Brand photography is just as (…if not more) important than web design.
Yeah, I really mean that.
Without photography, I can’t even begin to design a site. But beyond that, brand photography allows your audience to connect to you, to understand even more about your brand than you can communicate via copy, and it gives us somethin’ high-quality to look at (which keeps us on your website longer).
And the stats don’t lie, either. Here’s a few I came across while researching for this post:
- People remember only 10% of information three days after reading it. Adding a photo can improve recollection by 65%.
- Articles with relevant images get 94% more views compared to articles without images.
- Consumers are 60% more likely to consider or contact a business that has an image show up in local search results.
Long story short, you need brand photography. It’s non-negotiable. And… you’re losing money by not having it.
You are!!!!! I wouldn’t lieeee!
So, with all that tough love out of the way, here’s how to plan a brand photoshoot, even if it’s your first one.
How to Plan a Brand Photoshoot: Start on Pinterest, Of Course
As many branding-related excursions go, let’s start on Pinterest.
If you’re working with a designer on your brand, photography should be a part of the consideration. They can likely give you guidance on different photography styles that would compliment your brand’s overall creative direction. And some can even provide you with a shot list to take to your photographer (I do this, so let’s work together!).
But if you’re going solo for now, then you’ll want to start on Pinterest. Simply type some variation of the words “brand photography inspiration” into the search bar, and you’ll be met with tons of inspo, from different photography styles, to outfits, and more.
Hot tip for Pinterest: pin anything that catches your eye, and sort through everything later. This will allow you to look at all your pins in one place, find the common denominators between your faves, and create your own unique spin on your brand photography photoshoot.
Hire the Right Photographer
Once you’ve identified the common denominators between your pins, you’ll likely see a certain style emerge. Whether it’s light and airy, editorial, moody, artsy, whatever, the style should be pretty easily identifiable.
The hard part is finding someone in your area who does the style you’re looking for.
Some of the ways I have found photographers in the past include: searching “[City] Brand Photographer” on Instagram, joining local photography Facebook groups and posting about what I’m looking for, asking for recommendations from friends, etc.
Another hot tip: if you’re looking for someone to shoot light and airy, don’t hire the dark & moody photographer. Photographers specialize in certain styles for a reason, so if their IG page doesn’t match the vibe you’re looking for, keep looking. (Every photographer I have ever known has said this, so I promise I’m not being shady!)
Next, Hire a Makeup Artist. (But only if it’s on-brand for you!)
If you’re brand is even a little glam (but you don’t know how to do your own makeup very well), then you may want to hire a makeup artist.
I always hire one, even if I’m going for a more natural face, because I know that whatever they do will make me feel 100x more confident in front of the camera than anything I could do myself. Out of all things I’ve learned over the years about how to plan a brand photoshoot, hiring a makeup artist is at the top of my list.
Wanna go the extra mile? Hire a videographer.
Video is SUCH a hot thing right now, especially on websites. With the rise of platforms such as TikTok and Reels, videography can be an even better way to connect to your audience, show them who you are, and elevate your brand.
It is important to note that some photographers like to work alone, so you may want to keep your photography and video shoot separate. Or, if you’re like me, you can do them a few hours apart on the same day—I meannnnn, my makeup was already done! Why not?
Book a Location
Once you’ve got a photographer (and potentially a videographer!? Look at you, you overachiever!) you’ll want to find an on-brand space to shoot.
Oftentimes, your photographer will have some ideas, so ask them! They are the expert after all, and they have probably shot in a lot of these places before. Plus, they’ll certainly have preferences for lighting.
If not, there are websites like Peerspace that can help you find a nice space to rent for a few hours. I’ve also heard of people using an AirBNB for this purpose as well. Or, you can always shoot outside.
One mistake I see all the time is that people will invest in a super talented photographer and then skimp out on the location. We all have a budget, so I get it. But no matter how good your photographer is, they can’t photoshop a bad space! If you’re investing, invest. It’s worth it.
Pro tip: depending on your brand, you might get even more creative with your space. For example, as a designer AND actor, my whole thing is “helping business owners find their spotlight online”. So, I prioritized booking a space that had a dressing room mirror so that we could use it in the shoot. Finding little ways to nod to your brand like this is key.
Pick Out Your Outfits
Depending on how your photographer does it, you might get a set number of outfits to shoot in. (Or, if you’re hiring my lovely photographer, you might get to bring as many outfits as you are able to fit in your allotted time.)
Whatever it the setup is, it’s good to find pieces that mix & match in different variations. For example, at my most recent branding photoshoot, I brought two pairs of jeans, four tops, two jackets, and two different shoes. Throughout the shoot, I was able to throw on a jacket, switch it out for another jacket, change the top underneath, use the jackets as props, etc. When you set up your outfits to be mix-and-matchable, you come out with more variations.
Another tip for picking out your outfits: you can always return things!!!! (Don’t tell the retailers I told you this.) Unless the item of clothing gets dirty during the shoot for some reason, or the tags are in a place where you’d have to take them off to shoot in, wearing something for two hours does not count as “worn in”.
Keep those receipts, queen.
(However, oftentimes, I’ll end up keeping whatever I buy for the shoot. I mean, if I liked it enough to take pictures in, then surely I like it enough for everyday life.)
Pick Out Your Props
How to plan a brand photoshoot, you ask? Props! Props! Props! (The theatre gal inside me is screaming rn.)
A great brand photoshoot has props. And depending on your brand, you can get as creative (or as standard) as you need to be.
If you’re a wedding florist, you might bring a few vases, a few floral arrangements, and some shears. If you’re an online service provider, you might bring a laptop, a few notebooks, and pens. If you’re a voice teacher, you might bring sheet music, or even a keyboard.
Feel free to get creative with this, too. My biz bestie is a website copywriter, but her whole brand is book-themed. She could have easily chosen the “pose with laptop” path that so many online service providers take, but instead, most of her shoot was in bed with books. Super aesthetic, and also original. Stalk her site to see what I’m talking about here.
Gather a Shot List
Once you have your space, outfits, and props planned out, it’s time to create a shot list. A shot list is exactly what it sounds like—a whoooole bunch of ideas that you can take to the shoot so that you can make sure you got everything you wanted.
To me, the best way to do this is via a good ole’ fashion brain dump. Sit down with a list of your clothing items and props, and write down as many ideas as you can think of for each one. You might also go on Pinterest again to find inspiration for certain poses, or for the use of each of your props.
Then, scrap the ideas you aren’t feelin’.
It’s soooo helpful to have a shot list. Not only will it help you maximize your time with your photographer, but the whole shoot will be more organized. Highly recommend.
How to Plan a Brand Photoshoot: Mentally & Physically
Here’s some advice straight from my trainer: chug water! The day before your shoot, you’re going to want to hydrate—a lot. Of course, it will help your skin be bright and glowy. But something people don’t talk about is how many moving parts there can be the day of. it’s really, really easy to forget to eat or drink the day of a photoshoot, so you’re going to want to make sure your body is up to the task.
Another tip: consider doing some yoga or breathing exercises before your shoot. The whole point of a photoshoot is to step into your authenticity and show us who you are. And a great way to drop into that is to do a couple minutes of yoga or intention-setting beforehand.
Other Tips and Tricks that No One Ever Talks About
… or, what I learned this go around that I will remember for next time.
My most recent photoshoot was the first in-studio shoot I’ve ever done (I’ve always done them outside in the past). While I do love outdoor shoots, one thing that I absolutely adored about shooting inside was playing music. Posing to the tune of my favorite band, Lawrence, was the energy I needed to really feel like myself.
And, the vibes in the room were immaculate.
Be Honest with Your Photographer About Your Insecurities
Whether it’s not knowing what to do with your hands, or a specific part of your body you just really don’t love, tell your photographer! Part of their job (and what makes them so special) is making sure you feel comfortable and supported. But they can only do that if you voice your concerns!
An example: nearing the end of my most recent photoshoot, I put on my last outfit. It wasn’t fitting me as well as it did in my bedroom the night before, so I said “hmmm, I am not really feeling these jeans right now”. My photographer said “do you like the top part? We can totally avoid the jeans.” And then we did!
Don’t Procrastinate the Planning
If there is one singular tip I have in re: how to plan a brand photoshoot, it’s this: do not procrastinate. I have learned this the hard way in the past. Finding a space, buying outfits, picking out props… it’s a lot more work than one might expect.
A good rule of thumb: give yourself at least two weeks to do all this brainstorming and gather all this stuff. You’ll need it.
And…now that you know how to plan a brand photoshoot, you might need a website to go with it. 😉
Hey, I'm Sarah Kleist.
Brand builder, website designer, and performing artist on a mission to help creatives and business owners step into their digital spotlight.
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