If you’re trying to create or improve your personal brand, professional photos can make or break you. Even a simple headshot with your camera phone, if not well done, can cast a bad light on you and your brand. While this may be your only option when starting out, upgrading your brand images will automatically upgrade the value your clients see when they are on your website or visiting your social media pages.
Ninety-three percent of our communication is visual. We believe what we see more than what we hear or even read. Why do you think TV and social media are so prevalent in our lives? Since a picture is truly worth a thousand words, you’ll want to get this aspect of your branding right.
The first step is having a clear vision of your brand. What does it stand for, how is it aligned to you, your values and your mission? I work with my clients on building their branded image and show them how to accurately communicate that through their image and materials. Once you’re clear, to ensure your photos are a true representation of your brand, take the reins and work with a photographer you can trust to capture your ideal professional photos.
1. Do your research
Ask friends and business associates if they can recommend any local photographers who work with professional and business owners. Reputable photographers will have samples of their work on their website or in their social media feeds. Ask questions, including what their style of photography is, if they shoot in studio or on-location and if they have references. As you look at their portfolios, do you like what you see? Do the images speak to you? Would a similar style suit your personal brand?
2. Ask for lifestyle photos as well as business photos
Of course, this depends on what your brand image is. If you’re a corporate attorney, it’s expected that you would have traditional head shots taken in a conference room or law library, but if you’re a business coach it’s completely acceptable to go on-location and aim for more casual poses. This isn’t to say lifestyle photos can’t be professional looking. It’s all about aligning the style, feel and location of the shoot with your brand.
3. Be specific; don’t hold back details
The best working relationships are those that have clear, open lines of communication. Explain what your business is about to your photographer. Explain the vision you’re aiming for and your ideal client. Show examples of other websites or lifestyle photos that you like and that match up with your brand. Don’t assume your photographer knows what you want. Offer ideas and examples and let them share their creativity with you.
4. Be your own location scout
Photographers who shoot on-location will have a list of locations they prefer to use for a variety of reasons. You can trust their rationale, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other dynamic locations. Be your own scout and offer ideas to your chosen photographer. The more ideas you offer, the better they can see your vision. If a site won’t work due to poor lighting or it’s inaccessible during the time of your shoot, they will let you know.
5. Plan your outfits ahead of time
What you wear during your photo shoot, including the colors, prints, fabrics and style, is as critical as the photos themselves. Even the most skilled photographer cannot make up for poor or off-brand wardrobe choices. Every piece of clothing should be thoughtfully selected to support your brand and communicate your message and vision clearly. It’s not a matter of wearing your favorite dress and most professional suit. If you’re at all unsure, don’t leave this decision in the hands of your photographer. That’s not their job. Seek out professional help from an image consultant (not a stylist) if you want to ensure your brand gets accurately reflected. It will save you considerable time and the cost of having to get new photos.
Dr. Carol Parker Walsh is a confident and executive coach, personal branding expert, certified image professional, owner of Camas-based Evolve Image Consulting, and is the expert behind the Vancouver Business Journal’s advice column, Dress Code. This column specializes in providing strategies to position entrepreneurs and leaders for success. Walsh can be reached at evolvingyourimage.com.