A brand is more than a set of brand collateral. More than your logo, your colour palette and your website - it is an experience, and your visuals should help communicate that and showcase your brand style no matter what the touchpoint is, immersing your audience within your story and including them on the journey.
And how do we do that? Through a styled brand photoshoot.
There should be visual consistency at every brand touchpoint so that your audience “gets” that it’s your brand because of consistency in the colour palette, the tone, the voice and the visuals, while all tying back to your brand vision and values.
The content, or subject matter of a brand photo is incredibly important, which is why I put together a quick download of my favourite content ideas for brand images. But the way you style your brand and the story you tell with your images deserves just as much attention and planning and should be a key part of your visual strategy.
Styling your brand and spending the time to produce a brand photoshoot allows you to communicate an intentional message, attracting your dream audience, enticing them to want to work with you and encouraging them to pay attention to what you have to say.
Here are my top 6 tips for a successful brand photoshoot:
1. Have a clear vision of your desired outcome and know your goals for the shoot
Like any project, it’s important to spend some time at the outset to really wrap your head around your intentions and to set goals of what exactly you want to accomplish with your brand photo shoot. Not only will this give you the framework you need to plan a successful brand photo shoot, but it will also give help you to communicate your vision and goals with anyone else who is involved in the shoot so that everyone is on the same page, knows the desired end result and how you plan to achieve that
To do so, there are a couple of questions I like to ask myself right at the beginning:
Where are the photos going to be used?
Identifying where your brand photos will show up will help you plan out the exact shots you need, provide you with a range of content that is still cohesive and within your brand style, and ensure that you end up with content that fits within the specifications of various platforms.
The desired end result of your brand photos will dictate what type of shots you need to produce (ie. Horizontal, vertical, or square crop? Detail or wide shot? Coloured backdrop or white?), what size they’ll need to be, and guarantee that your photoshoot produces the right photos for your needs.
A few places your brand photos might show up:
- Sales pages
- Blog posts
- Social media
- Online courses
- Other promotional content and brand collateral (business cards, e-books or or other digital products, guest blogs and features, podcast promos, etc.)
For example, if the photos are primarily for social media, it’s important to not only know the nuances and create content that is plays into the storytelling strength of each specific platform, but also to identify the specific dimensions that images on the each platform need to be, making sure you’re creating content that is optimized for each. Unsure of the ideal dimensions for social media images? I’ve got a cheatsheet for that!
What are you trying to achieve with the photoshoot?
It’s important to ask yourself what the intention of this photoshoot is so you can make sure your photos achieve that desired result.
Maybe your business has just rebranded and these photos are meant to showcase your new brand and attract your ideal clients.
Maybe you’re launching a new product, service or offering that you want to highlight, and these photos will illustrate what your new offering is all about and serve as promotional material.
Maybe you’re using a new social media or marketing platform to promote your business and you want to ensure that your brand is well represented and you’re able to make a visual impact that is true to your brand style.
Once you’ve identified what you want your brand photos to do for you, you can start to brainstorm how they’ll help you achieve that, and what details will help to bring that to life for your viewers.
2. Create an inspiration board specifically for your brand photoshoot
Now that you’ve identified where your photos are going to be used and what you’re trying to achieve with your brand photoshoot, it’s time to gather inspiration that will help to capture the look and feel you’re hoping to evoke with your brand photos. Creating an inspiration board that captures the aesthetic side of what we’re trying to achieve will also serve as a stimulus for starting to brainstorm specific shot ideas.
Using the filter of your brand vision, values and style, and also keeping in mind what we identified in the first step, find images on Pinterest that stand out to you, whether it’s a colour palette you’re drawn to and that represents your brand, a feeling that an image evokes, or a styling detail or specific image that resonates and will communicate the message you’re trying to send.
Your inspiration board should be made up of a variety of content that can be used as a visual reference as to what you’re trying to achieve with your brand photo shoot and to define the creative direction of the project.
3. Create a detailed shot list that incorporates your brand colour palette, style and personality
Now that we’ve set our intentions and goals and have gathered inspiration for our shoot, it’s time to create a detailed shot list. By going into a photo shoot with specific ideas for each shot you want to create, you’re able to control the outcome and ensure that you’re walking away with each and every image you need and that each one incorporates your brand colour palette, style and personality.
The best way to ensure your expectations for a shoot are met is simply by making them known, and this will help you organize your ideas and also make them easy to share with anyone else who is involved.
Chances are you’ve already come up with some ideas from the first two steps, so jot those down and continue to brainstorm ideas, using your inspiration board as a stimulus and referring back to your answers from those first two questions to ensure you’re on the right track.
Try to be as specific as possible when writing down ideas for each shot, and if you have ideas for specific props to be included, the style of shot, or a specific crop, include those details.
To provide a little context, for the last brand photo shoot I did, in which I wanted to show behind-the-scenes of my creative process and the work that I do, here are a few of the ideas I came up with, which will be used in blog posts, the Studio Bicyclette website and social media:
- Top-down shot of desk - scattered colour chips, notebook, in progress canvases, inspiration images, etc.
- Behind the scenes of styling an image - crafty things/props
- Me working at desk, flipping through Pantone book, laying out images, writing notes. Over shoulder, hands in frame, pulled out (standing above)
- Hands holding an iPad (used to showcase digital downloads/content)
- Close up of colour swatches
- Me placing images on inspiration board on wall
- Overhead, me taking an Insta shot on phone, blurred out table below
Once you’ve brainstormed a list of ideas, go back through them one by one and pick out the best ones that you want to move forward with. We’re going to transfer these to a shot list spreadsheet that will help you organize your ideas and be your reference during the shoot.
To create a shot list, use your spreadsheet program of choice (I use Google Sheets) and set up a new document with the following vertical columns:
- Shot #
- Shot Description
Then take your original shot ideas and start adding them to the shot list, filling out each column with the specific details. This is your chance to get really specific with each shot, making sure you’re including a variety of shots, including any colours, signature backgrounds or props that are associated with your brand, and also capturing any notes you want to remember when you’re in the midst of the shoot.
4. Build a styling toolkit and source your props
Now that we’ve spent the time creating a shot list for our brand photoshoot, we’re ready to set about building our styling toolkit and source our props. For your first shoot, you’ll likely have to spend a little more time on this, but then I recommend keeping this toolkit on hand for future shoots or on-the-fly content creation, say for a quick Instagram shot.
You’ve already spent the time in the previous step identifying the specific props that you’ll need to create each shot, so that will essentially become your “shopping” list, whether that means pulling items that you already have on hand, or sourcing them elsewhere.
Since these photos are meant to represent your brand, chances are you’ll have a lot of items on hand that you can use. Think of the items and tools that you use on a daily basis in your business, and consider using these as props in your shot.
Depending on what you do, this might look like a selection of jewellery supplies, a camera and your laptop, or a paintbrush and some watercolours. I urge you to think outside of the box, and if the secret weapon that you just can't start the day without is a cup of coffee or your favourite notebook, include those as your signature props.
I’m always on the lookout for props that fit with my brand style and will help to elevate my photos and make them recognizable. Simple items like office supplies in your brand colours (a coat of spray paint can work wonders!) or paint chips that you pick up at the hardware store can go a long way.
Depending on the type of brand photos you’re taking and whether or not you (or someone else) will actually be in the shots, you’ll also want to think through clothing, accessory, hair and makeup options, as these should also fit with your brand colour palette and style.
So if your brand has an edge to it, consider adding a leather jacket to your ensemble, or maybe donning a bright red lip. If your brand is more on the soft and feminine side, you might opt for a dress that picks up on your brand colours, or a sparkly necklace to accent it.
Every little detail in the shot, right down to your nail polish choice or the case on your phone, should be thought through and considered, as it’s an opportunity to reinforce your brand style.
5. Create your own backdrops (or find a brand-appropriate location)
Similarly to sourcing our props, it’s likely that as you go through the process of creating your shot list you’ll start to come up with specific ideas for backdrops you want to include or locations you might be able to use.
Creating your own custom backdrops is a great way to create brand consistency and a signature look for the photos you post, and they don’t have to be expensive. They’ll help your content stand out in a sea of beautifully styled and shot images, not only highlighting your subject matter, but also adding character to a photo and helping to tell your overall brand story.
I'm a big fan of the simple coloured backdrop, especially when you're showcasing something simple in your photo. It's a great way to add personality and highlight your brand colours.
You have a few options when it comes to coloured backdrops: coloured poster board is always an easy option, or you can pick up a seamless photo backdrop, which will last for awhile. I've also used wrapping paper or just regular-sized coloured paper if the subject matter is small.
Another option - and my personal favourite - way to create your own coloured backdrops requires a little more DIY time, but if you want to have more colour options, I'd highly recommend painting your own backdrops.
- Diagonal two-tone
- Natural materials (including marble and wood)
- Textured (including, fabric, walls, and rugs)
- Prints and patterns (including fabric, wallpaper, wrapping paper and collage images)
6. Focus on quality, schedule in the time to create and consider partnering with professionals
If you’re going to invest your time and resources into a brand photoshoot, it’s important to spend time prior to the shoot to plan accordingly, and to set aside time to bring your vision to life. These photos are going to represent your brand, and you want them to be highly quality and to elevate your brand to the next level.
By scheduling in specific times to shoot branded content, you’ll be able to build up a library of images that are ready to be used whenever you need them, instead of having to sacrifice quality or content in order to create something quickly, on-the-fly as needed.
Executing a brand photo shoot does not need to cost a lot of money, but it is a good idea to recognize where your strengths and weaknesses lie and when it might make sense to hire a project out or partner with someone to do an exchange of services. If you’re comfortable with a camera, you’ll likely be able to produce some of your own brand content, but you might also consider hiring a photographer who specializes in brand photography, product shots, or portraits, depending on the specific type of shoot you’re after. Think beyond the photographer as well, and consider bringing on a stylist, brand strategist, or hair and makeup artist depending on your specific needs.
So there you have it - my tips for a successful brand photoshoot.
The ultimate goal here is to create a visual style that tells a story, so that when people see your brand photos, they immediately know it’s your content and it feels connected to the rest of your brand. It’s that feeling of seeing an image and automatically exclaiming “That’s so….”. We know the brand so well because they’ve succeeded in defining their brand style and sharing it through their photos.
And if you’re still looking for a few ideas for your branded content, I’ve got a free cheatsheet for you to download with 6 Content Ideas for Brand Photos - perfect to kickstart your next brand photoshoot and get those ideas rolling!