Want to upgrade your social media images? Here are the Dos and Don’ts of brand photography in a digital world.
Social media has changed so much about the way we communicate, purchase, market our businesses and interact as a society — and it’s also had a profound effect on the way we shoot brand photography.
We’ve all had that moment where we spend way too much time scrolling social media, only to feel the inevitable comparison anxiety start to come on. In those moments, you’ve probably had friends assure you that social media is simply a “highlight reel” of the best moments of your friends’ lives. (Totally true, btw!)
We typically don’t post about the embarrassing failures of our daily lives; instead, we limit our sharing to images and status updates we want to celebrate and publicize. And that’s created a “highlight reel effect” that’s changed the way we present ourselves in photography. More than ever, we want to present our best selves online, without seeming like we spent too much time getting that perfect Instagram shot.
Well, that “highlight reel effect” has started creeping into the way we showcase our brands on social media, as well. That’s why, today, we’re diving into the dos and don’ts of creating the perfect brand photography for your social media strategy.
Brand Photography: DO THIS
Essentially, the goal of modern brand photography is to: 1) be so perfectly beautiful that people are compelled to engage with the content, and 2) capture the real daily moments of your brand. Think “slice of life” photography with a flawless Insta filter slapped on top, and you’ve nailed modern visual marketing.
So let’s talk about how to create it!
1. Find the happy medium between posed and candid.
You know that classic Insta photo of a person laughing over a cup of coffee, complete with perfect natural lighting and fully done hair and makeup?
It looks oh-so candid yet way too flattering to actually be caught in the moment. (Where are the double chins that usually accompany a truly spontaneous belly laugh?!)
That, honey, is the hallmark of social media imagery.
Since the “highlight reel effect” has started to creep from the personal and into the professional spaces of social media, we now see tons of brands striking that same balance with their imagery and marketing. The casually perfect image has become the Holy Grail of marketing.
Today’s brand photography strikes the perfect balance between professionally posed/retouched images with a seemingly candid style. The goal is to showcase the absolute best of yourself without looking posed. After all, you don’t want anyone thinking you tried too hard to get that perfect Insta shot, do you?
2. Aim for as much variation as possible.
Another way social media has changed the way we shoot brand photography is the sheer volume of images an average business needs to keep up with their marketing goals.
With social media marketers recommending multiple posts across multiple channels every day, brands need way more images than they used to. And they also need a wide range of variety to keep their feeds interesting, engaging and effective.
That’s why, at SchlickArt, we often recommend our Cityscape Professional Portrait Session for brands that are amping up their social media presence. One of our most versatile shoots, Cityscapes can be shot at two classic Santa Clarita locations, as well as in and around your office building.
Since we’re outside the studio, we have endless opportunities for fresh backgrounds — from a blank wall to your office lobby to a cool, textured alley. We can shoot inside your office, in front of the exterior, or around your location. And every shot is going to have a different background and feel.
In additional to the wealth of backgrounds, Cityscapes also include a wardrobe change to create variation in your look. We’ve also had clients use props, such as their laptop or signature mug, to create personalized touches you can’t find anywhere else.
Bottom line: With Cityscapes, you can capture months of branded social media images in a single, hour-long shoot.
3. Stay within the confines of your brand.
Another trend you’ll notice from social media, specifically on Instagram, is highly branded feeds. For example, the images on a person’s feed may have different locations, outfits, expressions, etc. Yet they all have the same general coloring and feeling.
Maybe all the images are bright and airy with natural light, giving the feed a fun, inviting vibe. Or they could be gritty with darker tones and high contrast, giving the feed an edgy feel. Either way, all the images fall in line with a particular style and general color palette.
This is another balancing act you’ll want to consider while planning your brand photography. You want to achieve variety; however, you want everything to be edited similarly.
Our best advice is to think about your brand from head to toe. What do you wear when you interact with clients? How does your personality shine through into your brand? What kind of client do you want to attract? Are you a luxury brand or an everyday brand? Serious or fun?
4. Play with expression.
When shooting brand photography for social media, it’s always fun to play with different kinds of expressions. Whereas a professional portrait needs to appear, well, professional, social media images have a wider range of purposes.
For example, you might need an excited expression when you announce a launch, but when you’re teasing the launch, you could use an “I have a secret” expression. If your brand deals with sensitive or serious issues, then you’ll need some expressions to complement blogs on those topics. Or you may want to show people what a “day in the life” looks like with a contemplative expression that shows you hard at work.
Since brand photos are used for so much more than your business card and website, you’ll need to think about the tone of your most common social media posts, and play with your expressions accordingly.
5. Consider your marketing goals.
Just like you’ll want to anticipate the different expressions you’ll need, you also want to think about all the different uses of your brand photography. Are you going to use the photos for social media, websites, launches, blogs, email campaigns, for-sale signs? How will they be used? Which part of your marketing plan most needs fresh imagery?
For example, if you’re launching a blog, you may need multiple horizontal images that can fill the space at the top of your website. Conversely, if you’re using the image for a for-sale sign on a new listing, you’ll want different vertical images and standing poses to fit the shape of your sign.
While you don’t need to think too much into this, it can be helpful to anticipate the needs of your upcoming marketing campaigns.
Brand Photography: DON’T DO THIS
Now that we’ve covered the basics of effective brand photography, let’s talk about the common mistakes that can detract from your business’ visual brand. Here are the don’ts!
1. Lifestyle doesn’t mean unprofessional.
While there’s absolutely a place for selfies and on-the-go shots of your morning coffee or fitness routine, you don’t necessarily want your social media to solely consist of unbranded images.
Like anything in life and business, the key is balance. If your brand is more personal — you’re the face of your company, and that’s why people follow you — then you can get away with more of the super casual, candid images.
If you’re a luxury or lifestyle brand, however, you’ll want a heavier focus on professional brand photography that captures you, your staff, customers, products and locations.
Bottom line: There’s a place, time and frequency for all styles of images on social media. Just make sure your brand is presented according to a strategy — not a frenzied need for “something to post” with a slapdash approach of whatever images you have on hand.
2. Overdo it with stock images.
Stock images, or the generic images you can purchase online, can be extremely useful for social media, and they are great to fill in the gaps when you don’t have quite the right image.
If your branded images are starting to feel overused, stock images can also be a great solution to keep up with the content wheel until you can get your hands on some fresh branded images.
However, there are two things you want to be careful of when using stock imagery in your branding and social media. First, be careful of relying solely on stock images to beef up your social media feed. Today, people want to connect to your brand — not just buy from it — and that means they want to see you, your staff, products, customers and location. A lack of personalization can affect your engagement.
Second, make sure you’re not using stock images in a misleading way. For example, if you own a flower shop, don’t post generic images of flower arrangements that aren’t available at that time. If you’re a wedding planner, try to post images from the weddings you’ve worked on, rather than relying too much on stock images. Your social media profile, after all, is like your digital storefront. Use that valuable space to showcase the actual products or services you most want to sell.
3. Use too much artificial lighting.
While this one may seem oddly specific, brand photography is trending toward the light, airy, organic feel of natural lighting, especially when it comes to social media. Why? This goes back to the trend of gorgeous professional images that look and feel candid.
The whole idea is that you’re showing your audience a glimpse of your working life. It’s supposed to feel somewhat real, while also gorgeously perfect. In real life, you don’t have a full team of photographers and professional lighting following you around. You make do with what you have, which is usually natural light, and then you slap a filter on top to make it look flawless. To capture that feeling and align with the trend, you’ll likely want natural lighting when possible.
At SchlickArt, we always shoot with natural lighting. While we might bring in professional lighting to fill out the natural lighting in some cases, our goal is always to shoot naturally whenever possible.
That might mean we schedule your shoot at a specific time, when the light is hitting your office or conference room from a specific angle, rather than settling for a full set of artificial lighting.
Additionally, our Cityscape sessions are shot early in the morning to take advantage of the best light of the day. Cityscapes are also shot outdoors, unless you would like to shoot inside your office.
SchlickArt Brand Photography: Cityscape Professional Portraits
If you’re looking for brand photography that captures and engages your audience, our Cityscape Professional Portraits session is designed to give you a portfolio of lifestyle images that are as professional as they are on trend with the influence of social media.
The shoot is scheduled early in the morning to get the very best glowy lighting of the day. It’s an on-location shoot that allows us to capture as many different textures and backgrounds as we need. We also include a wardrobe change to give you different outfits to play with. Yet at the same time, we approach your entire set of images with the same signature SchlickArt style that will give your brand photography uniform, cohesive look.
About SchlickArt Photography and Video
SchlickArt, a boutique photo and video studio in Santa Clarita, started in March 2012 with the simple idea that empowerment creates a kind of beauty and authenticity that shines through every camera lens. Built on a philosophy — rather than a product, service or person — SchlickArt has rapidly evolved, meeting professional portraiture, business photo and business video needs as diverse as the community we capture. It’s the desire to take care of you, the client, that drives us at SchlickArt.