Your online identity is a multi-faceted collection of you, your big ideas, the talent, skills and knowhow that you’ve turned into a useful product, and the witty “Gilmore-Girl-esk" copy you’ve written to connect with your dream clients. You have put a lot into the creation of your logo, you website, your blog content and that collection of humorous tweets you can’t wait to send out into the world. This is the right track, and you’re a run-away train headed in the right direction. Your brand is ready to be launched….almost.
A brand has been defined in a lot of different ways. Some people feel that you just need a cleverly designed, beautiful logo and you’re all set. But the truth is, that is just the wrapper.
Author and entrepreneur Seth Godin describes a brand this way: “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
Your brand is the complete story that you tell to your dream clients. It is all about how you make them feel. And that is wrapped up in true connection with them, many times in ways they never would have expected.
One of the best ways to forge that type of connection is to put a face to your brand…not just any face; not just a logo. Your face. Your dream customers want to see you, get to know you and feel connected to you, the force behind your brand, your logo and your product. A brand-consistent portrait might just be your missing link.
There are a couple different ways to make this a reality. You could go to any portrait studio and walk out with a canned “corporate portrait.” You could ask a friend who “just loves taking pictures” to come over, who would then stand you under the tree in your backyard and the pictures would look like you really super-duper love trees.
Or you could follow my simple tips for “On-Brand Selfies” and make some magic happen on your own that will help you tell your story and finalize your visual identity.
Research: Look at your favorite creatives online and take note of what draws you to them.
Maybe you’ll notice things like poses, props, lighting that really make the image. Be aware of those details as you search and make a note of things you want to try. Pinterest is a great place to look also. Perhaps start a board just for portrait inspiration.
Plan Your Pictures: Go back to the process you went through when creating your logo.
What are your brand colors? What is your brand story? What type of connection are you hoping to make? Take those elements into account when planning your shoot. I would suggest setting aside a good chunk of time to take the actual pictures. Plan out what you’re going to wear according to your brand colors, and think about little details too, like your nail polish colors and jewelry. Put together 3 different looks and pair each look with 5 ideas that you pulled from your research to try.
Find the Light: Because you're a photographer, you know the difference good light can make on a picture. Strong direct sunlight can make you squint or cast shadows on you that distract from your shot; too dark and you loose detail. I suggest finding your “magic hour” which is the time just after sunrise or just before sunset where the light is soft and gorgeous. There is even an app available that will tell you exactly when that “magic hour” starts and ends at your location. Or simply spend some time moving around your shooting location to find the softest light available. Depending on the time of day, I shoot with the fence in my backyard as my background, or the wall by my front door. Just play with the light and experiment to find what matches your intent the best.
Taking the Pictures: And notice that I specified “pictures” - plural. That really is the key to taking great selfies…take a TON of them! Take double, no triple, the amount you think you’ll need. I promise there will be surprising gems in there if you just keep shooting! For the best quality, use the main camera on your phone and play with the timer feature, or set your DSLR up on a tripod. That way you can set it up and run into place to get more than just your face in the picture, if that is one of your ideas to try. Keep it fluid. Move your body, play with your hair or accessories, smile, smirk, laugh, look directly at the camera, or don’t. Just play and have fun with it. Keep your ideas in mind that you researched and try specific poses and framing. This part can be so much fun…and because its a selfie you don’t have to feel embarrassed. Its just you and your camera. Pro Tip: lightly touch your middle finger to your thumb if you’re having one of those “what do I do with my hands” moments!
Brand-Consistent Editing: With all of the amazing apps we have at our disposal, brand consistent editing is easier than ever. My favorites are Afterlight, PicTapGo, and the newest app from the ladies of A Beautiful Mess: A Color Story. These apps come with lots of different filters that you can adjust, and basic tools like sharpen, brighten and contrast to make your pictures pop. A Color Story even has curves (if you're a photoshop lover and enjoy the control that gives you). Here is where you can really play with your brand colors. But once you play and find a filter combo that works for you, your brand and your story stick to it! Use it constantly on the images you shot that you just love and any future picture you use for your brand (think Instagram or blog post pictures). Tell a consistent visual story. The goal is for your dream customers to see your face and your images and recognize you and your brand instantly, fall in love with what you have to offer and share it with all their friends.
And now you have a complete online visual identity. Select one or two of your final edited images to use on all platforms. Use it as your profile picture on Facebook and Twitter. Share it on Instagram. Put it in your blog sidebar. Add it to your email signature. Think of all the places you want to connect and do connect with your dream clients. Put your face out there. Tell your brand story through your smile. Embrace who you are as the person behind your brand that your dream clients can’t wait to get to know. And just watch as you find your people, build your following and make a true connection.
This article was written as a submission for Clever Darling Magazine and was included in the most recent online issue. You can read my article over there with some additional images and more great articles from other babes in business for inspiration and motivation. Be sure to bookmark it for future issues! Thanks to the editor, Zie for including me.