The Secret to Small Business Success
No matter what business you're in, whether you're providing a service, or selling a product, there is one huge, terribly kept secret and the sooner you figure it out, the sooner you can start making the money you want to give you the freedom you crave.
The secret is: figure out who your ideal client is.
I know what it’s like: you want business photographs but you’re currently terrified. Planning a personal branding shoot should be slightly scary – you’re doing a huge thing by taking a leap of faith and casting you and your values into the world.
But it should be exciting too. Really exciting: this is your opportunity to market yourself!
I think I can guess which questions you’re asking yourself right now: What should I wear? How should I style my hair? Which poses are best? And if you haven’t yet booked a photographer, the crucial one: which photographer should I book?
But these aren’t the questions you should start with.
Instead, consider who it is you are marketing yourself for: Who is your ideal client? What do they want to see? How can you construct the story they want to read? When you venture into personal brand photography, your aim is to tell your story in such a way that your ideal clients feel they can’t get enough of you.
You came here for the secret ingredient of personal branding and now I’m going show you, with four case studies, all quite different, which show you how you can convey your brand story and messages by using your ideal client as your inspiration.
Working with Saturday School, based in Glasgow, has been interesting: Graeme, the director, is my husband. Planning took a different approach to usual in that it was more adhoc; the photoshoot was arranged at a time I was available, and which coincided with showcasing a typical Saturday School session.
Saturday School is a tutoring school for National 5 and Higher courses and SQA Approved Centre, so a typical week has different types of learning taking place. This means that Saturday School’s ideal client straddles three areas:
Teenagers who are studying an SQA course at home, school or college and require extra support to reach their full potential
Parents of teenagers who want additional measures in place to ensure their children do as well as they can
Anyone in need of a National 5 Maths or National 5 or Higher English course – for personal achievement, entry to university, career changes etc.
Graeme already has a great set of headshots and we felt that while it was important that potential customers recognised him as the “face” of the company, it was more important to give them an insight to what Saturday School is and how it operates. While Graeme did steal the limelight for a few minutes, the overall feel of the images produced is more documentary, capturing students and tutors working and interacting in order to present classes as they really are. Our approach was really simple and enjoyable.
The first part of the session captured the National 5 Maths class; but particularly, one of the two tutors and his friendly, engaging and encouraging manner with the students.
The second focused on Graeme, working on his wider role for the company as he finalised administration, logistics and preparation for his own class which was scheduled to run in the second session.
Finally, photographs were taken of the other tutors teaching classes and students engaged in their learning, listening, thinking and writing.
My work with Saturday School is a nice reminder that brand photography should be relaxed. It showcases that the story of a brand can still be shared by presenting a company as it is really is and how it really operates.
The Gannet, in Glasgow, has been one of my favourite shoots, ever– I’m a foodie and one of my interests outside of photography is experiencing Michelin Starred dining, so having the opportunity to be in the kitchen of one of my favourite restaurants during service was quite incredible.
The portfolio of photographs produced tell a story which effectively reveals the values and work ethics of The Gannet’s staff. It’s obvious that the team are driven, dedicated and passionate, therefore, they’ll appeal to potential clients who want a brilliant service, attention to detail and superb quality.
The photography was scheduled over three sessions:
For the first, I photographed the final touches to the restaurant, which had undergone renovation while forced to close during the pandemic, and a pre-service – where the chefs cooked dishes from the menu, refining details and ascertaining timings, before passing the dishes to the front house staff to sample and learn about.
The second session was in my photography studio in Finnieston, Glasgow– a quick walk from The Gannet – where individual headshots were taken of the chefs, kitchen porters and front of house staff.
And finally – and the bit which was most exciting – was a real service on a very busy Wednesday evening.
Even after 15 minutes, I could see how the photographs were going to fit together and the merging of three separate, but interconnected narratives were unfolding in my mind; what I hadn’t expected was to be able to convey the energy of the kitchen, the relationships between the staff, the tensions which mounted as pressure increased...
In a world where people are so keen to experience how things really are, images like these are gold dust: they ensure potential customers feel familiar and comfortable with a place before they’ve even stepped through the door.
Sarah, from Sadie B Copy, is a professional and passionate copywriter from Aberdeen who wanted to make the most of the autumn colours, to tie in with her brand. She travelled to me in Glasgow to do so!
Sarah’s role meant that the fort was wide open in terms of styles and poses; what we needed to convey was warmth and professionalism.
Hiring a copywriter is a very personal thing: you need to make sure they can write in a way which connects with your audience and so it’s essential that they connect with you to begin with. How do you convey this in images while still showing someone to be professional, articulate and committed? (See how we managed it here: Portfolio)
Our shoot started in Lanarkshire in the remote(ish), Colzium Lennox Estate. We used the outdoors to draw out connections with reflection and to show her as someone who enjoys being outside and being in nature – which is a true presentation of how she is.
We also wanted to show a more relaxed side to her, the one who is content to drink a coffee on a park bench and watch the world go by or write down her thoughts or play around with the people important to her. From this we were able to show Sarah as approachable but also intellectual without needing excessive paraphernalia or props (just a hot coffee straight from Tim Hortons, poured into her favourite travel mug and a few notebooks.)
The second part of our photo session included two coffee shops. The first was the quirky Ottoman Coffeehouse on Berkeley Street – an unassuming, ornately decorated haven in Glasgow; while the second was a favourite oasis during Sarah’s university days, Tinderbox. We choose two differing places to show slightly different things:
With Ottoman Coffeehouse, we wanted her to appear more casual, the way that would be when enjoying a drink with friends and the setting allowed for this in a way which could have be deliberately staged for us.
Sarah’s associations with Tinderbox were of a place to study and so it seemed a natural fit to use the space as her work area – the kind of location where she’d meet and chat to clients, work on planning, client copy and even her own development.
At the end of our photoshoot we headed back to my studio where we’d planned to do more posed images. I think of the studio as the place for more “professional” style shots but it has other benefits: I have complete control over the lighting which means I can make minor or major adjustments depending on what we want to evoke; and having a small, private space, gives us the freedom to practice poses and expressions without nervousness or fear of being observed by others. In Sarah’s case, the quiet studio space enabled her to fully interact with the camera and the images of her looking into the lens really allow her to connect with her audience, giving her photographs an intensity that really draw you in. The result is that her studio shots stand out – they really are scroll stopping; perfect for social media.
Chelsea - a company director, public speaker, mentor and STEM enthusiast – entailed lots of brain power for us to work hard to identify her ideal client: with so many different branches, she has a variety of them. However, a few chats led us to the conclusion that Chelsea is keen to work with women, particularly those looking to start, develop or maintain careers within in STEM, and so we felt that it was important to show her as someone approachable and warm but without downplaying her confidence, intelligence and determination.
After some deliberation, three locations were decided on: Eurocentral, Locker 1012 on Argyle Street, Glasgow, and my Glasgow studio. We kept the studio last to prevent any time restrictions, as I have 24/7 access to it – not that I’m often there at unsociable hours!
Eurocentral turned out to be perfect! Quiet, giving Chelsea the space to ease into life in front of the camera; and modern, with huge glass buildings, adorned with mini gardens and water features – there’s even a small waterfall. Such a great location meant we could present Chelsea in a real-life work environment and as someone professional, without having to be inside an office. Our aim with these images was to instil confidence in her as an expert in her field and ensure that people interested in working with her could immediately sense her drive, determination and work ethic, while still viewing Chelsea as someone with a vibrant personality they could connect and enjoy spending time with.
Next up was to show Chelsea in a more relaxed environment and to show her as she would be working on things at home or in cafés – blog posts, marketing and preparing for presentations and events. Chelsea had seen my images from a recent shoot with Gail Lively Coaching and loved them, particularly the colours and the flower wall and as they had been so brilliant the first time round, it was really exciting to be able to contact Locker 1012 again to arrange a second photoshoot. With these images, what we really wanted to convey was a relaxed work environment, so that potential clients could envisage themselves sitting opposite Chelsea, inspired and comfortable in her presence.
The final photo session is where we wanted professional. It’s a big deal being a company director and we really wanted to play on the confidence, drive and determination it takes someone to reach such a point in their lives – and then sustain it successfully. Moreover, we didn’t want to suddenly turn cold and stark; Chelsea is bubbly and personable and in a brand shoot it’s crucial to reduce the tensions between personality and brand values, as well as drawing on the ideal client to construct images (and therefore stories), accurately portraying you as you are and as you want to be seen by others.
See her gallery here: Portfolio.
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