Beth Jennings – The Journey Captured » I capture the journey of people in their personal and professional lives. I teach amateur photographers how to capture their life in beautiful photos. Photography, Melbourne Photographer, Photography Workshops, dSLR Camera Workshops, Creative Camera Course, Photo Course Melbourne, Camera Class Melbourne

Five top tips to creating killer professional brand portraits

Happy New Year! I’m back at it with a bang – courtesy of Toni Planinsek who asked me to capture her professional brand portraits this week.

These days the lines are fuzzy between personal and professional branding. In particular this occurs in small business. When there’s a head honcho who started their business from scratch, they will find that their personal style and values seep through everything they do and touch.

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Small business owners are keen to express their personal brand in photography that’s real, and says something about them. So when their clients meet them online first, and then in person, there is a perfect match.

Before we shoot I go through a data-gathering exercise. I ask my clients questions to establish their readiness for photography, what makes their brand unique, about their customers, their favourite places and how they like to present themselves from a styling perspective. Once those answer come in we can get clear on location and clothing.

Then we shoot.

{Gulp} says the client – I hate having my photo taken and I’m nervous about ‘putting myself out there’.

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So as photographers we have a challenge on our hands – the last thing we want is a nervous subject. Whatever a person is feeling will show up in their pictures.  Most small business operators want to come across as professional, at ease, in control, approachable and to look like ‘the real me’ in their photos.

So how to take someone from feeling nervous to looking like the absolute bomb in about a one hour period? It is definitely possible.

Here’s my five top tips to creating killer professional brand portraits:

1. Keep talking and don’t stop talking

Create a conversation, ask your subject about what they do, who their clients are, about the location they picked, about their clothing, the weather – anything – just keep that conversation going. It distracts them from any devil talk going on in the back of their mind.  Offer up good humour and be relaxed right from the very beginning. Be cool, smile, and keep them in the loop as you go along.  Otherwise, the silences while you’re busy thinking can be very unsettling.

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2. Work out your technicals before you raise the camera to your face

We are very used to those big black heavy looking devices called cameras, but for our clients they can be down right scary – it’s one huge eye looking at them! Ease their worries by working out your lighting, composition and camera settings first, then when you’re ready, bring the camera to your face.

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3. Start further away and work your way in close

Begin with full body ideas, and then gradually work your way in to half body, and then head and shoulders portraits. Going in close too hard to fast can be overwhelming for most people that are not used to being photographed professionally.

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4. Give them feedback

We have the luxury now of looking at the back of the camera. This is about the only time I review my pictures in full picture mode on the back of the camera and it’s purely for the client’s benefit.  They get to see straight away how they look. For example, when they smile, or when they are more pensive. Work with them to get the best outcome that feels right for them. Feedback also applies to praise – tell them (often) how well they are doing and what a natural they are. Positive reinforcement does wonders for a person’s confidence, and confidence is king in this game.

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5. Reasurrance

Tell your subject that this process of finding the best pictures is organic and that you have no idea what we will create today.  Tell them you will work together to find the best pictures for them and that the world will only see the best ones. Tell them that this is a safe space to try things, that you’re not judging them, and that you can be trusted. Tell them that it’s like a game of tennis, you’ll serve the ball and then they’ll hit it back, and back and forth you’ll go to create their collection. Always ask if the poses you suggest feel natural to them, and let them find their own way of holding themselves.

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About Toni

The examples I’ve shown here are of a wonderful and vibrant lady called Toni Planinsek.  She believes firmly in women being financially independant, and her branding contains the suffragette colours – green, white, violet. She’s a classy person, loves all things French and works with women aged 25-55 in property investment.

She also muttered things about being ‘an older lady’ and ‘seem to have lost my smile over the years’ – her version of the usual worries that most clients will offer up. I took those parts in my stride and focused on giving her lots of positive encouragement. Every person has a light inside them and I believe it can be photographed.

Her complete result is in the slideshow below:

If you’d like to learn more about how I work with small business owners to capture their Professional Brand Portraits, then please click here.

Thank you Toni for being my example for this lesson! You really shine in these beautiful portraits and I’ll watch with interest to see how they are integrated into your business marketing.


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