I gave a talk last week (partnering with a fabulous photographer and make up artist) to a group of small business owners and entrepreneurs about the importance of good headshot and branding photography for your social media profiles, website and marketing collateral. Having a professional photo shoot really does make a huge difference in making your business look professional and - some people don’t particularly like this idea - people want to see you! People buy from people (yes, even if you’re selling products) and we all want to know the face and the story behind the business. We want to see that you’re passionate about what you do and that includes seeing you. It’s also an opportunity to bring your brand to life, to add personality and let the photos do the talking about who you are and what you do.
What to wear on your shoot can be the cause of some significant stress though, so here are some top tips.
Firstly, think in terms of something you might wear to see a client or give a talk. If you’re a personal trainer, it’s quite acceptable to wear gym gear, but you could also go for something smart casual. If you wear a uniform, then you should have at least some photos wearing your uniform, but just ensure that it’s clean and ironed (preferably brand new so that there’s no fading from washing). For many service-based businesses, the brief can be much broader and so here are some further pointers on where to start.
Colour is everything in branding photography and you must be intentional about the colours you wear. Head-to-toe black or white can be difficult to photograph so wear it with other colours to give some contrast - or make sure you have enough skin showing to give contrast and not look like a floating head. If black (or white) is you, your uniform, then wear it, but there’s so much opportunity for more creativity! As I say to all my clients, black is fine for everyone (even if it’s not your best colour) IF you LOVE it. If you’re wearing it because you don’t know what else to wear or because it’s easy, then we need to talk!
Your logo and brand colours should be your starting point, but you don’t need to stick rigidly to the colour of your logo. Ideally your brand colour is a colour that suits you and one that you love wearing too but if not, you could wear a complementary colour or something more neutral with a hint of your brand colour in an accessory, background or a prop. Have a look at the colour wheel or consult with your designer or photographer and see what might work with your brand colours.
With the absence of a branded uniform, colour can become your uniform. Not just for your branding photography, but you could wear it to talks or networking meetings. Again, you don’t always need to do this or wear head-to-toe brand colour, but it does make people remember you. Always be on the look out for accessories in your brand colours, even a phone case can be a good prop.
Think about colour psychology too and what that colour is saying about you - you can just think about your own associations with colours as we generally have the same ideas (obviously if you are specifically marketing yourself overseas, then do check for any negative connotations of colours too).
The only hard-and-fast rule here is to avoid very small grid-based patterns such as dots, checks, houndstooth or herringbone and thin stripes as they can create a moire effect, which means that the camera can’t pick up the detail and the end result can be something quite strange and distracting.
Small and medium patterns are usually fine and can add lots of personality to your photographs. Florals can be feminine, leopard print can be dramatic and geometric patterns can be very elegant. I would always run your outfit past your photographer, just in case there might be any issues.
As for large-scale pattern, a large scale can be classified as your outstretched hand - or the size of your face. Something this big can be really distracting and lead people to see it before they see your face. Sometimes pattern placement can also draw attention to a particular area (here, look at my left boob)! So I’d recommend keeping it small-medium. Your body scale and personality play a part in this too but for the purposes of your brand photography, you really want to make sure you are the focus.
In all of this advice (apart from the moire effect, which is a technical thing you must avoid), then personality is everything. If you are bold and bright and dramatic, then be that in your photographs, but still make sure your face is the centre of attention, not the big floral print on your left boob.
LAYERS AND ACCESSORIES
Always take layers with you (blazers and scarves are always good, even your favourite coat) and think about your accessories too.. An outfit can look incomplete without jewellery and earrings and necklaces can really help to bring the focus back up to your face.
You should be looking at finalising your outfit or outfits at least a week before your shoot so that you can ensure everything is clean and ironed (or go out shopping to fill a gap). I highly recommend that you shop your wardrobe first - after all, you bought those things - try everything on and take a mirror selfie of the complete outfit (or get someone else to take a photo). When we look in the mirror, we focus on things we don’t like about ourselves, so a photograph can help you look at your outfit more objectively. Does it need a belt, a scarf, earrings, is the neckline crying out for a bigger necklace, etc. Ask a trusted friend what they think, if you’re not sure (or a stylist)! I would then send that photo to your photographer and check there are no issues with patterns or colours. If you don’t have anything, then head to the shops, but take a list and go to the shops you love first.
The day before the shoot, remember to drink water, moisturise, get everything prepared and then you can enjoy your shoot and leave the rest to your makeup artist and photographer!
SOMETHING YOU LOVE
Last but most definitely not least, you should make sure that you love what you wear, that it makes you feel good - if you’re uncomfortable in your outfit, then it will show in your photographs - not many people are naturals at having their photos taken, it’s awkward enough as it is, so you should be comfortable and confident that you look and feel your best.