How to Show up More Authentically in your Brand Photos

April 26, 2019

This last weekend I had the pleasure of updating my brand photos. I took my first set several years ago, and got new ones when I went full-time with my business. It's been fun to watch my brand photos evolve as I've grown as a designer (and human being).

The photos I got last weekend are — by far — my most favorite yet. And here's why.

When I first started, I was really concerned with "looking the part." I wore my black rimmed glasses because "that's what designers wear." I wore more creative-looking outfits. I rocked my bright purple hair (which I did love at the time, but was also motivated to keep because my coworkers had told me that I looked "so creative.")

Kira ROCKED those photos, and I absolutely loved them. But there was a part of me that felt a little directionless at the time.

When I went full-time with my business, I had the exciting task of putting more thought into developing my brand. I got more intentional and started to incorporate my brand color (at the time, a very bright blue) into my photos. I was really concerned with looking "official" and ultra-professional (fake it 'til you make it, right?), and you can see that reflected in the outfits I chose. In retrospect, I was still trying to play a role. Even the color I chose was close to my favorite, but I selected it because it felt "creative."

Around six months ago (1.5 years into full-time business) I started to settle into my role as a business owner and design studio founder. I had found enough success to start fine-tuning how I worked and who I worked with. I gained more feedback on my client experience and got into the Enneagram.

The more I explored who I really was and how I showed up in my business, the more I realized that my "brand" was actually less about being a "hip creative" and more about being a calm and steadfast source of encouragement.

My most favorite clients initially came to me for my skill, but have stayed for the relationship we've built. What a wonderful gift.

So, I started shifting my visual brand to follow suit. I toned down my primary color from a vibrant cyan to a soothing, muted turquoise. I replaced the stark blacks and grays with softer navy hues and mauve-y gray tones. I took some of the weight off of the fonts I used, and started speaking more about the deeper (more vulnerable) side of business.

All of the sudden, my brand felt really good. It felt like me.

This subtle shift has been so liberating that I've started carrying it into my whole business. My brand voice is still polished, but it's more approachable. I don't worry so much about impressing people anymore — I focus more on allowing who I am to shine through. Why? Well, in short, because it feels WAY BETTER.

Owning and running your own business comes with enough challenges. Forcing yourself into a role you weren't meant to play will ultimately just exhaust you and frustrate your clients.

So, when it came time to take new brand photos, I spent my time thinking of creative ways to bring more of ME into my photoshoot. And here's how I did it:

  1. I made sure to get a couple little props that incorporated my dreamy, soothing turquoise color. I hit the jackpot and found a shirt in a style I literally wear ALL the time (a portofino style), so it felt very "me."
  2. I took some of the photos in my actual home. Naturally, I did clean it up and made sure it looked extra polished, but I still used all of the same decor that I have around every day.
  3. I made sure to surround myself with the things I love: flowers, hot coffee, my dog, cozy blankets, and candles.
  4. I did myself up, but stayed true to my day-to-day style. I wore false eyelashes and some extra makeup for the camera, but otherwise I styled myself exactly as I would for any other "put together" day.
  5. I chose a mix of classy, office, and casual outfits (that I'd actually wear). I don't know about you, but I certainly don't wear a dress and heels every day. It's fun to have some more "glamorous" headshots, but I also made sure to get some that felt more "me" — casual v-neck tees and comfortable portofino button-ups.
  6. I created a few mugs with my "go to" sayings and/or brand words on them. This only cost me $20 (for two mugs) and gave the photoshoot a super personal touch. Even if you're not a designer, you can create a very simple, clean typographic design in an application like Canva. I used Printed Mint to produce my mugs, but there are lots of other online printers that offer similar services 🙂
  7. I hired a friend to do my photoshoot. Now, I know that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a dear friend who is also a total boss at photography — but if you are, make the most of it! I've known Kira since middle school, so I felt super comfortable. She knew me before I started my design studio and will likely know me after this season of life ends, so it was much easier to just relax into it and let down my guard. It felt less like a performance and more like a chance to have fun and show up as my best self.

Your brand photos should simply showcase an extra-polished you.

When I got these photos back, I felt like I was in heaven. Not only do they blend in perfectly with the rest of my brand identity (hello, bright and airy photography and pops of turquoise/florals!) — they also feel like me. They feel good.

If you have the opportunity to work with Kira, take it! I cannot recommend her highly enough. You can check out my full photoshoot (and the rest of her beautiful work) on her blog.

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Caitlin Shannon, Founder of Ember & Co Website Design Studio

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