Working on your online presence during the lockdown? Us too. While you may be crushing it with a website template, it can be difficult to launch a powerful website for your brand without photography. How can you show up effectively without killer photos?
Fret no more, friend, and pull out your notepad. As a professional brand and web designer, I have some tips to help you crush it with a DIY shoot so you don’t have to wait another second to get your business online. I’ve partnered with Kas, a professional brand photographer, to give you all the deets on how to take killer photos at home.
We break down:
- How to create a shotlist (+ a pinterest board for inspo)
- Gathering inspiration + props
- How to use your Smartphone or Camera for a shoot
- How to edit your photos
- Finding filters to match your brand
- Lighting 101
- Planning your colors
- Posing yourself
- Filling the gaps with stock photos
Step 1: Create a shotlist
Tatum: Planning is everything when it comes to a photoshoot, especially when you’re doing things yourself. Do some research to figure out what types of shots you need for your website and social media. Check out others who are successful in your industry and take notes on the shots used in their content. The key is to look at brands and figures you admire, even if they’re not directly in your industry. For instance, if you’re a fitness coach in the educational niche, take notes on the types of photos top figures in your industry use.
When thinking about what kind of pictures you want to snag in your shoot, think about the content you’ll be writing and putting on your site! Try to get a variety of pics that fit in each of these categories. Be sure to grab shots that you will be able to use on social media consistently as well, so think for example: Lifestyle, work, fitness, family, etc.
Now create your shotlist. This is a list of types of photos you want to capture. You’ll give these, along with reference photos to your photographer to make sure you get all the shots you need.
Pro Tip: Create a Pinterest board and begin pinning shots you love, outfits that inspire you, and aesthetics and themes. Check out our photoshoot board to get you started: https://pin.it/a6wlbekhtpvqck
Step 2: Choose your outfits and props
Tatum: For each section of content, plan either one or two outfits to go with the activity! With fitness, it’s fine if you have just one workout outfit, although I recommend throwing on a sweater or just wearing a sportsbra or something for a couple shots to break things up! You want to think versatility- you want to use these shots for a long time! So wear something simple that you feel confident in that you can use and reuse! Also, try to avoid bright and electric colors like hot pink or lime green in the shots, as this can potentially clash with your brand colors. Aim for colors you love that are on the neutral side of things. White, nudes, even blush pinks and denim, are all winners.
Props are also super important to help break up your photos and add some interest. Have a coffee mug that matches your brand colors? Maybe a dumbbell or your laptop? Using props can not only help you have photos for the different types of content you talk about on your website or social media but can also help you if you feel super awkward posing (raising my hand over here.)
Below are examples of some props I used in my shoot (with Kas!)
A note on colors
Kas: Always always ALWAYS keep your brand colors in mind when creating your brand images. This is true for stills and portraits.
A few ways to incorporate your brand colors are with the right setting/location, props (like your favorite coffee mug or water bottle), and pieces from your wardrobe.
Let’s examine a few of Shae Davis’ photos for example:
By taking a quick look at her photos, you’d probably guess she has a very neutral brand palette with some blush pink and olive green accents. This was very intentional! By choosing white walls and surfaces to shoot on, we kept things very simple and bright and it made it easy for her brand colors to really pop!
Pro tip: The simpler, the better. Solid backgrounds and walls won’t distract your audience from the subject. If you don’t have a solid wall or surface, you can simply pick up a white poster board the next time you make a grocery run, or order some from Amazon. (And don’t forget to shoot on it in natural light!!)
Step 3: Taking your photos
Smartphone or DSLR?
Kas: If you have a DSLR, GREAT. Use it and always shoot in RAW over JPEG format, especially if you’re using your favorite photographer or influencer’s presets. RAW format provides more data in each image which gives you more control as you edit. And if you are using presets, it is even more necessary that you shoot in RAW because they can make your photos look oversaturated and very low quality if they’re applied to a JPEG file. The professionals shoot in RAW, and you should, too!
Shooting with your smartphone? That’s totally acceptable. The cameras in phones have come a very long way in such a short amount of time, and if you’re not a photo nerd like me, it’s a faster process to use the camera on your phone and throw on a quick filter.
Kas: Unless you have a profound understanding of artificial light, I’d stick to the basics and shoot where there is good natural lighting in your home.
If that means you have to temporarily shift some furniture around to get the best lighting for your photos, it’s worth the hassle.
It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting with your phone or a DSLR, shooting in natural light will give you the clearest, sharpest image and illuminate the colors in the image without messing with their hue.
If you have a ring light, they can be a decent addition for self-portraits, but they aren’t a necessity (unless you’re in the beauty industry).
My secret weapon: The self-timer
Kas: Fun fact: After years of creating my own portraits (of myself and with my partner), I always get the photo I want that looks natural and has movement because I use a self-timer every single time.
Because I have a pro grade camera (Canon 5D Mark IV — only necessary for professional photographers/videographers) I can take an obscene amount of photos with my self-timer and have more control over the images than if I were using my iPhone or a DSLR with more limitations. I typically set mine to shoot a minimum of 20 frames for 20 seconds.
This allows me to push the shutter button, move in front of the lens and create natural movement in the shot. It usually gives me plenty of options so I spend less time on the redos if I’m unhappy with the first batch.
If you have a DSLR that isn’t full frame, you will probably have a smaller limit on the photos you can take with the self-timer (usually about 10). This is still plenty of frames and will help you get the shot you want.
Shooting with your smartphone? No problem. While you may not have quite as much freedom, you can still easily set the self-timer to get the image you need. I suggest using the 10 second option instead of 3 seconds so you have more time to get into the position you want.
Do you have a roommate? If the self-timer becomes too frustrating and you’re just not getting the shot you want, have your roommate help you out.
Pro tip: The best and easiest way to get the shot you want from someone else is to take a photo of them posing exactly as you plan to in your photo and then show them what you want. Point out how you framed the photo and what you were thinking when you created it, and then have them do the same for you!
Kas: This can be one of the easiest and most comfortable parts of taking your own photos for some, and a huge pain in the neck for others.
My biggest piece of advice is to keep your poses as natural as possible when you’re trying to create your own brand images from home. If you need some inspo, Jenna Kutcher is the queen of this.
Let’s say you want to show your audience a photo of you casually sitting at your desk. You don’t have to be prim and proper with your legs crossed and back pin-straight. Just let loose, fold your legs up in your chair like I know you mindlessly do when you’re working from the comfort of your own home, and flash a cheeky smile at the camera. Not comfortable looking straight into the camera? Just look out of the window (always face your source of light so people can see your beautiful mug!!) and give a little grin or a full-blown, I feel so silly doing this laugh!
A few more ideas of places you can easily pose yourself naturally at home include: sitting on the kitchen counter (if this were me, I’d include a big spoon a peanut butter in my mouth and a cup of coffee sitting on the counter next to me), sitting in the floor sitting against a wall playing with your pupper, or maybe even reading/journaling in bed.
You can also check out this Brand Photo Pinterest board for a plethora of ideas.
One last piece of advice, if forcing yourself to laugh or smile for the camera makes you cringe and feel like a phony, don’t do it!! Free yourself of any “rules” you think you need to follow and take a few photos where you’re not smiling or looking directly at the camera. You may just find this brings out the most natural version of yourself.
Step 4: Editing
Kas: If you’re using your phone, I suggest using @tezzaapp to edit as it has enough filters to fit almost any vibe you’re going for, and there are texture layers you can add to keep up with that trend if that’s your style.)
Tatum: If you’re using your computer but not a total photoshop wizard, you can download presets to match your brand style on Etsy or Creative Market! I personally use Adobe Lightroom and Lightroom for Mobile. The key is to find filters that match the vibe of your brand. For example, if your brand is bright and airy, you may not want to choose a dark and moody filter (and vice versa).
Kas: Pro tip – When you apply a filter to any of your photos, decrease their saturation/filter by at least half. When you click on any of the filters, you can use the slider at the bottom to dilute the filter a bit, DO THIS. Less is ALWAYS more and it’s sooo much easier to make it flow well in your feed and on your website with *professional* photos with *professional* edits. Adding too much saturated color (without having a solid understanding of color theory and color psychology) can compromise your overall aesthetic. Not to mention, it cheapens things, and you don’t want your brand to look cheap, especially if you’re charging premium prices.
Step 5: Using your photos
Tatum: Now it’s time to plug your killer brand photos into your website and social! If you’re using one of our templates, there are a few important things to consider when utilizing your brand photography!
For page headers (that big photo at the top of your web pages), landscape (horizontal) shots often work best as this fits the space well. Try to use a shot that conveys energy, like a photo of you laughing, working out, or doing something that conveys the energy of your brand (ie: laughter, joy, power, motivation). View the examples of some of my client’s sites below:
If you’re struggling to find a photo that allows you to put your text over it (maybe the photo is too dark or busy), try putting gradient over your photo to allow you to put text over the image. Example from one of my clients below.
Filling in the gaps with stock photos
Tatum: Still in need of some quality shots? Stock photos can be a great way to match your brand and fill the gaps in your website and social media (I personally use them all the time!). The key is to search for photos look like they match your brand and don’t look like you pulled them from a stock photo site. Use search terms like “flat lay” “your brand color flat lay” “your industry”.
My favorite free resources:
My favorite paid resources:
With the right tools, grabbing great shots at home is totally doable. All you need is a smartphone and some strategy. And hey, we want to see what you come up with! Tag us with your at-home photos so we can share them. You can find us at @brandtcreativeco and @thehumblelion_
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