Updated: Feb 3
Did you catch the viral #DollyPartonChallenge making the rounds this past week? The basic premise is that the iconic singer shared a four-square grid on her Instagram; each square showed her with a look and style tailored to a different platform, specifically: LinkedIn (professional), Facebook (relatable), Instagram (styled) and Tinder (sexy). She captioned her post, "Get you a woman who can do it all". People loved it and started creating their own versions of the post - some did it better than others, of course. When I came across these posts on my own Instagram feed, I couldn't help but think, and this is why personal branding photography is an emerging field.
With the proliferation of social media and the increase in the number of digital images being snapped all of us, I have been thinking a lot about how photography needs to play a part in our personal branding. I have waited for years for some terrible images of myself to be removed from the internet; there isn't always a guarantee you can remove offending images by request. So my solution has been to try to remain as much in control of my image from my end as possible. And this is the way of the future, which is why personal branding photography is on the rise, as well as why I have partnered up with Toronto-based personal branding photographer and videographer Jacie West for clients in and around the Toronto area. Check out our conversation below 👇🏽; please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.
A: How would you define personal branding photography?
J: Personal branding photography enables entrepreneurs to tell their story, uplevel their brand and connect with their audience so that they can grow their business. It includes headshots, tools of trade, lifestyle shots, the creative process you use across all your social platforms, website and marketing efforts; anything that is a part of your business, your brand.
A: Why did you decide to make the switch over into it?
J: I started off in photography in 2012, when I picked up my first DSLR, shooting local shows. I got into live music and then I was shooting for Live Nation (a live entertainment company), shooting local artists. I've always loved people, their personal story and struggles and I decided to go to university to study psychology. I valued that experience and kept taking out my camera to do family photography; but I mostly put creativity on the back burner.
However I needed a creative outlet and decided to focus on telling people’s stories over last two years; it made more sense towards what draws me into photography, really empowering people’s stories, figuring out their uniqueness, what sets them apart and photographing that.
A: Why do you think there is a slower uptake here for it than in the U.S? (I've noticed that personal branding is not as widely known in Canada as in some parts of the U.S.)
J: Defining a personal brand is a new concept in the digital age. Professional photography isn’t the first thing on people's minds, because everyone has a smart phone, everyone has a camera in their pocket. When it comes to making images consistent, and showing a professional appearance, I don’t think people have thought that far into it, how much of a benefit that it gives you and how much it sets you apart. But nothing really beats showing all aspects of your process; lifestyle photos of you doing work, interacting with your clients. It’s not just a selfie, it's allowing your clients to be able to look into your world, what you do and what you can do for them, so that they can see themselves in your photos, in your world.
A: What kind of benefit do you think clients can get from it?
J: There’s five major benefits:
1) It allows you to tell your story - everyone has a unique story that sets them apart from everyone else; we create the images to reflect that, to help the audience relate to you.
2) It creates a connection with your audience; I’ve learned hopes and fears have attracted more clients. I make it a point to incorporate different emotions into a shoot.
3) It sets you apart from the rest; if you have a unique experience, you have go to talk about it.
4) It uplevels your brand. Having custom and branded photos across all platforms will elevate your brand recognition.
5) It presents that professional business image It’s going to have clients look at you and say, this business is legit.
A: What do you want clients to do before booking a session with you?
J: Look at who are you at the core of your being. Figure out the hobbies and passions outside of your business. What do you do? Not just a literal job description, but the unique service and experience that you provide and why do you do it. Think about who do it for and not just thinking [demographics], but how old are your ideal clients, where do they shop, are they readers, do they love music? Really identifying who you’re trying to reach with your images . Really figuring out what your unique value proposition is, how are you different from everyone else in the industry, why should clients come to you, vs. anyone else.
Jacie always sets up a consultation call to go over all these questions with aher clients. If this feels overwhelming, that's because it is - hah. But know that whether you need to figure out your personal branding strategy or want to set up a personal branding shoot, you can set up a consultation with either of us, to help start navigating it, via amenjafri.com and jaciewest.com.