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Leaves Shadow

ABCs of Personal Brand Photography for Photographers - Part 4 of 5 (P-T)

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 - E | F - J | K - O | P | Q | R | S | T | U - Z


Pack - a little guidance on smart packing for your client goes a long way to a smooth shoot day. Remind them to grab everything they need including props (stationary, tools of the trade, on-brand soft furnishings, etc.), outfits (layers and accessories), and snacks!

Payment - make sure to collect payment from your clients to secure their booking date and have a clause in your contract about cancellations and reschedules to protect yourself against last-minute changes that could have gone to another client. Consider payment plan options for clients but don’t charge them more if they have to break it up into multiple payments - that’s scummy.

People - your clients may want to bring people to their shoot to demonstrate how they interact with clients and deliver their services. This is a great idea but then you’re directing multiple people so make sure you’re comfortable with that. Encourage them to focus on guests who can assist throughout the shoot (if they’re staying all day - although I wouldn’t recommend that) and hype them up rather than distract them.

Personality - encourage your clients to settle into themselves rather than try to be someone else. Remind them that their uniqueness is the secret sauce behind the magic of their brand.

Pets - should your clients bring their pooch(es) to their brand shoot?! There are pros and cons either way but ultimately the shoot is an investment in their brand and business and they are the main subject, but if their furry pal is a big part of their branding then I would say make it work for sure! HOWEVER, if they’re not really a part of the story they share with their audience (or the dog is a bit rowdy and may stress them out) then it might be worth having them stay home for this one.

Photoshoot Hangover - this sounds made up but unfortunately, there is truth to it! So much energy is spent on shoot day (and in the lead-up to it) that I would suggest you guide your clients to take a slow day post-shoot to recharge their energy. You may want to do this too!

Photoshop - I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say something along the lines of, 'oh you can just photoshop that.' In my opinion as brand photographers, less than 1% of our images should ever end up in photoshop and that is only if we miss something. We need to do our best to get everything right in the frame (assistants are great at helping with this), including make-up coverage so all you need to do is run the images through lightroom with your branding preset and adjust as needed. If you offer retouching services, make sure you’re charging accurately for it as it is a separate, specialized skill.

Pinterest - to get on the same pages as your clients, you're going to want them to share their brand shoot vision. Pinterest is my favorite tool to see what they find inspiring. Encourage them to compile photos and accounts whose aesthetics they love as this will give you direction on all other planning aspects.

Planning - don’t skimp on the planning! It’s essential in the branding photoshoot process. It shows off your expertise as you help guide them to craft a shoot experience that will have a positive impact on their business. Generally, it’s best to have this call after they fill out their shoot planning questionnaire so you can go through it together and expand on their responses.

Plants - houseplants liven up and freshen a space with pops of color and texture, and they're PERFECT for hiding distractions such as sockets! They make for great foregrounds when you’re getting artsy as well. Consider adding a faux one to your shoot day gear if you’re not sure your client has any.

Play - remember that photoshoots should be FUN and (anti-stuffy)! Let the shoot day space be judgment-free as you encourage play. Encourage your client to free their inner child and soak up the experience. This can result in some gorgeous dynamic images that attract free spirits. Not everyone will want to, especially on their first shoot with you but they may take up the offer another time. Allow yourself to be playful as well so that they feel comfortable with the idea of letting go.

Posing - if you’re not comfortable with posing people, I would suggest you get to practicing or find a course, as it is a crucial skill when it comes to brand photography. Generally, there is no one else to pose your client with (like at weddings) so it can be a bit trickier. Flattering angles is key and there are so many tricks to use. Movement is really useful to get authentic shots but at times, a stand-still pose is important. Work with your clients’ mood board and expand from there.

Positive Reinforcement - being photographed is such an intimate, vulnerable practice that can induce self-consciousness in even the most confident person. Constantly showering your client with positivity and praise will help them warm up quicker and lead to a wonderful experience.

Posture - the last thing your clients want is to look like they’re slouching in their images so this is an essential aspect you want to keep an eye on. Kind of like in yoga they’ll want their shoulders back, heart open, and their head up like a string is coming out of the top. If it’s looking too stiff and upright, have them break the pose and go back into it more naturally.

Prep - I encourage my clients to prep for their shoots in five categories: mentally, physically, entrepreneurially, spatially, and final prep, which are each detailed in their preparation guide. Here are some of the basic reminders you’ll want to include:

  • confirm hair/makeup/nail appointments and rental details

  • iron all your clothing and pack to reduce wrinkles

  • tidy up the shoot spaces

Prioritize - it’s easy to get carried away with a shot list but shoot days are filled with creativity and fun and FLY by so it’s important as the expert that you reign it in with your client and remind them to prioritize their shot list in order of importance.

Prism - this is a fun tool you may like to incorporate into your shoot kit if you fancy adding some artistic shots. There are various types and they work best with direct sunlight to produce the best effects and pair nicely with nature and spiritual brands.

Process - nailing down an effective, speedy, and high-quality process will help you stay on top of your emails and tasks, and keep your client journey consistent and reliable. This starts at the time of inquiry through to the last interaction after the final gallery is delivered. Try to find ways to spice it up with your personality so it’s unique to you. Use your CRM automation and templates wherever you can to save time!

Props - props are really fun to plan out and I would generally advise clients to keep it simple, making sure that everything they include has a purpose and ties in with the stories and themes they want to highlight. The colors should complement their branding, and anything with words should speak to their values. Aaand they shouldn’t pack up their entire house!

Proofs - every photographer will feel differently about sharing pre-edited proofs but I find that it speeds up my process in the best way possible - it allows my clients to choose only the images they want so I don’t waste time with unnecessary edits, and they get to peek at the gallery shortly after the shoot rather than waiting to receive final images. If you do this make sure you’re clear about this process and explain that the proof images will be smaller (maybe a tad pixelated), unedited, watermarked, and not available to download. (Request that they do not screenshot and share to social media since they are unfinished - include this in your contract as well.)

Prosecco - now why would this be in the ABCs of Brand Photography? Because capturing that 'pop the cork' moment for your clients makes for wonderful images that represent celebrations - they’re scroll-stopping, loads of fun, and if you plan ahead, the continuous shutter images can be made into GIFS. Plus a glass of prosecco is a wonderful way to end the shoot!

Purpose - without your clients knowing the purpose of their branding shoot, it can lack direction and that may result in them not using the photos. Once they know the purpose of their images (rebranding, seasonal updates, launch preparation, etc.) it will help the entire shoot plan come together. Ask this during the initial call so you can input your expertise throughout to help them attain their goal.



Questionnaires - your brand shoot process should include questionnaires to help you get to know your client, their business, and their shoot vision. You may want to include them at different stages of your client journey so they don’t get overwhelmed. For instance, I have a short intake form when a client submits an online lead. The basics (address, mission, etc.) are collected on a questionnaire that is filled out at the time of booking/payment/contract signing; and then an in-depth planning questionnaire is sent to them after booking to be filled in before their planning call. This final one is really useful in helping clients identify key elements of their brand (that they may not have realized before) and how we can make it shine in photos.

Quotes - or proposals if you prefer that term, are the next step after your planning call. They should be accompanied by an exciting email that has been customized for each client based on the conversations you shared in the initial chat. They should have an expiration date (include automated reminders in your system) and when you deliver a quote, make sure you’ve included the fact that their shoot is not confirmed until the quote is approved, payment is made, and the contract is signed. Some CRM systems take your client through a process that once they hit approve, they’re moved through prompts to sign their contract, fill in a questionnaire and pay the fee so it’s all done in one go - very useful!



Referrals - as fellow small business owners, your clients will completely understand that a little love goes a long way in helping independent businesses thrive so make sure you're asking for referrals from them. Consider setting up a program that rewards them for bookings they refer, and sharing that with your email list. Add it to your final email in your post-shoot sequence as well.

Reflector - do you use a reflector on your shoots? I’ve loved the idea of them for years but never really got into the flow of using them until recently. I am now trying to incorporate the life-sized one into my shoots with the help of an assistant, whether outdoors or just re-directing the angle of a large light.

Relaxed - this is a key part of the photoshoot. Organization in the lead-up and planning is really important, but for most people, going into a photoshoot is nerve-racking so on the day it’s got to flow with ease. Take a few deep breaths if you tend to get stressed, so you don’t pass that on to your client.

Rentals - encouraging your clients to rent a space for their shoot has HUGE benefits including:

  • a space to get ready in the morning where their hair and makeup stylists can meet them

  • a clean, dry, relaxing start to the shoot

  • plenty of vignettes throughout the space for lifestyle shots (kitchen, sofa, bed, desk)

  • a mini work-holiday

It’s also really great for your portfolio in up-leveling your work so it’s worth having some locations pinned for your clients to go through and choose. If it’s a short-term vacation rental they’ll likely want to rent it for 2 days so you can shoot on the middle day, free from the worry of check-in and out times.

Reply - while you want to keep your response time low to give your clients and leads a wonderful experience, make sure you’re also setting boundaries and expectations. For instance, your email signature can include a line at the bottom that highlights your general response time, and/or the message that pops up after an inquiry is submitted will say how long it takes for you to get back to them. Whatever boundaries you’ve set up for yourself, make sure they are clear and easily achieved.

Rest - because brand shoots require a lot of energy and presence, remind your clients to find time to rest before their shoot. Find ways to do the same to make sure you're ready to fully support your client on shoot day!

Retouching - you may find clients who are concerned with certain parts of their body and they may request retouching. It’s important to know where you stand on this. On one hand, retouching contributes to patriarchal beauty norms that have lived on in our society for far too long. And on the other hand, it’s our job as brand photographers to create beautiful imagery that our clients are proud to share to promote their businesses. Think about where you stand with retouching. Make sure it feels good to you.

Reviews - it is 100% A-ok to ask for reviews! I include this in the final email of my post-shoot sequence, along with a link to their blog post, survey link, and request for referrals. If a client texts you something wonderful, it’s alright to request that they copy and paste it into a google review. There’s no harm in asking and they as entrepreneurs will fully understand the importance. Share reviews to your stories on social media, but I would suggest you limit the number of posts dedicated to just reviews as it’s not easy for your followers to engage with and learn from.

Rules - we’re all familiar with the rules of photography: rule of thirds, lighting, sharp and in-focus, etc, but you know what? It's ok to break the rules with intention! And it’s a really fun practice. Aim to include a few rule-breaking shots in each photoshoot to allow yourself to grow more comfortable with the concept. The first time I did this I was so grossed out by the idea of an out-of-focus image, but now I think they can be beautifully artistic and can translate really well paired with the right messaging. Whether or not your clients use them, give them a go to broaden your portfolio.



Scheduling - scheduling emails and social media content will be a really useful practice for you to save time and stay consistent, both in your marketing and your client communication. A trusty CRM and social media planning tool will give you so much time back.

SEO - great SEO is important for getting you found on google, but it’s also really important for your clients to know the basics so that they can see positive results in their search performance once they start using the images from your session. Educate yourself on the basics of compression, naming, and alt text so you can pass that valuable knowledge on to them. If you’re unsure, find someone who does a power hour and/or can audit your site for you while answering any SEO questions you may have.

Self-love - IMO, brand photoshoots should result in so much more than just images. I want my clients to leave with a transformation - boosted confidence, pride in their business, and a greater love of self. Remind them of the power of positive self-talk as you go through their shoot and kindly replace any negative slip-ups with positive words. This can start even before the shoot with their discovery and planning calls, as well as with their thanks for booking gifts.

Sensory - to make your shoot day memorable, why not play on the 5 senses? What smells, tastes, feels, sights, and sounds can you incorporate into the experience that will contribute to an amazing day?

Shoot Plan - after your questionnaires and calls with your client, you may want to compile a shoot plan that details your proposed schedule for the day, meeting point, location details, prop list, notes, travel time, etc. I like to make this in canva and send it to my client via google drive a few days after their planning call so they can look it over and make notes if needed. In it, I include screenshots of their Pinterest board, pasted answers from their questionnaire, and everything else we’ve discussed throughout the planning process.

Shotlist - your client and you should be creating the shotlist together starting based on the needs they identified in their questionnaire, your calls, and their mood board. As you go through the planning process, you’ll add in ideas based on their industry and expertise. Encourage them to be bold and think outside the box. A little creativity can go a long way toward standing out from the crowd. I’d recommend grouping your shotlist by location and priority, checking it off as you make your way through so if you’re running behind, you've already captured the most essential shots. Here’s a look at a few Must-Have Brand Photography Shots.

Shutterspeed - I know it can be easy to accidentally drop shutter speed when you’re on a roll but to get your clients the sharp images they need, keep your shutter speed at least at 1/250. If you plan to introduce some artistic blur, go crazy but just be conscious of that setting throughout your shoot day. It sucks to start culling just to realize you got an unintentional blur that doesn't suit your client's needs.

Blurry psychic jumping in green grass field during brand photoshoot near Seattle.

Snacks - remind your clients (and yourself) to pack nourishing snacks. I like to include some nuts, berries, and dark chocolate. You'll thank me later!

Social Media - use this to build trust, share education and value, and show off your work. IG stories are great for sales and testimonials but mostly people want to learn from you, get to know you and be entertained. Try not to overthink it - social media can be a huge time suck but at the same time it may end up being your main lead generator. Do your best to batch-create and reuse content across your blogs, emails, and other accounts. If you’re looking for holiday inspiration to prompt timely captions, download my Yearly Holiday List!

Software - software will be your best friend and help you shortcut many processes and save valuable time. Trial a few until you find the ones that work best for you. FYI, I’ve learned that generally, the longer the free trial period, the more difficult it is to learn that program.

Stationery - colorful on-brand stationery is just one of the best ways to inject your clients’ brands and personalities into the shoot. While they’re shopping, encourage them to collect other office supplies that will look good while telling the story. And make sure to tag the designers whenever possible!

Stock Images - encourage your clients to retire the habit of using generic stock images that anyone can get their hands on and instead, together style and shoot on-brand, relevant filler images that can be used like stock photos but are unique and personalized to your client.

Stories - helping your clients tell stories with their images is a great way to showcase how they run their businesses and balance their work/life. The stories you capture can be just about anything! The main goal is to create authentic imagery that showcases who they are (as a person and a brand) and stories their audience can relate to like their morning routine, how they spend their workday, and even how they wind down after a full day.

Subscription - this may be a wonderful addition to your brand photography business. It gives you a more consistent stream of revenue to charge monthly for quarterly shoots, allows your clients to spread out the payments, and guarantees them a spot on your calendar. Finding software that automatically charges them installments brings ease to the process as well.

Support - support is your job. It’s making sure your clients have all the information needed, it’s reminders, it’s encouragement, and praise, it’s carrying their bags between locations, it’s having an extra bottle of water, it’s taking a break, and reassessing when energy drops. It’s an outro email sequence that helps them learn how best to use their images. It’s vital and will add so much value to your experience when they can feel your loving support. What unique ways can you support your clients that will set you apart from other brand photographers?

Survey - requesting your clients fill out a survey after their shoot with you has ended, is a great method to find ways to improve the experience. A lot of people will skip this as it takes a few minutes but even knowing that they have the option to share their thoughts and opinions will make clients feel well cared for and they’ll love that you’re striving to deliver an even better experience. Feedback can be used as social proof that you’re doing things right, or provide the perfect inside knowledge you need to make positive changes.

Systems - having a system or process in place will be one of the best ways to assure that you’re delivering a consistent experience from client to client, from automation of client communication, to how you pay yourself, find ways for systems to save you time and energy.



Tag - as you’re planning your social media posts, think of ways you can share your clients’ images and tag them (and their makeup artist, nail technician, locations, product makers, etc.) so that hopefully, they’ll all share and get new eyes on your content. You’ll also want to decide if you will require your clients to tag you when they share their photos and how that will look in your contract. I don’t require it but I do encourage them to tag me so I can share and engage with their posts.

Templates - when you’re mapping out your client journey you’ll want to make sure you’ve drafted detailed, succinct email templates that will guide your leads and clients through the whole process. Anticipating the questions they may have and addressing them will save you back-and-forth time and while you’ll want to include as much information as possible, you’ll also want to make sure you’ve laid them out so they’re easy to read for the skimmers, as well as the deep-divers.

Tent - you may want to add a little pop-up tent to your shoot day kit to provide your clients with a convenient place to change outfits in private. They’re lightweight, fit easily into your car, and can strap to your bag but they’re a little bit of a hassle to carry around all day so check with your client on your planning call to see if they would like you to bring it (or keep it in your car just in case).

Thank You Cards - handwritten cards are a dying art but are a great way to take the time to sincerely thank your clients for their trust and support in your business. I like to write their name in calligraphy on the envelope and send it shortly after the shoot. If you are a little backed up, consider doing this monthly or quarterly instead.

Tidy - make a point to your clients of the importance of tidiness in your shoot reminders. Tidy space, tidy desk, nails, outfits, etc. Make sure you allot time to look over everything before you start shooting to avoid having to correct things in photoshop.

Time Tracking - this is something you may want to introduce into your workdays as a means of seeing where you spend the most time. Ideally, we want to split our time between client work and building the business, so search for some software options that will help you see where your time goes and help you decide if you need to raise your prices to account for the hours you put into your work behind the scenes.

Timing - things often take longer than anticipated - touchups, outfit changes, transportation, scene setups - so keep that in mind as you communicate with your client and lay out the shoot plan. Assure them you’ll do your best to cover as much as possible but it's important to be realistic with your time and your energy, allowing for flow and breaks as needed.

Transformations - one of my favorite benefits of intentional brand shoots is the boosts my clients feel after they start using their images - increased engagement, higher confidence, and renewed interest in marketing all eventually lead to helping more of their clients and more sales! Focus on these transformations when crafting your marketing. Other than photos, what else can your clients gain from working with you?

Trial - encourage your clients to try everything before the shoot - try on their outfits to make sure they like the way they fit the body and are COMFORTABLE. Trial a few poses in the mirror to see if there are angles they prefer. Remind them that they can ask their hair and make-up stylists to try their looks before shoot day to make sure they are happy with everything. Personal brand photoshoots are a large investment so they may find it beneficial to give everything a go beforehand rather than waiting until the day of.

Turnaround - be clear with your clients about the turnaround time. From the very start of their interactions with you. At the very least, your turnaround time should be on your website, mentioned on your discovery call, detailed in your reminder emails, and mentioned as you wrap up the shoot. We can’t overdeliver if we don’t set correct timing expectations.

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