Your Personal Brand: Cue the Photography!

This week I taught two workshops on personal branding and it got me to really thinking about how much having the right VISUALS online affects your personal brand as much (if not more) as what you say.

So I asked my good friend, Christine Taylor of Christine Taylor Photography, what she thought about getting the right visuals for your personal brand, and she outlined her best advice below for finding the right person to do your personal branding visuals. 

If you’re interested in getting your branding right, Christine is running a holiday special on branding photography from now until January 15, 2016. It’s such a great offer that I’m almost afraid to share it, because she’s the real deal you guys. Check it out

Here are five steps for going pro with your personal branding photography and visuals: 

1.  Work With a Professional, Not a Pal.

Why use a professional? Because it's the highest guarantee of getting what you pay for.

We all have a friend with a camera, or even a friend who’s a semi-pro so why wouldn’t you work with them? After all you’re comfortable with them right?  Sure, it is important to be comfortable with your shooter, BUT there is such a thing as too comfortable.

This is business. If you want a guaranteed outcome it’s important to work with someone who respects you and for you to work with someone you respect. This translates into creative briefs, promptness, listening skills, and delivery. If you insist on hiring a buddy, please make sure you both agree on a professional transaction with clear communication and planning.

What are you shooting, what are you wearing, what are the images for and where will they be used? What are your deliverables, what credit needs to be given (if any), what date will you get your images, what happens if you do not get the image on time, what are your image rights and what are you paying? People can get idealistic about trade, but in my experience trade only if it's equal.  

2.  Figure Out What You Need.

Never go into a photography project open-ended. It will result in miscommunication.  Your responsibility as a client it to know what you need versus what you want. You should also know what you don’t want. A photographer is there to help you along the way. Your photographer is not a business manager, and they should not be expected to give you hundreds of photos to choose from (no matter how much money they are being paid). That they edit is a blessing for you and if you have clear communication and you choose a shooter who is a good match, you will not need to micromanage them.

So here is what you need to know BEFORE you start your search for the right fit:

  • Approximately how many photos do you NEED, and what do you need them for?  Website headers, webpage sections, thumbnails, social media images, portraits, product shots, public relations, and editorial stories are some examples. Your goal is to have a rough count to give to your photographer so it’s very clear what you expect to receive upon completion of the project.
  • Understand what usage you would like images for (this is photo language - but you can always Google this for definitions). What is legal and normal is that you do not own all of these images, rather you are paying to use them. I know that sounds crazy to some, and these days amateur photographers will give up rights at the drop of a hat, but remember you WANT a pro, so research rights and find out what you really need. Talk it over with whomever you work with. In my experience, anyone professional isn’t going to gauge you - but yes, you need to choose wisely.
  • Write out five words that you want your brand images to represent. For instance —  informational, uplifting, brightly lit, ethereal, moody, etc.  
  • Write out a paragraph that is your mission for your brand.
  • Be prepared to share any current brand materials (for instance your identity, graphics, web design).
  • Create a private page on Pinterest, or the equivalent, where you can keep a creative board for your branding photography and easily share it with anyone you hire to work with you.

3. Do Your Research.

Notice I said work ‘with’ you. This is a collaboration not a servant - remember if you choose wisely you are going to have someone very good working with you - listening to their experience is key.  And speaking of choosing wisely — you want the right fit and you want someone you can trust. Right? The idea of dropping some cash on something you can’t already see is scary. I understand. There are a lot of people shooting these days and that’s why you want to work with a professional whom you select based on work in their portfolio that you can see fitting your brand. In other words, you want a shooter who’s work already looks like work you would like to use.  

Before selecting a photographer, research styles of photography you like and take into account what style of photography works for you. Once you have styles of photography you like, pair it down to your top two or three, then start your research on photographers. Go ahead and add your pal in there (if they are a pro).

4.  Meet in Person.

You want to back up your research by starting with an introduction, tell them you’re interested in working with them and you are talking to two other photographers. Ask them if you can ask them three questions in email (prepare questions that cover your most important issues regarding hiring someone).

Based on those email interviews, and all of your other research you should be able to end with one or two shooters you’re highly interested in working with, so it’s time to set up 30 minute meet-and-greet meetings with each. At this point in the process you want to have them go through their portfolio with you (ask them to cater it to your project needs) and expect to see their work in print, mobile, and on a computer. Just one project in each should suffice. You want to see how their images translate.

Now - did you have a connection, a flow, an ease in communication? This is very important to preventing miscommunication. Of course your responsibility here is to be open and honest and seek that connection with your shooter. It can be difficult for some, but it’s really important to developing a relationship with someone you can return to again and again.

It’s okay to talk about your budget and check costs now. See what the shooter can do with what you have. See if they ask you questions and if they have ideas on how to save money? Ask them for their day rate. Check that they can manage your project well with you by seeing that they have connections to help you meet the needs of your shoot. This is a collaboration. Expect to spend between one thousand to five thousand dollars for full image branding by a professional, depending on the amount of work you need done and what production has to go into it.  

These images should be designed to last at least a year, unless you have the budget for recurring brand shoots which will give you room for more trendy short-lived shoots. You should expect to cover any extra expenses, including meals for the day, models, etc - if you need them. If you are serious about your business you will budget for these things as a business expense. I have seen SO many brands come and go because of lack of willingness to spend on their marketing and branding. It’s heartbreaking to watch when this happens to a great brand lacking the support it needs. If you have enough money to start a company, you can work in budget for branding and photography.

5. Select Your Shooter.

You know what you need, you did your research, you made your creative board, you understand what you’re looking for in a good match, and you have met in person to see how they communicate and listen to you.

Write it all out, compare and make your choice based on what and who will fulfill your needs the best.

Email and call the photographer. Be open about your budget and send a list of what specifically you need, then refer to your meeting to talk about a final rate. If you want to avoid negotiating, all you need to do is be very clear in your initial email. Tell them the budget you have, list what you would like for that, and see what they say. You want someone transparent, so that means you need to also be transparent. This will reduce any possible miscommunication. Be willing to adjust your list based on the realities of your budget and ask the photographer what they can do within that budget and work it out. It is normal to do a little back and forth.  

Final Note.

Never trust your branding photography with someone unknowledgeable. It’s a high risk to take. You need someone who understands marketing, who understands the difference in branding for a website versus Instagram or a blog. 

You also want someone who can explain the differences if you’re unsure. For example,  what is the difference between an environmental portrait and a localized portrait? What is conceptual versus studio?  

Clarity is a good thing and it is okay to probe and make sure you are going to get what you want before you invest. Some of my clients use their portraits for up three to five years after we shoot it — And that’s success. And that’s what you want!

Don’t forget to check out Christine’s Holiday Special today (her steal of a deal is only available until January 15, 2016).