Ep. 10: Why brand photography matters

dietitian turned designer podcast

Sara – brand photography

Courtney: [00:00:00] Hi everyone. Welcome back to the Dietitian Turn Designer podcast. I’m excited this week because I have my photographer on the show, Sara, so hi Sara. Thank you for being here this week.

Sara: Hello. Thank you for the invitation. I’m looking forward to our chat

Courtney: Yeah, so can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started as a photographer?

Sara: Yes. I got started in photography 20 years ago. I just celebrated my 20th anniversary in business in May. And I just have always loved being behind a camera. I really like documenting life. I really like making, you know, everyday people feel good and comfortable about themselves and so it’s sort of from one kind of photography to another over the years,

Courtney: Yeah. Did you always wanna do photography?

Sara: Yes. , [00:01:00] I mean, I started when I was so young that it’s pretty much all I’ve done, but yeah, I wanted to be a photographer or, a cook.

Courtney: Oh, cool.

Sara: So I chose photography when I was like 18.

Courtney: That’s awesome. I always admire people that can do one thing because I’m the opposite and do way too many things. So it’s amazing to me when someone can just do one thing.

Sara: Yes, yes. , it is, it’s been really fun. Of course, you know, you can do different things within the world of photography and obviously owning a business is a whole different thing.

Sara: But, yeah, I always think I probably should find something new to do in the next 20 years, but, So far I haven’t.

Courtney: Not if you like it and you’re, like you said, you’re kind of making up your own different ideas of what photography is and kind of changing the business and everything. Yes, so we actually met years and years ago when I was young and child free. And a different person. And I still have those photos on my walls. They’re in my dining room.

Sara: Yes. I love it.

Courtney: Cause Levi and Lily, my dogs, are in there and they’re not with us anymore. So that’s kind of like my little ode to them.

Sara: Oh yes.

Courtney: So do you still do family photography?

Sara: Yes. Yes. Lots of family photography.

Sara: I love the longevity of working with the same client over and over again, but I don’t shoot weddings anymore. I did that for a really long time, but not anymore.

Courtney: Yeah. And you’ve moved more into like the business and marketing space now too, right?

Sara: Yes. Yes. I think the most common, you know, way of talking about it is branding, photography. But yes, I really enjoy it.

Courtney: So speaking of branding photography, can you tell us what you think are some of the key elements to make a photography session or a photograph in particular, to be more effective in capturing the essence of someone’s brand.

Sara: I mean the more that someone knows about themselves and about their brand, the better we can, you know, create images to reflect that. But a lot of times people are, you know, not a hundred percent sure how they want to be portrayed, and I find that if they start sort of with how they wanna use the images and then work their way backwards, that that’s a really good way of making sure that we’re creating images that are useful, purposeful, and also look like the person or the brand that they want.

Courtney: Yeah, I know when I did my session with you recently, I was like, I want it casual. And then I came in not casual clothes because I only have two extremes. They’re what I’m wearing right now, which is like Under Armour t-shirts and like graphic t-shirts or I’m dressed up. So I’m working on finding like, how can I be more casual in my next session without it being like me in workout clothes?

Sara: Yes. Well, I have found that you know, asking a stylist to get involved really helps. There’s Katie Jacobs in Athens. She owns Cheeky Peach and she does lots of styling for people. And I’m sure there’s other people that do it too, but I think that would be a really good way to, you know, like still feel like yourself.

Sara: But have somebody help you in a professional way, you know, look your best without just struggling through it yourself, like going to a store and being like, oh, I don’t know. Do I like this? I don’t know. But instead just being like, this is what I wanna look like, here’s my inspiration – Can you, can you make that happen?

Courtney: no, I should have done that. And I actually like, reached out to them and started to schedule a session and then chickened out. So.

Sara: Yes. Yes. And I recently had a branding session with a friend who does branding photography. And I was like, I either have to do that or I had to show up in my everyday clothes.

Sara: So I just wear my t-shirts and my jeans and I’m like, if I hate these, then I’m gonna go to the next step. But yeah, we don’t know yet.

Courtney: Yeah. Well maybe I’ll do that next time. I’ll just show up in my workout clothes. I’m kidding. Maybe not that far. I’ll put on jeans if you make me. I’m a leggings person though.

Sara: Ah, yes.

Courtney: Yeah. So when you’re doing a photo shoot with a brand, how do you kind of approach that? Especially if you have someone like me or I work with dieticians and I specifically work with people who are weight inclusive and you know, focus on, you know, For lack of a better term, body positivity, which that’s a whole other discussion of that term.

Courtney: But, how would you kind of approach doing a photo shoot like that and making them one feel comfortable if they themselves are not feeling that positive about [00:06:00] their body, but yet wanna portray being body positive. Mm-hmm. And then also just, just the general, value being represented in the photos.

Sara: If you can sort of forget that you’re taking pictures, you know, like if, if I can carry on a conversation with somebody about things that they are passionate about or about, you know, most of the time they’re businesses or they’re, you know, their brands or what we’re why we’re even there, people will tend to forget that they’re in front of a camera and, that really helps people, you know?

Sara: Feel more comfortable and more, you know, positive about things. And then there’s a lot of like micro directions that help people for, you know, feel comfortable with their bodies because they are confident that I’m seeing the things that they are worried about. So, you know, tiny movements, you know, making sure that I’m addressing all of the areas of a photograph and of someone’s body so that they know that their, their shoulder is going the right way or their elbow’s in the right place, or they’re leaned the right direction. , I also really like to know what people are uncomfortable with, you know, like what is the very first thing that you’re gonna see about yourself when you look at a picture.

Sara: And then that way I keep an eye on it and it’s not something that they are completely obsessed with the entire time the camera’s in front of my face.

Courtney: Yeah. No, I think you did a great job because I was self-conscious coming into my photos because you know, my body has changed over the years and you’re right. Like you did a good job of keeping me talking, which really isn’t that hard one-on-one because I’ll just talk

Sara: Yeah, yeah. Most people don’t mind. I mean, most people are pretty good at one-on-one talking. I think when they have an audience it’s harder, but yeah.

Courtney: I always say I can talk anyone’s ear off one-on-one and I can present to a large group of people I don’t care, but I hate group stuff. I hate mingling. I hate like going into an event where you have to go talk to people, like in little groups. I don’t like that. I’m not good at it. You don’t wanna send me in your place.

Sara: No. I’m okay with a camera. If I have a camera in my hand, I can, you know, go up to people and like chit chat or you know, ask if they need photos or all that stuff. I’ve gotten pretty good at, but like, you take the camera away and I’m like, mm-hmm. I’m, I, I’ve never talked to humans before. I’m not sure to say

Courtney: same, yes. If I have a purpose like, I actually really like planning my kids’ birthday parties and events and I used to do that a lot more before I had kids I would plan my friend’s birthday parties and things. So if I’m like in charge and have an activity and a purpose, I’m okay cause I can play the host, if I’m like attending on my own, I’m probably stuck on the wall, so.

Sara: Yeah. Yeah. I’ll find some other person who’d like to stand on the wall with me. And we’ll have a one-on-one conversation.

Courtney: I’m the same. Yes. So can you share some tips on how businesses can make sure that their photography and all the visual elements are cohesive when they’re thinking about the pictures they wanna put on their website and throughout their brand?

Sara: So I think one of the best ways to do that is to, you know, find a photographer you’re comfortable with and, sort of take pictures like year round – Every few months, once a quarter, once every six months, so that you sort of get the same style and the same editing, so that, that is reflected in your brand as time goes. And then if you can’t, you know, afford it, or you are just not that comfortable in front of a camera to be able to do something on a quarterly basis.

Sara: showing up with different seasons in mind, or different, you know, uses so that you’re creating those images for specific reasons. If you need a, you know, an about me picture or you need, you know, you know you have something coming up and you’re gonna be at a conference or you’re going to, you know, you need an image that you’re gonna use on all your social platforms, thinking about what you want that to look like or how you’re gonna use something I think is really helpful in creating the end product. But when people show up and they’re like, I don’t know, I just, whatever you think, which is, I get a lot. , I can take a good headshot, but it whatever. I think, because I think most people are lovely and. I can make them look that way, but that isn’t necessarily what their brand needs.

Sara: Mm-hmm. And so I really need input from that perspective, that side of things to make sure that you are getting your point across and it’s not just me taking a, you know, a headshot of your face you know, there’s more to it than that.

Courtney: And last week’s episode, was more my friend Morgan, who’s a website designer, and we talked a little bit about photography and she has this calculation percentage, and I can never remember exactly what it is of what she tells her clients to ask for I think it’s like 10, I think it’s 10% headshots. And then the other one, and the majority of them are like, like movement, like action shots. Like where you’re writing or you’re, you know, on a computer, a fake zoom call like you know, active shots. And flat lays, which obviously I love flat lays cause I use them in My stuff a lot, but I always like that she has like a percentage cuz I am an overthinker and I’m like, I could take that and say I want this percentage. I mean, not that we’re gonna count the photos, but it gives you a general idea.

Sara: Yes, I think that’s a really good way of looking at it and I think that if someone is working with another person in the sense that they have a website designer or they have a marketing coordinator or something where the business owner isn’t the only one using the images, that’s really helpful for an outside person to say, you know, I need these pictures and this many of them and, you know, and the, and the person being photographed can just be like, okay, yes, we’ll make that happen. yeah, always tell my clients if they, I encourage them to do a brand photo sessions because it just makes the website design go so much easier. Because I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent looking at stock photos: I probably know every stock photo that there is and it’s hard to You know, make them all be cohesive with your brand. So when they come to me and they literally only have like one headshot and it doesn’t really go with the branding, that makes it hard. But when they come to me and they’re like, I think I’m gonna do a photo session, I get so excited because then I can say, tell them for the love of goodness that I want these photos, like landscape and portrait. Make photos with copy space, please.

Sara: Yes, yes. You need space. Yes. , and that is, and a lot of times I think that, it’s easier to it’s easier for people to pose for a headshot because they only have to worry about their upper body and a smile, and it doesn’t really matter where we are.

Sara: And it does, they don’t have to tell a story, but like the minute you zoom out and you see where you are and you see what clothes you have on, you see your whole body and you see like this bigger picture and this bigger story, it’s a little scarier. , and, and it takes more thought and more, you know.

Sara: That was the word. , like vulnerability, maybe. Mm-hmm. Yes, yes. Mm-hmm. Yep. So that’s harder to come by, but yeah. Highly encouraged. Yes.

Courtney: Because I can only do so much with a headshot. Can only put your headshot in so many places on a website and make it look good.

Sara: Right. Exactly. You need the story.

Courtney: Yeah. You need to show people like what it looks like to work with you, like what they can picture or expect, and they can visualize, like even if you’re virtual, like I’m all virtual, but still want them to like see what it looks like when I’m working and they can kind of envision themselves working with me.

Sara: yeah. And you can also tell people like your vibe or your style or your like mm-hmm. The. Kinda person that you’re looking for to work with through photography. And, you know, like there’s, I mean, I’m not sure exactly how to, to phrase it, but you know, you find when you go to look for photographers, you’ll immediately be turned off by someone because they’re, they’re not the style you’re going for or that you’ll be like, oh my gosh I just love that. And part of that is because just like when you go to buy products or you know, go to buy something, you are turned on by one thing and turned off by another, and you have to create those images for your ideal Client.

Courtney: And that is why branding is so important, everyone.

Sara: Yes.

Courtney: So speaking of that, what do you think are some of the most common challenges that you’ve encountered when you are working with other businesses on their photography?

Sara: , I think my biggest challenge is people not being prepared. , and then not so much in like their [00:16:00] coming with the wrong clothes or, or anything like that, but more along the lines of they’re not prepared.

Sara: For what images they want and you know, cuz it’s an investment of mm-hmm. Of time and energy and money. And if, and if they show up and they’re just like, , I don’t know. What do you think? And I’m like, well, I love thinking about business, but I don’t know yours as well as you do. So what do you need? What do you want?

Sara: Mm-hmm. , And so I feel like sometimes I let people down when they aren’t complete completely prepared for it. Even when we talk about it, and even when we have meetings with it, I think everybody’s, not everybody’s, but some people’s, , you know, what they do and how they do it doesn’t line up with what they’re asking for from me.

Sara: , mm-hmm. And so, We end up with maybe aren’t as, as specific [00:17:00] to what they could use. I think that’s my biggest challenge is people not being prepared for

Courtney: what they want. Yeah. Now that’s kind of along the lines of when, , I think about people that come to me and they just started their business, or they haven’t started their business and they’re inquiring about like full custom branding.

Courtney: Mm-hmm. I usually tell them, Mean you would think like people think, oh, you’d wanna do that cuz you’d make more money. No, I don’t wanna do that cuz I’m honest. Yes. And one of my values is integrity and they’re not ready. It would be a waste of need for them. Yes. They need to do like a starter brand, which is just the visual pieces.

Courtney: Like you just want, you know, the logo and the colors to start. Then later come back when you know your business a little better. You know you, who you wanna work with, how you’re gonna do it, how you want your business to be, and then we can work on the strategy and your actual brand identity that goes along with that brand strategy.

Sara: Yes. Which is why a lot of times people just hire me for head shots, which is great. And I love head shots. [00:18:00] Yeah. But you, it’s sort of like getting, , You know, a starter brand, you just need a headshot to put on things so people know what you look like. And then as you go further into business, you can decide whether or not, you know, You’re a fancy luxury brand or you’re a down to earth, you know, super casual, you know?

Sara: Mm-hmm. Situation and, you know, docent it as it is, know who you’re working with

Courtney: and yeah. Because if I look at like my, which is why I had new pictures taken, which I need to probably have them again soon, but, , time I know. But see, last time I waited like two years in my brain, I’m like, I’m doing good.

Courtney: Mm-hmm. Yes. That’s too long. , cause I’m like, two years ago that Courtney was wearing like a pink dress and you know, was just a different vibe than Yes. The vibe I have now. So not saying, you know, we’re gonna change that drastically every couple of years, but [00:19:00] you do kind of evolve over time and you wanna make sure that your authentic self is being represented.

Sara: Yes. And the more often you spend, the more often you are in front of the camera, the more comfortable you are and the, the more confident you become in who you are. And I think that if you don’t do it enough, you like, sort of like start over. It’s like the learning process has to start over again. And, , I have had the most success when I work with the same person I.

Sara: Regularly, even if it’s ever, even if it’s just quarterly. , and that’s a lot. Like quarterly is a lot. , that’s, that’s a lot of photography. , but it gives us, it gives me more to go on, you know, cuz then I can also know. Who you are and who your brand is and whether or not something I ask you to do like might feel like you or might not.

Sara: And, , and that [00:20:00] way you, but you also end up with really authentic pictures that way because the more I know about you and your brand, the the better your, your end image is going to be. And it’s not just me taking pictures of you standing in front of me. , it’s more of a collaboration.

Courtney: Yeah. Yeah. Cuz what you definitely don’t want is, you know, I have some clients that I think their pictures look lovely and they’re like, I just don’t like them.

Courtney: I don’t like this about, it doesn’t feel like me. And you know, and it’s because it’s literally the only time they’ve ever had pictures taken and they don’t plan to do it again. Yes. How to that photographer know enough? To We can’t,

Sara: yeah. No, we can’t. All we can do is go through the motion and hope that we, the motion of what we do and where we shoot and the poses that work for most people, and hope that we strike, you know, accord somewhere along the way and we get a picture that looks like [00:21:00] them.

Sara: , but the more often somebody shows up, the, the better we are at, you know, getting it right the

Courtney: first time. So I’m wondering now, cuz I’m an overthinker, is it possible for someone to come in and have too much of a plan? Like, I want it to look exactly like

Sara: this? , I think it, you could, you could, I suppose if you can’t like let go of it.

Sara: You know, like if you have this like super really specific image in your mind, and a lot of times people will show me Pinterest boards and which I’m absolutely a fan of. Like, I really would love to see your vibe show me a Pinterest board. But the, the idea or the i, what will happen is they will, , Show me a picture that somebody shot in like the fields of California and we don’t live in the fields of, you know, we don’t have California light, we don’t have the landscape of California, and I’m [00:22:00] like, So do you see that this is in California and not Georgia?

Sara: Or are you just looking at the pose? What are you attracted to in this photo? And some pe some people are attracted to the vibe of California and I’m like, we can’t do that in Georgia. Like we can do the pose, we can do sunset, we can do, you know, we can be in a studio, but we can’t completely become, yeah.

Sara: You know what? We aren’t,

Courtney: we can’t be California. No.

Sara: We can’t be California. Mm-hmm. No.

Courtney: So, let’s see. Can you, speaking of these, can you kind of walk us through what the process is like typically for business to come work with you? So do they make a Pinterest board? Do you, I know you do like the consultation call.

Courtney: Can you kind of walk us

Sara: through that? Yes, yes. , yes. So I would, we start with a, a phone call, , and, and decide, you know, What, what you need. , you know, how often you wanna take [00:23:00] pictures, , what your end goal is for, you know, say one session or a whole, , you know, membership of photography over the course of the year.

Sara: , and then, you know, if I would like to see a Pinterest board or a website or, , you know, hear your thoughts on what you’re, you know, what you are going for. And then, , You know, a lot of people want input on Covid, which is, I’m happy to give. , and we just sort of schedule and we, we’ll spend, like if somebody invests in a membership where they’re gonna work with me over the course, like several times over the course of a year, then we’ll spend each session with a specific goal in mind.

Sara: Like a first session might be, you know, a great headshot and a header. For your website. , and the next session might be action photos or lay flats or, , doing [00:24:00] something that speaks to their brand, , more than just the person. And then, you know, depending on the kind of business we’re, you know, I’m working with will spend their next sessions, you know, focusing on other things.

Sara: But if somebody isn’t doing that and they’re just, you know, shooting a, like one-off branding session, then we have to decide what is most important. , For that session. Like, and so I try to keep things, , realistic. Like what can we really do in two hours? What are the most important images? And anything else we get, you know, is just mm-hmm.

Sara: Just is lucky, you know, or Yeah. , bonus. It’s a bonus. A

Courtney: bonus. Yes. Yes. So what are some, this is an extra question I just thought of. Okay. What are some, like the top three props that you would recommend someone have?

Sara: , I would. Probably a computer. Mm-hmm. , I think it depends on the business. , I work with a lot of real estate agents, so they bring, [00:25:00] you know, they bring for sale signs or you say, do they bring their little soul signs?

Sara: H? Yeah. That kinda thing. , and then, , I would say a computer is probably up there. And then, , or a phone. You know, a lot of times we do things with a phone. ,

Sara: Yeah, I think it depends on, you know, obviously the business that you’re in, but honestly, I think my, the best accessory is confidence. So if you can show up, , and be willing to be a little more vulnerable, to become confident in front of a camera, I think that that is your best selling tool.

Courtney: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that’s a good point.

Courtney: So, And then I have Oliver here with me today. Do you allow pets or have you ever had pets in someone’s business

Sara: photos? , I definitely allow pets. , I have a lot of dogs myself. , I’m happy to include them. Have I had them [00:26:00] in business photos? I’ve had one realtor bring her dog to a headshot session. , but I don’t think I’ve had, I don’t think I’ve had other actual pets in, , in branding sessions, but, I think they should, you should definitely bring

Courtney: them.

Courtney: I just was curious. I just thought about it. Cause yes, I, you know, when we do family photos I usually, , well I used to bring them more often. I try to now, but now it’s like, I feel bad cuz I can’t obviously bring the cats. Oh, oh yes.

Sara: No, it would be difficult. Cats. Cats are not nearly as excited.

No, no, no.

Courtney: , But I do have one picture of Oliver on my website, on my podcast page. AC Paige actually, cuz I like joke that he’s my co-host. , yes, but it’s literally like not a great picture cuz I took it literally like when I was making that page in this office with my iPhone and I was just like, it’s just gonna have to do.

Courtney: Yes.

Sara: Yes. I think that would be adorable. And you know, a lot of times this, you know, branding sessions. Take [00:27:00] place in your office or your home, or you know, the space that you spend the most work in, most time in, , and not necessarily in my studio or, you know, outside in a public location. , yeah, we just, you know, want things to look like.

Courtney: Unless you have a tiny she shed like me, where you don’t have room to come in,

Sara: you open the

Courtney: doors from the windows. It’s the ladder outside the window, and you could just like do it from there arial shot.

Sara: I like it. You can stand at the door, right? Couldn’t you stand at the door? Yeah, yeah, yeah,

Courtney: I could. It sounds cute in there.

Courtney: It’s cute inside. I don’t know about, you know, we’re in Georgia, we’ve got red clay dirt, so it’s Yes. Out there. That wouldn’t be on brand for me. No. So would you say there’s any specific styles or trends in photography that you know specifically work well for people in the healthcare field? Or if you wanna just talk about businesses in general?

Sara: Mm.

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      courtney vickery dietitian website brand designer

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