Stuart has been a photographer since leaving school and specialises in capturing people. As an experienced creative photographer and videographer, Stuart works closely with companies to create imagery that directly speaks to their target market in an authentic way.
Robin Waite · #81 - The Importance of Personal Branding and Photography - Stuart James
This latest episode of the Fearless Business podcast welcomes guest Stuart James, an expert creative photographer and videographer. Here’s the lowdown from the podcast discussion on all things personal branding and brand photography.
Personal branding is something not always given enough attention and this can lead to a struggle to connect with people. So, how do you use imagery to improve this connection, not only to your personal branding, but to your audience as well?
Transparency is key. You want to be real and represent yourself in the way your audience will see you. For example, if you are someone who always shows up in a branded t-shirt, then this should be your image. If you are turning up in a suit, your imagery should show you in a suit. You also want to think about who your clients are wanting to speak to. Your brand is not all about you, but rather your audience. Your branding and imagery is part of making that connection and developing an understanding of your audience, so you know the best ways to talk to them.
Taking a photo seems easy. Just press a button and it’s done. The reality is that having your photo taken is not something that comes naturally to many. Taking selfies is one thing because you have control of the camera, but selfies aren’t going to be the kind of imagery you want to promote your business. Transferring the imagery to another person is difficult and involves a lot of trust. Plus, you have to get used to seeing yourself not through a mirror.
A professional photographer is not just there to take photos, but often acts as a guide and a coach to help you feel more comfortable on camera and get past those mindset blocks. Just like you want to have a connection to your clients, the same goes for photographers. You want to be on the same wavelength as a client and know how to get the best natural reaction from each other. If the photographer can connect to your imagery through the lens, it is a good sign that your audience will do too.
The technical side of photography matters of course. Finding the right lighting, the colours, and more, but at the core of your imagery is to connect to someone through a still shot.
If you don’t have a good brand image, there is an element of distrust. If you don’t have a good profile image or when you see a selfie as a LinkedIn profile image, this straight away reduces the connection and validity of your brand.
To build the connection with your audience, you have to show who you are, which is when personal branding comes in. It’s all about the connection and the relationship. Your audience wants to know who is showing up, and whether they can trust you because they want to know where their money is going. This is even more important now that we are connected more digitally than physically. Your branding needs to get across that human connection.
While investing in professional branding and imagery services is the best thing, if you are starting out with your small business, these kinds of investments might not be an option yet. So what can you do to improve the quality of your profile?
If you have a friend who is good at photography, then that is a good start. Make use of natural daylight and make sure you are wearing the right clothes which represent your brand and in a setting which suits your brand. You may find professional photographers offering mini shoots, which may not get you as much content, but it gives you those key imagery elements to work with.
Likewise, prioritise what is most important. Photography could be your first port of call, and graphics and other elements come later.
If you are doing lots of photography and videography yourself, the immediate reaction is that you need to get a DSLR camera, light rings, microphones, and all of this tech equipment. But is it necessary?
According to Stuart, it doesn’t matter, especially when you are starting out. Using window light and shade works really well, and there are many affordable microphones out there. Be smart in what you spend, because equipment such as DSLRs are not essential. If you have a decent camera phone and know how to use it, you can get some really good shots. It’s knowing how to get the best out of it.
At the end of the day, prolific beats perfect and it’s getting relevant content out there that matters.
If you’ve decided to outsource and invest in branding and photography, what are the next steps?
In terms of getting value from your investment, Stuart recommends that £500 should be a minimum starting price to know that you will get value back.
You may be able to do some self-shooting, but to get the most out of your imagery and know how to use them in your marketing, that is where a branding specialist comes in.
Finding the right photographer goes back to finding the right connection. Do you like someone’s recent work? Do you connect to it and the photographer? It’s more than the shoot itself too. You want the pre- and post-shoot work to have value. You want to have a chat before shooting about your aims and why you want your photoshoot. You want to understand all the visual elements that link to your brand such as setting, colours, textures, clothing. You also want a photographer who will share their opinions and be transparent with you.
Whether you are in a position to invest in professional branding or not, there is no denying the importance of personal branding and imagery in your business. Listen to the podcast to hear even more of Stuart’s wise words.
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