Taking Ownership of your IMAGE with Personal Branding Portraits

Let’s talk about YOU.

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Imagine you’re given one chance to communicate your brand to a potential dream client, a potential director, investor, team or your dream collaborative partner, and your very first impression is limited to that of a photo -- or perhaps a few photographs of you. Of course these days, this isn’t an imaginary scenario: it happens all the time.

We can debate the fairness of the inevitable snap judgement that is formed about personality, talent and competence from just a photo… but it’s hard to deny that it happens. What we CAN do accept the reality that there is power in a great branding portrait and use that knowledge proactively.

A single headshot is a great place to start... but now imagine a cohesive SET of custom, personal headshots that all communicate you and your brand in various styles, levels of approachability, from casual to more professional… a tailored visual presentation of you, varying slightly for specific and appropriate representation across different social media profiles or web uses… also allowing you to refresh your image for new placement in front of your clients (and giving you easy ways to boost your SEO with fresh content).

Whether you’re re-entering the workforce, embarking on a new career or venture, or simply refreshing your brand to attract new clients, social media channels and websites are demonstrably the norm, and having a great set of photos to represent you and your brand is a critical step in proactively taking ownership of your FIRST IMPRESSION.

If you’ve found your way to this post, I’m guessing you’re at least curious about the potential impact that YOUR images have to introduce you/your business/your brand to your network or potential leads… and you’re considering a professional branding portrait session... so...

Let’s talk about how YOU want to be photographed for this powerful and creative visual representation of you.

Here are a few questions to get you thinking about YOUR brand, and what you want to say to potential clients with your imagery. Feel free to jot down ideas and bring notes to your consultation:

What is your personal brand, and how does it relate to your image?

Perhaps you’re one of those people who knows EXACTLY what your brand is, but if you haven’t thought about this before, let’s break it down a bit.

Your personal brand should communicate your unique value and your personality/style. With regards to your headshots and imagery, this includes visual components (color themes, style and design elements) as well as more intangible components (tone, experience, mission, approachability, unique skillset, etc.).

Personal branding portrait sessions with Merritt Portrait Studio include a consultation where we can discuss this more in depth, but here are a few QUESTIONS to get you thinking about how you’d like your session photos to feel.

Combining my perspective as a photographer with your thoughts on these questions will yield the most custom, effective set of photos to communicate YOUR brand to your network and potential collaborators/directors/clients. Consider the following:

  • Are you drawn to certain colors in your home or wardrobe?
  • Are you comfortable in a formal suit or do you prefer casual - or perhaps even “working yoga” styled attire, or are you an “all of the above” type (that’s me!)
  • Is your style contemporary, minimal, classical, youthful, graceful, bold, simple or eclectic?
  • Do you thrive in the vibrance and noise of an urban setting, or do you prefer quiet space, open space or mountains?
  • Do you love walking or biking, or your car, or public transportation?
  • Do you work best when you are surrounded by people in coffee shops or an office, or do you prefer to work solo?
  • How do you choose to spend your unscripted free time -- do you have favorite destinations and/or cultural influences?
  • Do you have unique passions, obsessions, collections or talents that may not be part of your work, but are part of YOU?
  • If you have a small business, does your company/brand have consistent graphics and/or a logo? This is worth considering if your photo will be shown WITH your logo on marketing materials.
  • With the question above, do you have a WEBSITE with a design theme or style that we should consider? (minimal, dark, bright, colorful, monochromatic, etc.)
  • And finally… If you could describe yourself to your potential network using only 3 descriptive words, what would these three words be? This is enormously helpful for me when thinking about how and where to photograph you (and possibly for you as well if you’ve never thought about it before).

Do I really need 8 photos or more?

It seems like a lot, right? The number is not random -- it’s the result of many of these sessions. The advantage to arranging this up front is that we can plan and design for variety. Many clients have purchased extras. The ability to have a batch of photos that you can switch out to refresh your social media profiles keeps you fresh and in front of your clients, and to have those images all have a consistent feel effectively strengthens your brand. If you have a website, switching and adding images keeps your content fresh, which is great for google indexing and search engine optimization, or SEO (TIP: always be sure to add descriptions and tags to your images, including your name, business name and other keyword that will help people find you).

The VALUE of this series of professional branding photos should not be underestimated.

Clients share with me not only how greatly they value their final results, but that this process is helpful, fun and empowering, and the experience of seeing themselves through this photoshoot increases their own confidence and self image.

The enthusiastic gratitude continues as their new images are consistently met with overwhelmingly positive results, leading to increased workplace confidence and most importantly… RESULTS.

Jennifer Merritt Koskinen is a Denver based portrait photographer specializing in creating comfortable, empowering portrait sessions, bringing out personality in her clients’ EYES, and creating images that are far more powerful than just headshots. Personal branding sessions are styled around YOU, and are immersive experiences, from the design consultation, to the day of the photo session, through the delivery of your final photos.

Top 10 Tips for a GREAT Headshot Session | Photographer Denver

My Photographer's Top 10 list of ways to prepare for an incredible business, professional or actor headshot session. Of course everyone is different, so this is general info based on years of experience and work with headshot clients. If you have questions on this information, please ask!

Top Ten Tips for a GREAT Headshot Session:

  1. When selecting your photographer consider, FIRST: that you resonate with the work you see on his or her website/portfolio. Are the eyes the main focus of the shots? Do you feel personality and connection in the subjects? Is the lighting flattering? Do the photos look approachable and professional? SECOND: do you feel comfortable communicating with your photographer? Is he or she willing to talk with you on the phone? Your comfort level the day of your session is critical to getting great connection in your photos.

  2. Wardrobe: Generally you should bring 3-4 different looks to your photo session. We may not shoot them all, but it’s great to have options. Think simple, and keep wardrobe options in line with your brand. Think about varying necklines and fabric textures. Clothes that fit close to your body are more flattering in photos (no matter your body type, I can pose you in more flattering ways if your clothing is not baggy or boxy). Think about colors that compliment your skin tones (bring options outside of black or white -- colors that compliment your eyes, skin tone or hair are best). Nothing flashy or busy that will distract from YOU (so no logos or busy patterns). Jackets and layers are great to create variety. Jewelry will often distract from you, so unless it’s part of your brand (and you are confident it will stay that way until your next headshot session) you may want to skip it. NOTE for ACTORS/MODELS who have agency representation: definitely talk with your agent if you think he/she will have input regarding styling!

  3. At least a week prior to your session: gather and TRY ON your wardrobe items. If you’re only doing a headshot, no need to worry about pants (I mean, you’ll need to WEAR pants to the session, of course... ) Check that they are clean and that they still fit you well. Don't forget to include any undergarments needed (i.e. no striped undershirts/black bras under light shirts!!) and... please launder / press as needed. And if we have an urban or location session in which we will be walking around, be sure to PACK your wardrobe in a way that it is portable and can comfortably sit on a sidewalk while we are taking photos.

  4. If step number three has left you uninspired, perhaps it’s time for a new shirt or two? (which is why step 3 is NOT the night before your session). No need for anything fancy unless that’s your brand. Your headshot should be a direct reflection of you, as you are. For actors, you want to arrive at your audition looking essentially like your headshot for it to be the most effective tool.

  5. A few days prior, make sure you stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. Think of this as you would preparing for an audition or interview. This will help keep your skin clear and eyes bright! Don’t stress if you wake up with blemishes the day of your session (and don’t mess with them as it will generally make them worse -- let photoshop do the magic there!) 

  6. Exercise the week prior so you feel great (especially if that’s your thing), but there’s no need to put off a headshot or portrait session just so you can “loose a few pounds.” You’d be amazed what good posing can do to flatter every and any body! Light exercise before your session can add a healthy glow to your skin.

  7. Day of session: make sure you’ve familiarized yourself with directions to our meeting place and leave yourself time to negotiate traffic and parking. Nothing worse than arriving frazzled, except perhaps arriving late when there might be a session scheduled after yours. Loosing out on session time stinks!

  8. Eyebrows / Nails / Facial Hair: clean up / trim / etc. as necessary, but please DO NOT try out a brand new haircut/style the week before your session (take it from clients who have learned this lesson the hard way)! If you’re getting professional makeup and/or hair, arrive with your face and hair clean. If you wear makeup normally, feel free to bring a snapshot of how you’d like your makeup to look so your professional makeup artist can compliment your normal look, making it "camera ready" (this is especially important for actors). If you aren't getting a professional makeover, wear your normal shades of mascara/lip color, just be sure to refresh right before our session (even if you don't normally wear makeup, mascara and lip tint is great to highlight your features but still look natural). Guys, a bit of lip balm or chapstick can be your best friend for hydrated, non-cracked lips!

  9. Trust that you’ve hired a photographer who has experience and will be able to direct you into your most flattering poses (this is critically important since you can’t see yourself, after all!)

  10. If you have done your homework on 1-9, the only thing left for you to do is to relax into the session, HAVE FUN and allow your photographer to direct you to project your very best!!

To learn more about my personal approach to studio and/or on location actor, model and professional headshots (for men, women and kids), and to explore investment options, please check out my PORTFOLIO... 

CHEERS to creating a fantastic HEADSHOT EXPERIENCE!

Jennifer