Ok first off I hear you ask; why? If you’ve never had a personal branding shoot done then the idea of it can be a. Terrifying and b. Absolute cringe-ville. But there are so many advantages to having a personal branding shoots as part of your rebranding process or product launch. In a busy and noisy online world with so many faceless business out there, it’s important that you compete to stand out and one of the best ways to do that is through showing who you are and building a personal connection with your audience. This can be tricky to do without showing your face.
If your business is named after yourself, you are a sole trader, one man band or you create something very personal or handmade, part of the experience of buying from you is knowing who you are. Not only this but the one thing you have that sets you apart from everyone else in a busy space is, well.. You!
Ok, I know having personal branding photos of you pointing at stuff laughing at nothing and awkwardly gripping a coffee cup is not necessarily anyone’s (or anyone I know of) idea of a fun day out. In fact it can all just feel really fake, cringey and perhaps you feel like this doesn’t connect you to your audience at all. Which is why the most important thing about the shoot is that you feel comfortable. If some glamourous Instagram set up with light and airy backgrounds, palm trees and flowy gowns isn’t you, then don’t do it. (To be fair I don’t know anyone whose daily existence looks anything like that.)
Personal branding photos are important to have because they give you content. Your website needs visual content and it’s important to keep that content on brand. Rather than using stock images, there is nothing more powerful than having your own bank of images that represent your own brand on your website and that you can use on social media helping to keep your visuals on brand and consistent.
I want to give you some ideas and ways that you can make a personal branding shoot work for you, be as non cringey as possible and to do its job for you, your business and your brand. So, how to plan a personal branding shoot your way…
1. Plan it
Get out the notebook and get your ideas down. If the ideas aren’t flowing, have a look what others have done (just don’t feel the need to copy them). You’ll probably find that a lot of people out there are doing exactly what you don’t want to do, so learn from them too and do the opposite. Remember this shoot is for you, your business and your brand, not theirs, so what works for them may not work for you. Here is where the first cringe alert comes in. If it works for them chances are it’s going to be cringey for you as it’s very hard to be someone you’re not, right? It’s hard work and cringey in fact, so be yourself!
So, by plan it I mean, think about your business, your services, your day to day and how you can tell the story of what you do, your brand and your customer experience through images. Your personal branding photos don’t all have to be of you. They can be of your work set up too. More on that a bit later.
2. Find a photographer
Well this is an obvious step. And by this I mean someone with a pro camera. A professional photographer is best as they’ll have experience with helping people who feel all stiff and awkward in front of the camera feel a bit more loose and relaxed. They’ll also have a wealth of knowledge to add to your plan and plenty of shot ideas to add to your plan that you might not have thought of.
3. Create a mood board
Once you’ve got all your ideas together and you’ve had some input form the photographer you have on board, get into creating a visual mood board. This will help you both to visualise the kind of look and feel you want to go for on the day and the kind of shots you’d like (and equally the kind of shots you really don’t want). You could get pinning some ideas on Pinterest to create your moodboard. (Just don’t do what i do and fall down a Pinterest rabbit hole and start planning your dream home at the same time!)
4. Create a shot list
It’s a good idea to create a list of shots you want to take on the day so that you don’t forget while you’re in the moment. If you’re feeling a bit flustered or nervous, then chances are you won’t remember all the shots you want to get on the day, plus you’ll want to make the most of hiring that photographer. I’d recommend sending over your shot list to your photographer ahead of the shoot, just to make sure you’re on the same page and your expectations for what you’ll be doing on the day are the same and also that you get them all in to the time you have. There is nothing like spending an hour setting up one shot and then having no time at the end to get all the other shots in! Make sure this is part of your plan!
5. What to wear
My first bit of advice is to not get too hung up on this bit. You could do an Asos haul and buy a whole bunch of fancy clothes that you’d never otherwise wear to make you look more business-y. If this makes you comfortable then that’s all great, but if not, then this can really add to the cringey feel of ‘this just isn’t me’. Some of the best personal branding shoots I have seen from my clients have been the ones of them in their everyday clothes that reflect them and tell the story of who they really are. Obviously we can draw the line at bottom half pjs if that’s your working from home style, but what I’m getting at here is be comfortable and don’t feel the need to buy a whole load of new outfits and insist on wardrobe changes for each shot. This will be time consuming and hey, do you really need more new clothes?
Interestingly I have been known in the past to partake in buying a pink suit for one of my branding shoots. Then lockdown happened and I may have worn it once. I love it, but maybe this is point made.
The pressure is real to get all Insta glam here and this is why I encourage not looking for inspiration on Instagram. Remember this has to work for you and it has to be real. What’s your reality day to day in your work? If it’s at a desk, get some shots of you working there. If it’s in a studio or workshop where you get covered in paint or food, make the shoot happen there and have fun with it. Your audience will want to see how you work in your natural habitat, so make it happen. You can then also go out and have shots outside in your favourite places and then there is also room for shots of you having a coffee in your local cafe if that’s your jam. Again, with location, make sure you feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible. Of course if your workspace is currently your bedroom or your parents house or a place you don’t feel comfortable letting your audience peep into, then of course find a space that you think will make you comfortable and that represents your brand well. This doesn’t have to be a trendy coffee shop like everyone else!
7. It’s not just about you
Take the attention away from your face for a while on the day too and consider that your shot list should have images of your work environment, your work itself (if it’s physical) and you can add a ton of props into the shoot too. If you’re an artist or a maker, create photo stories of how you work and what your process is. This could be your hands at work, aerial shots of your process and you can even create gifs or videos from these too. This is important to consider as part of the content you can use across your website and social media. Your website will need background images and visuals that tell the story of your process and brand experience, plus people are nosy too, so they’ll just want to see inside your world.
8. Make sure it’s non-cringey
This is a big one. I remember having my first personal branding shoot and I was so nervous and it felt very cringey. What I have learned is to make it as non- cringey as possible for yourself by considering all the previous things I have talked about here like being true to yourself and your brand and not getting bogged down by other people’s ideas, but also not feeling like you have to go for the same kind of shots as other people do in their personal branding shoots. For you these might be the pointy, 80s catalogue style ones. For me it’s the shots of people laughing. Yes, candid shots and behind the scenes shots are great and you should definitely be relaxed, but I can’t get past the ones where people are laughing! Share the joke?! This is just me though. Just stick to your guns and be yourself and the less cringey it will be.
9.Bring water and snacks
Shoot days can really take it out of you. Even a few hours can be tiring and equally so for your photographer, so make sure to bring water and snacks to keep you fuelled.
10.Personal branding video
Ok, I see you further withdrawing away from the idea of having a personal branding shoot at all. The thought of video makes you want to run for the hills. But there are so many big reasons why video is so important and also, so many ways your face doesn’t have to feature at all if you don’t want it to. Video is a great way of telling your brand story and introducing you and your team. You can talk through your process and brand experience and it appeals to those of your audience who don’t want to read and prefer to watch. It’s also a great thing to have on your website as Google loves video and it will improve your SEO. consider having a video if your workspace with you speaking over it rather than with you face on it if this really fills you with dread.
Have fun with your personal branding shoot. Get creative and make it a nice day of doing something different and valuable for your business. Planning your shoot should be fun too but remember to avoid doing it the way other people do to reduce that cringe factor.
So, that’s how to plan a personal branding shoot (the non- cringey version). I can’t tell you how much use I have gotten out of the personal branding photos I had done for my business a couple of years ago now. They keep providing me with content for different aspects of my business, my website, my social media posts and blogs. It’s an investment of your time and with a professional photographer, your money too, but I can guarantee it will be money well invested in the future of connecting with your audience on a more personal level. After all, people buy from people and in this digital world, personal connection still wins every time.
If you have questions about personal branding or you’d like recommendations for tools and photographers, then get in touch as I have a ton to share. And, if you like the sound of how I can help you bring your brand to life through personal branding and connection with your audience, contact me and let’s chat about how we can start the process for you.