Photos can make or break your digital project. One of my favorite methods of making sites feel fresh and different is to use custom photography. Wherever possible I try to avoid using stock photos – nothing worse than using the same old tired photo you see on every other site! I recommend that clients create their own custom stockpile of images. (Bonus: unlike grabbing photos from a stock photo site, you can determine how you use the photos when you negotiate your agreement with your photographer!)
A few years back, I booked a pro photo shoot with Christa Meola. I’ve done a few other quickie photo shoots, but this was my first full-fledged devoted shoot for my brand. I needed pro imagery for speaking and consulting gigs and I needed “grownup” imagery for promotional materials and my website.
Here are my tips for getting the most out of your photo shoot.
Do your homework
When I did my other photo shoots, I honestly didn’t put any major thought into it – I just showed up. The first shoot I did I didn’t even wear clothes that reflected my personality or colors (I didn’t bring enough options and had to borrow some – and they just weren’t my style).
With my second shoot, I only had an hour – and the only thing I really focused on was the location. I knew I wanted to be shot in front of the art museum next to my house – and we got a couple of great shots that I’ve used for the last couple of years.
This time around, we had a real collaborative process. Christa had me set-up a Pinterest inspiration board. A few weeks before my shoot we reviewed my board and she keyed in on several looks and combos.
KEY TIP: look for poses, makeup and outfits that resonate with you. Just as you would design websites, you’re gonna find inspiration in a variety of places. SPEND time on this – it will help you determine outfits, colors and even makeup and hair looks. I fell in love with one image of a strong woman in a trench coat – so I went out and bought a simple black trench coat – and got one of my favorite shots as a result!
Create a shot list
When planning a big photoshoot (especially if you’re on a team), make a document with inspirational images to share your vision and ideas with your photographer.
Plan how you’re going to use the photos
I’m at a point in my business and career where I need fresh, interesting imagery for all of my upcoming projects. I knew I wanted specific key shots, colors and styles for my new branding.
Most website headers will require horizontal images, with space either planned to the right or left for text and content. Then I needed new pro profile shots for all of my various social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Gravatar, Instagram and don’t forget LinkedIn!) Finally, I’m speaking and consulting a lot more – and I need great shots for conference websites, webinars and other promo materials. Those are typically more vertically oriented shots. Christa’s a pro and worked with ton of online entrepreneurs, so she knew to get different types of shots – but some photographers focus solely on vertical portrait work, so make sure you know what kinds of shots you need.
KEY TIP: Make sure to get some simple, clean head and body shots! I’ve had clients do photoshoots outdoors where the backgrounds compete with their image. If you’re going to do outdoor shots, make sure to get a few shots on a simple background for easy use in various applications. That graffiti wall might be a fun backdrop, but it’s going to look out of place on a conference website.
Do a mini pre-shoot
This is one thing I really wish I had done for my first photo shoots! A few days before my real shoot, I tried on every outfit option (including shoes and jewelry) so I could snap iPhone picks and share them with Christa. She could tell at a glance what would work and what wouldn’t – and how she could pose me.
Show up rested and focused
Take off an entire day – seriously. A photo shoot (especially with multiple outfits and locations) is going to take at least a few hours and you’re going to be exhausted by the end. I was in hair and makeup for almost three hours and the shoot itself lasted another few hours. I slept well that night!
I have clients that think a shoot is always going to take an hour tops. But you have to plan for clothing changes, moving locations, lighting adjustments – and breaks! The more positions and changes you want, the longer it’s going to take.
Come with ideas, but allow for creative freedom
I knew I had a few looks I wanted to get down (I thought I really wanted hard and edgy) – and Christa humored me by replicating a few of the postures I really loved… but she also insisted on posing me a few other ways. And guess what – the photos I loved the best were the ones she inspired.
The dark and edgy concept I liked translated into some of my favorite looks – Christa was able to capture some amazing shots on the darker backgrounds. A bonus of working with Christa? She’s worked with tons of women (and various body shapes) so she’s able to shoot the most flattering positions. I’m so inspired with the new imagery and I can’t wait to use it in my new work!
I love Rent the Runway for getting high quality outfits for your photoshoot. It’s a great way to play with color and texture ideas (without spending thousands of dollars on clothes that you might not wear again). It’s also great for getting fun conference or special event clothes without blowing your budget.