One word — competition.
In today’s fast-paced competitive landscape, businesses and brands need to stand out from their competition in any way possible.
One of the most effective ways to do this is through engaging visual content that speaks to their audience. Enter, brand photography.
Whether a brand photographer is promoting a product or service, building up someone’s personal brand, or establishing the voice and identity of a business, it is the goal of every brand photographer to create a positive strong impression of the brand they are photographing.
In this guide, I’ll be exploring the definition of brand photography, why it’s important, types of brand photography, some tips for brand photographers along with example brand photos I took, how to choose a brand photographer if you’re a business, some trends, and more.
With that being said, let’s dive into the world of brand photography!
Table of Contents
What is Brand Photography? (Definition)
Brand photography can be defined as a niche of photography that uses visually compelling images to further communicate the message and story of a business or brand.
Brand photography can also encompass other niches of photography such as product photography, lifestyle photography, event photography, headshot photography, and more. As long as the type of photography is being used to enhance the story and message of a business or brand, then it can be considered brand photography.
The goal of any brand photographer should be to deeply understand what message or story the business or brand is trying to convey and then turn that into images that will build trust and loyalty with the business’s target audience.
Why is Brand Photography Important?
In today’s digital world, attention spans are short and competition is high. The importance of brand photography lies in this very reason alone.
Brand photography is important because it can (and should) help businesses and brands stand out from their competitors and capture the attention of their potential customers.
Professional brand photography should establish credibility and trust with their audience and communicate to them that they are a business or brand that cares about the product or service they provide.
Here’s an example, imagine that you are shopping for candles online and stumble upon two candle businesses. You’ve never heard of either of them but they sell the same exact candles for the same exact price. The only difference between the two? The images.
Imagine business one has high-quality photos that show close-ups of the candles, different angles of the candles, what the candles look like in a home, people with the candles, the candle lit up, the candle not lit up, the candle in its packaging, etc.
Now, imagine business two has just a few photos of the candles, there are no close-ups, the photos are poorly lit, and some of the images are not that sharp.
Based on the images alone, without knowing anything about these two businesses, which one conveys more to you (the target audience), that they are a business that cares about their product? Business one of course!
See, the thing with brand photography is it’s not just about the images. It’s about the perception of the business based on the images they take. In other words, low-quality images create the perception that the business/brand is low-quality and vice versa.
Types of Brand Photography
There are various types of brand photography that you should be aware of. As mentioned earlier, brand photography is a general term that encompasses other niches. Let’s take a look at those niches now:
Product Brand Photography
Product photography is one type of photography that can be considered under the umbrella of brand photography based on the end result.
If you are photographing a brand or business’s products so they can then use those photos to enhance their brand image or increase sales, then it can be considered a type of brand photography.
This type of product photography is often used in e-commerce and advertising to highlight product features, details, and the quality of the product.
Going back to the examples I gave earlier of the candles, that would be an example of using product photography as brand photography.
Product brand photography often incorporates a product being either photographed on a plain white background or in a styled setting to give context to how the product should be used.
For example, here’s a product brand photo I took for a candle company. The goal here was to get a close-up of the candle with a nice white background:
Lifestyle Brand Photography
Lifestyle photography is another type of photography that can be considered a type of brand photography depending on how it’s shot.
Lifestyle photography can be considered a type of brand photography when the goal of the photos is to capture the product or service being used in a real-life scenario. For example, going back to the candles, if you have an image of someone lighting up the candle on a table in a house setting, then this would be an example of a lifestyle brand photo.
Lifestyle photography is often a lot more relaxed and natural, rather than a posed style of photography. The goal of any good lifestyle brand photography should be to help the viewer/target audience picture themselves using the product or service.
With the advent of social media, this style of photography is often accompanied with models or influencers as the subject/person interacting with the product or service. Most influencer marketing images can be considered lifestyle brand photography.
Another example of lifestyle brand photography is also within a brand photoshoot for personal brands. In other words, people who want to create a personal brand for themselves online.
For example, here’s a personal brand photo I took of a client. The client was a business owner, so he wanted some lifestyle photos to post on social media. The goal was to have photos where he appeared busy and candid:
Event Brand Photography
Event photography is another type of photography that can be considered brand photography based on the event.
If the event is business-related and you are photographing it, then it can be considered a type of brand photography and can be deemed event brand photography.
Examples of events that are often business-related included trade shows, product launches, conventions, corporate events, etc.
These event photos are often then posted on social media, the company’s websites, in emails, etc.
Environmental Brand Photography
Environmental photography can be considered another type of brand photography based on the goal of the image.
Environmental photography when used as brand photography would be focusing on capturing a brand or business’s physical location, the employees of the company, and their engagement in business activities/practices.
For example, you could photograph a couple of people pretending to be in a meeting talking to each other. This photo could then be used on the company’s website to show how friendly or busy their employees look.
Environmental brand photography is great at showing their target audience or customers a look behind the scenes and how the brand or company operates from the inside. This is especially useful when you want to show people your brand culture and values without explicitly telling them.
Another example could be a bartender serving up drinks with a smile on their face to show their professionalism:
Portrait Brand Photography
Portrait photography can also be considered a type of brand photography depending on the goal of the portrait.
For example, if someone needs a portrait in order to help them build their personal brand, then it could be a type of portrait brand photography.
Oftentimes, these photos would be used as profile pictures on professional sites such as company websites or other networking sites.
Here’s another example of a portrait photo that was used for a personal brand profile picture:
Elements of an Effective Brand Photoshoot
Just like any type of photography, there are certain elements the photographer should take into consideration when they want to have a good outcome.
The elements of an effective brand photography photoshoot include lighting, composition, color, and storytelling.
Lighting plays an important role in any niche of photography. I believe lighting can either make or break a photo.
Now when it comes to lighting, the two options are either natural or artificial lighting. I won’t go too deep into each type because that will need a whole separate guide.
But what a brand photographer needs to take into consideration is how the light is being used to enhance the subject, how the light is creating depth and mood, and how the light is shaping and drawing attention to different key features or details of the subject.
For example, if you are photographing a product brand photoshoot for the candles in an indoor studio, then what does your lighting look like? Is it a three-point lighting setup with a fill light, key light, and backlight? Is the lighting adding depth to the candle to make it “pop out” or is it being washed out by the light?
These are all questions one needs to be asking themselves when it comes to brand photography and lighting.
Composition also plays a huge role in capturing an effective brand photo.
The composition of a photograph refers to how the elements within the frame are arranged. A strong composition can further tell or enhance a story. Common photography composition techniques include the rule of thirds, framing, leading lines, frame within a frame, symmetry, and others.
Color plays a powerful role in brand photography as it can convey mood, emotion, and brand identity.
A skilled brand photographer will leverage color to further enhance the message of the brand.
For example, if the brand is “loud” such as a company that sells bright clothing, then the photographer may want to use bright yellows, reds, oranges, greens, etc.
If the brand is more “environmentally friendly and earthy,” then the photographer may want to use earthy tones like pastels, browns, dark greens, etc.
The final element of an effective brand photoshoot that a photographer should take into consideration is the story that is being told.
As mentioned earlier, effective brand photography should evoke emotion and tell a story. This can be done through the use of models, settings, backgrounds, etc.
For example, if the product you are photographing is meant to be used in homes, then the photoshoot should be done in a home to show its use. If the product is hip, cool sunglasses, meant for a younger demographic, then the model wearing the sunglasses should fit that persona.
The brand or product needs to align with the story that is trying to be told through that brand and the elements of the brand photoshoot need to align with that.
Brand Photography Tips for Photographers
Now that we’ve covered the elements of an effective brand photoshoot, let’s take a look at some tips for brand photographers.
Whether you’re brand new to brand photography or have taken brand photoshoots before, you should always consider these tips before diving into the session.
Most of these tips can also apply to other photoshoot sessions as well:
1. Define the Brand
First and foremost, define the brand. Before anything, you must deeply understand and define the brand so you can understand the brand’s personality, values, and target audience.
Usually, when engaging with a professional business, they have brand personas and brand colors and will send that all over to you.
If you are just working with a personal brand or a newer company and they don’t have any of this, then prepare to ask them certain questions so you can obtain all of this information. Plus, it looks great and lets them know you’re professional.
Great questions to ask include:
- Who is your target audience?
- What words describe your brand?
- What sets your brand apart from the competition?
- What are your brand colors?
- If your brand was a person, what personality would they have?
2. Create a Mood Board
The second tip is to create a mood board.
Once you have defined the brand that you are photographing, it’s time to put all of this together onto a mood board. Now, it doesn’t actually have to be a board, it can just be on a piece of paper.
Oftentimes, I just write it down online in a document since I am more of a computer person.
What you’ll want to include on this mood “board” are the answers to the questions listed in the previous step.
So you’ll want to write down the target audience with pictures, the words that describe the brand, the logos and example photos from the competitor’s websites or social media pages, images of the brand colors, and the personality written out of the brand.
You can also include inspirational images on this mood board of how you want your image to look in terms of composition, wardrobe, lighting, location, etc.
The point of this mood board is to start visualizing the photoshoot.
3. Know Your Lighting
We’ve touched on lighting a bit in the previous section. I mentioned how there is natural or artificial lighting.
With that being said, before heading into the shoot, you should already know what type of lighting you want to work with.
From there, you’ll want to get more detailed. For example, if you will be photographing with natural light, then what time of day will you have the photoshoot, what will the weather be like for the day, and what season is it? All of these factors will affect the natural lighting of the scene.
If you are using artificial lighting, then are you bringing your own strobe lights? Will there be any lighting modifiers? Will you be in a studio? All of these factors will affect the artificial lighting being used in the scene.
4. Experiment with Angles
The fourth tip for brand photography is to experiment with the angles during the photoshoot. This type applies to all types of photo shoots.
But the important point to know is how angles could affect the perception of the subject. For example, if you photograph looking up at the subject it will create the perception of a strong, or powerful subject. If you photograph looking down at the subject, it will create the perception of a weak or small subject.
Knowing how angles influence the perception of your subject will allow you to use those angles to further enhance the message and story of the brand.
5. Consider Your Composition
Before heading into your session, you should already have at least a basic understanding of the photography composition rules.
Knowing what compositional techniques are available to you on the day of the photoshoot will allow you to capture a wide variety of different brand images so you have more photos to choose from when it comes to final selection time.
6. Invest in Equipment
I believe a great photographer does not need great gear to make a great photo, however, it certainly helps.
With that being said, while you don’t need top-of-the-line gear to get started, having a DSLR or Mirrorless camera with a quality lens can make a difference in terms of the professional quality of the images.
When it comes to lenses, my favorite focal lengths include a 35mm and 50mm lens for the mid-close range and an 85mm lens or 50mm lens for portraits or headshots. If you are photographing a product for a brand, then you also may want to consider adding a macro lens to your arsenal to capture those fine details.
7. Learn Post-Processing
Post-processing software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop can help you add those final touches to already great-looking images.
Some edits and retouches you can make in post-production include removing unwanted objects in the background, cleaning up things in product photos, blemish removal, color corrections, etc.
Understanding the post-processing phase of a photoshoot is crucial especially when it comes to brand photoshoots. Oftentimes, the brand will expect to receive a polished final image and this can only be accomplished with post-processing.
If you have no idea how to edit photos, then I recommend checking out my Pro Lightroom Preset Bundle and using that as a starting foundation.
Planning a Brand Photography Session
When it comes to planning the brand photography session, we’ve covered most of the parts in the previous sections but I wanted to provide a nice numerical format for you to follow to make sure you know the order.
Here are the steps in order when it comes to planning the brand photography session along with photographing the actual session:
- Make initial contact with the brand and establish their goals, time frame, and pricing.
- Define the brand and objective by asking them questions.
- Start planning style and create a mood board.
- Choose a location and scout it to make sure it looks good.
- Select models or subjects.
- Determine what you’re working with in terms of lighting, wardrobe, etc.
- Plan the photoshoot schedule and let all parties know.
- Perform the brand photoshoot.
- Edit the brand photos in post-processing.
- Send over the images to the client/brand.
- Keep in contact with the brand to ensure they liked the photos/build rapport for future photoshoots.
Choosing a Brand Photographer
In case you are a brand looking for a good brand photographer, I wanted to include this section.
I recommend reading the above sections to understand what it takes to be a good brand photographer so you can look for those traits in your potential photographer.
I also wanted to list some additional tips you can use to find the right brand photographer for you:
Determine Your Brand’s Style
Before reaching out to a brand photographer, you should have a good idea of what your brand is and what your product or service stands for.
Once you know this, you’ll want to look for a photographer whose style aligns with your brand’s aesthetic.
This can easily be done by looking at their portfolio or asking them for images from previous brand photoshoots.
Consider Their Experience
The next step you’ll want to do is consider their experience. You’ll want to look for a photographer who has experience working with other brands, preferably in your industry as well.
So for example, if you are an e-commerce brand, then finding a brand photographer who specializes in e-commerce product photoshoots would be ideal.
Look for Collaborative Photographers
A brand photo shoot is a collaborative process on both sides. You’ll want to be collaborative with the photographer and vice versa.
You should find a photographer who is willing to work with you collaboratively and one that shows they care about producing good work that aligns with your brand.
Consider Your Budget
A brand photoshoot can be pricy depending on your desired images as well as the quality and experience of the photographer.
You’ll want to look for a photographer whose rates fit within your budget. You can easily do this by checking their pricing page on their website if they have one or by contacting them for a quote.
By taking all these factors into account, you’ll find a brand photographer who aligns perfectly with your brand!
Brand Photography Trends
Let’s take a look at some current brand photography trends so you can take some inspiration as well as see what’s currently out there in terms of styles:
Candid, Unposed Images
One trend in brand photography is a candid, unposed image. This type of image works best with lifestyle brand photos that involve people.
Many brands are moving away from the posed, stiff look and opting for a more natural, authentic image that feels spontaneous and unplanned.
Another trend popular in brand product photos is bold, popping colors. Colors that are bright and eye-catching make images pop and stand out from the crowd which is why many brands like them.
Diversity and Inclusivity
If photographing a product or lifestyle brand photoshoot, many brands are not featuring a range of models and subjects to be inclusive of all ages, races, body types, and abilities.
This helps with relatable brand messaging and is something that should be asked and taken into account if you are in charge of selecting the models.
In conclusion, I hope you enjoyed this guide on brand photography and took away something valuable from it.
Now take action and if there is something big you took away from this guide, be sure to write it down and practice or incorporate it into your brand photoshoots.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much is a branding photographer?
The cost of a branding photographer can vary depending on their experience, location, and the scope of the project. However, on average, branding photographers charge anywhere from $100 to $500 per hour or a flat fee of $1,000 to $10,000 or more for a full branding shoot.
Why do you need brand photography?
Brand photography is essential for businesses and brands to establish and maintain their identity and connect with their target audience. It can help to showcase products or services, tell a brand’s story, and differentiate it from competitors.
Nate Torres is a portrait photographer based in Southern California. Outside of photography, Nate specializes in SEO, content marketing, and entrepreneurship. He is also the founder of Imaginated.com, a platform for creator education.