A well-planned shot list is what can take a brand photoshoot from an average experience to an amazing business investment that provides results! This post is all about how to plan a personal brand photoshoot as a photographer (with a focus on creating a strategic brand photography shot list). Learn the 4 key elements of a successful brand photoshoot, the common mistakes I see brand photographers make, and my 9 go-to brand photography shot list ideas I keep in the back of my mind for every photoshoot! Read this post or tune into this 20 minute podcast episode to learn how to plan a personal brand photoshoot.
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- (00:50) Why a shot list is a good thing
- (01:45) Things I keep in mind when planning a brand photoshoot shot list
- (03:55) Shot List Idea 1 – Workspace
- (04:50) Shot List Idea 2 – Headshot
- (05:18) Shot List Idea 3 – Lifestyle imagery
- (05:47) Shot List Idea 4 – Tools of their trade
- (06:08) Shot List Idea 5 – Products and services
- (06:56) Shot List Idea 6 – Personal elements
- (07:46) Shot List Idea 7 – Behind the scenes
- (09:19) Shot List Idea 8 – Flatlays and detail photos
- (10:25) Shot List Idea 9 – Celebratory images
- (11:31) Mistakes brand photographers make when it comes to creating content
- (14:18) Photoshoot locations
- (15:40) Outfits and props
Planning A Personal Branding Photoshoot
To plan a successful brand photoshoot, I focus on the 4 key elements: the brand photography shot list, the photoshoot location, the props and outfits. Those things come together to create a really good experience for both the brand photographer and the client… and they make sure that the end result in the gallery has everything that the client needs.
Creating The Brand Photography Shot List (And the benefits to a shot list)
I don’t want you to feel that a brand photography shot list is limiting. I don’t want you to feel that absolutely everything you’ll capture has to be pre-planned on paper. The shot list is an incredible guiding point, and it’s a way to make sure that we are staying on track during the photo shoot. It’s a way to make sure that we are maximizing our time and creating content that I know that the business will need and use. I create a brand photography shot list for each client because I want to ensure that our brand photoshoot is intentional, effective and productive.
When I create a brand photography shot list, there are a few things I keep in mind. Like making sure I shoot with a marketing mind and goal. I need to shoot a mix of vertical and horizontal images. I like to have a variety of wide images that can be used for website and social media profile banners, but also some tight, detail photos. There has to be a good mix in the composition of your brand photography, in the type of photos that you’re taking, and also pictures that can work for business and personal brand storytelling.
I don’t just want a posed headshot. I want imagery that can tell a full story. So when I’m planning the brand photography shot list, I try to think through ways we can create brand imagery that helps them share a story with their clients that visit their website for the first time or view them on social media for the first time.
How can we really portray this brand story just through the images?
A few ways that I determine the needs of the client is through a brand photography questionnaire that I send to help me understand where there are gaps in their marketing. I also scope out their website, social media platforms, and do some market research for their specific industry.
The client doesn’t always have the best idea about their unique value proposition or about what sets them apart, but I want to make sure that I review what their competitors are doing, look at what is happening in their industry and see if we can find the differentiating selling point to showcase.
When in doubt, I have a go-to shot list of pictures that I keep in mind with every client I work with.
9 Must Have Pictures To Add To Your Brand Photography Shot List
The Client’s Workspace
This is usually where everything actually happens in the business. And the reason I like to photograph this is twofold. First of all, if the business actually meets with their clients face to face, this allows the client to see the environment prior to ever working with them. That builds trust and credibility, and a sense of knowing who they’re working with prior to actually meeting them. Second, usually the workspace showcases the business owner’s personality. It’s a great place to get detail photos and to capture those vignette images that can be used for Pinterest or for social media.
Headshot (Smiling and looking at the camera)
For every photo shoot, I make sure that I get at least one decent headshot of the client smiling directly at the camera. I typically have different ideas for headshot poses in my mind. Like them sitting down, a headshot of them standing, a power pose, a headshot with the client laughing.
Headshots are so important because with brand photos it can be easy to forget to capture images of the client looking right at the camera. A headshot like that can be used for interview promos, email signatures, social media profile photos, “about me” sections of a website, lead magnets and other digital or print marketing materials. While I love the lifestyle and casual photo aesthetic, I always want to get 1 traditional picture of the client making eye contact with the camera and portraying a warm and inviting demeanor.
Lifestyle Brand Photography Portraits
Another photo I always add to the brand photography shot list is lifestyle brand portraits. These often are headshots, but in a more casual setting and style. It’s not always looking directly at the camera, it’s more candid and it allows the client to show their personality more.
Lifestyle branding portraits are a great shot list addition for social media posts. It’s a effective way for clients to have imagery of themselves that doesn’t have to be as stuffy or as straight on to camera as a headshot would be.
Industry Specific Tools and Props
The fourth thing that’s typically on my brand photography shot list is to get pictures of the client’s tools of their trade or props that make sense for their industry. So these are the items that are their go-to supplies, the items that they use every day with their clients, and the different products that are industry specific that would help them stand out and would help make sense to tell their story in their profession.
Showcase Products or Services
The fifth thing that I typically have on my shot list is to showcase the products or services that my client actually offers. For service-based businesses, this might be staged client interactions and pictures that depict the business serving their ideal clients. The goal would be to highlight their client experience through photos.
For product-based businesses, this might look like lifestyle product photos or shots of the product alone on a seamless backdrop.
Personal Element/ Your Story
The next thing I try to photograph is a personal element or story. This is personal brand photography, which means we’re trying to make that authentic connection, trying to let one person really be the face of the brand, and we all have our personal preferences and our hobbies and the things that make us unique. I want to display that if it makes sense for that client and if they’re in an industry where it would make sense to have a personal element.
This can be as simple as wearing a football team jersey or your favorite band tee, or including a glass of wine. If you just love reading books, we can get a picture of you reading a magazine or a book on the couch. The goal here is to show the business owner being a human outside of work. It humanizes the brand, allows room for personal connections to be made, and works well to break up promotional posts on social media.
The Behind the Scenes or The Process
The 7th prompt I like to add to my brand photography shot list is a photo sequence that shows the behind the scenes of the job, or the process of the work being done. Though this is similar to showcasing the services, the difference is that I focus more on how the jobs actually happens.
If my brand photography client is a product maker, then I’d capture little detail shots of their hands making that product. If they are a service provider, this could look like showing some of the little pieces that make their experience unique.
An example of this in my own business: Services I Offer vs. Behind the Scenes of How It Gets Done
For the services I offer, it would show a client interaction, me meeting with a client, me working through a shot list, me taking pictures of them, posing them, directing them, all of that. It might even be photos of me working on my laptop or phone. On the other hand, showing the behind the scenes and the process might be a picture of me putting together my client gifting boxes and those little touches that make up the experience. A behind the scenes could also be me at my calendar because that is a way to show availability and demand and to show that you’re booked out.
That is how I view those two different items on the shot list. One is going to be more of the client facing experience, and the other is going to be more of the behind the scenes of the experience and what happens if you pull the curtain back in your business.
Branded Flatlays and Detail Photos
Flatlays and detailed photos aren’t needed by every business, but they can be a great addition to a shot list for a brand photoshoot when it makes sense. I like to view this as custom stock photos. When in doubt, flat lays are fantastic for filler photos or they work really well for banner images on a website. I love shooting flatlays during brand photoshoots because they’re custom to the client, but they look more like a stock photo and are great to break up the posed content.
A Celebratory Photo
The last thing on my shot list, and almost all of my clients ask for this, is a celebratory photo fo a social post, sales page or email campaign. I love doing this because everyone has something to celebrate in their business, whether that is to make a business announcement or to have a sale, or maybe it’s a business anniversary or the business owner’s birthday, or they’re hosting a giveaway or launching something new.
There are so many reasons that a client might need a celebratory post, and I would much rather them have a picture of themselves to use than just getting a stock photo of balloons or confetti. Most of my clients will opt for balloons, confetti, champagne cake or sparklers to pose with for a celebratory photo during their brand photoshoot.
Mistakes to Avoid As A Brand Photographer
Before we move on from the topic of creating the shot list, I want to share just a few of the mistakes that I see brand photographers make with their clients or that I have made myself.
Brand Photography Mistake 1: The photographer doesn’t take enough pictures that are not headshot
When you focus too much on headshots, the client only has pictures of them looking directly at the camera for their marketing. While we need a solid headshot, you have to have variety and some story telling in your imagery so the client can successfully market their business. There’s only so much that you can do with a headshot. You have to include some of that candidness and lifestyle element for the brand to be able to tell a story and consistently post engaging content.
Brand Photography Mistake 2: Not enough variety in the brand photography settings or outfits
I love personal branding photoshoots because you can batch create your content… but a downside of that is that you can batch create your content. This means that all the photos are taken at one time and if you don’t have enough outfits or props, your gallery may not end up with enough variety to sustain your marketing use long-term.
As the clients go utilizing their pictures, their followers notice that every photo is the same… it’s all the same outfit, it’s all the same location. So my goal is to combat that as a brand photographer and make sure that we get variety in the location and the outfits. This is why I send my clients a brand photography style guide to help them figure out how to pick different outfits and create variety through their looks.
This is important so that not everything on their website and their socials and their online platforms looks like it was taken on the same day.
Brand Photography Mistake 3: Not having enough variety in your brand photography composition
This third mistake is similar to mistake number 1, but the focus is on the composition. So not having a good mix of wide pictures with closeups, and details and flat lays with portraits. A good mix of composition allows for the images to be used across multiple platforms and marketing uses.
Brand Photography Mistake 4: Not preparing the brand photography client enough when it comes to their outfits and props for the photoshoot
Again, this comes back to creating variety, while choosing outfits and props that are cohesive with the brand, instead of having a dissonance with the brand. This is where a brand photography style guide really helps because it lets a client have clear expectations of what you need as the photographer, and also gives them expectations on what to bring and what will help enhance their banding pictures.
Planning the Brand Photoshoot Location
Aside from the shot list, the location is super important when it comes to planning a brand photoshoot. The location sets the tone for the entire photo shoot, so I want to make sure that the aesthetic of the location or the setting that we pick fits with the brand and that there’s no dissonance with that brand.
For example, if I’m working with a brand that is calming and safe, like a therapist, their location needs to be more earthy, organic, holistic and calming. It can’t be somewhere bold, eccentric and colorful. That location isn’t going to match what their brand is trying to convey.
The location for the brand photoshoot needs to set the tone well. Also, I try to find locations that have a lot of variety and where we can create some change in the setting just while staying in one place. That will allow us to maximize our time while creating images that have a lot of variety. That helps you avoid the mistake of not giving the client enough options to really pick from to stand out.
The last thing I want to mention about the location is to keep in mind where the client actually works from. You might have both a client-facing location and an internal location. When possible, I try to photograph both of these. I want to photograph where someone actually interacts with my client’s product or service, but I also want to get behind the scenes photos at the location where it happens.
Outfits and Props for Brand Photos – What To Wear For Your Brand Photoshoot
The last elements of a well-planned brand photoshoot are the outfits and props. Brand Photographers have a lot of responsibility to prepare their clients well. Like I mentioned, I send a 15+ page brand photography style guide to my clients that includes tips about what props to bring, what kind of outfits to wear, how to create more variety through their hair and makeup and their outfits, and what colors they should be wearing for their brand.
While outfits and props are important, there are 2 things I consider most… First, I love educating my clients on whether or not they should incorporate their brand colors in their photoshoot. I love incorporating brand colors because this allows for brand recognition, even if it’s just in a headshot when they’re wearing their brand color… it immediately has brand recognition and it provides a certain cohesiveness between the website, the branding, the social media, online platforms, etc.
Second, I really try to encourage my clients to think seasonally. We might be doing a brand photo session in July for a launch that’s happening in December. My client needs to be mindful of that seasonally. We need to make sure that there’s no dissonance when they start using their images for marketing. We need to have a good mix of clothing that works for different seasons so that it doesn’t look weird when they’re posting something that has a summer feel when it’s wintertime.
Brand Photography Props
Two quick notes about props is that if we are including something in the photo shoot, I want to make sure that it’s enhancing the brand photos and not distracting the viewer. So the props that we use need to give the audience a better idea of what it’s like to work with our clients and needs to give their followers a better idea of what their experience is like. My favorite props are those that allow for storytelling on social media. The best props are on-bran, showcase their expertise, shows the client’s professionalism and allows for storytelling on social media so that, again, not every picture is of the client’s face.
Want more content and resources about pivoting into brand photography?
Check this out next!
- Visit The Brand Photography Shop and find templates and digital downloads to grow your brand photography business. You can even purchase The Brand Photography Starter Kit, which has all the resources and tools I use to run my own 6-figure brand photography business! If you need brand photography email templates, a brand photography client workflow or planning questionnaire, you’ll find all the downloads in the shop!
- Listen to the Become A Brand Photography podcast to learn how to pivot into brand photography. On the podcast I share everything I’ve learned the last 5+ years (and 200 brand photoshoots later) about running an in-demand brand photography business!
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