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Leaves Shadow

ABCs of Personal Brand Photography for Photographers - Part 1 of 5 (A -E)

Breaking down all aspects of personal brand photography letter by letter...because it's so much more than just headshots.

After telling countless clients during their planning chats that they know so much more than they think they do, I decided to put this to the test myself, using the same method I suggest to them: write down each letter of the alphabet and start filling in words related to their industry, then little by little expand on them with your explanations. Before long they'll have dozens of potential captions and shot list ideas.

When I took decided to do this for myself, after months of compiling, I had nearly two hundred so I thought what better thing to do than use those words to educate others in the industry?!

If you're inspired and finding these helpful, head down below to download your free packet of all of them when it's ready!

A | B | C | D | E | F - J | K - O | P - T | U - Z


Accessorize - encourage your clients to plan and pack accessories like scarves, jewelry, and headbands to inject their personality into the shoot AND quickly mix up their look.

Affirmations - this may not suit everyone but affirmations really work for some people! Cook up some affirmations that ring true to your brand values that you can share with your clients in order to help them step into their power.

Angles - for variety's sake alone you'll want to take plenty of angles of each scene in order to guarantee your client receives a well-balanced gallery.

Additionally, you'll want to watch out for inappropriate angles that portray the wrong message (like looking down on them); or capture an angle they are not a fan of.

Anxiety - your clients are very likely to feel nervous and hesitant in the lead-up to your shoot together so it’s important to provide them with anxiety-reducing methods for them to try. Check-in with them on their first call to see how being on camera makes them feel so you know what way is best for supporting them.

Assistant - if at all possible, finding a shoot assistant (even if it’s your make-up artist) will be HUGE for you. They can help you style, tidy, direct light, notice and remove distractions, help you carry things, film BTS, and help support your client. As with any additional shoot day folks, make sure they are a value-add and not a distraction for you or your client.

Authenticity - authenticity is an important aspect of brand photography as it helps your clients to attract their ideal clients. Make sure to encourage them to be themselves and embrace the things that are unique to only them. You’ll be able to help them uncover these unique traits when you read their questionnaire responses and plan your shoot in a way that brings those traits to the surface.

Awkward - you’ve likely heard from many of your clients that they fear they’re awkward on camera. It’s important when you hear that to let them know that they’re not alone. This helps them feel validated and ensures them that they’re not an outlier. You’ll also want to assure them you’ll provide loads of direction during the shoot to help them feel guided and comfortable. Remind them that it’s common and relatable to feel awkward on camera so in a way, it can bring them closer to their clients!



Background - pay attention to the backgrounds as you’re setting up your scene - keep an eye out for distractions (cords, sockets, wall dents, etc.), off-brand details, weird shadows, paint changes, and photo bombers! Do what you can to hide, cover, or reframe to make your client the star of the images.

Back-up - as a brand photographer who is taking on high-level entrepreneurial clients, it’s important that you keep the digital images safe. It’s equally as important that you are clear with your photo storage timelines. If you only keep the images for a year after the shoot, that should be clear in your terms. I would recommend an external hard drive (some people use doubles to copy) and a cloud-based backup like Backblaze to keep them safe online. You may also like to upload your completed galleries to another place in google drive for extra safety. Find a process that works for you and stay consistent so you can find your files should the worst happen!

Banding - when you compress an image too small, it can create harsh lines across the part of the photo where the colors should fade together. Clients scrolling through your portfolio will not likely know this is the cause (and may negatively compare your portfolio as a result), so if you’re putting photos online and notice banding in the image, re-compress the high-resolution version to flatten out those lines, before posting.

Behind the Scenes - encourage your clients to set up a few ‘behind the scenes’ moments so their fans can see what it’s like to work with them. Do your best to capture BTS footage of the shoot on your phone for you to use as content on your own platforms (most clients will then share this and get new eyes on you), and even send it to your clients - they may want to share it as well (I always like to check the audio in case I’m caught saying something too weird for out-of-context viewers). Perhaps hire an assistant for the day or have your client invite a friend who can do that for both of you.

Birthdays - everyone loves to be thought of on their birthday. How can you show your clients love on their special day each year? I like to send out cards each month to everyone celebrating, wishing them a great birthday month.

Blog Posts - blog posts are excellent ways to share your expertise, answer questions, and drive traffic (especially with the strategic use of Pinterest). They are useful for repurposing content to other areas, and importantly are beautiful ways to feature clients, show off your work with them, and give them exposure to a new audience. If you’re not already using your blog, it’s something you need to work at because it can be powerful when used correctly. Aim to include calls to action - freebie download to get on your email list, inquire to learn more, etc.

Branding - if clients come to you before they have a handle on their branding, you may want to encourage them to do a bit of a deeper dive as that will be really helpful in guiding the direction of the shoot from the feel, to the locations, to the colors.

Breaks - shoot days are LONG and both you AND your client will likely need a break or two. Make sure to allow time for these as energy is everything both from you as the photographer, and for how your client is showing up on camera.

Brightness - bright and airy spaces are really important for getting crisp, timeless photos for your clients so keep that in mind as you help them plan shoot locations. Consider creating a list to send to them that will list of what they should be looking for when searching through rental locations.



Captions - brand photography needs a purpose. Try to dig deep with your client on your planning call to figure out what they want to say and how you together can craft a shot list that will pair well with their marketing plan.

Casual - obviously we absolutely want to help our clients be viewed as an expert in their industry, but we also want to encourage a few casual outfits that give a more approachable vibe that’s more on par with how their ideal clients' dress, plus, social media can be quite a casual place so it’s best to plan for some relaxed looks.

Celebrate - your client’s shoot will result in a diverse collection of images for them to use for loads of marketing content, but it’s important to remember that to some clients, the act alone of mustering the courage to step in front of the camera and allow themselves to be seen is worthy of celebration! How will you encourage them to embrace the shoot as a celebration of their brand? Spa the day before? Extravagant rental? Professional glamor appointments?

Aaand it’s very likely that they’ll want an image to share when they have something to celebrate on social media, so make sure you’ve helped them think of at least one shot that will be their celebration moment. How does that look to your client? Popping prosecco? Throwing confetti?

Brand photography client speaking with female client about mentrual coaching at coffee shop.

Client - does your client serve clients? Consider having them invite a friend to the shoot to play the role of their client so people can see what it could be like to work with them. If they stay longer they may also be able to help assist you and/or capture some behind-the-scenes moments.

Colors - make sure to find out your client’s brand colors so you can help them with the styling of the shoot and advise what should and should not be in the frame. This may be something you'd like to add to your questionnaire.

Commercial User License - you’ll want to make sure you stand out with a user license that grants your clients what they need. One that allows them to basically use the photos in whatever way they'd like, aside from actually selling the images themselves. They’ll need to be able to edit the final images and have the freedom to not credit the photographer with each use. It should NOT include copyright (you will want to maintain ownership of the photos). Some photographers do not include all of this but it will set you apart from them and place a higher value on your packages. I'd recommend working with a lawyer to set this up so you're serving your clients in the best way possible.

Communication - clear communication in the lead-up to the shoot (and throughout the whole process, really) is essential to help your client show up as prepared as they possibly can be, both mentally and physically. This may include automated emails, a voice note, and/or a morning text on shoot day. How else can you provide great communication with your clients while maintaining useful boundaries?

Compassion - being photographed can be extremely vulnerable for your clients. Many people have traumatic memories associated with photography (and often body confidence issues) so it’s essential to approach the entire client journey with compassion and love - providing guidance and support along every step of the way.

Confetti - this is a really fun way to show excitement when clients have something big to announce - launch, client win, special feature, holiday, etc. Encourage your clients to find biodegradable, large pieces in their branding colors, and plan for it to happen in a place that's easy to clean (maybe throw a little broom in your car just in case).

Confidence - your clients’ shoot with you is a collaboration and it’s on you to do all you can to help them feel prepared, at ease, and confident in the lead-up to and during the shoot. Ultimately it’s down to clear communication and a well-laid client journey, but you’ll also want some tools in your pocket to offer at times when they may need a little boost. Get in touch with a local confidence coach that you can connect them with if they’ve voiced interest in custom one on one support beyond your capability.

Content Pillars - content pillars are the main topics or ideas around which a business builds its content. They act as a foundation for all of your online marketing efforts, from your website to your social media posts. When creating your content pillars, it's important to think about what makes your brand photography unique and what you want your clients to know about you. Why should they book you rather than someone else? How do you serve them?

You’ll want to know your clients’ pillars before the shoot as well to help guide the planning process. Make sure to ask this in your questionnaire or planning chat to help you get creative with your shot list and make sure you’re sticking to the content they’ll actually use!

Continuous Shutter - when the situation calls for it, shooting with a rapid shutter is really fun for compiling photos into GIFS. This is an exciting and valuable thing to include as a surprise bonus when the scene works for it - best when motion is involved. And now that reels are so ‘important,’ it makes a great way for clients to start using their images. I often do these quite quickly and deliver via text before they’ve even seen the proof gallery.

Contract - protect your booty and only confirm a shoot once the contract has been signed and you’ve collected payment (however works for you). Make sure you know what’s on your contract and consider having a section on it where you’ve compiled the important parts into non-legalese language so your clients know their rights and fully understand the licensing, cancelation & rescheduling requirements, etc.

Control - you are the expert so it’s important that while you’re on the shoot you are in control of everything you can be. Hide tripping hazards, control the lighting to the best of your ability to make sure your client looks great, and do your best to avoid getting distracted and losing sight of the shoot goals. That said, things will come up that will require you to be breezy - timings will be off, your client may need to take a break, someone forgot something, or there’s a sudden weather change. Don’t let your clients see you panic if those situations happen and do your best to plan for contingencies and go with the flow.

Copyright - you may have clients ask about owning the copyright of the photos you shot together. Think about how you will respond to this. If you sell your image copyrights, you will be selling those files and will be required to remove them from your hard drives, never again to be used in your marketing or portfolio. As long as you offer your clients a decent commercial user license, they shouldn't need the copyrights. The going rate is HUNDREDS of dollars per image so if it's something you're willing to sell, make sure you price it correctly and know that you will be required to delete them fully after delivery.

Creativity - it can be tough to stand out in a saturated market, which is why it's so important to get creative with these images. Don't be afraid to encourage your clients to try something different to help them stand out. Your creativity is part of the package they're paying for!

CRM - this is your secret to organization and consistency. CRMs add a professional impression to all of your client documents. When there are so many moving parts and steps to your client journey, a CRM is essential.

Crop - while cropping out distractions, it's important that you don't crop too tightly as we don't know what clients intend to do with each image. They may want to overlay words or graphics, and a tight crop won't allow for that, meaning that their photos won't be useful to their needs.

Cross Promote - encourage your clients to reach out to some of their favorite makers and ask them if it's ok to tag them in the photos that feature their products. It's a great way to spread the word about other indie businesses and cultivate community. They may even send extra items to add to their space!

Cull - all photographers have a different system when it comes to culling photos and prepping to edit. No matter what your process and software are, make sure you’re keeping plenty of photos for your clients to choose from. Even minute facial differences to us will be seen differently by the person in the photo so allow them the power to choose rather than doing it for them. Also, keep plenty of photos with negative space and varied crops to give them loads of use options.



Overhead view of young adult author typing on computer at home office.

Details - get up close and personal so you can tell different stories. For instance, a yoga pose zoomed out

can explain the benefits of the pose overall, but a zoomed-in version allows your clients to go deeper with their value and captions, explaining the exact benefits of specific body placement. Same pose -> different conversation. This will give your clients more variety and perhaps help you sell more images.

Diffuser - have a tool or two in your kit to help you diffuse harsh sunlight when that becomes an obstacle during your shoot. You can purchase a large diffuser for an assistant to hold, or get creative with household items that soften the sunlight.

Direction - you MUST provide direction throughout the entire shoot. In all aspects - hair and teeth checks, wardrobe issues, where to look, what to do with face/hands, where to put props, everything. Your client is relying on you to guide them throughout. Keep it positive and keep it flowing.

Distractions - keep an eye out for any distractions that may take away from the image and do what you can to fix them in the frame - necklace clasps, sockets, litter, cords, and dents in the wall. Plants and other household items do wonders in hiding these distractions so you don't have to remove them in photoshop.



Edits - brand photography isn't typically the place for creative, artistic edits. It can be if that suits your client’s brand, but more often than not, your edits should be quite true-to-life with just a tad bit of pop. This provides your clients with loads of value in the form of a timeless gallery that should they want to, they can adjust after gallery delivery (make sure your contract allows them this if you’re happy with it).

Educate - have your clients think about how they want to provide value and educate their followers. Is there a particular conversation they want to start? This is a wonderful starting point for planning out their shoot. Once you have those ideas sorted, together you can brainstorm ways to highlight those educational moments in photos.

Embody - if your client is feeling nervous, have them think of someone they look up to and encourage them to embody their confidence. Call it 'fake it till you make it' if that helps!

Emergency Kit - pack a kit of emergency essentials your client may need on shoot day and encourage them to do the same with specific items they may need to use for touch-ups (like their nail shade and extra lipstick)

Emotions - not all professions deal with giddiness and smiles, and not all small businesses run on daily happiness. So while it’s super important to get photos of your clients that showcase their friendliness and approachability, it’s equally important that you ask them what other types of emotions they may want to convey. For instance, when I worked with a contract lawyer who often attracts people who are stressed about their terms and conditions, we piled documents up high on her desk and had her look a little frazzled to reflect an emotion her potential clients may be feeling.

Lawyer leaning on paperwork on messy desk with matcha tea.

Energy - high energy is important for shoot day! Do whatever it is you have to do to get yourself in a high-frequency mode so that your client can feed off your high vibes.

Eyes - your client’s eyes are generally the most important part of the image. They are what convey emotions and allow for the creation of genuine connections. Make sure their eyes are in focus, avoid capturing them looking too far to the side (we want to avoid the eye whites), and do whatever you can to capture that sparkle of catchlight. And if you provide make-up tips, you may want to encourage them to pay a little extra attention to that under-eye zone if they are prone to dark circles.

Expense - remember to tell your clients that their personal branding shoot (and anything they purchase for the shoot) can be written off as a marketing business expense. This may encourage them to spring for higher-end shoot locations, makeup artists, and/or outfits which will give them an incredible gallery and in turn, uplevel your portfolio in order to help you attract higher-paying clients. It’s a win-win!

Experience - your goal should not just be giving your clients a gorgeous gallery of images. Obviously, that’s mega important and you’re already going to do that, but make sure you’re creating a memorable, fun experience as well. This will encourage your clients to tell their friends all about you and make them want to return for their next shoot!

Expert - you are the expert! When it comes to lighting, posing, planning, shooting, etc, and it’s important to exude that confidence in your expertise for your clients to feel like they are in good hands. If you’re not quite there yet, get back out there practicing and taking courses until you’re happy as a clam calling yourself a personal brand photography expert.

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