Episode 122: Magnify your brand’s brilliance with the power of personal brand photography

Key Highlights: [00:05:10] Michelle’s advice on preparing for your personal

Jody Milward

Key Highlights:

[00:05:10] Michelle’s advice on preparing for your personal branding photo shoot  

[00:09:16] Why you shouldn’t overthink when the ‘right time’ will be

[00:11:43] Recommended Props to take along to your session that help your audience connect with you

[00:18:00] Tips for choosing a shoot location so you have stunning photos that authentically express your brand 

[00:22:30] The best advice for arriving energized and organized with everything you need for a flawless day

[00:27:30] What to look for when choosing a personal branding photographer

Jody: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of Online Confidential. Super excited to dive into something that a lot of people ask when it comes time to getting their branding photos taken. What makes a great branding photo? 

I’m super excited for today’s guest, Michelle Swan, from Eyes of Love Photography, who’s going to give you the inside scoop into what makes an amazing branding shoot.

Michelle, welcome to the show.

Michelle: Thank you. I’m so excited to be here with you. [00:00:30] 

Jody: Oh, I’m so excited to be talking about this on as well. As you can tell, I can’t even get the words outta my mouth now. You do amazing shoots. Now guys, if you’ve seen any of my branding photos around Michelle is the genius behind those.

She creates such an amazing, relaxed environment and the images just turn out beautifully. And she also takes the photos of some high profile celebrities I’ll let her disclose them if she’s allowed. I think she is, because I see them on Instagram. 

Michelle, [00:01:00] tell us a bit more about you to start with, how did you get into this world of taking people’s branding photos?

Michelle: Thank you for those beautiful compliments. It’s always an easy day in the office when I’ve got you in front of the camera. I actually feel like I’m an accidental branding photographer to be honest. It was a path I never anticipated that I would go down. How it worked was when I was 25, I went back to uni as a mature age student.

And when I graduated uni, I actually bought my [00:01:30] first DSLR camera and I went on a trip to Bali and I was like, oh my gosh, I really enjoy this. And when I came home I had a friend who had a jewelry label, and I went round to her house and they had a beautiful farm. I come from a very practical blue collar family.

My girlfriend comes from a really creative family and it was actually her dad, Kurt, that said to me, you really come alive when you’ve got the camera in your hand. And he is I think that this is something that you need to [00:02:00] explore. And I actually went home, set up an Instagram account and I think that this was really back in Instagram’s heyday where it was easy to grow an account and started getting booking inquiries from the next week and really had to learn on the fly.

So that’s how it all started. 

Jody: Wow, I love that. And it’s like you said coming from what you’ve sort of grown up knowing and here’s a pathway that you’re expected to follow, to uncovering the thing that actually [00:02:30] lights you up. And I’ve got to say, amusing how a mature age student at uni at 25 and you go, oh my gosh, if only to be 25 again!

Michelle: I know. Absolutely.  

Jody: How many people do you think you’ve taken photos of in that time? What would be a wild guess?

Michelle: Oh, look, I’d be up in the thousands now. For sure. I would say that I probably do about 150 shoots a year [00:03:00] one-on-one branding shoots, but I’ve also photographed a lot of events and retreats.

I started out in wedding photography but I always knew that I had a really strong desire to work one-on-one with women in business. I really love championing women. I love seeing women succeed. I think I’m into my ninth year of doing this now, and I feel as women we can be really self-critical and we’ll say things to ourselves that [00:03:30] we would never dare say to another person.

I feel like we need to share the skills that we have, so I just really want to help amplify somebody’s presence online so that they can step out confidently and share themselves and share their gifts with the world.

Jody: Beautiful, and a hundred percent, we can be our own worst critics.

And that’s something that I’ve experienced with you on your branding shoots is always to just feel comfortable in your own [00:04:00] skin and you’re always so positive and edifying and it’s amazing. So thank you for that in the past. I wish everybody could have the opportunity to experience your shoots.

Now with that  I’m just going to go there and drop the name. So one of your high profile clients is Denise Duffield Thomas. You’ve been taking her photos for a while. So guys, I’m sorry if that wasn’t allowed, but like I said, it’s on Instagram there. 

Michelle: I actually just shot a promo vid with her. You’re going to see it.

Jody: Oh, fantastic. So keep an eye out for that guys. And so that’s an example of [00:04:30] Michelle’s work. She knows what she’s doing. She knows how to bring out the best in the people that she’s working with. And it’s not so much in a way of here’s a very sort of, they’re like a facade sometimes these branding shots, you really bring personality into them. 

So as we go down there and we’ll explore that, because I have ad managers who go off to get their branding photos done and they’re saying, what should I do? What should I take? So to start with, as we prepare for a branding shot, what are some of the [00:05:00] considerations that we need to think of? 

To make sure that our investment in getting these branding photos turn out great as best as we can. Instead of going, oh yeah, I should have got a new shirt for this, or whatever it may be. 

Michelle: I think that there is so much to be said for alignment and alignment between who you meet in person and who you see in the photos.

So let’s take our shoots for example. One of the things that I absolutely love is that, you’ve brought in all of the different [00:05:30] props that you are known for. You’ve worn a shirt that’s got a unicorn on it, you’ve brought along a hoodie. Yes, you’ve brought along different kind of business attire as well, but I love that you really enjoy bright pops of color, and so you incorporate those things into your branding shoot because when a person meets you in person, they’re the kinds of things that you’re going to be wearing.

They’re the things that you’re drawn to. [00:06:12] So I think that there is this misconception that we need to be something other than who we are. The way that I love to frame it to clients is when you’re preparing for a branding shoot, you don’t necessarily need to run out and get an entire new wardrobe, for example.

I would think about things in the context if I was to go to a nice lunch with friends, if I was to go to a conference or to speak at an event, what outfits do I have in my wardrobe that I naturally gravitate towards and I like to wear that make me feel good, and I get complimented when I’m wearing them because [00:06:30] the more you that you are in the photos, the more you are going to feel comfortable and the more that it’s going to resonate with your audience and you’ll naturally attract and gravitate the right person to you rather than, like you were saying, trying to create a facade.

So the first thing that I would say is, being authentic to who you really are. And I think the other thing, like I was talking about initially, how we can be really self-critical. I can’t tell you the amount of times that people have [00:07:00] want to lose the five kilos before they go and have their photos taken.

And I just think to myself that nothing about you needs to change for you to look beautiful in photos as you are right now. So oftentimes we can think it’s our weight or we have these stories about I’m not photogenic. And I think to myself, if you’d never been taught how to drive a car, you wouldn’t say I’m not a good driver.

You’d understand that there’s this learning process that needs to occur and [00:07:30] there’s practice. So when you’re with an experienced branding photographer, I’ll be giving you direction on how to pose. How to move. I love to incorporate props into the shoot because it’s a really great way to ground and anchor your energy.

You’ll find that you as suddenly you’re in front of the camera and you’re hyper aware of your arms and you don’t know what to do with them. That’s why, for ad managers it makes sense to bring your laptop along, a journal, a pen, a coffee cup, all of those different props that we use. They’re photos that [00:08:00] you’re going to get a lot of use out of, but it grounds and it anchors your energy before we do those photos where there’s the headshots where you are smiling and looking straight at the camera. 

Jody: Absolutely. And those kind of things, like you were saying, those clothes that you’re going to dig out from this is what I would wear to lunch. This is what I feel comfortable in. I think that angle, like you were saying, wearing these things that you are comfortable with, rather than going out there and then buying this whole new wardrobe and then putting it on [00:08:30] and not feeling like it’s you, and not feeling comfortable. 

I think from my experience of being on this side of the camera, doesn’t help you to relax and ease into it.

Michelle: Absolutely. I’ve even had clients, for example, they’ll come to me and they’ll say, oh, you know what I’m a little heavier than I normally am.

And I’m like rather than waiting to have your photos taken, what a powerful declaration to go I am completely fine and acceptable as I am right now. [00:09:00] And maybe that is the instance where you go and buy some clothes that you feel amazing in right now, so you can actually start sharing the gifts that you have with the world.

In terms of outfits from a very practical standpoint, in terms of, as you were saying, how to get the most out of your photo shoots. I say to clients, typically it’s very achievable to capture three outfits per hour of shooting. That typically will give us like 20 minutes per outfit. So just when planning your branding [00:09:30] shoot. There are some things that do photograph really well.

But I’m also a big rule breaker as well. Say for example, classic things like soft colors, denims, whites, things that have got texture, you’ll find if you choose outfits like that, those sorts of outfits, they won’t date. So you’ll get a really good run out of your photos. There are some clients, for example, that have chosen those really classic outfits and they’ve had their photos taken with me five years ago and they’re still rolling them out online now. [00:10:00] 

You can see today my wardrobe is either a flower bomb or I’m denim and white.

So whenever I have my photos taken, I will choose to wear something that’s patterned because when you meet me, there’s a very high likelihood that I’ll be wearing patterns. But I do bring in some of those neutrals as well because I know that patterns will look quite repetitive throughout your ads and throughout your marketing and on your social media feeds.

There are some things that are classic that you can think about, but [00:10:30] I think alignment trumps, every day of the week. 

Jody: So takeaways there, one is alignment in who you are, and what you would wear. Then be aware of the classic outfits so you can recycle your photos for a while.

And then number two, if you’re happy to be a rule breaker, go for it. Take something along and see what your photographer says, yes?

Michelle: Absolutely. 

Jody: In a nutshell. [00:11:00] Then again, we were also just talking about props, things to take along. This is where I take my laptop, that’s where a lot of online entrepreneurs, we take a laptop, and we just smile at our laptop a bit.

And then we’ve also got I took a cat mug and I’ve got an Elite Ad Manager mug, a diary. Some stationary stuff so I could draw up funnels. So what are some ideas, how do you give people some ideas for what could be some good props to take along? 

Michelle: When I’m doing a branding shoot, I think [00:11:30] about it in a couple of different ways.

One is that I think about ticking the boxes of all of the things that you need for your website. So I’m thinking about headshots for your About page. I’m thinking about wider angle banner shots with negative space. So that will work really well for your banner shots.

And then the really big portion of a branding shoot is what I call the lifestyle aspect of the shoot, and that’s where we can really invite our audience into getting to know who we are. That could look [00:12:00] like, I’m an ads manager, so laptop, journal, pen, all of those props, phones, things that you were talking about.

But say for example, even with your branding, shoot, I hope you don’t mind me sharing, but like it’s clear that you’re really passionate about Lexus. I hope I got the brand right. Beause we took a photo of you in front of your car because that’s inviting your audience in to know about.

This is something that I’m really passionate about in my spare time, this is what I love to do. So what I encourage clients to do is [00:12:30] to think about what is it about, like if you were to invite your audience into your life to get to know you better. Just journal out what are some of the things that you enjoy doing in your pastime?

For example if people went on my feed, you’d only have to scroll a little bit to see that I’ve got two daughters, I love dogs and I’ve been with my husband for a long time. They’re things that I invite people in to share about. So I think that all of those really practical props, [00:13:00] like the laptop, you’re going to get a good run out of those.

But I think that even when you think about your lifestyle, if you’re passionate about travel or if you’ve got a hobby or things like that. I know Natalie, for example who you’re good friends with, she’s very passionate about Lego. So when we did our branding shoot together, she brought this incredible Lego typewriter and people see that, and it’s just so identifiable. That’s her. 

I did another shoot with Talia, another ads manager, and [00:13:30] she was saying to me she really loves wearing Converse shoes and that relaxed look. And I’m like, great, bring that along. Because, it’s just those, I guess those little nods that just allow you to let people in and share who you are.

People really want to get to know and invest in the person behind the brand. 

Jody: I love that. Letting people in because people do love the behind the scenes kind of things. They do like to see what’s going on in the background. [00:14:00] Funny you should mention Natalie, because there, where I’m pointing, for those who are watching is a little Lego unicorn, which Natalie sent me.

Michelle: Oh. What a legend. 

Jody: Yes, and with the branding photos, that’s where even like you said, your dogs, if you can take a dog, I like cats. He’s here at the moment, but there is no way he’d be leaving the house. 

Michelle: I’ve shot a couple of cats. They’re tricky. 

Jody: This guy would be for sure. So bringing people in, letting them in, because like I said, people do business with people, and it’s [00:14:30] making those genuine, authentic connections that helps to also be your USP, unique service proposition, but just makes you a bit more unique. And I think that’s great, rather than again, saying, oh, this is how they did their photos and this is what I need to do.

Be you. And that’s again, what I love about you is like you help to encourage that and draw that out. I think that’s ideally, wherever you go for a branding photo that they really capture the essence of you in such a way.

Michelle: And it just [00:15:00] creates really wonderful talking points with people.

Because they actually, and this is one of the things that always blows my mind, because I’ve been really blessed to work with some incredible industry leaders, and I’ll share a photo of them and it’s a beautiful photo and it won’t get much engagement. And then I’ll share a photo, like my most recent photo is I put a unicorn balloon and streamers and took a photo of my little girl for her birthday.

And that’s the post that I’m getting all of the DMs about and [00:15:30] what I would really just love to encourage people is to have that willingness to be seen. Nothing about you needs to change. I think that we can really overthink it. It’s just you being you and that’s more than enough.

That’s all you need to do. 

Jody: I think it’s interesting in this online space as well, and for a lot of ad managers and service providers they hide behind a computer. I’ve been to social media marketing world where I remember in particular, they had [00:16:00] their concierge person because they know that people who go there are introverts and they generally like to hide and not be seen. 

So that’s where a lot of ad managers or service providers can be a bit uncomfortable. We’re used to being behind the computer, so then being brave enough to get their photos taken, being seen and being visible.

But we’ve got to do that because there’s no point being the best kept secret. One decent branding [00:16:30] shot could be enough to do you for years and I’m sure if you go out and get them done with the right branding photographer you’d be very happy with them and you’d go, ‘wow, these look great’.

I really hope that people experience that as well. So we’ve talked about clothes they should wear. We’ve talked about props. What about venues? Because I know with us you’ve said, here are some locations, these are people’s houses that look immaculate. They’re amazing that you can rent for a few hours for your photo shoot.

And I [00:17:00] was like, what? People do this? What? So what’s the importance and should people do that? 

Michelle: Look, I think that hiring shoot location is something that’s become hugely popular and there is so much that I really do love and appreciate about it as a branding photographer. One is that we have the home all to ourselves for hours, which allows us to capture so much cohesive content in a really short period of time. 

I mentioned [00:17:30] at the top of our call, how you can capture three outfits per hour of shooting. When you’re in a home and you literally have a rack of all of your clothes, you’ll find that you can actually cycle through and capture even more outfits than that.

And the way that these homes are set up typically is there’s little styled vignettes all throughout the home. So when we did our shoot we had a different outfit for each different part of the house. The most important thing of all is the quality of the photos is [00:18:00] so largely determined upon the quality of the light in the home.

That’s really essential. So when looking for a shoot location, you really want to have somewhere that is light, bright and airy. Because that’s going to really support your photographer in getting great photos. I also think that it’s good to look for homes that are quite a neutral canvas. And the reason that I say that is because then you’re able to bring in soft furnishings to add pops of color that are nod to [00:18:30] your personal brand.

So you could bring in like a throw rug or you could bring in cushions or you could bring a cat mug or you could bring in a Lego typewriter, whatever it is, that makes it unique to you. I think that’s a really good idea. The other thing that’s really nice about hiring a shoot location is it actually gives you an environment to interact with, as opposed to say, for example, if you went a more classic studio shoot and it’s just you behind a backdrop, then it’s [00:19:00] far more about expression.

So that’s the way that you would get variety in that gallery is you would need to be posing differently. You would need to be giving different expressions. Again, that can be a really beautiful choice if you’re a minimalist. 

Then the other thing that I’ve done with quite a few people is how I was saying that a branding shoot is an opportunity to allow people into your world and into your lifestyle.

So I have had some clients, for example, that might hire a shoot location for a [00:19:30] short portion of their shoot. And then we’ll go and we’ll finish up taking some photos on the beach, for example, because they’ve got a really healthy, active lifestyle or they’re a real outdoorsy person. So you can break it up.

I know when I first started in photography, it was really popular to go and shoot at local cafes and co-working spaces and things like that. Particularly when you’re starting out, that can be a good option. There are I guess limitations in the sense that there’s [00:20:00] patrons that are at those establishments and you’re limited in your capacity to be able to move furniture around.

You obviously can’t ask people in the background to move out of the shot as well, so it’s a little more limiting. I think if you are a little more on the camera shy side of things, hiring a home is a really beautiful way to create a really safe environment where you can relax and enjoy the experience.

Jody: [00:20:30] Absolutely. I agree with that because going into the homes, it was, ‘oh wow, these are beautiful’. And it also helps you to rise to the occasion as well. It’s ‘oh wow, this looks fabulous, this looks great. What a lovely place’. It helps you to just slot in with all of it, I was amazed by that.  

Michelle: It’s a fun experience. You can curate your own playlist and have really good music playing in the background, which creates a really good [00:21:00] energy. I think that there’s a lot of things that you can actually do as well on the day of your shoot to really support yourself in feeling good leading into the photo shoot, particularly if it is one of your first. 

What I would normally say is try and create spaciousness as much as possible in your morning. So that might look like emptying out the calendar, having somebody else drop the kids off, if that’s a possibility. If you choose to get your hair and makeup done, ensuring that you’re allowing [00:21:30] these buffers of time throughout your day, allowing time for traffic so that you’re arriving where you need to be, and that you’re in a relaxed and peaceful state of mind.

Even allowing that extra time, so if you need your hair and makeup artist to make some tweaks that there is time to do so, of course, making sure that there’s time to eat some food so you’ve actually got some good grounded energy. And then those things like setting the tone of having good music on the way to the shoot. [00:22:00] 

A really practical tip actually that’s super, super supportive is planning out your outfits the night before. 

If you are going ‘these are the jeans that I’m wearing, these are the tops that I’m wearing. I’m wearing that top, these jeans, that necklace, putting it all on a hanger together, hanging it up in the car, and then when you get to your shoot it really helps to facilitate those quick outfit changes.

So you’re getting more variety in your gallery rather than arriving on the day of the shoot and having things [00:22:30] jumbled in a bag. Or, how necklaces can get all tangled in a jewelry box. I think the more intentional and organized you can be in the lead up and setting yourself up for a really spacious day means that you can arrive to your shoot feeling as relaxed and chilled as possible.

Jody: Love it. Love those practical tips because yes, there’s nothing worse than racing here, racing there. Oh my gosh, I’m running out of time. I’m going to be late. And you get there all huffing and puffing and all stressed. It’s not the right vibe to go into it. 

Love the tip for getting [00:23:00] things organized the night before, right here it all is. 

Hot tip for me is don’t lie things down in the backseat because that’s where I had one white shirt and it got crinkled and I was like ‘No!’ So that’s what you do. This is an inside scoop. So if you see a shot of me where it’s a white shirt, I’ve got a Navy jacket on and my hands are holding the edge of the jacket that was hiding the crinkles people!

Hang them in your car is my takeaway tip there. 

So we’ve [00:23:30] covered getting prepared, props, et cetera. Now, one thing I wanted to come back to, you were talking about negative space in our photos. 

Michelle: Yes. So it just super important 

Jody:  Explain that and then also considerations of should you say to your photographer, ‘I need this portrait way or landscape way’?

Michelle: What I think is a really beneficial thing to do is when you’re talking to your photographer, making sure that you just say to them, I really need some shots that have got negative space. And have a think about the different ways that you are advertising [00:24:00] and promoting your business.

For example, a lot of people are sharing more things in story format at the moment. So we are needing like a bit more heavy on the portrait imagery. And what negative space essentially means is that in a photo you would be aligned in one third of the photo, you’d be over here, and then there’s some blank space that’s next to you.

The reason that’s important is with your ads or with your banners, it’s going to allow your graphic designer, or even if you’re creating it yourself on a [00:24:30] program like Canva or InDesign, you’ll be able to add in your specific branding elements, text and different call to actions on those photos.

I think those photos are really essential. And I do think that being intentional, again, that’s why I was saying when you’re choosing locations, there’s more of that neutral canvas that allows for that. I think that can look more effective than, if you went, for example, for a shoot at the beach and you’ve just been cut out of the background.

It can be really [00:25:00] nice if your photographer knows that you need that negative space in photos. They can be very intentional in the composition of getting photos where there is that organic space within the photo to pop all of your branding elements.  

Jody: Awesome. Yes. That negative space is so useful, so important to have.

I know I’ve used that several times. Typically, it’s great to have that photo where you might be looking up over there, so that’s where the words are or the product shot or something. [00:25:30] What are some tips for people as they go out and go great, I want to get some branding photos done.

I don’t know where to go, who to look for, what questions to ask. What questions should they ask when they start looking for a branding photographer? 

Michelle: I think that word of mouth is so powerful. And so the first thing that I would say is reaching out to your networking and asking specifically for somebody who specializes in personal branding photography, because they’re going to understand all of the different kind of [00:26:00] elements that we’ve been talking about.

In your circle, if someone doesn’t have a photographer that they’d recommend even searching for hashtags on Instagram, for example #goldcoastpersonalbrandingphotographer or something like that. 

In terms of when you land on a photographer’s site, the things that I would personally be looking for is I would be looking for consistency in the editing of the photos in particular. When you look at that photographer’s [00:26:30] website or their feed I like to see that there’s a really clearly defined style because on the day of the shoot, there’ll be the expectation that’s the quality of photos that would be delivered.

Then I think the kinds of questions that you would ask would be…I’m just trying to think, gosh I don’t even need to think about this anymore it’s so second nature. I’m just trying to put myself in the perspective of ‘what would I need to [00:27:00] ask my personal branding photographer?’

I would be sharing with them about what your business is. What your intention is, how you’re planning on using and promoting your photos. I think when you share your intent, and this is how I want to look and feel in my photos, I’d be saying to my photographer, what locations do you think would align with my intention?

How many hours of shooting do you think we would need to capture this? How many [00:27:30] outfits should I bring along? Do you have any recommendations for hair and makeup artists in the local area that I can book? I would be asking them how many photos are included in this package? Do I have the capacity to upgrade if there’s more photos than the ones that’s included. 

What else would I be asking? 

Jody: There are some great ones there, and I just wanted to tap into the [00:28:00] asking them  ‘is there hair and makeup?’ Because that’s what I did with you. I was coming down to the Gold Coast, two hours away, what do I do for this?

And admittedly, the first photo, getting my makeup done was an afterthought. I was like, ‘I should get my makeup done’. So I just booked a little stall in the middle of the shopping center. The second time I was well prepared and there was someone else that you recommended.

When you go to a branding photographer, they’re going to know because they’re in that world. So they will know people they could refer you to, just [00:28:30] like you did for me, saying there’s this person, shoot locations. You can look here, and here.

So ask them for those things. You don’t have to figure it all out yourself. Lean into their expertise and their experience, and they’re network because they’re living this every day.

Michelle: Absolutely. You’re exactly right. You’re exactly right. 

Jody: Awesome. Michelle, that has been amazing. So people, I hope this has inspired you to get out there and get some branding photos taken.

Even if you’re thinking, ‘oh, I’ve got to lose five kilos first’, or, ‘oh, I’ve got [00:29:00] nothing to wear’. Get something that you will feel comfortable in that will really be you. And so you can, go, ‘wow, I do feel good. I do feel good in this’. And with the right branding photographer that will just also let the real you shine through.

I really hope that you have a fabulous experience doing it, just like I do with Michelle. So that you can see these photos and go, ‘oh wow, these are amazing’ and get visible. Get visible, because there’s no point in being the best kept secret. 

So [00:29:30] Michelle, where can people learn more about you?

Michelle: My website is I hang out mostly on Instagram and I’m @eyesoflovephotography on Instagram and on Facebook, and I haven’t actually dipped my toe into TikTok yet, so I’m just Facebook, Instagram, and online. 

Jody: Awesome. Thank you so much for being here with us today, Michelle, and thank you everyone else for joining us today, and I look forward to me seeing you all next time.

Bye for now. [00:30:00]

Leave a Comment


I love to share practical information to help you improve your skills, learn something new or help you avoid the mistakes that many Ad Managers and I have made to help fast-track you on your journey as a well-paid and in-demand Ad Manager.