Why you need a branding photo shoot (and how to get the most from it)

Hate photos of yourself? Know you need to boost your profile but feel too shy to step in front of the camera? Find out why a branding photos shoot is a must – and what happens on one.

If your business requires you to be visibly present, leading from the front, then you need great photos of you.

Not only do your customers and clients (and prospects) need to know what you look like, but you need great content for your social media accounts and ads.

And if YOU are your business product, then YOU need to be in the photos.

This is something that doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m shy, and would far rather hide behind a keyboard than smile into a camera. But as the founder of Talented Ladies Club, that’s just not possible.

I remember our first ever photo shoot. It was just before we launched, and a friend’s boyfriend is a professional sports photographer. As a favour, she asked him to take headshots of Kary Fisher, my co-founder, and I.

Kary’s shot was nailed in two. Mine thought took hundreds of shots… I tensed up as soon as the camera was pointed my way and hated all of them. Here’s the one we finally ended up with:

Over the years though, I’ve got much better in front of the camera. I’ve had to! I’ve been photographed dozens of times by professional photographers and even appeared on live national TV.

Each photographer has taught me something new about posing for the camera to make it easier and improve the results. But probably the biggest and most liberating lesson was letting go of vanity.

Yes I am probably going to hate the photos. But that’s not because they’re terrible photos, and nor do I look terrible in them. I just don’t like photos of myself.

Once I’d detached my ego from photo shoots they started to become fun. I’ll pull any pose a photographer asks me to. And I’m relaxed in front of the camera.

Photo by Rosie Parsons

And when I get the shots back, I share them with our graphic designer and marketing head, and let them choose and use the photos as they wish.

Sometimes they pick what I think are the WORST photos of me for campaigns, but no one but me analyses my photos so forensically, honing in on all my flaws.

In fact, having my photos used so publicly and broadly made me realise that nothing awful happens when your image is shared publicly. Even the photos of you that you loathe.

No one laughs at your hideousness. In fact, no one comments at all about your appearance. They just see ‘you’. It’s extremely liberating.

So if you’ve been holding back on booking a photoshoot because you hate having your photo taken, or think the results will be awful, I want to reassure you that it’s absolutely fine.

Nothing terrible will happen. In fact, people might, overlook your photos and respond really positively to them. If you use a professional photographer, the latter is virtually guaranteed…. it’s their job to take great photos of you!

And the only way to get comfortable having your photo taken, from my experience, is just to do more of it.

Which leads me to a recent photo shoot…

A few weeks ago I connected with a photographer called Rosie Parsons and we decided to collaborate on a shoot for Instagram in Brighton, near where I live. I was excited about the shoot as I loved Rosie’s shots – particularly how she used colour.

My transformation from photo-phobic to comfortable in front of a lens has been important to the success of Talented Ladies Club. So I thought it might be helpful to share how a photo shoot works and how to get the most from it.

But before I do, let’s wind back a bit and talk about why you NEED photos of yourself. Because right now you might not be convinced.

Why photos help you sell

So why spend the money on a professional photo shoot? It’s not just a vanity project – getting lovely photos of yourself. The simple fact is that great photos of you will make it easier for you to sell.

Think about it: one of the biggest hurdles you need to get over when growing your business is building the know, like, trust factor. Your customers need to feel like they know you, they need to like you, and if they’re going to invest time, money and hope in you and what you sell, they need to trust you.

But how can you build that know, like, trust factor from behind a keyboard? When they can’t actually meet you and see what you’re like?

There are a number of ways you can build the know, like, trust factor with your marketing, but pretty much ALL of them require photos of you. People need to see you, to feel like they know you – in short you need to build familiarity. This is known as the mere exposure effect.

And one well-known study on the mere exposure effect demonstrates the importance of photography perfectly.

For one semester at a college, four women who looked very similar enrolled in classes, however they attended the classes at different frequencies. One woman didn’t attend at all, one attended five times, one attended ten times, and the last woman attended fifteen times. While in the classes they didn’t speak or interact with any other students.

At the end of the semester the students were asked to rate the four women on attractiveness. And the results showed a clear mere exposure effect: they voted the woman who attended 15 times as the most attractive.

So what does this mean? Just SEEING you more makes you more attractive in the eyes of the beholder. And if you’re wondering what that’s got to do with selling, then consider this: people who are considered attractive do better on almost every professional measure, from being called back for job interviews, to negotiating and even getting elected to office.

And in business, the physical appearance of a company’s CEO has been shown to have a direct impact on their stock performance. All in all, it’s estimated that attractive people make 12% more money.

A professional photo shoot will help make sure you look your best AND build that all-important mere exposure effect that increases the perception of your attractiveness.

So getting great photos of you isn’t just a vanity exercise, it’s pretty much essential for your business, because it builds your mere exposure effect, and helps you to sell.

Photos are content. And content sells

There’s another important reason why you need a selection of photos of you for your business. Because, as Bill Gates famously said, “Content is king.”

As a business today, you need content. Content is what brings your social media channels to life. It’s what gets the attention of people at the top of your funnel. And content is what keeps them engaged as they move through your marketing and sales funnel to purchase.

Without your own content you’re not left with much that is unique to say… you’re just left sharing third party wisdom and visuals.

But with your own content, you can stand out. You can build an audience who are familiar with and engaged with your brand and message. And a big part of that content is imagery. Specifically, photos of you.

After all, if you’re the face of your business theoretically speaking, then you need to actually be the face of your business. And that means you need photos. All roads, as they say lead to Rome. And Rome here is a photo shoot!

Why you shouldn’t DIY your photos

So let’s say you’re convinced that you need good photos of yourself for your business. But why spend the money on a professional? After all you have a perfectly good iPhone and can get a friend to take photos of you for free, right?

And I get it. Building a business is expensive, and there are so many things competing for your meagre budget. So why should a professional photo shoot make it to the top of your must-do list?

In her early days when money is tight, cutting corners, looking for freebie versions and doing things yourself is pretty much a necessity. But trust me, photography is not the place to cut corners. And I’m not just saying this from the comfort of being in a position to afford great photography.

Right from the start in Talented Ladies Club we invested in professional photo shoots – even when it was our own money paying for them. These photos enabled us to build a more ‘grow up’ brand. Which in turn helped raise our reputation and sell our courses.

And every year since then we’ve refreshed our photo bank with a new shoot. It’s not cheap, but the return on the investment ALWAYS makes it worth it.

What’s it like on a photo shoot?

To remove some of the mystery around a photo shoot, and make it seem more possible, I thought I’d share my experience with Rosie.

Before the shoot even happened, Rosie got in touch to ask what I wanted from it. She wanted to plan some of the shots and location, and need to ensure that she understood my aims and intent.

From this conversation, Rosie created a Pinterest board of potential shots and poses which she shared with me on the day of the shoot.

She also asked me to bring a few changes of clothing, to give me a range of shots and more flexibility with backgrounds.

We started off by meeting for a coffee to discuss the shoot. Rosie looked through my outfits and began brainstorming shots there and then, based on the locations she’d scouted earlier that day.

Rose works fast and intuitively. If she sees a wall that will bring out the colours in your outfit, she’ll photograph you by it. Rosie is very friendly and encouraging, and makes the shoot fun and easy. It’s not hard to laugh on camera when you’re having a good time.

Rosie is also highly professional. The agenda for her is to ensure that you have the shots you need from the shoot, and she makes sure that happens. She also valiantly battled gale force winds the day of our shoot, and managed to get shots where my hair wasn’t standing on end!

In total, my actual shoot lasted just over an hour, and I got 50 shots from it.

How to pose for photos

Over the years I have picked up plenty of helpful tips for posing for photos – tips that take some of the fear out of the experience, and help ensure you end up with decent photos. So I thought I’d share them with you.

One tip that I’ve found quite helpful for a studio shot is to jut your chin forward and down. You can watch a video demonstrating the technique here.

But probably the most useful tip I’ve been given is to keep making micro changes to the angle of your face, so the photographer doesn’t end up with 20 shots of an identical angle. A millimetre move in one direction can completely transform your look, and the way that the light falls on your face.

It’s also important to let go of your inhibitions – and fear of looking awful in a photo. Trust that your photographer knows how to get the best shot of you (and WANTS the best shot of you – after all this is their job) and let them guide you.

If you’re self-conscious during your shoot this will come out in your shots, and you’ll uncomfortable, stiff and posed. Throw caution to the wind and resolve not to care how ridiculous you may look posing, or how awful the photos may be. Just relax into the shoot and do what the photographer asks of you. If you’ve picked a great photographer, you’ll get great shots.

Of course, this isn’t a foolproof way of ending up with photos you love. If you hate yourself in photos, then you’ll probably alway hate yourself in photos! But it definitely helps you get over the fear when you have great photos, like these by Rosie.

Please note this is not an advertorial. Rosie hasn’t asked me to write this article or promote her work. I was just so delighted with the experience and results I wanted to share it.

And if you do want stunning, stand-out photos, especially if you’re shy in front of the camera, I highly recommend speaking to Rosie about a shoot.