how to take a portrait
Welcome to my step-by-step guide to taking a branded portrait without any photography skills or special equipment.
Today I am going to be talking about:
1. Freebies to help get you started.
2. Welcome: Setting your foundation.
3. How I got started and the aligned clients I serve today.
4. What you need to take an on-brand portrait today.
5. How to take an on-brand portrait step-by-step.
6. What to do with your branded portraits.
This post is going to be a little long, so you may want to bookmark it now so you can come back to it when you have more time or enter your email below and I will email it to you, plus a FREE 7 day email course on how to take your own branded portrait.
freebies to help get you started:
I know well that it's a catch 22 in business. You have to spend to earn and sometimes you Just. Can't. Spend. It's actually why I started doing this work. I contacted a branding photographer for myself because I know how important it is and: $5k... screeech. There was no way...
And the next chapter of my business was born providing this help to you. I am here for you now with free content and workshops because I wanted to solve this catch 22 and help you when you need it most.
In that spirit, I am making myself available to you for free one-on-one text coaching for the next 30 days to anyone who uses this post to get started, or signs up to my free email course.
You have access to an expert whenever you need it.
Before I get started teaching you how to take a DIY branded portrait, I'm going to share how I got started. If you don't care, no worries, CLICK HERE to skip straight to it.
first, branding. second, portraits.
SO...you need portraits for your website. Your newsletter. And oodles of content for social media. You might not be setting out to be an Instagram Influencer, per se, but hey, if it happens...
I'm Jessica Sunshine. I am a photographer.
I teach DIY branding portrait workshops because you deserve to have the power of your brand in your hands. That doesn't mean you won't ever hire a photographer or work with a branding expert like a graphic designer.
The shift here is that you are now in the driver's seat. You are the conductor of your branding train now, and not a random professional you happen upon. That's the traditional formula - need something done so hire a person.
But the problem is that over the years you're going to need to do that a couple times and that means several visions will be stirring the pot. But if you understand that you are driving the branding train, you can hire help while keeping your vision in tact.
Even more important than that factor, is that you are driving your branding train every single day as you run your business. Or you're NOT, and that's what we aim to amend. You want to be consciously and intentionally crafting your brand, which happens on a daily basis.
That's the foundation of what's going on at Jessica Sunshine Creative.
This is the very first thing to wrap your brain around before ever taking a single photo. This work is about being intentional because your intention is what draws aligned clients to you.
Without it, you could just take a basic photography class and learn how to operate your camera. That's fantastic, but it will more than likely not attract aligned clients, and that is what my work with you is about.
how i got started
I had been running a successful photography business for 10 years before I "got started." I start my story 10 years in because I was Burnt Out. Yes, you can run a business without branding or portraits. But, listen on to why that's a bad idea.
I ran out of fuel after 10 years. I could not function in a rather literal way. I had a gallery to deliver to a client. The images were post-processed and ready to go. But it took me three months to push send on the email and deliver the images to her.
I can't explain it but I define it as Burn Out. I pushed myself and pushed myself until finally one day I sort of just keeled over (business) dead.
I closed my business after this client.
I closed Jessica Sunshine Photography. I went on a walk-about. I became the in-house photographer at a non-profit for the next two years. I traveled the world. When that ended I took stock of what my next step should be.
Jessica Sunshine Creative was born. I turned my focus into branding portraits and helping other creatives avoid burn out syndrome by approaching their business with intention to attract aligned clients, instead of being open to serve anyone and letting misaligned clients drain your life force so drastically that eventually you lock and seize.
We all begin our business in a somewhat frenzied state. We hang out our sign and become thrilled beyond words when we get hired. Once this survival state is in the bag, and we ALL go through this proving stage, it becomes essential to have intention in your business.
That's called branding.
Some of you genius whizzes got this from day one. If that's you, thanks for reading my little life story here, le sigh.
Let me tell the result of intention and branding. My business is chock full of aligned clients now.
What that means is:
My work feels like hanging out with friends.
My work doesn't feel like work. It feels like joy.
I didn't open Jessica Sunshine Creative and know this would happen. This has been an experiment that I HAD TO embark on. It worked.
It will for you, too.
what you need to get started
There are a couple things you need to take an on-brand portrait. They are:
1) A Brand
2) A Camera
4) A Backdrop
The most important thing to nailing an on-brand portrait is...a brand.
I offer a signature workshop to help you work that out. You can read about it later. To get you started the most essential question you can ask yourself, that will be the building block of your brand is...
How do you make people feel?
Take a minute. Get still. What popped to mind? One word or one sentence.
(If nothing popped to mind, write a short email to your top three clients or friends and ask them.)
This feeling, this word, is the raw material you will work with to create your on-brand portrait. Is is the tiny seed that will blossom into a flourishing brand.
The great thing about the 2020's is that technology is on our side. You don't need much to take an on-brand portrait, technology and equipment-wise. You can approach this however is best for you in terms of what camera you use. Most use their phone.
I recommend even, flat light. Even light means there are no shadows. To keep it simple, use window light or open shade.
If you are feeling advanced you can attach a ring light to your phone or buy a regular sized ring light.
Lastly, you need an on-brand backdrop. The easiest way to the approach this is a large blank wall. Nothing I am saying is a "rule," but this is a good starting point.
My 9 year old took the portrait of me that I use in my footer on my website. I was on my front porch at sunset. Sunset is a great time for even light.
If you are feeling advanced, you can place yourself in an environment that reflects your brand, like a desk or at a cafe or a gym or a sofa or a park or a...I could go on...
The environment should be one that reflects your brand. Do not choose it because you can't think of anywhere else. Think back to the first question: How does you make people feel? What location makes people feel that way?
Just like the question 'How Does Your Brand Make People Feel?' this location needs to reflect your brand. So if your word was "playful," swinging at a park would be on brand, for example.
1. a brand
2. a camera
4. a background
how to take your portrait step-by-step
The nitty gritty! Let's get granular. Let's get this on-brand portrait in the bag.
You know how your brand makes people feel. Let's go with EXCITED and we'll work with that in this example.
What does "excited" look like to you? Because this is really personal. Excited to a goth babe is different than a perky nerdy version of excited.
Your pose and expression can help you express your word. You want to come up with a pose or expression that expresses your version of 'excited.'
Peruse Pinterest with your word of choice.
Next, prepare your equipment. In most cases, that means make sure your phone is charged and you have some kind of tripod to put it on.
Or, you can recruit a friend, child or your spouse to shoot the images for you. When I ask someone to shoot for me that isn't a photographer, I get everything set up and they simply click.
Then, how do you want to look in the image? Plan your wardrobe, hair and makeup.
Lastly, and this the most important in my book, you need even light. Your best bet is to shoot at sunset, right after the sun dips below the horizon. You'll have about 15 precious minutes, but that's more than enough time.
Make sure you have scouted your location before your shoot. Even if it's just your front porch. Move the potted plants. Sweep. Get the hose out and clean up the cement of pot rings. This prep is super important so when you get to your shoot moment, you're not sweating in your pretty blouse.
This is where the free text coaching could come in useful. Feel free to text me an image and ask for tips. It's available for the next 30 days.
Be sure to take A LOT of images. Sometimes people think taking 50 shots of the same moment is too much. It's not. That's how pro photographers shoot, so don't feel self-conscious about that.
Take a ton of images. Scroll through them and land on a handful where you have a good expression, your hair is right, your outfit looks best, etc. Delete the outtakes.
You'll next want to run your images through the post-processing car wash to clean them up. There are a ton of apps out there you can download for free. You will adjust brightness, contrast, and a host of other things. You can also apply filters that make your image warmer, cooler or overlay amazingly cool effects.
Check out what my client Lindsay did following her along step-by-step. She shares her post-processing approach.
what to do with your images
What you do with your images brings you to your personal approach to content planning. Check out what my client Kristen did with her Instagram feed after our work together...
Kristen's brand is so clear here. You can guess her brand word was "warm." She expressed that in her brand color orange. She used an overlay called Pumpkin Spice Latte that she bought from Creative Market and used in her Photoshop app to post-process her images.
You can place your branded portraits anywhere across the platforms you use to advertise:
Articles you write
I've watched Kristen's Instagram account since and I know her content strategy has changed. I've found that we see what strategy works best for us over time through experimentation.
Your audience will help shape and mold your brand. What are they responding to? What do they want to see more of?
My advice is don't expect to get it perfect. Rather, start now. Start today. Start by taking a guess. Only by taking action can you watch for feedback. Your brand will grow and evolve over time.
See this as a journey vs. a destination.
What are some possible strategies to start with? I'm so glad you asked! I think these are the top avenues most of us are traveling.
1. Post one branded portrait per week, with quotes and other things filling your feed on the other days of the week.
2. Post a branded portrait every day. You will post 3 times per day and one of them will always be a branded portrait.
3. You're using branding portraits to get your website started right now, and aren't ready for a social media content strategy.
4. Every single social media post is a portrait.
What is your posting/content strategy now? What do you want it to be?
gallery of student work
Cherini participated in a live AYB event, Emerge, in Atlanta, GA. She directed this photo while a pro photographer (me!) took the shot.
This branding portrait of Kristen from Realized Empath was taken at an AYB live event, the Emerge Weekend, in Atlanta, GA.
Having your branding portraits taken, DIY or by a famous photographer, is an act of bravery. Every single person has a different reason they might be self-conscious in front of the camera. I know I do. Big time.
That's why I love being behind the camera!
When we see someone else's branding portraits we don't see the flaws, though, we see the beauty. We see the heart. We see the best in people.
And that's what we are going to see in your photos.
I'm excited to see your branding portraits. Tag me so I can follow your journey @jessicasunshinecreative
Thanks so much for being here and reading along. I know this post was long but branding portraits will completely change the game.
THAT'S IT! Now go forth and make kick-ass, branded pictures. Can you believe how easy it will be?
free text coaching
free text coaching
FOR 30 DAYS
For the next 30 days you can text me and get help as you dip your toes into taking your own branded portraits.
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