If you’re anywhere in the online biz space or conscious entrepreneur community, you’ve heard the term “personal branding” thrown around a bit. Or possibly a lot! As a brand strategist, I find it amusing that so many people speak about personal branding without having an easy, shared definition. And now you’re here, wondering what a personal branding photo shoot is. It adds a new layer.
Personal branding, however, describes a feeling more than it does a singular definition. The term possibly first appeared in the August 1997 issue of Fast Company Magazine when Tom Peters wrote, “We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” I’ll summarize that:
Personal branding is marketing YOU.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
While it’s impossible to control what others say about you, it’s imperative you guide it. Your personal brand is something you can consciously manage. Beyond the schoolyard teachings of treating others as you’d like to be treated and your mother’s constant reminders to be polite, be nice, how do you consciously manage your perception?
The easiest and hardest answer ever: you manage your personal brand by putting out into the world what you wish to be known for.
Said another way, you are what you do. What I see of you is what I believe you are. Thoughts become things. What do you want to be known for? This is you, defining your personal brand.
Your personal brand is your reputation.
Once you’ve defined your personal brand, how do you show it? This is where your personal branding photoshoot comes into play. When you hear coaches and marketers talk about “being seen” or gaining more visibility, a big part of that is the actual images.
The human brain processes images faster than words.
According to Hubspot, the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than the time it takes for the brain to decode text. It does this in 1/10 of 1 second.
Think of it this way: every word, every letter you see is the combination of many shapes coming together–they’re pictures. Rudimentary pictures, perhaps, but pictures.
Tie that into the impact you can make with a personal connection, relationship building online depends on images.
So now that we’ve cleared the need for your personal branding to include visuals, let’s talk photography. There are three main kinds of personal branding photos.
A headshot alone is not personal branding but may contribute to your personal brand. I am a creative photographer and think most personal brand imagery should push the boundaries a little. But even I agree a staple headshot is still important. For example, your social media profile photos should be close-up, recognizable images of you. (A little louder for those in the back: your photos absolutely need to be recognizable.)
When you book your personal branding photo session, be sure to include at least one headshot.
You may wish to have headshots covering a few different situations:
- dark background
- light background
- dressy clothing
- casual clothing
Having headshots covering these four looks ensures you’ll never be scrambling for an image in a pinch.
In the online business space, launches are king. Selling a coaching package? About to launch a new group program or even a big digital course? You’ll need a good handful of funnel images, pointing the way toward your killer content.
Landing pages with your lead magnets and opt-ins benefit from visual cues. This might be:
- a photograph of you, eyes pointed directly at that freebie as the solution to your potential client’s problems
- you pointing in the direction of your newsletter signup on your website
- if you market in Facebook or LinkedIn groups and include graphics for better engagement, it includes these images as well
- and sales pages? You’re going to need a bunch of engaging, friendly images for a good sales page
It’s important to note, you can use your funnel images elsewhere! Are you guest posting on a colleague’s blog? These kinds of images make great visual cues here as well.
The third kind of personal brand photography is the real goal. It’s both the most important image to build a connection with your viewers and the most vague. Why vague? Because the most effective photography for you will be very different than the best photography for another. These images show the results after a client works with you.
Your brand is what people say about you when you walk out of the room, and brand-ing is what gets that message out. Discovering and living by your core values can keep you grounded when it comes to your photoshoot ideas. Design a photography session that can show those values and imply the results you deliver and you will have a full, busy business.
Your photos are one application of your brand. Often they’re the first application a potential client will see if they find you on social media.
How do you show your results in photos?
Start with an end in mind. I don’t photograph my clients until we know what kind of business will fulfill them, who their best client is, and what results that client will have after working with you.
Before we even talk about photographs, we define that end goal.
So if you want your clients to feel like they have a clear head and complete business plan after working with you, show that. If you help guide them past overwhelm and into simple strategies, show that too.
Create a brand worth talking about with photos that show what it feels like to work with you.
Include imagery like this on your website, in your social media, in your public speaking, and in blogging. This lets your viewers get to know you. You’ve figured out a crystal clear niche, so these images will help potential clients like you and begin to build trust. Show, don’t tell. It will attract the perfect clients to you.
Align your brand with what they need, and you’ll create an experience your audience wants. When you get clear on who you want to serve, you become visible.
When to Invest in Branding Photos
A common myth is that branding is for those who have already made it. There’s a tiny part of that which is true: when you’re first starting out, you’re testing the waters of your business niche. Branding is a fluid thing because as you evolve, your brand also evolves.
But thinking you can wait to invest in personal branding peripherals until after you’ve achieved a certain income is a mistake. Those who have already hit that level know they did so because they carved a clear path to get there. They guided the clients that helped them build that income by showing a strong brand. By showing what it feels like to work with them.
Whether you’re from the conventional business school wisdom or on the mindful side of woo, this is spot on. The old-school way of thinking still has merit, and they’ll tell you that if you want to make money, you need to spend a little to get there (please note I said little! don’t invest in a multi-thousand dollar shoot if you’re not making money). Said another way, when you want to change something in your business, you need to invest in that area.
If you’re not attracting the right clients, there’s something about your brand that isn’t right.
Investing in a personal branding session shows the world your business is making things happen and so will they when they work with you.
On the other side of the belief spectrum, energy attracts energy. When you invest your resources of thoughts, time, or money into one area, it pulls more from the universe as well. This is why I often say “Let’s photograph your future business, today.”
Where do you want to be? Start acting like that person, that resourceful and conscious entrepreneur with abundant practice. And you will become that person. Believing in yourself and taking the necessary steps to be that person is exactly what you’re doing when you show the world your personal branding photos.
Adding a collection of branded photos to your business provides the next level of client attraction. A polished brand that authentically shows your brand story is what will allow you to serve your clients with love. Defining your core values and niching down to your best client gives you the opportunity to work with those who not only really get you, but also need the services or programs only you can give them.
Design a photoshoot that shows this brand story. Show the feelings! A professional photo session may be out of the blue for your everyday life. It may stretch your visibility boundaries. And you’ll probably feel a little awkward in the beginning. This make believe session will make us believe in you when you’re being true to your core values. That energy will carry through into the photos.
Personal branding isn’t vanity, it is an act of service. Service both in self-care and in offering your talents to the world.
Whatever your strengths and gifts, running a business is hard work. And if you’ve ever skipped a whole string of social events as you tackled your email automation sequence, you know it comes at a cost. Setting aside time to honor the work you do is imperative to long-term personal health and business growth. Asking “what if they think I’m vain” comes from a place of fear that you’re not good enough, that you do not deserve the success you will soon receive.
Beyond your self-doubt, however, is a pool of people who need your help. I believe in the ripple effect.
You could stay small, helping a few clients here and there. You could struggle to make a decent living for years. You could have brilliant ideas, and share them with nobody.
Or I can help you build a platform of those ideas with personal branding photos that show the results those ideas deliver to your clients. You become visible with photos that show what it feels like to work with you. To transform into your soul purpose. To play full out.
When you start attracting the best clients to you, the big magic starts to spread. It ripples out beyond you. Those clients you help turn around and also play full out. This will change the world, first one person at a time and then in small groups. Until the ripples grow so large you can’t see the direct connection anymore, but feel the change. And it’s exhilarating when you see it.
What’s the price to you and your business if you stay hidden? What value do you have as a coach or health + wellness course creator by remaining hidden?
The impact you make is a direct result of your willingness to be seen.
An excellent personal branding session will help you see the light in yourself, so that you may show it to others. It helps you step up your game and brand up to the next level.