How to Plan a Brand Photo Shoot
Do you know what my most frequently asked question is?
Hey, Jess! Can you share more about how you plan your photo shoots?
Yeah, I know. I’m shocked, too.
Guys. I’m awkward. I’m by no means a fashion blogger, or even a remotely-natural person in front of the camera.
But, if I have one claim to fame, its that I can make a STINKIN’ PLAN for anything.
Need a five year plan? Gotcha. Need a plan to meet your baking goals? I’m your girl. Need to know what we’re doing every hour on our vacation? Got that, too.
So, when it comes to this question, I was SO PUMPED to deliver on everyone’s request.
I’m a firm believer that the people with the best online presence are the ones with a plan or framework—whether they know it or not!
Some plans are more detailed than others, but you’re less likely to get tripped up with creating content if you have a stockpile of images ready to go for your brand.
So, if you haven’t had a recent photo shoot, get ready to book one after you finish reading this blog! It’s time you started showing up. That means showing your face, yo.
I have planned many-a-photo-shoot, and I don’t feel like I really got it right until this summer for my Jess, XO branding shoot.
What was different this time?
I actually knew who I was and what I wanted my brand to be about. I knew who I was speaking to, and I knew what I wanted them to KNOW ME FOR.
That last part is so key! Anyone can sit at a coffee shop with their fingers on a keyboard, smiling up at the camera, but what’s the difference between that photo shoot and one that actually communicates and connects?
It’s simple. PLANNING.
Once I figured out the process with my summer photo shoot, it was easy to replicate with my next photo shoot, even though it was with a different photographer!
I’m going to give you my step-by-step process for planning my photo shoots. BUT FIRST, let’s chat about choosing the right photographer.
Choose a photographer who gets you.
If at all possible, choose someone you actually know. This may be difficult, but it makes a difference.
If you don’t feel comfortable—like yourself—you won’t LOOK like yourself in your photos.
For me, taking photos doesn’t come naturally. I’m not adventurous. I don’t know when to throw up a peace sign to look cute and bohemian (instead of like I’m just telling someone how many iced coffees I want in the weirdest of all ways). I’m incapable of sitting up straight, so I need someone to remind me to roll my shoulders back, like every 2 minutes. Having Lindsay Davenport as a best friend has helped tremendously.
BUT, if you don’t have the luxury of having a photographer for a best friend, here’s what I recommend:
Find a style you like. Do you love natural light? Don’t book a dark and moody photographer and expect them to change their editing style for you! Just like you have a style you want to be known for, photographers do, too. For me, I started to take photos to match Lindsay’s style, since she takes so many for me. Think about this: Is the style your photographer uses something you can replicate with your own editing or graphic design? If the answer is “no,” keep looking. You will kick yourself if you pay for photos that don’t match the overall aesthetic of your feed.
Bonus: Don’t know how to edit like your photographer? Book a mentoring session with them! I guarantee if you sit with them for an hour, they can teach you how to find the right light, and how they edit photos for their aesthetic.
Show them the images of theirs you love. This will give them an idea of why you want to shoot with them, and what they should focus on.
Write out (or type out) an actual shot list. Be as descriptive as possible!
Planning your brand photo shoot
Disclaimer: In the name of just do it, I created this video. I’m not a videographer, but you guys asked for it! So here it is! Ya gotta start somewhere, right?
Behind the Scenes of Photo Shoot Day!
Step 1: Book a session with your dream photographer.
Step 2: Consult your brand board.
During my branding process with Kristen Fulchi Design Studio, we came up with the core look and feel for my brand. Kristen compiled all of that information into a brand guide with colors, fonts, and information about what my brand should communicate. This is extremely helpful for me to consult when I’m planning a photo shoot. I know my brand images should involve natural light and mostly neutral colors, with pops of soft pink and french blue, and the occasional grounding with deep camel leather and a charcoal grey. I know to stay away from silvers, too much black (without an accent of brown leather), and to incorporate lots of white. This brand board consultation helps me to refocus on my brand and what I want to be known for.
Step 3: Choose a theme or focus.
For my photo shoot this summer, the theme/focus was MY BRAND. I did an entire branding overhaul, and was launching a new business. So, I wanted everything in the images to whisper bright, fun, iced coffee, and intentional work. For this reason, I really wanted to make sure my clothes were simple so that the focus would be on writing, working, chatting it up, and dreaming.
I’m not a fashion blogger, and TRUST ME, that was the most freeing realization I’ve ever had!
For my photo shoot with Madeline Harper, I wanted images that would fill in and transition to fall without taking away from my brand consistency. In order to bring in that Fall feel (and I say feel because 100 degrees in Texas), I brought in the deeper, richer tones of my brand rather than mostly ALL WHITE.
So, decide what you want the focus of your shoot to be. What do you want it to feel like? What content are you going to be creating in the near future, or do you create on a regular basis? Work from there.
Step 4: Compile a shot list.
Anyone can look at Pinterest for inspiration, but how often do you stop and consider what exactly inspires you from the images you pin?
Create a separate Pinterest board for photo shoots
Pin a variety of images you LOVE. Think: Different angles, detail shots, varied composition, emotions, etc.
As you’re pinning them, make sure you change the description to WHAT you actually love about that image. Do you like the white space? Do you like their facial expression? Pose? Do you like the details in the shot? How they’re arranged? The lighting? BE SPECIFIC.
Then, share that board with your photographer!
I even take this a step further and create an actual list of shots that we can cross off on the day of the photo shoot (I didn’t do this last time, and am now kicking myself). Photo shoot day is a WHIRLWIND, and you will totally forget in the moment! It’s helpful to have a hard copy to make sure you get everything you want out of your time!
Step 5: Find a location.
Choosing a location can feel overwhelming, but when in doubt, always aim for SIMPLICITY. Small accents and details are okay, but the simpler the better! Choose a location where you will feel comfortable doin’ your thing. If that means you need an open field so you can do some exercises without people looking at you funny, go for it! If you’re most comfortable in your office, do that! If you can, choose a location with tons of natural light, and make sure you snag a spot by a window! Your photographer will thank you.
Step 6: Plan your outfits.
I’m just going to echo the “choose your focus” section. Your clothes should be whatever you feel BEST in. They should help showcase you as a person, and they should compliment the look and feel of your brand. I always end up wearing Carly Jean Los Angeles clothes, but not for the reason you would think. I don’t wear them because I want to be sponsored (but, wait…. HI, CARLY, PLEASE SPONSOR MY WARDROBE?! LOVE YOUKBYE), but simply because I feel my absolute best in those clothes. They also mix and match super well, so I can choose a few pieces to bring for some crazy versatility.
When choosing clothes, consider:
Does this go with my brand colors? (Notice I said “go with” not “match completely.” Give yourself a chance!)
Do I feel confident in this piece?
Do I feel like myself in this piece?
Does this show sweat easily? (Because, let’s be real, right?)
Step 7: Find meaningful, complimentary props.
The operative word in this step is “meaningful.” Do me a favor—don’t bring paperclips if you don’t have paperclips on your desk, okay? Try not to set up a random cinnamon roll at your desk if you only have cinnamon rolls on Christmas day. I mean—FOR THE LOVE. Your brand should represent YOU, not an imaginary person who scatters flower petals on her desk before she gets down to work. Try to choose props you would USE. Sure, you can buy prettier ones for the shoot, but make sure you’re not buying out the dollar section at Target because you’re hyped up on caffeine.
Your brand photos should tell a story, they should tell your story. Making sure that your detail shots and images of you are authentic and meaningful means you will feel solid writing captions and connecting with people through those images. The images are the bait—if you’re at a loss for what to write, that’s not helpful!
Step 8: Try on all outfit variations.
Trying on your outfits will help you feel prepared. Throw some different poses in the mirror, try mixing and matching, throw a jacket over your shoulder.
You know, MaryKate-and-Ashley-90’s-fashion-show-style.
If you want to REALLY go ham on this, try each outfit on video, and do a little dance. Then set it to music for a little behind the scenes! (Newsflash: OF COURSE I did that, but it didn’t make it into the video. #traumatizing)
Step 9: Pile all props and clothes together.
Pile it all up! Pack it in a bag. I also make a list of things I’ll need to grab the next day—lipstick, paper towels (iced coffee is hard), a snack, essential oils—and put that sticky note on top of my go-bag. READYYYY!
DAY OF PHOTO SHOOT
Step 10: Print your shot list.
Girl, TRUST. I didn’t print my shot list last time, and even though the shoot went swimmingly, there were definitely points when we were both like, Did we get everything? What’s next? You’re typically paying for time, so being prepared is going to mean you end up with a CRAZY amount of images you can use for… like… ever!
Plus, crossing things off is infinitely gratifying.
Step 11: Arrive early to the location.
I naturally arrive everywhere early, even when I DESPERATELY try to leave on time. BUT, if that’s not you, please make sure to show up to your shoot at least 10 minutes early! If anything, it will leave you a cushion of time for traffic, OR you’ll be able to scope out a spot by a window before your session starts. Your photographer will thank you, and you might even be able to get started early if you’re both ready to go. If you’re late, you’re sacrificing your own time that you’re paying for, and you’ll be frazzled instead of relaxed. That’s recipe for disastrous, what-do-I-do-with-my-hands-and-face brand photos.
Step 12: WERK IT, girl.
I know, “just act natural” is so much easier said than done. BUT, if you chose your photographer well, they will help direct you, but they will also get some in-between shots of you moving in and out of poses, working with props, and more. There is certainly more than a time and place for headshots, straight on, looking at the camera. But those in-between shots are social media magic. The in-between is where you’re the most yourself.
BONUS STEP 13: Plan your next photo shoot.
Creating consistent content can feel like a beast, but if you have consistent things on your calendar, you’ll set yourself up for success! Stay tuned for our conversation about creating consistent content, and how often I schedule photo shoots (my second most-asked question).
Decide your next step for creating more content. Are you a photographer, and you need some images in front of the camera? Can you do a trade? Are you a business owner who has trouble showing up instead of showing your work? Schedule that photo shoot!
PLEASE share your next step with me in the comments or tag me over on Instagram (@jessjordana) so I can cheer you on!
Also, feel free to DM me. I’m a fan of other people who stalk Insta stories, so don’t be shy!