Build your personal brand with professional photographs

26 February 2018

Photography is a powerful tool for building your personal brand. Done right, it allows potential clients a peek into who you are and what you stand for – and whether they want to do business with you. We explore the art of personal branding with award-winning international professional portrait and lifestyle photographer Emma O’Brien.

Choosing the right photographer

It must be Emma’s natural and authentic photographic style that allows her to capture personality and character. This is very important. When doing a personal branding shoot, your photographer must know how to connect with you to bring out the best in every shot. People will easily pick up if you are in your element and, if you are, you’ve established an immediate trust connection with a possible client (or fan!).

Personal branding photography advice from Emma O'Brien
Personal branding photography advice from Emma O'Brien

Wardrobe, location, details

A week before the shoot, Emma will typically discuss the shoot with her client over the phone. This gives her an idea of what the client wants, what they do for a living and how to integrate this into a striking, yet honest photo. Thereafter, she’ll discuss suitable outfits, colours and locations. For corporate personal branding and business headshot, a plainer studio style environment is better suited, whereas creative entrepreneurs such as interior designers are far better off in a vibrant environment where they can show off their creative flair.

Personal branding photography advice from Emma O'Brien
Personal branding photography advice from Emma O'Brien
Personal branding photography advice from Emma O'Brien

Handling the nerves

Having discussed the ins and outs is a good ice-breaker before the shoot will allow your client to feel relaxed on the day of the shoot. Emma advises to ask lots of questions and to get to know your subject well. It is important for the photographer to take a genuine interest in the person they are capturing, understand what (and why) they do for a living. She says that good photographers have a flair for connecting with people, which is essential for putting someone at ease during a shoot.

Using props

When used appropriately, props help communicate the personality of the brand. Emma says that for more formal images, like for a company CEO, props aren’t ideal as they’re simply looking for a professional headshot to use on LinkedIn and in press releases. “I don’t think there are many props that effectively say ‘CEO'”, says Emma.

A life coach, on the other hand, would want images with the computer, perhaps with some personal development books and anything else that’s relevant to their coaching programme. Emma recently shot some images for a coach specialising in women’s empowerment and her programme included the use of a journal, so they included that in some of the shots. Another shoot for an animal behaviourist included her dog.

Personal branding photography advice from Emma O'Brien
Personal branding photography advice from Emma O'Brien

The benefits

Professional portraits take time and money investment but are essential for any business owner who takes pride in their brand and what they do. Used on a website and social media, they give a prospective client a first look at who you are and how you present yourself. If you had a choice of two professional speakers to hire for an event and one had a selfie taken on their phone as their profile image on their business website and the other had an up to date personal branding image, which would you choose? Professional portraits are important to make a good first impression before someone meets you in person.

Who benefits?

There might be the misconception that professional portraits are only for business owners, but Emma affirms that they are as important for business owners and entrepreneurs as they are for company employees. Most people have a LinkedIn profile these days and personal branding portraits are applicable to everyone who’s looking to make meaningful connections and possibly move jobs or get hired.

Personal branding photography advice from Emma O'Brien
Personal branding photography advice from Emma O'Brien

Gear list

A proud Nikon ambassador, Emma shoot with a Nikon D810 and a Nikon 24mm-70mm portrait lens. She has a large reflector that she uses wherever she goes  (this comes in particularly handy if the location lighting isn’t great). She uses Bowens flash heads too.

Choosing the right package for you

Before booking a personal branding shoot, it is crucial to discuss the photographer’s packages and select one that most suits your needs. Emma’s personal branding package includes a two-hour shoot, which allows time for two to three outfit changes, and 40 high-resolution, retouched images couriered to the client on a USB. Personal branding shoots usually only require images in digital format that are ready to upload and use online.

About the Author:

Anna Lourens is a content strategist who enjoys pouring her creative juices into the Outdoorphoto Blog. She's also involved with optimising Outdoorphoto's online presence and brand exposure through market research and data analysis, SEO, and strategic content creation and distribution.

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