Business + Marketing

Branding Photography: Steps to Building a Profitable Niche

May 12, 2021

By Lindsey Turner of Lindsey Victoria Photography

I’m a huge proponent of playing to your strengths. You’ve probably heard the advice to “do what you love.” While that feels a little trite, it is absolutely true. Being an entrepreneur is hard work, so you should love what you’re doing, or what’s the point? When I started my photography business, I was focused on photographing newborns and families. I had a toddler myself and began building my portfolio by photographing my friend’s children. One of my mom friends asked if I’d be interested in taking photos for her husband’s furniture business. I am so glad I said yes because it made me realize I could combine all of my “super powers,” play to my strengths, and have that same sense of satisfaction helping other business owners confidently tell their brand story and grow their businesses. I was hooked.

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What is Branding Photography?

Photos © Lindsey Victoria Photography

Branding photography is a relatively new niche that has grown alongside the rise of social media. Before, a strong headshot on your website’s About page would have been enough. Now, in order to stand out in all the noise, you need to show up regularly and show your face. People buy from people, and if you don’t know who the person behind the brand is, you just won’t feel connected to the brand.

This means you, as a branding photographer, are the perfect person to help business owners solve this problem! 

Branding photos go “beyond the headshot” and provide a versatile gallery of portraits, lifestyle photos, behind-the-scenes images of your client at work, details photos of their “tools of the trade,” and custom stock images they can use to share their business with their ideal clients. The applications for branding photography are endless.

3 Reasons a Small-Business Owner Should Use Branding Photography

1. Professional photos that match the quality of their work will help legitimize what a business owner is offering.

2. Portraits of the business owner that come across as genuine and honest will allow their ideal clients to connect more naturally to them.

3. When a customer feels like they know and trust the business owner, they will be much more likely to buy from them.

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10 Ways a Business Owner Can Use Branding Photography

1. On their website’s “About me” page. 

2. To illustrate blog posts.

3. In email newsletters (as the header or to illustrate the copy).

4. Profile photos on social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, TikTok, etc).

5. In regular introduction posts on social media.

6. In Instagram Stories.

7. Promotional postcards or mailers.

8. In print advertisements promoting their products or services.

9. On a book jacket or in a byline if they’re a writer or industry leader.

10. To show a behind-the-scenes look at their process.

How to Prepare Your Client for a Successful Branding Photography Session

Now that you know why someone would want to hire a branding photographer, you can confidently attract those clients and share the benefits with them. The next step is preparing for the session, and this is really 50 percent of the work. 

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All of my branding sessions begin with a consultation, which is part business coaching, part soul searching. Some photographers do this with a written intake questionnaire, but I find it much more effective to do this one on one either in person, on the phone or via a video call. This feels more like I’m serving my clients than giving them homework. I know how overwhelming it is to run a small business, so the last thing I want them to feel about their experience with me is stressed. 

It’s critical for your client to really understand why they do what they do so you can effectively and clearly share that with their ideal clients or customers. Some people are further along on this journey than others, so meet them where they are and support them as you prompt them with questions to help them get to the heart of their “why.” 

How to Plan a Branding Photography Session

1. Location Selection

This could be their office, studio, workshop or a home office. If that isn’t a fit or they don’t have a “work space,” here are some places where I’ve done branding sessions: a greenhouse, their client’s home (for an interior designer), a coffee shop, a yoga studio, a library, a prep-school (for a jazz musician’s session with a stage and piano), outdoors in a town or city setting, or in nature.  

2. Wardrobe Consultation

Again, some photographers provide a PDF with wardrobe tips. I prefer to be hands on about this process as it’s another way I set myself apart, so I do wardrobe consultations in person or via a video call. In advance of this meeting, I talk them through the goals with selecting their wardrobe so our time together is productive. I have them try on each outfit and give them feedback until we land on the best options. Sometimes that means they need to buy something new, but I always start with what they have first.  

Beyond simply being flattering and “on brand,” I recommend my clients choose at least three outfits of varying levels of formality depending on what they do. 

—Something more formal, which could be a suit, dress pants and a blouse or a dress. This is important to have as a headshot for speaking engagements and for more office-related jobs. 

—Something in between, perhaps a floral dress or pants and a top they love.

—Something more casual—yoga clothes or jeans and a t-shirt or sweater. 

I also stress the importance of having a variety of wardrobe choices based on seasonality. This will mean they can use their images year round and always have it feel timely. If they only wear a summery floral dress for their branding session and want to write an introduction post on their Instagram feed in December, that will feel out of place. Planning layers and options in advance will solve that problem. 

3. Brainstorming the Brand Story

Every business owner is unique, and curating their story in images takes preparation. Now that you have the location(s) and wardrobe choices, it’s time to think about the branding photography session itself. 

Will it be just them? Will they bring in “models” (actual clients or friends posing as their ideal clients) to show the “behind the scenes” of their process? Will it require a larger model call? I’ve worked with clients where it was just them, two business partners and as many as 20+ models with multiple “scenes.” It’s your job to help facilitate all of this. Don’t forget a model release for all who will be photographed.

4. Props and Tools of Their Trade

What does the business owner do? Showing that with the things they actually use to do their work creates great “behind the scenes” images.  Here are a few examples: 

An interior designer could bring swatches, tile and fabric samples, drawings or plans, inspiration boards.  

A florist could bring flowers, vases, scissors or a knife they use to cut the stems, their packaging, how they present the flowers, cards, branded stamps. 

A furniture builder could show their workshop and the tools they use to design, build, finish and prep an order for delivery. 

A therapist or author could bring a notebook, laptop, books. 

A yoga instructor could bring a yoga mat, blocks, blanket, meditation tools, oils.

More general props are a favorite coffee cup, a phone, a notebook and a laptop.

5. Hair, Makeup and Nails

I recommend all my clients have their hair, makeup and nails done. If they’re fantastic a doing these things themselves, great. If not, I recommend where they could go to get this done. I instruct them to make appointments for their nails the day before, and hair and makeup the morning of the session. This has to be factored into your timeline. 

6. Timeline

Depending on the number of locations and wardrobe changes, branding photos session can take anywhere from 1-5 hours. Mine usually fall in the 2- to 4-hour range. Be sure your client is aware of this and won’t be rushing off to another appointment.

You’ve done so much work with your client preparing them so that you are set up for success! The session day itself can focus on putting them at ease, bringing out their personality and having fun.

Tips to Set the Tone in a Branding Photography Session

1. Be relaxed and confident in yourself.

2. Play music they love.

3. Give them constant positive feedback: “Yes! You look so fantastic! You’re doing an amazing job!”

4. Compliment them on their work and successes.

Keep the branding photography session moving and know you’re the expert. If things are feeling stiff, change it up. Add movement, move to a different part of your location, have them change into their next outfit, get them talking about why they love what they do.

This requires a lot of talking on your part because they won’t know what to do in front of a camera. They’ll look to you to know where to stand, what to do with their hands, where to look. Keep your goals and “shot list” in mind but don’t shy away from going with the moment. If you have a fantastic idea in real time, give it a try! 

How to Find Branding Photography Clients

In my experience, finding and marketing to your ideal branding photography clients is so much easier than finding newborn and family clients. For one, it’s a business-to-business client, so they all have public social media accounts.

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I made a concerted effort to search my area’s local hashtags, follow local businesses I’d want to work with, comment on their posts, direct message them to introduce myself, share their posts to my stories, recommend them in local Facebook groups when someone asks for a local interior designer, lawyer, furniture builder, coffee shop, etc. Even if they don’t hire you, they’d be more inclined to share a post when you ask if you’d been doing so for them from a genuine place of wanting to lift them up. 

Create valuable content that will help your ideal client: social media tips, how to take a better iPhone selfie, how to prepare for a branding session.  Post these on your blog, in your feed, Stories and Reels and share them to your email newsletter list.   

What’s the Benefit of Branding Photography for the Photographer?

I do my branding photo sessions on weekdays, leaving my weekends for family photo sessions and my own personal and family time. As I grow my business and my son is still young, I’ve been thinking more about when I want to be working. I’m only working on the weekends during sunrise or sunset for family sessions, leaving me the rest of my time for my own life. 

Lindsey Turner runs Lindsey Victoria Photography out of Litchfield County, Connecticut, where she photographs branding, family and newborn sessions as well as fine-art school portraits.