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What is Brand Photography and do you need it?

Updated: May 28


A Comprehensive Guide

 

It is said that it only takes us 7 seconds to make a first impression. If you run a business, it should come as no surprise to you that the first impression you make on your ideal customer is hugely important.


This means that no matter how much value you are sharing, how snazzy your copy is or how important the point… if your brand visuals fall flat, feel unprofessional, or don’t connect with your audience, that’s what the customer will remember.

 

You might have heard or thought of brand photography as “Business Photography” or “Commercial Photography” and while they cover similar ground, brand photography is designed specifically to help business owners get content that is bespoke to them and will speak directly to their ideal customer. It is a pillar that should be used along with overall work on the brand visual identity, to create a cohesive brand story.


Why is brand photography crucial for businesses these days?

Brand photography is the visual cornerstone of your business story. It's more than just your "aesthetic" - although that has a part to play too. Your brand images, if done right, can be a powerful storytelling tool.For small businesses, entrepreneurs, and anyone striving to carve a unique identity in the market, investing in brand photography is key to making a great first impression with your ideal customer.Professional brand photos not only elevate your online presence but also foster authenticity, trust, and connection with your audience. In a world inundated with visual content, investing in quality brand photography is no longer a luxury, but an essential investment. 

 

Can’t I just use stock photos?

Sure, but let me ask you this. Imagine you were searching for a service provider near you. You look at 5 different websites, but you notice that 4 of them have used the same stock images to illustrate their service (even worse, one of them hasn’t paid to remove the watermark). Then on the 5th site you see professional, high-resolution images that have clearly been created specifically for that business.

Which of those 5 businesses are you going to trust? Which one feels more professional?

 

Understanding Brand Photography

Brand photography focuses on creating visual content to represent and promote a business, product, or individual in a cohesive and appealing manner. The primary goal of brand photography is to visually communicate the brand's identity, values, personality, and story through high-quality, professional images. These images are used across various platforms and marketing materials to create a consistent and recognizable brand presence.

 

What’s the difference between brand photography and corporate/commercial photography?

I mentioned earlier that brand photography gets compounded with “Corporate” or “Commercial” Photography, so let me try to break down the differences.

Corporate photography is traditionally associated with headshots, done in an office setting. It begins to crossover with brand photography when the brief also extends to photographs of the office environment or “action” type shots that will be used on the website or marketing materials.  Still though, there is usually a lot let focus on the overall “brand story” elements in a corporate shoot

Commercial photography is aimed more at selling a specific product or service. Think of billboard advertising, ad campaigns and movie posters. A commercial photographer will be hired by a brand to shoot a highly specific campaign to promote a new product line or service offering.

 

 

 

 

Summary of Differences:

Aspect

Brand Photography

Corporate Photography

Commercial Photography

Main Goal

Build brand identity and emotional connection

Present a professional corporate image

Promote and sell products or services

Primary Focus

Brand story, values, and personality

Corporate environment, employees, and culture

Products and services

Usage

Websites, social media, marketing materials

Internal/external communications, PR, reports

Advertising, catalogues, e-commerce, promotional campaigns

Key Features

Consistency, authenticity, storytelling

Professionalism, internal/external communications

Sales-driven, high production quality, campaign-specific

Examples

Lifestyle images, behind-the-scenes, team portraits

Executive headshots, event photos, office images

Product shots, lifestyle images, advertising photos

 

 

What are the components of Brand Photography?


Portraits

One of my favourite elements of my brand shoots is capturing beautiful authentic portraits that my clients are genuinely happy with. Ironically, this is where most entrepreneurs and business owners become anxious and is usually the main reason they shy away from getting a brand shoot for so long!

Most of us are not super comfortable in front of a camera, and so we convince ourselves it's not necessary. But if you've been in business for any time at all, you will be no stranger to the phrase: 


"People buy from people"


In order for your customer to trust you and feel that you are relatable and authentic, they have to SEE you. Particularly if you run a small to medium sized business. Sure, I have no idea who the owner of Nike is, but I don’t have to. They have a HUGE brand presence, including physical stores everywhere, global ad campaigns, celebrity endorsements etc.  But until you are at that level, the quickest way to build a relationship with your customers is to show up. Meaning, your face.


Product images

If you sell a product, then your products will of course need to feature in your brand photography, but I will admit that the ecommerce side of brand photos aren’t really my speciality (like I mentioned before, I’d put this under commercial photography) – although I am in the process of working on a collaboration that will offer exactly this, so keep your eyes peeled. When I am photographing products as part of a brand shoot, I’d say they come under the next category.


Lifestyle shots

“Lifestyle” images can be tricky to define, but they are essentially photos that show you or your products “in real life”. This could be you relaxing on your couch with a coffee because that’s how you unwind for the day. It could be a close-up image of you carefully applying your new skincare product to the back of a friend’s hand. Or, it could be your dog giving you a paw – demonstrating the new dog training course you’ve just completed. 

These images are essentially the window through which your customers see you living your life and see anything you sell being used in situ.

 

Behind-the-scenes (BTS) photos

BTS shots are similar to lifestyle ones, but they focus more on the business elements of things. How you run and operate your business on a day-to-day basis. This can be your workspace, your process etc. If you make a product, it might be a sneak peek of your ingredients or materials. If you offer a service, it might be a look at your prep before delivering said service.


Can’t I just use my phone for behind the scenes content?

You can, and indeed in this day and age, most of the BTS content we see on socials is taken on phones. This is especially true if you are updating your stories live from an event as it’s happening. For example, I attend a lot of networking events and I will update my stories before, during and after the event with photos and videos I’ve taken on my phone.

However,

1)     Your feed should not be cluttered with lots of phone content, particularly if you are looking to have an elevated look and charge a higher rate. You might see companies like Dior or Rolex post the occasional phone BTS snap on their story, but never in the main feed.  So, if you want to actually show off a behind the scenes look at your process, it should be taken professionally.

 

2)     Your website is not a place for phone photos, and a good website should feature at least a couple of behind the scenes images to illustrate what it is you do and how you do it.



What is Brand Visual Identity?


Maybe we should take a pause for a moment and try to establish:

“What is a Brand?”


Ignyte has an excellent blog on this, but the opening paragraph is a great summary:


“A brand is the sum total of how a product or business is perceived by those who experience it. This includes customers, investors, employees, the media, and more. Branding is the process of shaping these perceptions.

A brand, then, is more than just a company’s name, logo, product, or price tag. It’s more than the marketing and advertising around these things. A brand is the consistent and recognizable feeling that all of these things evoke.“


I like to describe this as the “vibe”. It’s not always tangible, but when a company has really nailed it, you recognise it almost immediately.

 

How do visuals help in shaping a brand’s identity?

Humans are extremely visual creatures, so the visual elements your share across all platforms will shape how people feel about your brand – whether you want them to or not.


This is why it’s SO important to be intentional with your imagery.

Being consistent, not just in what you talk about, but in how it looks, is what builds trust with your audience.

Remember that as modern consumers, we are constantly looking for reasons to distrust companies and advertising.


Here’s an example of the impact of consistency in brand visuals:


This is an ad for Apple:

An Apple advert that is very colourful and busy with gadgets floating around the background


This is also an ad for Apple.

A very minimal black and white Apple advert for the vision pro


 

Both are using the correct font and logo. But without any other context, which one would you be more willing to click on?

Which of these do you automatically trust as a genuine Apple ad?

Personally, I would trust the second one far more, because it just feels more on-brand.

The first one feels busy and just a little… off.


That’s because Apple have spent YEARS building up a consistent brand visual story that is extremely minimalist.


If you took all of the photos across your recent socials, your website and your marketing materials and put them all on one board… would you be able to instantly recognise it as your brand?

Would it have a vibe?

Or would it be a mismatch of colours, quality, and style?


 

Storytelling

Storytelling is probably the oldest human artform. It’s how we connect to others and make sense of the world.

This makes it one of the best mechanisms for engaging your audience. You can do this through your copy certainly, but since people these days seem to have the attention span of a puppy with ADHD, you need to tell them your story using images too.


Something I teach in my masterclass is how to use the photos you post to speak directly to your ideal customer. When you find out what is important to them and what they are drawn to, you can use lifestyle brand photos to tell the story you want them to hear. 

Below are the 4 reference images that I use in the masterclass. (I didn’t take these ones)





What stories would you say each of these images are telling. What feeling are they evoking?


1. Excitement, anticipation. It tells the story of someone about to head off on holiday, and they are fully prepared for adventure.


2. Peace, opportunity, luxury. It tells the story of someone who enjoys a sailing lifestyle, someone a little more traditional but still fun loving.


3. Comfort, cosyness, autumn. It tells the story of someone about to settle into a good book. The feeling of enjoying “me-time” from the comfort of home.


4. Hard work, satisfaction, a love of food. It tells the story of someone who enjoys the effort and process of making something from scratch, someone who finds satisfaction in the simple things in life.

 

See how easy it is to draw conclusions from one image? Imagine how powerful it could be if you used this across everything you posted. How quickly could you tell someone exactly what you wanted them to know about you and your brand.

 

Who are you speaking to?

We also have to be acutely aware of WHO we are speaking to, and what purpose these images are serving.


This is my client Ivana:


A brand photography of a smiling woman with black curly hair, red lipstick and black glasses. Her chin is resting in her hards and her elbow is on a table in front of her displaying her 4 children's books. She looks friendly.

Ivana is the author of a range of children’s books. She is friendly and warm and approachable. She likes bright colours.

 

 

Ivana is also a former UN Sustainability Specialist with over a decade of experience in addressing critical global challenges. She regularly speaks on sustainability at events and is focused on creating a next generation of “world changers”.


A brand photograph of the same woman, looking professional in a white blazer and green shirt, standing with her arms folded.

 

If the first image had been shared when she was asked to present a keynote speech at an environmental conference… there’s a chance she might have been taken less seriously. But if the second image had been sent to parents in a school newsletter about an upcoming reading of her books, it probably wouldn’t have felt right either.


This is the importance of the stories we tell through our images and why we have to be intentional.



We also create emotional connection through our images.


If your ideal client is a working mum, then she’s more likely to connect to images like these:



 

 

If she’s passionate about health and wellbeing, she will connect to images like these



 

If she’s busy and on-the-go she might connect to images like these:



 

 

Key Elements of Effective Brand Photography

Consistency

  - Maintain a uniform style, colour palette, and tone across all photos. Stick to the “vibe”


Authenticity

  - Stay true to your message and appear as authentically as you can. Remember that will look different depending on who you are targeting.


Quality

  -  Authentic does NOT mean unpolished. If you want your customers to spend money with you, you have to show you’ve invested in yourself. The best way to do that is to use high-resolution, professional images.


Relevance

  - Align your images with your brand values, mission, and target audience.


 

Planning Your Brand Photography


Defining your brand and setting goals.

  - Identifying what you want to achieve with your brand shoot. In my Gold and Platinum packages, we work together to drill into getting to know your ideal customer, what they are looking for and how your brand imagery is going to show them that.


Creating a Mood Board:

  - Again, this is something I include in my Gold and Silver brand shoot packages. We work together to create a moodboard in Pinterest that feels like your brand. This gives us the overall “vibe” that I keep going on about.


Selecting the Right Photographer:

  - People often stumble on this part because the choice can be overwhelming. Make sure you go and look at the portfolios of people you are considering working with first. If their style feels similar to what you’d like to achieve, then the next step is to arrange a call or meet them if you can and get a feel for them as a person. It's SO important that you are comfortable with your photographer, and you get on well. If you don’t, it will show in your photos.


I offer free calls, but I also host regular mini-session days. These are opportunities where people can book a 20-minute slot to come and get a couple of headshots. Often, clients will use these as a little taster session to get a feel of what it would be like to work with me.

Not every photographer has this option though.


Preparing a Shot List

If you’ve done all the brand work, preparing a detailed shot list should be pretty easy. You are just looking at your ideal client and what they want to hear, combining it with your brand and what you want to say, the stories you want to tell etc. Make a list of everything that you need to shoot to cover these areas, and there you have it! In my Platinum package, we sit down together to create the shot list, but the Gold package also gets that ball rolling and provides you with a document template that you keep filling out after we do the brand work in our call.




Implementing Brand Photography


Photo Shoot Preparation:

 Your photographer should be advising you on what you might need to do for your shoot, but here’s my list of general tips: 


1. Clean your screens (phone and laptop – anything that might have fingerprints)

2. Do your make-up a little heavier than usual. Or hire a pro to do it for you – I have a list of optional add-ons in my packages which include professional MUAs.

3. Pack more clothes than you’ll think, but not so many you overwhelm yourself

4. Print or screenshot your shotlist and moodboard. You might not have interenet later.

5. Bring makeup wipes, powder for blotting and your lipstick for top ups.

6. Practise moving and posing in your outfits in the mirror. You might feel silly, but trust me, youll want to know if that dress has a funny gap when you sit down.

7. Same for underwear! Don’t wear a bra that stick out of every top you chose or pants that create lines where there shouldn’t be

8. Communicate. Your photographer is there to help you create images you are going to love. They can only do that if you tell them what your worries are, what you like and what you don’t.  Not every photographer likes this, but I am constantly showing my clients the back of my camera and checking that they like what we are getting. So remember to be honest in those moments.


Places you might use your brand photos

- Website

- Social media

- Marketing materials (Canva graphics, leaflets, business cards, video thumbnails etc)

- PR (press coverage, podcast thumbnails etc)



Conclusion

To recap, brand photography is a key pillar of your brand’s visual identity. Your brand visuals massively impact the impression your customers form, so it’s important to be:


1)     Intentional

2)     Consistent

3)     Authentic

4)     Professional


with what you are sharing with the world. In every aspect.

I encourage you to assess your current brand visuals.

Are you being consistent in what you share?

Do you have a brand mood board you can refer to?

Do you have a bank of professional images you can pull from if need be?


Lastly, let me ask you this:


If your dream publication reached out to you tomorrow and said:


"We've seen your work and we love what you do, we want to feature you in our next issue! - We need 8, up to date, high resolution professional images of you ASAP."


Could you provide them? Or would you miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime...

 

If you are thinking you might like to book a brand shoot with me, I have some good news for you!

I am running a 2 - week mini sale at the moment, where my Gold Image Collective Brand package is BUY ONE GET ONE FREE. I only have 5 spots available, and the offer expires on 10th June, so if you’re interested, you can find out more here:


 

To see more of my brand work you can go here:



Or to book a free call with me you can head to: https://calendly.com/sherriehiggins/30-minute-meeting


If you’d like to learn more on this topic, you can see all the details of my masterclass here:


 



Examples of brand shoot clients:


Natasha, Graphic Designer in Glasgow:  



Sherrie was a pleasure to work with, made me feel completely at ease and we laughed all the way through my shoot.

I was really nervous about doing it as I'd never done anything like this before, but her instructions were easy to follow and she knew exactly what to do to make me feel at ease.

The photos I've received for my professional website and marketing materials are so much better than I'd expected.

I would highly recommend Sherrie and her Image Collective Shoots!

 

 

  

Example 2 – Ellie, venue owner in Glasgow.



Sherrie recently came to our venue eeek! Escape Rooms and delivered truly the most wonderful and relaxed photography session!

We really wanted some professional headshots of us both and then some super cool images of our venue to help portray to customers what to expect when they book in with us. Safe to say the results were exactly what we were hoping for and more!

Highly recommend and will definitely be booking again in the future.

Thank you so much Sherrie!



 

Example 3: Sarah, Brand strategist in Dubai



Sherrie was so great to work with! I booked my first-ever photoshoot with her, and I'm super camera shy and never satisfied with my photos - but Sherrie made me so comfortable, we had an absolute blast, and the photos came out so beautiful!

Sherrie was great at directing me, pointing out little changes to make with my hands, my face, my shoulders etc that made a huge difference to the photos.

I can't wait to update my website with all my new photos and begin using them across my social media accounts.

Thanks Sherrie! I'm looking forward to the next one!





 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on brand photography, so please drop a comment below or email me any questions on sherrie@shotsbysherrie.com

 



 


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