Brand photography can make or break your brand. As a brand and website designer, I place a high priority on my own brand photography and encourage my clients to do the same. You can have the most beautifully designed website but without strong brand photography, you will not be able to be able to portray the value you’re offering your customer- even worse, you may be repelling your ideal client. Some of the perks of having really strong brand imagery include a cohesive social media presence, strong print collateral materials, being able to tap into a high end market, and having your brand designer love you 😉
In today’s post I’ll be walking you through how to prepare for an on-brand photo shoot with tips on how to find a photographer that fits your brand’s aesthetic, how prop and wardrobe shopping can help tell your brand’s story, and how to create a shot list. I’ll be sharing the exact shot list and mood boards my photographer shared with me and how we prepped for my latest shoot so you can do the same to recreate your own brand photoshoot.
Finding a Photographer
Finding the right photographer is one of the most important pieces of planning an on-brand photoshoot. It’s best to work with a photographer that has experience shooting specifically for brands in the past. You can take a look at the work in their portfolio and get a good feel for whether or not this is the type of work they do. Some photographers will specialize in shooting for brands and it makes all the difference. I recommend finding a photographer that has a strong understanding of the aesthetic you’re going for and then sticking with one photographer over the years so the library of images you start to build is extremely cohesive. It can be very helpful to do a video call with the photographer before you start the process and outline the goals you have in mind for the shoot and get on the same page so both of your expectations are clear of what the end result will be (number of images delivered, who is responsible for finding the location, who is prop shopping, budget, aesthetic etc.)
After you’ve hired the photographer, it’s time to start sourcing inspiration and outlining your goals for the shoot. I typically do brand shoots once per year with the goal of refreshing my social media presence, website images, headshots, and shots of me in action to clearly illustrate what I do. I then send over inspiration I’ve pulled so the photographer can get a good feel for what I’m going for and a list of my needs (see below). Branding work can be a little abstract (it’s not nearly as straight forward as doing a brand photo shoot for an artist). For this shoot, I hired out the direction, styling, and prop shopping to an extremely talented photographer.
Pro Tip: Sentimental items add so much personality to a brand photoshoot and really tell your unique story. In the past we’ve used an envelope with my grandma’s handwriting on it, an image of me painting at an easel when I was 3 years old, images of me from my wedding, paint brushes from my studio, and artwork that is special to me as a styling prop.
Above: My Inspiration Below: An Image from the shoot
Creating a Shot List
This is where having a photographer that has experience working with brands is very helpful. The first few shoots I did for qk way back in the day I had no idea how valuable it was to have a shot list ahead of time. There are several perks of having a shot list 1) It ensures you leave the photoshoot capturing every single photo you need. 2) You can prop shop ahead of time and know exactly what is needed to bring each scene to life. Below I’m sharing a shot list from a past qk shoot the photographer I worked with sent over so you can see what this looks like.
Finding a Location
It’s important to know whose responsibility it is to find the location you’re going to shoot at. Often times photographers have a preference of the location because of lighting and they want to be familiar with the space they’ll be working in. In the past I’ve done shoots in my home and I’ve rented out a photographer’s studio space for a half-day fee and shooting in the studio space was a much better fit.
Pro Tip: Scout your location ahead of time so you know what kind of lighting the space gets and what time of day it will be best to shoot at. It is essential that the space you choose gets ample natural light.
Wardrobe and Prop Shopping
Wear your brand colors at your shoot! It keeps everything looking cohesive within your brand. Make sure to bring at least an outfit change or two so when you go to mix images in to your social media, you’re not always wearing the same shirt and you have a few options to choose from. Below you can see that I wore a light pink jacket that is perfectly on brand with my qk color scheme. As far as prop shopping, it is always better to come with too much than not enough. I love sourcing props from Russel and Hazel for pretty pencils and notepads.
Pro Tip: You will need backgrounds to shoot flat lays on so whether that means going to the fabric store and grabbing a few yards of velvet fabric or asking your photographer if they have any backdrops you could use. Last time I used this roll of colored paper that I now have on hand for every shoot (hello consistent photos). They come in a variety of colors too.
set a realistic budget
This is an investment in your brand. I can’t stress this enough. I have to save up for the shoots I do once per year but it is such an important piece to my marketing that I will continue to hire a talented photographer to elevate my imagery. You’re not just paying for the photos, you’re also paying for the vision/direction at the shoot, their time editing, styling/prop shopping (if you’ve hired them for this), and their experience. This investment has always paid off for me, allowing me to continue to attract high end clients.
recommended brand photographers
Grace Beck http://gracebeck.co/ Grace is the talented photographer and stylist behind all of my brand photography. She works with a variety of brands from small businesses like mine to more commercial brand photoshoots. Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gracekbeck/
Julia Mary https://www.julia-mary.com/ Specializes in brand photography for creative entrepreneurs, primarily artists, makers, florists, illustrators, designers, photogs, copywriters etc. Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/_juliamary/
Emily Winters http://emilywinters.cargo.site Specializes in brand photography including headshots, portrait, lifestyle, product photography. She is looking to work with: Food and wellness brands. Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/emwintersphoto/
Spacecrafting Photography https://www.spacecrafting.com/ Specializes in real estate and interior photography. My client Paige Gibson Homes did her shoot with them and the result was amazing! Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/spacecrafting_photography/
I would love to continue adding brand photographers to this list. If you specialize in brand photography, please reach out to me at email@example.com with a link to your portfolio and your contact info.
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I’m Katie, the brand strategist, designer, dreamer, and entrepreneur behind Artful Brands. Dreamy typefaces, clean layouts, and soft color palettes are my love language— but more importantly designing strategic brands that book.