OPINION: Three and a half years ago I spent money on a brand photo shoot. We went through a bunch of changes in our business and it was part of our plan to get out of our integration that I rose up and became the face of our business.
It wasn’t something I wanted to do. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the idea of ââphotos. I’m used to having my picture taken after twenty years of work as a writer, writer and a short stint as a regular on morning TV, not to mention working with brands as a blogger in the early days of influencer marketing (when you never got paid and people wondered if social media was just a fad).
I am also one of those lucky / strange people who somehow feel more comfortable in front of a camera than in front of people.
But I hesitated about using the images to market my business. As a solo preneur that’s OK, I thought. But what if you have a team or are building something that is more than you are? Is it okay to be the face of a company that has other people? And don’t you have to have a certain look for it to work?
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There was a shock when the first photos arrived in a file. Instead of looking at each picture as a whole, my gaze slid to every flaw and imperfection.
It wasn’t until I posted the “worst” pictures on a large business owner Facebook group that I realized that others weren’t quite seeing my photos that way.
“I would work with THAT PERSON right away” or “Look at this energy, I want this person to work with me” or “I love your expressions” were some of the comments I got (luckily no one shared anything less as free comments in my face!)
I decided we would do whatever we can to use my images to build our brand. Though it was narcissistic at times and still feels at times, the resulting photos gave me an arsenal of images that we used everywhere from print materials to social media posts to my own gifs. (PRO TIP: Create your own gifs to use on social media to add a little fun to your brand).
I quickly learned that even when you have a team, the pictures of the owner (or chosen face) of the company help personalize a brand and connect people with you. Your images instill trust, help people connect with you, and help people see your brand with more depth than a logo can give you.
Great personal brand, team, and product photos are a common part of our small business marketing strategies. Having an arsenal of clear, compelling images of your products and yourself can make selling your activity a lot easier. Even if you are on a budget, investing in great photography can help improve your business and make you look a lot more together than you are likely to feel.
It’s also one of the biggest shortage areas for most of the business owners I work with. So few invest money to get a series of photos to use for social media, the website, printing, and wherever you can put them.
It’s incredibly difficult to spend a month creating compelling social media content revising the same three photos in different ways and trying to avoid jumping back to generic stock photos.
In episode 24 of the MAP IT Marketing Podcast this week, I spoke to Hipster Mum’s owner, Jade Warne. Jade specializes in helping business owners create stunning photos and videos of themselves and their products, and offers a fair amount of advice and assistance on everything to do with digital marketing.
Jade and I agree that it can help develop a public entrepreneurial personality who is a curated version of yourself. What that means for you would be different for me. (For example, my public brand is energetic, brightly colored, and very talkative. As I write this, I am wearing my favorite gray hoodie in a quiet corner of the house, hanging out with a book tomorrow. We are both the same Person, only different parts)
Jade shares some of the steps to take when trying to figure out what your personal brand will look like online. She suggests that you ask yourself, âWho do you need to be in a business sense? Who and what is this person? How do they show up? “Once you have answered these questions, you can ask other picture-related questions, such as” What is she wearing? “
If you have absolutely no idea what your public brand would be, Jade recommends spending time collecting images that will attract you. She uses Pinterest, but just as you could get old-fashioned with a pile of magazines.
Pick pictures, words, clothes, furniture, fonts and anything visual that you react to and like.
âAnd when you put these together in their various threads, all of a sudden you open your board and you will see, ‘This is what I love. That navy blue. Or this bottle green or all these different textures. It’s going to be immersed in your style that you love and let it give you energy, then you can take that with you and project it into the world. It’s so practical and tangible to find the elements of yourself, âshe explains.
You can create your own branded photography with good lighting and an iPhone if the budget is tight, but investing in a good photographer can help you create a portfolio of images that are in the right light and best represent you.
A photographer can relax you and suggest poses, placements, and ideas that may be outside your realm of knowledge but can create a magical image for your brand.
The same applies to product photography. If you want to do it yourself, Jade suggests making sure you have a white room, or at least a small white studio.
âYou can take really great product photos at home. You can have a really small and simple facility near a nice window with natural light, white walls, white floors, and white ceilings. Imagine a typical photo studio that looks something like what you want it to be. If you’re photographing earrings or something small, you can create a small mini photo studio measuring 12 “by 12” to get razor-sharp shots. “
The three types of product shots that Jade recommends are those that show the beauty of the product, those that show it in use or carried, and those that show it in motion. One of Jade’s specialties is stop-motion product videos that can be used for reels, short video clips, and gifs.
I often say, “Social media is like a kitten, it needs to be fed a lot and loves anything that moves,” so think about ways to incorporate movement into your stills and add videos if possible.
While you can take your pictures yourself, there are definitely benefits to using a photographer instead. Jade explains, âThe difference is that if you work with a product photography professional, you can set up the lighting and shoot from 6am to 9pm. We’ll get consistent results all along the way. You pay for that consistency. You pay the volume. And the creative eye that knows how to present products in a really cool way. “
For many small business owners, outsourcing can boil down to what you have more of: time or money? As Jade explains, it’s a decision to be weighed up.
âIf you’re a small business owner, spend a full day getting some flatlays that are fine, maybe a good use of your time. Or maybe not. Perhaps you’d better send your products to a photographer who has all the colored backgrounds, who has all the props, who can smash your entire range of products together with stop-motion, cut with music and give you square format plus the portrait format plus the landscape format in one day , everything ready for your marketing. “
For manufacturers, investing in a range of product photos can help your retailers deliver a consistent branding experience to their customers.
For retailers, creating your own product shoots will help you create a look and feel for the ranges you choose that fit your retail brand and stand out from the competition. There’s a reason entrepreneurs like Pepper & Me’s Cherie Metcalfe invest in monthly two-day photo shoots to get great pictures for their social media. Using your own recordings will help you take control of your brand’s narrative.
Whether you try it out for yourself or have it outsourced, owning a collection of images that represent your brand, be it yours or your products (or both), can help you stand out from the thousands all of the same stock photos circulating in the social media.
Rachel Klaver is a marketing strategist specializing in lead generation and content marketing. She leads Identify Marketing, which works with companies to develop the strategy they need to better tell their story to the right people. Write your own marketing strategy for free with Rachel’s online marketing school.
Identify Marketing is a Stuff specialty information content partner for small businesses. Here you can find Rachel’s events.