Brand Photographer or a Portrait Photographer?

Choosing between a Brand Photographer and a Portrait Photographer (Who Also Does Branding)? Read This First.

At some point in this entrepreneurship journey, you realized that you needed to show your face more. Word on the street is it’s crucial for building that like/know/trust factor that gets paying clients in the door. Now every other entrepreneur you know is posting gorgeous, laughing professional pictures of themselves on Instagram. 

Meanwhile, your pictures are, well, lacking. So you did what any good small business owner does, you went looking for a good photographer. Now you find yourself faced with a multitude of choices….and questions.

Do I need headshots or visuals? What are brand visuals anyway? Why do different photography types vary so much in price? Is it really worth the investment? How is a portrait photographer different from a brand photographer? Which one do I need for my business? 

Or maybe you’ve had some photos taken, but you didn’t get the results you thought you would. And now you find yourself preparing to spend even more money to try to correct your mistake. Before you go any further in choosing a photographer, let’s take time to learn the differences. 

Woman wearing jeans and a sweater is blurred from moving quickly across a bedroom. She considers why you should choose a brand photographer over a portrait photographer for your brand photos.

Portraits, Headshots, and Brand Photography: What They Have In Common and What They Don’t

Let’s start with some definitions. 

Headshot: a photograph of a person’s head and shoulders. 

Portrait: a photograph of a person. 

Brand Photo: a photograph of a person or business used to form a brand identity for marketing materials.

So while all three of them do deal with photographing a person, they vary in:

Composition: Headshots are limited to head and shoulders. A portrait can be of a whole body, but they still tend to lean toward formal, while brand photos can be a little quirky. 

Purpose: Headshots are often used for things like LinkedIn profile pics, but not much more. Portraits can be hung on the wall or posted on social media. But brand photos have a much broader use and are used to make connections with potential clients and customers. 

Intention: Both portraits and headshots simply portray a person, but brand photos are the only ones that strategically reveal who you are, how you work, what you offer, and the unique value you provide to your clients/customers.

Planning: Besides wardrobe choices and hair/makeup, there’s not much planning done for headshots and portraits. For brand photos, a large amount of time is spent researching your brand and presence and narrowing in on your needs.

A portrait photographer has hired a brand photographer for her photo session at home. She has long red hair and works from her desk, reaching for a cup of coffee.

So why shouldn’t you get your branding photos from a portrait photographer (who also happens to do branding)? 

For the same reason you don’t get brain surgery from your primary care physician (who also happens to know a little neurology). You want the expert. 

Brand Photography: Research + Planning

Unlike a portrait or headshot photographer, a brand photographer specializes in branding and marketing. 

The focus of your session is on positioning your brand for success, so we’re going to put in a lot of strategic work guiding you up to and through shoot day. We’re going to spend time researching your brand and presence. We’re going to think about the bigger picture. And most importantly, we’re going to be here to plan and assist you throughout the process, instead of just showing up for your session and hoping for the best.

Want to feel prepared? Here are some of the things we consider during the research phase:

  • your goals 

What are you hoping to achieve through this process?  What are your short-term and long-term goals for your business? 

  • your struggles

What problems are you facing that brand photos could help you fix or overcome? Do you need to better communicate your value? Get clearer about the kind of work you do? Help your ideal client see themselves working with you? Reveal more insight into your process?

  • your brand aesthetic + messaging

How can brand photos help align the two? It’s important to create cohesion here that can help further your brand message and get you to the next level of your business.

  • your content needs

Where are the gaps where visuals would help? Where can we use them to elevate your business? How can we use these photos to build your like/know/trust factor with ideal clients? 

A woman with short hair sits on the floor wearing an apron as she places a plant inside a new pot with soil at her brand photo session in Austin.

What Brand Photographers Do Differently (+ why I do it)

  • Educate themselves about brand messaging. I consider myself a lifelong learner. By continuing to educate myself on brand messaging and overall brand strategy, I as a brand photographer continue to serve as a true resource for you.
  • Ensure a strategy-led shoot. I’m going to think about the strategy for your session A LOT. The mood, the wardrobe choices, your posing/expressions, the set styling, the composition, and the actions you’re performing in the imagery are all factors that I consider. I’m going to help you make the most educated decisions that will achieve the goals you have for the shoot. 
  • Dig into your online presence and website. I want to make sure I have a good sense of what you need and where you are currently so that I don’t lose who you ARE in the process. Even though there’s an emphasis on strategy, this is still a personalized process, so the true you should still come through.
  • Seek fresh inspiration for shoots. Inspiration should NOT come from what everyone else is doing in your industry. I look outside the obvious places for inspiration to see what new perspectives and creative ideas I can bring you. 
  • Share, share, share. I’ve curated a valuable resource guide to help you get started with brand strategy, and it is a fan-favorite with my clients. 
  • Check-in often. I’m going to be following up with you throughout the process and making sure we stay on the same page and that you’re excited about where your photos can take your business. 
  • Be your personal business cheerleader and heartfelt support system. Your success is my success. I’m rooting for you. 

Choosing a brand photographer that offers the expertise and strategy you need will make all the difference. If you’re in the Austin, Texas area, be sure to check out the heartfelt brand experience

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