As a photographer, I’m usually the one behind the camera. Even two years ago, you would never have got me in front of one; and if you did, I would be stiff and awkward, with a forced, grim smile on my face.
So, when I expanded my business to cover brand photography, suddenly, I had to get in front of the camera. How could I advertise, promote and educate potential clients about a service that I myself had not experienced?
As a result, I began to take my own brand photographs myself, but it was so awkward and time consuming! I was also limited by my worry about leaving my expensive camera gear on a tripod in the local park, so I could only do the images indoors, in my home.
At last, at the end of October, I had my own brand photography session swap, with actual, real photographers. It was amazing! I didn’t have to worry about focusing, light, exposure, composition, or any of the innumerable things that photographers look out for during a session, mainly through a small viewfinder that doesn’t do the scene justice.
But I also found out what it’s like to be on the other side of the lens.
For a quiet, introverted, odd-looking hobbit like me, it was very weird to let myself be photographed. I had little technical control over the scene itself, only suggesting places to stand and sit with my camera and other props.
Other than that, I let two amazing photographers, Margaret Pulman and Barbara King do their job. I put my trust in them to create the kind of images I was looking for, and they delivered.
I learned how crucial the communication between photographer and photographee is, especially in regard to tiny adjustments in posture and posing. While I mainly wanted candid images, an elbow here or a hand there can make all the difference as to whether a pose looks forced or natural.
As a result of my own brand session, I’d like to share with you five tips to help you plan and experience your own.
Have a plan
Your photographer will help you with this. They’ll have a rough idea about timing, locations, transport and logistics, but they’ll also be able to guide you through the process of designing the actual order of the session.
If you work out how many outfit changes and props you want to include at your various locations, you can be strategic and find a nice flow to the shoot so you know exactly what you’re doing and when.
- Half an hour in your home office with outfit 1, your work props and your equipment.
- Half an hour in your living room or kitchen with outfit 2, your dog, and your daily props and home comforts.
- Half an hour in your local park wearing outfit 2, walking the dog or playing with your family.
- An hour at the beach in outfit 3 with your picnic hamper, champagne glasses and blanket.
See how streamlined and simple that plan is? Your work props won’t overlap with your beach props, you know you’ll be wearing the same outfit at two consecutive locations, and you can fit your family in whenever suits them.
By having a plan, it will also help you with the next tip…
I actually find it easier to pack for a weekend away than I did packing for a photo session down at the beach! For a short overnight trip, I have a packing list that I go to every time and so I know what to take. With the photography shoot, I was all over the place deciding what to bring.
But because you have a plan, you know exactly what you’ll be wearing and which props you’re going to bring. You won’t be tempted to throw something extra into your bag “just in case”, and end up bringing the bathtub along with the kitchen sink.
It can be a long session. You don’t want to be carrying heavy bags with you all morning or afternoon, and get home to find you didn’t use half of the props you’d brought with you.
If you can, put your props into a large shopping bag that can stand upright on its own. A large jute bag with a wide opening is ideal. That way, if you want to remove your coat or jacket for a few shots, you can simply pop it on top of your bag so it’s not trailing on the floor, bench, grass, sand or wherever you are.
It’s also easier to pull out props and put them back in the bag once you’ve finished with them. Like I said, just because you have a large bag, don’t be tempted to fill it to the brim!
Have an open mind
Be realistic. If you’re a size 16, your photographs are not going to turn you into a size 6. That’s not what brand photography is about. It’s about connecting authentically with your ideal clients and showing them the real you.
If part of your brand is insecurity about your size or how you look, your images will resonate with others who feel the same way. Who knows? Maybe your photographs will inspire others to look at themselves in a newer, kinder way, and they might even become paying clients!
However, with good light, clever poses and flattering clothing choices, you can look and feel like a different person. Be honest with your photographer about any issues you have around your body, your face, your hair, or anything else. They want to help you to look and feel your best for your session.
While I’m certainly no make-up artist, hairdresser or personal stylist – seriously, never take styling tips from me! – I know people who are, and you will, too. Treat yourself to that blow dry, get yourself a manicure and have that facial. Wear clothing that you feel comfortable and confident in, and emphasise your best features while minimising your least favourite.
Trust your photographer
Unlike taking and deleting a hundred selfies on your phone just because you don’t like any of them and because you can, this time, you have to trust someone else to make you look good.
That element of control is gone, and you have to relinquish it to someone else. Having a good relationship with your photographer is crucial, and that’s why the best brand photographers spend so much time getting to know you before your session.
They don’t just turn up on the day and start shooting you in a frenzied, scattergun approach like Al Pacino in Scarface, because that doesn’t work. We’re more like snipers. We do the research, we take our time, we wait for the right moment, and we don’t pull the trigger until we’re sure that we have the shot.
The truth is, that even the best photographers still end up with a few dud images. Even though we take hundreds of photographs during a shoot, you’ll only end up with a selection of the very best of the bunch. There’ll still be blinkers, out-of-focus images and streetlamps sticking out of your head on the photographer’s memory card.
While photographers have a good sense about the sort of pictures that you’ll like and won’t like, chances are that there’ll still be a couple of images that take you by surprise.
As an example: I’m only 4’11”, and while I never expected that I would look six-foot tall in my images, I was still startled at just how short I looked in some of them. It certainly gives you a new perspective on yourself, and that is part of the aim of brand photography. You have the chance to show yourself in a positive, professional and engaging way, and your photographer can help you do just that.
Finally, the last tip I want to share with you is to enjoy your session! It is a new and strange experience, but it’s an enjoyable one. I never thought I would have that much fun being on camera, but I did, and I would do it again.
It’s a chance for you to put on your nicest outfits, an excuse to have a haircut and get that beauty treatment you’ve kept putting off. You will have a laugh throughout the shoot, as anything can and will happen! There’s even a chance that you’ll be asked if you’re famous, or what you do for a living, if you have your own personal photographer following you around!
At the end of it, you’ll have a collection of custom, beautiful images that you can use to promote your business and engage with your audience.
Not only that, but you’ll feel confident in sharing these images, because they were taken when you were looking at your best. You’ll be able to show up consistently and professionally in your business, for your business, and for your clients.
In the current situation we’re facing, when more people are looking to their own town, city or village and wanting to buy local, it has never been more important to remind them that you’re there. You’re ready to help them in your own, unique way, like I’m ready to help you.