HOW TO PREPARE FOR A BRANDED PHOTOSHOOT
Good photography can make or break your business. Your visuals say SO MUCH about your business–about who you are and what you stand for. They tell a story, and that story helps people to decide if they trust you, if they can relate to you, and if they’d like to potentially buy from you. Which is why I always budget for a branded photoshoot once a quarter, just enough to get Instagram content, new product photos, and anything else I might be promoting at the time. If you’ve never done a branded photoshoot before, or you’re just looking to step up your game, here are my top tips to prepare and get amazing photos for your business!
before the shoot
STEP ONE | CREATE A MOODBOARD
Decide what vibe, style, and aesthetic you want for your image. I typically use Pinterest for research and then collect all my photos using gomoodboard.com. It’s an easy way to put everything together in one place (photos from Instagram, Pinterest, your desktop, etc) and it’s free to use and easy to share the link. For this shoot, I searched things like “french girl look” “everlane” and “wellness blogger” to find images, then used the related photos below to grab most of my images.
STEP TWO | HIRE A PHOTOGRAPHER
I love using Instagram to find photographers. It’s an easy way to see their portfolio, get a glimpse of their personality, and get a feel for how your photos might turn out. I’m new to the DC area so I was really starting from square one to find a photographer. (if you’re here, i get it. So hard.) I started by looking up local brands I liked. Companies whose style and aesthetic is similar to mine. I looked at their recent posts to see what photographers they used, and used that as my referral.
After some Instagram-stalking, I narrowed it down to the photographer I wanted and sent an email! Unfortunately, she wasn’t taking on new clients (not going to lie I was devastated) but she recommended someone else who’s style I loved and ended up hiring. You can see a peek at her Instagram above. (If you’re in the DC area, I can’t recommend Laura enough!
STEP THREE | CHOOSE PROPS & CLOTHES
This part is really hard for me. Honestly my brain doesn’t think this way. This is why I’m not a style blogger. I write copy and consult on sales funnels–so I asked my photographer friend Sarah Fennel for advice. She recommended hiring a producer, which I thought sounded genius but also expensive and I had no idea where to find one and hers was in LA so back to square one. I brought it up to my photographer and she said she had a stylist she works closely with who would be perfect, and I jumped at the chance.
For someone like me who doesn’t get photos taken very often, it’s SO WORTH it to spend a little more and get photos that *tell a story*. Photographers are amazing at capturing the image you put in front of them, but a stylist can help to create the story you’re trying to tell.
I know a stylist/producer AND a photographer is not in most businesses budgets (especially solopreneurs!) when they’re first starting out, but I think it’s so important to understand this is how those images you love are created. If you want to emulate them, these are the tools you need. Find a friend who did window displays at Jcrew, or who loves interior decorating and has an eye for design–you don’t have to hire someone to get an extra set of eyes on your set to make things look more polished–but you do need to be prepared with lots of extra clothes and props, and someone to help out if possible. I bought 5 outfits from Everlane, 3 tops from Madewell, and a few desk accessories from West Elm. Some I’ll keep, most will be returned.
STEP FIVE | MAKE A SHOT LIST
This is SO important. Otherwise you’re going to show up at the shoot, start snapping pics, and then get the photos back and think: what am I going to use on this page of my site here, and on this instagram post here? Start with the end in mind and work backwards.
For my shoot, we created an outline with my 5 core content categories: wellness, travel, family, business, and style. Since my kids weren’t coming to this shoot, and because we’d just captured a lot of images of “family” and “travel” from our trip to Mexico we wanted to make sure to get images in the “wellness” “business” and “style” categories at this shoot.
The goal is 2 months of Instagram content (this was my stylist–Elizabeth Carberry’s– idea, I already love her) so she created a shot list using the moodboard I sent her that included: location, category, description, props, and notes.
STEP SIX | PREP & RELAX
Before you arrive for your photoshoot, relax and review the moodboard again. Study different poses and images, and practice a few in the mirror. If you’ve properly planned, the day itself should be a breeze. Show up relaxed and let the people you hired do their job. Your job is to act naturally and be yourself.
Make sure you’ve blocked off plenty of time in the photographer’s schedule to get the number of shots you need. Be realistic about your expectations. Don’t expect 2 months of Instagram content in a 1 hour shoot. If you’re paying for an hour, you can expect 8 to 10 unique images. If you’re paying for a half day, 20. Of course this is going to be dependent on your photographer, these numbers are just based on my experience, but the important thing is to be on the same page about deliverables. This ensures you won’t feel disappointed and your photographer won’t feel taken advantage of.
after the shoot
Communicate, communicate, communicate. If you were clear on your vibe, shot list, and expectations–and took the time and made the investment–to find a photographer whose skills matched that, you should be THRILLED with your results.
If you don’t like the way your photos turn out, be honest with yourself. Is that on you or the photographer? Did you skimp on your budget? If so, you get what you paid for. Did you half-ass the moodboard or forget to put together a shot list? Photographers aren’t mind readers, if you wanted something, you should have said something–beforehand. Do you look awkward in your poses? Your photographer should do everything they can to help you look relaxed and comfortable, but they’re not the model, you are. Practice, pay attention to what worked and what didn’t, and make notes so you can do better next time.
Photographers are artists. The work they created for you took time, years of practice, thousands of dollars of equipment, and a lot of hard work to make. It is not fair OR right to come back and ask for more work **without paying more money** because you didn’t prepare properly. Be honest with yourself, if you don’t like your photos is that on you or on them? If you believe it’s on them, communicate openly and honestly about it. If you believe it’s on you, get out your wallet and try again.
When is it okay to come back to your photographer and say “I’m not happy with how x turned out, can you…” Do the images look distorted or technically off? Is the editing slightly off or something is cropped oddly? These are the kind of errors that ARE on the photographer, and it’s perfectly appropriate to say, “hey! these images look a little too warm” or “do you have a version of this image that’s a bit more zoomed out?” In some cases it’s appropriate to say, “we agreed on x, in this email here, and you delivered y. what mutual agreement can we come to in order to get x?”
I love communicating with my photographers, and often will ask questions after like “how can I do better at (fill in the blank) next time?” I’ve learned so so much from working with different photographers over the years, and I love getting a glimpse into their expertise and perspective. It’s helped me get better at visual branding–a skill that’s crucial as a business owner–without having to trade my job title for “photographer” to learn it.
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