After deciding that a branding photography session is necessary, the next question (and honestly, one of the biggest hang-ups for many brand owners) is what do I need to do to prepare? It can feel daunting, especially if this is your first branding session. What can you expect, how you should you dress, what needs to be prepared in advance – these are all questions that are valid and overwhelming to process through. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources on the internet to help navigate through some of these thoughts, but each photographer, each brand, and each session is different. Because of this, I’ve decided to put together a list of things you can (and probably should) think through (and do) after you’ve scheduled your next branding photography session.

Find Your Inspiration

Sara M from Dashboard Living

Firstly – you need to come up with images that you are looking for. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, there is a good chance you will end up missing photos that you unknowingly were expecting to have in your portfolio.

My suggestion:
Create a board on Pinterest, or screenshot some images for ideas. Search for your brand’s industry (for example, if you’re a fitness guru, look up “fitness photography inspiration” or “solo workout photos”) and take a peek at what other professionals are sharing in regards to imagery.
Head over to Instagram (it’s awesome for this sort of thing because it’s ALL imagery!) and look up some other brands and businesses that have a similar feel to yours. Take a bit of time and scroll through to see if you are inspired by any of their images as well!

Second, share your Pinterest board or screen shots with your photographer! They will want to know what your expectations are, will be able to give feedback and bring their own inspiration into your session, and will better understand the mood you’re going for.

Pro Tip: reflect on your image choices. When you’re looking through Pinterest/Instagram/Google, what about them is attractive to you? Do you see some common themes? Are you hoping for white and bright? Earthy and rustic? Low lighting? Outdoors? When you make these observations of your choices, make sure you pass that along to whomever will be involved in this photo session – especially your photographer!

Review Your Content Calendar, Website, and Previous Photo Galleries

Do you have a content calendar for your social media posting, your blog post schedules, your email blasts? If you do, this would be the time to review these and see where you’re struggling to find relevant or updated images. Make notes as to where the gaps are, and make sure you have a “specific shots” list for your photographer. This will broaden out your photo gallery, giving you useable and versatile images, no matter the content.

Secondly, if you’ve had photo sessions done in the past, take a look through your previous galleries. This will give you some insight about what you need to update, what you’re missing, and what you’d like to recreate. Again, create a shot list and pass it along!

Pro Tip: some questions to ask yourself when thinking through what kind of shots you’re looking for include:

Am I using Canva and filling in the blanks with generic pictures? If so, should I look at getting some generic photos that are more inline and personalized with my brand? Do I have any new products or services that I am offering? What is coming up in the next 3 months for my brand, and how can I make sure I have relevant imagery for those situations (for example, if you’re a social media influencer, what are calendar dates that are coming up that you may want to highlight)? Are there other team members or important people that I want to have in some of my photos and posts? In the last 2 months, what were some of the images that I found were missing in my portfolio when I went to create ads/send emails/etc?

Pick a Location

Whether you’re based in a permanent location or you work on the go, finding the right location for your next session is key to creating a versatile and relevant gallery.

  • Make sure your work station is clean and clear. While it’s useful for you to have a stack of sticky notes, your calendar, external hard drives, and charging cords on your desk (or dining room table) while you work, it can distract from your images. My suggestion is to clean it up, while still having it accessible to use for props if so desired.
  • What’s in the background? Are there any garbage cans in your line of vision? What is going on behind you in the images can be just as important as to what is in the photo. We’ve all seen “fails” where it looks like a light pole is coming out of the top of someone’s head, right? By making sure things are tidy behind you (even if it’s in the next room), it can greatly reduce the risk of having “noisy” photos.
  • Think about your favourite hang-out spot, and plan for some indoor images there. I’m going to bet that you spend time working on laptops, notebooks and/or your phone to make sure your brand is working right. Why not schedule a session at your favourite coffee shop with a latte in hand?
  • How do you get around? By car? Bicycle? Transit? Let’s use that! If you’re always on the go, roll with that and request images of you (or your staff) on the road!
  • Rent an AirBnb or ask to use some office space. If you have a product that you’re wanting to feature, or you want to change up the setting of your photos for this session, an AirBnB may be a great option. Because of the variety of options that are out there, they are always cleaned before and after your arrival, and often have reasonable rates for a large space, AirBnB’s (or places like this available in Nova Scotia) are becoming more popular for photoshoots.

Pro tip: whether your brand is based in a restaurant or on the internet as a travel influencer, think outside the box! Not all of your images need to fit inside the confines of a specific location. If you’re a restaurant, let’s get outside and enjoy some takeout on the go. If you’re an online fitness guru, let’s do some working out in the neighbourhood green space! I always recommend having some options with your location, as it helps with creating a wider portfolio and it utilizes your time and resources best!

Book Some Talent

If your brand has anything to do with people (for example, is there an element of customer service? Do you offer courses, trainings or advice, especially live or live online? Do you blog about day-to-day life as an working mom?) I strongly suggest asking for some people to be involved in this session with you. By having a real person (even if they are on Zoom) interacting and participating in the session, you can create more realistic images of what people can expect from your brand.

For example, if your brand is a shop full of goods from local makers, having a couple of people in the store browsing, interacting with you and your staff, or appearing to purchase goods gives you so many more options for your website. Another example would be if you’re a consulting agency who does a lot of online client meetings, to scheduling someone to come online to allow for images of you working with clients.

If you’re looking to use other people in your shoot, there are many different routes you can go. Within Halifax, for example, are a couple of different modeling agencies that are available for hire. There are also often several different groups on social media of aspiring models that are looking to build their portfolios. This may take some more work to track down, but it is usually a win-win for everyone. Of course, asking friends or clients if they would be willing to participate is a cost effective and great way to incorporate talent.

Pro tip: If you’re looking to add talent to your session, be sure they know the full picture of what is happening. They will be more comfortable and prepared for the session this way. Also, ensure that all names and contact information of your talent is passed along to the photographer, as model releases may need to be issued for their signing!

Schedule Appropriately

To make sure your session isn’t rushed, and to make sure that you, as the face of your brand, are more relaxed, schedule more time than you figure you’ll need. If the photography package option is 3-4 hours long, block off 5 hours. That way, because you won’t feel pressed for time, you’ll be more relaxed, allow for some creative on-the-spot thinking, and will create a buffer in case something goes awry during the session.

Another thing: schedule when you know you’re going to be alert and feeling motivated. Keep in mind your brand’s message and client base (if your brand thrives on nightlife, then in order to capture the essence, look at late afternoon or early evening), but remember that the better you feel, the more confident you’ll present yourself.

Pro tip: If you can help it, try planning your session when the light will be best in the photography space! For example, if your brand is based in a building facing west, it’s likely going to have the best natural lighting in the afternoon.

Dress for Success (and versatility)

Plan out your wardrobe. Enlist a friend or family member to help. Pick out clothing and accessories that will
1. Give you a look of authority and success in your brand;
2. Is on-point with the story you’re telling with your brand;
3. and is versatile! I’m talking layers/interchangeable accessories that will transform your look in an instant.

If you don’t wear the same outfit every day, but you don’t have 8 hours of photography coverage, creating an outfit that can be changed by adding or changing accessories or clothing pieces quickly is key for creating a wider photo gallery.

Pro tip: by wearing a jacket, and bringing along a casual sweater/cardigan, you can change the feel of the photo in an instant with a quick swap! Take a look at Pinterest for great “capsule wardrobe” ideas, and how to create different outfits using the same articles of clothing for inspiration!

Many people do NOT enjoy being photographed – it’s not just you! So while all of these tips can take some time to arrange, I can promise that it’ll be worth it. By arranging for talent, ensuring you have enough time set aside for your shoot, and creating a versatile and clean workspace, you’ll ease the stress on the day-of. This means that you can relax because you know you’ve done everything you possibly can to set your shoot up for success, and that you’ll get the dynamic and broad portfolio of photos you’re looking for.

As always, if you have any questions or thoughts on this article/topic, give me a shout or drop your thoughts in the comment section!

Until next time,

Amy Holloway

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