top of page
  • Writer's pictureEmily Marcella

Enhancing Your Brand Session - Where to Invest Beyond Your Brand Photographer

Even the brand photographer needs brand photos! And I admit I'm not the best at taking my own photos. Thankfully, a few years of taking brand photos in Northern Virginia with excellent small business owners has taught me a thing or two.

As I was planning for my own photos, I definitely knew I needed to put some thought, effort, and money (aka resources) into enhancing my own photos. I certainly don't have a photo-ready location, my work-from-home uniform of black leggings and a sweatshirt wouldn't cut it, and just showing up with my camera as a prop wasn't enough.

For me, investing in a location, attire, and my appearance were priority to make the most of my brand photos. However, I still didn't put enough time and effort into one of those -- read on to find out which it was.

Now that you're planning for your own brand photo session, I want to share what I learned as both the brand photographer and the client.

Before you roll your eyes, hear me out. Hiring the right photographer is always the best investment. Someone who you connect with, takes photos in a style you love, and will assist you in the planning process is invaluable for a great gallery of brand photos.

Considering investing beyond your photographer? Taking into consideration location options, your personal appearance, and props for your photos are all areas you'll want to think about.

As you read through this list, think about which enhancements stand out the most to you. Odds are good these are the ones you'll want to put additional resources into. I did my best to incorporate the average spend, what clients said about that particular enhancement, and alternative options to save while getting the most out of the enhancement.

Disclaimer - you can absolutely schedule your brand session and do none of the following. They're not required to get great photos. However, these are all intended to enhance your gallery of brand photos for both quality and longevity.

Rent a Location

Average Investment ($100 - $250 per hour)

Before we dive into this one, let's assume that your home and/or usual workspace are not an option. Since that's the case, my personal opinion is that investing in a location for your brand photos is the best move. Hear me out...

When you rent a location for photography purposes, you're able to do the following:

  1. Walk into a clean photo-ready space.

  2. Find a space that matches or vibes with your branding.

  3. Clear your mind of preparing your own space on top of getting ready for your photos.

I don't know about you but the last point has me sold! No way do you want to stress about cleaning before you take photos.

There are several services out there to help you find the right space for you. Looking for a well decorated home? Try out Home Studio List. The home owners maintain beautiful spaces and rent them by the hour to creatives. You may consider AirBnb if you're traveling to your photographer or are interested in staying a couple nights at the home. Even if you're local to your AirBnb, having extra time to setup, get ready, maybe even have a work-cation, can be very beneficial. For more commercial or studio spaces, is an excellent resource to browse.

Always ask your photographer for their input. Odds are good if you share your vision - what you're seeing in your mind when you think of your photos - they'll be aware of a space that could be the perfect fit to bring your vision to life.

Client Feedback: Hands down the two pieces of feedback (even if they're comments in general conversation) I receive from clients about renting a location is - one, 'wow, I wish my house looked this good' and two, 'how do they keep their space so tidy?!'. So if you're feeling disappointed that your home isn't up to par -- you're in great company!

Alternative to Renting a Location: If you'd prefer to allocate funds to other enhancements and still want a different location, then finding spots within your community may be the right fit. Working in a coffee shop, trying out a retail store, walking main street in your community are all different ideas to consider. Of course, inquire with the spaces before you show up to take photos and be flexible with their schedule.

Hire Professional Hair & Makeup

Average Investment ($150 - $350)

This was my number one regret for my most recent brand session. I put all the energy and effort into getting ready for my photos and thought 'meh, I'm sure it will look fine.' It, in fact, did not look fine. My hair was a flat mess, my makeup was slightly better (definitely closer to what I usually wear in real life) but it certainly didn't do me any favors in the photos.

I wish I would have factored in the time to hire someone to do my hair and makeup. And for those saying in your head - oh it can be photoshopped - I do not have the time nor the patience to go through everyone of my photos to photoshop them. Likely, your photographer won't photoshop them either.

Client Feedback: Clients usually start the session by saying 'I NEVER wear this much makeup' but here's the flip side of that coin - you RARELY take photos like this. Those who have hired someone to do their hair and/or makeup have always been very happy with their photos. From what I find, clients will ask around for hair and makeup recommendations or hire someone they've used in the past. If we're working together, I'm more than happy to share the HMUAs who do a stellar job.

Alternative to Hiring a Hair & Makeup Artist: For whatever reason you decide to do your own hair and makeup, I would suggest wearing darker eye makeup and a darker brow. Viewers are drawn to the eyes first so we want them to stand out. A good rule of thumb for makeup - wear what you'd wear to present to a room full of people. Don't omit a step in your usual routine, like no foundation or skipping concealer. Knowing you look good and you're happy with your makeup will be a great confidence boost for photos.

Manicure & Pedicure

Average Investment ($50 - $100+)

This was my second regret that I actually put some effort into - whoops! The day before I treated myself to a pedicure and while enjoying my service, I went back and forth on whether to get a manicure. Decided natural nails worked just fine and was sure to file and shape them well at home.... WRONG. So wrong. Should have just gotten a simple manicure even if I didn't get polish.

The focus WILL be on your hands at some point and the camera is unforgiving when it comes to the details. I was mortified with how bad my hands looked even though truly I tried.

A lot of the time personal branding clients will go barefoot. It's a very relaxed and casual move to make in your photos and may even enhance your brand vibe. It also takes the pressure off of figuring out what shoes to pair with your outfits. If this sounds like you and your brand, then definitely give your feet the attention they deserve.

Client Feedback: Without asking for advice, clients will usually get a manicure an/or pedicure for their photos. Something about a professional manicure just looks extra good.

Alternative to a Manicure & Pedicure: While I'm incredibly biased, you can get away with clean, filed nails and moisturized hands. Same could go for your feet. Or put the effort into finding the right foot ware for your brand photos.

Hiring a Stylist or Buying On-Brand Attire

Average Investment (It Depends)

Personally, I am not a stylist or even have a sense of style - not one of the five senses I possess. I know what I like and what I feel good in and neither one of those look good on camera. Even shopping for clothes is like pulling teeth for me.

If I could do it over, finding a stylist to pull together a few outfit ideas and a shopping list would have made a world of difference. My only saving grace is that the clothes I do like to wear are very on-brand for my business - whites, blues, clean and simple style.

Find yourself in a similar situation? Look for a stylist who will consult with you. Their expertise will help you look and feel your best. Often a good stylist will be able to do so within your budget, too.

Buying new attire for your brand photos? Do what you feel comfortable with and is in your budget. Simply adding in a few new items that coordinate well with each other will give you good variety within your photos.

Client Feedback: Clients who have worked with a stylist found it great to get a second opinion of someone who knew what they were talking about. They felt more confident for photos knowing they looked their best. It even gave them a sense of permission to try a new style they would only wear in photos (hello blazer dress and sleek pant suits). Some even reported finding new clothing brands they loved and didn't know existed until a stylist pointed it out to them.

Alternative to Hiring a Stylist or Buying Clothes: Shop your closet first! Find the items that you love to wear and are cohesive with your brand. Clean, wrinkle-free attire you feel good in always photographs well!

Fresh Props

Average Investment ($50 - $100)

For that extra eye-catching pop, I highly encourage bringing in fresh items to your photos. This is an easy and simple way to level-up your brand photos for a nominal cost.

Think of where fresh items could fit into your photos and support your messaging. Are you a business owner who loves to chat with clients over a cup of coffee? Bringing coffee (or iced coffee even) to fill up your mug versus using water or, worse, and empty cup, brings realism to your photos.

Maybe you're looking for ways to subtly bring your brand colors into your photos. Fresh flowers are always a great way to do this.

House plants will give your photos a boost with a pop of natural green. Depending on what plants you use can affect the feelings you convey in your photos.

Other ways to incorporate that 'fresh' pop include bringing in fresh baked goods, a bottle of bubbly to open for photos, a bowl of fruit, etc.

Whether you're using fresh props to support your branding or just want them for a more styled feel, it's always a great choice to bring a few fresh items to your brand photo session. Thankfully it's not a huge investment to get a big impact.

Client Feedback: Clients have always had positive feedback when using fresh items. Sometimes it's as simple as using real coffee in a mug or bringing in a small bouquet of flowers. Other times clients have focused on abundance with their fresh props and knocked their brand photos out of the park. More on abundance and scarcity later!

Alternative to Fresh Props: Certainly investing in fresh items is not necessary for great brand photos. If you're looking for fresh pops in your brand photos without spending money, taking a few photos outdoors is a great alternative. Artificial flowers and plants also work well.

How Will You Enhance Your Brand Photo Session?

As you plan for your brand photos, think about where your strengths lie. If you have a photo-ready space, then skip renting the location and focus your resources elsewhere. Stressed out over what to wear? Bring in someone who will put your mind at ease and make preparing for photos that much easier.

I always encourage my clients to enhance their photos where they feel comfortable. If the funds are available and the desire is there, investing beyond your brand photographer for your brand photos will always be worth it. You'll appreciate the quality that went into your brand photos.

And while your audience may not see specifically what you did to go above and beyond in your photos, they will absolutely see the high-quality result leaving a lasting positive impression of your brand in their minds.


Brands Pictured in this Blog Post:

Renting a Location - Peanut Butter and Fitness

Hiring Professional Hair & Makeup - The Beauty Navigator

Manicure & Pedicure - Literacy Edventures

Hiring a Stylist or Buying On-Brand Attire - Alexa Morgan Style

Fresh Props - The Kitchen Fairy



About Emily Marcella for Creative Brands

Emily Marcella is a Northern Virginia Personal Branding Photographer serving creative small business owners. Emily has a three-part approach to brand photography - together we plan strategically in order to shoot creatively and generate images that allow you to market intentionally.

Ready to Elevate your Brand with Brand Photography? Let's have a Discovery Call to Discuss Your Photo Goals!


Connect with Me on Instagram

bottom of page