Business + Marketing

Personal Branding Success: Step-by-Step with Nikki Closser

October 12, 2021

By Nikki Closser

© Nikki Closser

Personal branding photography—professional images that represent individuals on their business web pages and social media profiles—is a genre that I fell in love with for many reasons. It can be very lucrative and allows you to keep adding in creative image ideas that go far beyond the traditional headshot. The key to personal branding photography success includes showcasing the personality and uniqueness of your clients in a way that helps them grow their own business and income with the images you create for them.

Personal branding photography success includes the right marketing materials.
There are specific poses I use over and over that work well for all body types and that makes my photoshoots much more efficient. Photos © Nikki Closser

One thing I love about personal branding photoshoots is that they typically happen during the week—so no more working the weekends away. I also love that the need for personal branding photography is spreading like wildfire among entrepreneurs, meaning there is definitely no shortage of clients. That said, when it comes to growing your personal branding photography business, there are certain questions that are helpful to answer first:

  1. How do you become the personal branding photographer people want to book (even if you are more expensive than other photographers in your town)? 
  2. Do you know how to build a base of dream clients who continue to send you referrals? 
  3. Are you engaging in confident marketing that sells your work for you?

Your answers will help form the foundation of your personal branding photography business. 

How I Got Started in Personal Branding Photography

Before building my business, I was a burned-out social worker desperately needing a change. Within two years, I retired myself from social work and I began building my dream life through my personal branding photography career!

This type of photography is different than a classic headshot because it encompasses more than just head and shoulders—it showcases the personality and uniqueness of your clients and can be done either in a studio or on location. These days, it seems the traditional headshot is starting to make a shift towards the personal branding direction and you don’t want to be left behind. 

[Read: How to Brand Your Photo Business for Real Client Connection]

Personal Branding quickly became the bread and butter of my business once I realized that I didn’t have to work weekends or do events. Suddenly, I wasn’t completely exhausted from the work, I got out of debt, it allowed me to build two studios in two different states, and to grow my sales average so that only 1.5 personal branding photography shoots per month replaced my entire monthly social work paycheck. 

personal branding photography success includes makeup, hair and outfit changes.
Personal branding photography at its best includes makeup and hair, outfit changes and directing subtle poses. © Nikki Closser

Personal Branding Photography Success: Marketing Lingo That Works

Because so many people cringe at the thought of having their photo taken, I hit that pain point head on in my marketing by repeatedly sharing that my specialty is photographing people who hate having their photo taken. That simple addition in my marketing language helped my calendar to be booked solid.

Something else that helped so much was showing my potential clients what they would get during a shoot (via behind-the-scenes shots on my website and social media, and through word of mouth). That’s when they really started seeing the value in my service. For example, I include hair and makeup styling during my sessions, I allow for multiple outfit changes, and I direct them using key (and very efficient) poses. (More on that later.)

Wardrobe looks for your client.
More outfit changes and wardrobe options can help add more image looks to the session and to the client’s visual marketing plan. © Nikki Closser

Handling Client Objections and Shooting to Sell More

When I first started out, when they initially inquired, clients would often ask, “How much for just one or two photos?” Eventually, I realized that people need to hear how more images—let’s say 12—could help them to attract more attention to their business, get them more clients themselves, and set them up with their marketing visuals for an entire year! Once I incorporated this type of language into my marketing, I stopped getting this initial objection of only wanting one or two. This also helps my clients to see the value of what they are getting, which leads to bigger sales.

Here, I discusses the path to building a successful personal branding photography business on The Portrait System Podcast powered by Sue Bryce Education.

Something else that has been really crucial for me when it comes to having a sustainable business in personal branding photography is efficiency during my photoshoots. Your shoots don’t have to last all day long! I’ve mastered shooting six outfits in under an hour so that I can both work and then spend the rest of the day with my family. 

[Read: Six Figure Wedding Photography: The 3 Building Blocks of Branding Your Ideal Client

Efficient Poses = Shorter Sessions

There are specific, and efficient, poses I use over and over that work well for all body types. Once I nailed those down early on, my world changed and my sessions got shorter! One of these poses is the “sitting lean” (with hands down). You can use the same pose over and over with slight variations to make it look a little different depending on what your client needs.

efficient posing helps you create shorter sessions but for more money.
Nikki Closser’s personal branding photography success includes using efficient poses, like the sitting lean pose, with hands down. It can be used over and over with slight variations implemented, depending on your each client’s’ needs. Photos © Nikki Closser

Another key element of success during these shoots is to choose outfits that steer the client towards not being able to resist getting the photos. I pair each outfit with certain backdrops based on not only what looks best with their skin tone, hair, eyes, etc., but also based on their own branding colors. I give my clients a list of certain things to consider, including the fact that formfitting outfits tend to be more flattering than loose or baggy clothing. It’s also important to think about the message they want to send with the photos. Have them bring as many options as they want and help them make their final choices—this ensures that the outfits they are photographed in will make them look great.

The Big Reveal: Incorporate Extras that Dazzle

Finally, I create a slideshow for each client using Animoto and I do a live digital photo reveal. It’s something I do simply and easily using Lightroom and Zoom. I found that doing the photo viewings “in person” online helped to increase my sales average tremendously! 

Ready to get started?

If you are ready for the personal branding photography business success of your dreams or want to level up your current business, my step-by-step Personal Branding: The Contemporary Headshot System, available on The Portrait Masters platform, is for you. Preview the course video and register HERE.

Nikki Closser was born and raised in Michigan, but she grew her business in Seattle. She has since moved back to Michigan with her husband and two sons. Her photo studio is in Ann Arbor. Nikki had the honor of being trained by world-renowned photographer Sue Bryce and she is a mentor to other photographers on Sue’s education platform. Nikki is grateful every day that she has a career she absolutely loves! With her “Personal Branding Photography” course comes a 180-page posing guide that features 12 other signature poses that consistently sell well and over 600 of her REAL client photos. 

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