Girls on film! How to nail a branding shoot
Ever toyed with the idea of a personal branding shoot? Then you'll want to read this. Putting your face out there is daunting, but it's the future. Muddy Editor Sophie (a habitual camera-ducker) tried it out - want to know what it's like? Read on (*** PLUS WIN! *** Scroll down to win a £590 shoot too.)
Personal branding seems to be the buzzword on everyone’s lips right now. Whether you’re a plucky entrepreneur building a brand, an established business with looks to keep up or a social media butterfly doin’ it for the ‘Gram’, putting your own face out there is the key to likes, leads and longevity.
Love or loathe the intimacy of it all, what you put out there can be your strongest asset, or your biggest faux pas. It’s a fairly terrifying fact that we make a stay-or-go judgement on a website in just 0.05 seconds, so looking the part can be make or break.
I’m the first to admit I love a filter as much as the next woman, I mean, who doesn’t? But I’ve thought many times recently how nice it would be to have a portfolio of professionally-shot images – without those predictably obvious filters – to whack up on my website or socials at a second’s notice. And I’m not the only one; judging by an increasing number of sites, getting some wow-factor images to front your brand is so 2022. Step forward Michelle Morris, a portrait photographer who does gorgeous shoots on her Worcestershire farm (see here when I visited), and also offers personal branding shoots that set you up with a stunning bank of go-to images.
So what’s it all about? Dispense with any preconceptions you may have of cringey headshots and stiff smiles. These shoots are about showcasing your personality. Never knowingly shy to jump on a fun new trend, and having never done one before, I decided to book in with Michelle for The Showcase (£790), which got me a 3 hour shoot, 2 locations, 5 outfit changes and 100 images (enough for even critical me to be happy with surely!).
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Once I’d picked the package, there was a super-helpful Zoom call with Michelle where she chats about what you want to achieve and walks you through the shoot process. I’ll be honest, as a natural introvert I’m way more comfortable hiding behind the laptop so I was slightly apprehensive, but she couldn’t have been nicer, reassuring me that this is how everybody feels when they do one, which definitely helped me enjoy it.
Friendly and easy to chat to, within minutes I was laying bare my irrational inner fears (oh god… but the roots, the wrinkles, the bad side/s!). But she describes her superpower as being able to ‘get people to relax in front of the camera’ (being half English and half French she calls it her ‘je ne sais quoi‘) and I soon got over it, as the chat turned into what I wanted to end up with (just some lovely, natural shots).
There’s also a business branding questionnaire to fill out, so by the time you rock up for your shoot she really gets your business, your passions and how you want to come across. The location can be anywhere you fancy; for some that might be a home studio, funky work space or favourite cafe, you can even opt for the rustic backdrop of her farm near Worcester.
The natural habitat of your faithful Muddy Editor? A buzzy cocktail bar, of course! So we pinned down two favourite places that I love to spend time – The Ivy Montpellier and The Queen’s Hotel in Cheltenham – and set a date.
WHAT TO WEAR?
I’m that woman who always looks like she should have booked an extra cargo plane on a two-day mini-break – indecisive doesn’t come close. But thankfully Michelle takes the stress out of the dress. I ran the choices past her – quite literally the entire contents of my wardrobe – but she was un-phased and incredibly patient, helping me narrow down some looks and nail a capsule collection of outfits and colours for the day. I felt she really ‘got’ me, which is pretty important when your image(s) are in someone else’s hands – especially if you’re not sure what your ‘look’ actually is.
Her advice? ‘Dress as if you’re meeting the girls for a night out’ she told me, ‘but whatever you do, do you. A branding shoot isn’t the time to be trying a whole new look’. Pretty sage advice I decided, making myself step away from the ASOS liquid-leggings I nearly panic-bought at the last minute.
Instead, together we created a visual mood-board which was a helpful reference point for the shoot. If you’re super kean and like to micro manage things, you can provide your own shot list, but I was more than happy for her to direct me as it’s something she is very good at. Another thing I loved was her attention to the small stuff, suggesting some great props and accessories to bring along to tell the story (pink stilettos, check; pink ipad, check).
ON THE DAY – THE SHOOT
From the get go, the shoot was a relaxed experience. After an initial chat and a coffee, we set about taking the shots, but the clicks were interspersed with so much conversation and laughter that I barely noticed I was posing.
‘Who’s your celebrity crush?’ she quizzed. Ermm, *cue panic-celeb naming*, ‘Daniel Craig meets Leonardo di Caprio?’ I say (sorry, weird I know), ‘They’ve just walked in for your date!’ she exclaimed. This kind of fun banter lasted throughout our shoot, along with bags of encouragement and reassurance that I didn’t look (totally) cringe, and some great tips for relaxing.
Plus I loved that as we went along she periodically showed me the images we’d taken to gauge what I thought, a nice touch that made the process feel really collaborative.
We choose two venues fairly close together so we could walk between the two, and she’d obviously done her homework in advance, as we ended up with some stunning backdrops and backgrounds which I loved.
The shoot was full of spontaneity too, enroute to our second venue for example she spotted the most beautiful colourful boutique where she took some extra impromptu shots that we hadn’t even factored in.
It was pretty thrilling when my inbox pinged with a drop box of multiple beautiful images just days later. I loved poring over what we’d got with a glass of wine in hand that evening, and getting around 100 means there’s always good ones to outweigh any you just don’t like.
The results were even better than I’d dared hope, I never feel like the most photogenic person in the room, but she’d captured me in a relaxed and natural way that I loved. You also get a bespoke app sent to you which downloads straight onto your mobile, giving you easy access to your pics, which I thought was a very cool idea.
The whole experience from initial Zoom to the day of the shoot was tremendous fun; I came away feeling like I’d had had a giggle for two hours. Any awkward poses I’d feared I’d end up doing just didn’t happen. If you want an instant go-to set of images which you can use across social media channels, your blog, your website, your Tinder profile!, then it’s such a good idea – it’s perfect for anyone wanting to take their business to the next level.
In terms of whether it’s worth splashing the cash, well, it’s the price of a couple of nights away at a posh hotel. But you get the return of having a set of images to use for years to come which has to be a really good investment. I know which I’d choose.
A BIT ABOUT MICHELLE…
After working for 15 years as a human rights lawyer for the United Nations (erm, hello, how cool!?) Michelle decided to become a photographer, following in the footsteps of her French mum. For a decade now she’s offered shoots from her working farm in the Teme Valley in Worcs, where she lives with husband David, daughter Livvy, three dogs and a menagerie of farm animals (you’ll get to meet them if you book in, it’s so much fun).
All of her sessions – the Personal Branding to the Farm Photo Experience, and Headshots at the Farm – are relaxed and fun affairs, and there is no hard sell or nasty surprises, all of her prices are listed upfront, letting you set your own budget and work to that.
Want to book a shoot with Michelle? Choose from these packages, or get in touch at www.michellemorris.co.uk.
THE SOCIAL (£590) Including a two hour shoot, 1 location and 3 outfit changes, 50 edited images with unlimited usage and a personal branding app with all your images.
THE SHOWCASE (£790) Including a half day shoot (3 hours), 2 locations, 5 outfit changes, 100 images with unlimited usage and a personal branding ap with all your images.
THE FOUR SEASONS, £2,390. Including 4 half day shoots (one per season), 2 locations, 5 outfit changes, 100 edited images from each seasonal shoot with unlimited usage, a personal branding app with all your images.
***** WIN!! ******
We are giving away one of these amazing personal branding shoots with Michelle Morris. Win ‘The Social’ worth a whopping £590. Click here to enter in seconds – good luck.