations and outfits. If you’re going for a half-day, three changes of clothing and setting are likely more appropriate. Check this with your photographer in advance.
On the day before the shoot, make sure you are well rested. Avoid caffeine and salt; stay well hydrated. A face mask and moisturizer are a good idea. Have a thorough pampering personal grooming session.
With all the details planned and confirmed with your photographer, your clothing laid out and ironed, your accessories decided on and your props ready to go, meditate on and visualize the way you want your shoot to look so that you’re as mentally prepared as you can be.
On the morning of your shoot, before showering and leaving home, I strongly suggest doing a dance workout for at least 15 minutes in your living room to whatever music most uplifts and energises you! This way you’ll look more limber and vivid in front of camera.
Photo of women’s coach Lauren Raso by Catriona Mitchell
STEP #5: PHOTOS YOU’LL NEED
The three main types of photos you’ll need are:
Portraits of you ‘at work’
These pictures should be full- or half-body and provide some kind of clear location or context relevant to your type of work. Make sure you look friendly, warm and approachable as well as professional.
Create a welcoming mood that draws the potential client in, so s/he can imagine wanting to spend time with you. These images should give out the message “work with me!”
It can also be useful to have a couple of more close-up, detailed “cut-away” shots to sprinkle through your site that provide a glimpse into your work-life. These needn’t show your face, but perhaps your hands, in action.
Images for your ‘About Me’ page
In these portraits, you should be looking straight into camera. This way your site visitors feel they are having eye contact with you – this creates a feeling of immediate personal connection and builds on the ‘know, like and trust’ factor. Head-shots work best in this context.
Photo of poet and author Sharanya Manivannan, by Catriona Mitchell
Author Ira Trivedi, by Catriona Mitchell
Personal / lifestyle photos
Also useful are some pictures that allow your site visitors to ‘get to know you’ personally, by catching a glimpse into your behind-the-scenes life. These pictures are also effective when they capture something aspirational or inspirational.
For instance, if you travel a lot, you might like to arrange a photo shoot in Paris with iconic architecture in the background. Or shoot a moment that shows you in meditative serenity, or being joyously expressive. These personal / lifestyle images are focused less on storytelling than on evoking a feeling.
Lauren Raso, by Catriona Mitchell
In 2018, BRAVA will be offering personal branding photo shoots to artists and entrepreneurs, with world-class guest photographers. Subscribe to the BRAVA newsletter and / or follow BRVA on social media to be kept in the loop!
*If you’re struggling to get clarity on your core message, BRAVA offers coaching service to help you with this. See here for more information.