Brand Photography Advice: Why You Need More Than a Headshot
Photography: Why and How It Can Be Your Small Business Game-Changer
This week, I checked out a new entrepreneur's website. She had a simple, straight-forward page complete with her "headshot": ...a selfie of her, taken in the driver's seat of her car.
OK - How many people do you think are taking action to reach out and hire her? How many take one look at that and skip right on to the next site, dismissing it as unprofessional and not for them?
If you don't have professional photography of you (and your business), you're running the same risk. And I don't mean just a headshot.
I struggled with this in the initial years of Greatest Story. I've since taken action to dramatically improve my own brand with photography, and I've also made it a key part of the branding process with many of my clients.
Today, I want to share some of those best practices with you:
- Why professional photography is a big, overlooked business game-changer for small businesses
- How investing with a professional pays for itself
- Why you need more than a headshot
- And the kind of photos you really need to have to make a powerful first impression on your ideal clients
The Biggest Overlooked Game-Changer
As illustrated by the opening story, we live in an age of selfies and cameras in our pockets. We can take photos at any point, sometimes they're even okay. But there is, and always will be, a big difference between professional photography and something you or a friend took. I really don't want you to be presenting yourself to clients from the interior of your car.
The thing is, we're in a business environment where entrepreneurs, especially those that are first starting out, don't invest in something that seems superfluous or prohibitively expensive - like headshots.
So here's the thing - when you do invest in photography - it makes a big difference. It sets you apart from your competition.
How often do you go to a small business website and they have poor photos of their shop? Maybe you can't even find a photo (or a story) about the people behind the business? When this happens - you're left with nothing to connect to and you're OFF - on to another site within seconds.
Everybody overlooks this value, but we all know it subconsciously as consumers. Remember that.
How Business Photography Can Pay For Itself
Much like starting out with professionally written words, logo, and website- having professional photography does some unbelievably valuable things for your business from day one.
Well-executed, professional photography of you and what your small business does accomplishes the following:
- Credibility - you instantly look like an expert and a professional at what you do
- Clarity - what your service or product offers is clear to prospective customers, especially those that are more visual
- Competitive Edge - you stand out apart from your competition, who are generally less likely to spend on photography, especially of the non-headshot variety
- Resonance - they say a photo paints 1,000 words - it also goes a much longer way to getting someone to know, like, and trust you than words do, generally speaking, especially when few people are reading vs. skimming online these days
So what are those three things worth to you? If you're in a service-based business, investing in professional photography from the start might equate to one or two ideal clients.
How many ideal clients might you book / products will you sell, and how much faster might you grow, if you have all of these qualities (and images) in your arsenal?
Why You Need More Than a Headshot
Maybe I've convinced you that you need a professional headshot for your about page and LinkedIn profile. (Great!)
But headshots are basic. They are the tip of the iceberg if you really want to do harness the overlooked power of photography to grow your business. Especially if you have a strong branding story foundation of words and graphics, a special kind of photography can compliment those assets and propel you forward like nothing else can.
The kind of photography is what I call "story-in-action." What you really need is an image library of photos that - maybe you guessed it - tell your story.
Let's take Hannah and her fitness business, H & Arrow Fitness (featured in last week's story), as an example. As a first time entrepreneur with a baby business, Hannah could have easily just had a few headshots taken, and we could have used mostly graphics and words to tell her story.
However, we wanted to set Hannah up for success as best we could. That's why we took her through our story-in-action photoshoot process.
I developed this process for my clients hand-in-hand with NC photographer Faith Teasley. We used my brand as the beta test last year. After finalizing Hannah's brand story earlier this summer, I put together a creative brief that covered all the "stories" we needed photos to tell. We then spent an entire day with three locations, photographing everything Hannah needed to be successful now and years into the future.
Faith and I planned the logistics, including a 6am fitness class with a few of Hannah's friends and my supportive, tired husband as models.
Here is just a small selection from the shoot by Faith, including headshots (of course). Not only did we capture Hannah as a fitness teacher, we showed her working one-on-one with a client, practicing healthy eating, and more.
This approach to photography allows Hannah's brand promises come to life: fun fitness classes, personal one-on-one fitness support, a business owner who is passionate about helping you find your fitness.
Faith explains the larger idea well here,
"With custom brand photos, you are not only telling your clients what service to expect, you are showing them. Potential clients are much more likely to contact you when they’ve already had a visual preview of the client experience."
This is just a fraction of the photo library Hannah has her disposal now to grow her business. Would you believe that from ONE day of shooting, a lot of thoughtful planning and strategy, and a well-formed brand story - Hannah has all of the following in her back pocket:
- Three different styles of headshots, ranging from informal (for fitness teaching) to formal (for speaking)
- Images that show every type of work she does with clients and the work she does behind-the-scenes, like writing her newsletter
- Stock images that she owns which she can use to speak to different sides of her story
- A rich library to draw on for her website and all of her social media channels
- All she'd need to start a business blog
- Ownable images for any future products Hannah may want to create, like an ebook!
As I shared last week, this level of professional presence has catapulted Hannah's early days in business. Opportunities and clients have come her way right and left, and a big part of that is coming from the fact you can take one look at Hannah and those pictures and you get it.
So how can you harness this best practice?
What kind of photos will you need to set your business apart?
Since launching my own brand photoshoot last August, Faith and I have teamed on five shoots for clients thus far. We've identified from our perspectives of photography and branding, these are the most important things to consider for your business photography:
- Photography that's taken professionally, by a photographer whose aesthetic matches your business
- Headshots, especially when you are looking at the camera, as if you're directly meeting someone - that connection is important
- Images of you (and your team) doing the work you most often do (like Hannah teaching a fitness class)
- If you work with clients, showing your one-on-one client interaction through photography
- If you have products, images of your products against a neutral background AND images of your products being used and enjoyed by others
- Images that fit the topics you talk about within your business (you can use such images on your website, on your blog, and for social media posts)
We also recommend planning out your photography, pulling inspiration ahead of time from Pinterest (we put ours in a creative brief), and making sure you have lots of snacks on hand on a photoshoot day. Nobody looks great when they are hangry!
Framing The Future
When I first started Greatest Story, my headshot was this somewhat carefully cropped photo taken by my wedding photographers, Brett & Jessica. If you look for it, you can spot the veil in the background.
This is to say, I get what it's like to start out. I know what a tough investment it can feel like to add photography, especially if you may be doing branding professionally. I waited TWO years before getting the courage to call Faith and say let's try this idea of a story-in-action shoot.
I'll tell you that almost instantly, I wish I'd done it so much sooner.
I now have a photo library that's allowed me to have so many headshots (for my work and for myself as a speaker), resources for my business, imagery for proposals, blog posts, and even my ebook! The header of this very blog is an image of open books we put together on my living room floor. It's so true that because of photography, I'm more strongly empowered to share my story and have it reach more people on a first impression.
So I share this with you to say keep an eye out and a mind open to what photography could do to change the game for your business. And as long as you aren't snapping any headshots in your Honda, you're on the right track.
PS: Learn more about Faith at her website, www.faithteasley.com and read more about Hannah's story at her website/see our shoot together in action at www.handarrow.com. We delved into Hannah's full brand last week here.