The importance of photography in personal brands
Updated: Mar 31, 2022
What is personal brand photography?
Well, first of all, what is a brand? According to Brian Lischer from the Branding Agency Ignyte “a brand is the way a product, company, or individual is perceived by those who experience it. Much more than just a name or a logo, a brand is the recognisable feeling these assets evoke”.
Brian also explains that “branding is the act of shaping how a company, organisation, or individual is perceived”.
As an example, if you are a personal trainer, your name is your brand, and you would probably like your name to be associated with the idea of health, fitness, and feeling good. You won’t achieve that by uploading to your website, or social media platforms, pictures of you eating takeaways. So, if you want your personal brand to be associated with those ideas of health and fitness, you will have to upload photos of you working out, eating healthy food, laughing, and having fun. If you are successful at that, when people hear your brand name, those ideas will automatically pop into their minds.
Who needs personal branding photography?
Anybody who finds work through personal promotion, independently of whether you are self-employed or a freelancer should think about how they would like to be perceived by their prospective customers. For instance a self-employed accountant would probably like to come across as professional and reliable. You can achieve that by uploading photos to your website and social media platforms that show you listening intently to a customer or working at your computer. What you do not want to post is selfies, or photos of you partying with your friends, as that will not make you come across as either professional or reliable. You want your customers to think of you as a hard working professional, and not having to worry that you might miss a deadline because you were out partying till late the night before.
Said that, very often people do also want to come across as approachable, and you can achieve that by adding to the mix some relaxed shots that are not necessarily work related, to give people a glimpse of your daily life. As an example you could post a photo of you walking the dog, or sitting in your living room wearing casual clothes rather than sitting at your office desk wearing a suit. It is all about finding the right balance.
What image you eventually craft will really depend on your line of work, your prospective customers and how you would like to be perceived.
Said that, even if you have no intention of becoming self-employed, that does not mean that you do not need personal branding photography. Think of Linkedin, most of the people on the platform are employed and the reason why they are on Linkedin is because they want to further their career through personal promotion, by connecting with new people and getting noticed by companies.
Nowadays most people, whether they realise it or not, spend part of their time self promoting themselves for a reason or another. Most often that is work related.
Why is personal branding photography important?
Let’s say that you are a nutritionist and you have created a website where you give information about what you do, success stories, qualifications, and a bio section where you share a little bit about yourself and your story.
All of your written content might be great and really engaging, but your prospective customers will come across many other websites like yours and they won't have enough time to read all the information they find on each website they come across. They will likely make a selection of the ones they think are the best ones, and only then commit to reading all the fantastic content you have created.
So, you might now be asking yourself, how do people make this snap decision as to which websites are worth exploring further?
Well, at times they might look at your prices, or where you are located to narrow down the list, but if they are after quality, and especially if they will have to work with you at a personal level, people will decide whether your website is worth any further investigation purely based on their first impression of it. That is not to say that first impressions are always right, as very often they are not, but if you meet somebody and you had a bad first impression of them, it is unlikely that you will invest any time in getting to know them better with so many other people out there that you can get to know. In the digital world your profile photo is the equivalent of shaking hands with somebody new you have never met before. There is so much that can be communicated in just one photo, through facial expression and body language, but we will talk more about this in the next chapter.
When people land on your website, or social media page, their first impression, and decision as to whether they should spend any more time investigating it further will be based on how they FEEL about your website. Does the website look professional and trustworthy? Does the content look relevant?
Would you send a job application full of spelling mistakes? Likely not, as that might communicate poor attention to detail or simply that you do not care enough. Likewise a website where the only picture of you is a selfie you took on your phone, might communicate to your prospective customers that you do not give enough importance to what you do, and it won’t look professional.
When it comes to trustworthiness, think of all those scam emails going around. What do they all have in common? Well they all tend to have loads of spelling mistakes in them, which is normally a telltale sign that something is wrong.
Likewise, in a world where you meet people online first, and in person after, a website or social media page with only very few low quality photos, might raise concerns as to its legitimacy. If you come across something that looks like it has been put together really quickly, you might ask yourself, why have they not invested more time on it?
Another factor that prospective customers will use to determine whether they should spend any more time on your website is relevance. Images can connect with people at an emotional level and really quickly communicate what you are about, in a way that words cannot do.
Let’s say that your prospective customer comes across a website with no imagery on it, and the only way to find out what you offer is to start reading. Well that can take a lot of time, and especially if there are other websites that they want to check out.
However, let’s say that you have a website where you have mixed text with photos that show you cooking healthy meals and happily enjoying a salad sitting in your garden. Well that is what your customers are after, they want to improve their diet, and feel happy about it. With just two pictures, you have communicated the relevance of your website, and have also created an emotional connection with your prospective customer.
Personal branding photography is important because well crafted photos will allow you too quickly, and effectively shape how your personal brand is perceived by your prospective customers.
The importance of personality in personal branding photography
Think of passport photos, they are all pretty much the same, neutral expression and body language, and there is not much you can tell about somebody’s personality by looking at their passport photo. They are just neutral looking photos that show what you look like but say nothing about who you are as a person.
You might now be asking yourself, well how can you tell anything about somebody’s personality by just looking at their photo?
I am sure you have found yourself in plenty of real life situations where you have been introduced to somebody and some people come across as really friendly and approachable, whereas others come across as unapproachable and standoffish. Yet if you think about it you have probably just said “hi”, and shook hands, nothing more than that. So how is it that one person has come across very friendly and approachable whereas the other person has come across as unapproachable and standoffish? Well that is all down to body language and facial expression.
Like I always tell my customers when they come to my studio, we all have a go to facial expression that we use when we meet new people, and that together with our body language, can say a lot about who you are as a person. Then by including more in the photo you can add even more meaning to the photo, which will make it a very effective branding tool.
As an example with a headshot the two most important factors are going to be your body language and facial expression. However, also what you are wearing will add to the message. If you are wearing a very formal attire people will perceive you differently then if you are wearing a t-shirt.
When you then take environmental portraits, as part of a personal branding photoshoot, where you include the environment as well rather than taking the photo on a plain background, there is so much you can include in the photo that can help you communicate what your values are, and what you stand for.
As an example if you take the photo in your home office, your body language will change because you are in a familiar environment and feel comfortable, and just by looking at how your work environment is decorated there is so much that people can tell about you. You can also include meaningful objects in the photo to help people connect with you at a more personal level. It’s a bit like getting to know somebody new, you start asking questions to find out a little bit more about them, and start painting a picture of who they are.
A photo that does not show anything more than what you look like, will not communicate anything, but a well crafted photo can help you connect with people in a way that words can’t, and that is why personality is so important for personal branding photography.
My studio is located at 59 Clearbrook Way, Stepney Green, London, E1 0SD