Here at Best Friends For Frosting, we are all for personal branding and using social media for business growth! With so many new technologies emerging everyday, it becomes easier and easier to spread word of your business or blog through social media platforms and gain more customers, followers, readers, etc. If you’re going to have your brand out there for the world to see you should make it as pretty as possible right?! We are so thrilled to have Shay Chochrane, photo stylist, photographer, and mentor with her website Shay Cochrane, here with us to give us her tips and pointers on how to execute personal branding imagery! Here is Shay with the how to:

With the popularity of image based social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, savvy businesses of all sizes are realizing the unprecedented opportunity to connect to and engage with their target market with strategic imagery.  As a prop stylist and commercial photographer, not only has Instagram served as a primary way for me to show my current work but, along with Pinterest, it generates about 80% of my booking inquiries. Social media platforms like these provide free advertising but, more profoundly, they afford us opportunities for connection, networking, and brand storytelling that level the playing field for growing businesses.

But you know all of that right!? The hard part, especially if you are non-photographer in a creative business, is knowing how to create and capture an image that will effectively engage your audience and create brand loyalty.

Today I want to give you some helpful tips for creating bright, beautiful, and most importantly…branded imagery for your site, blog, or social feed.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Lighting and Consistency: Regardless of whether you are shooting with a professional DSLR or your camera phone, the number one most important ingredient in a well curated blog or IG feed is consistently well lit images.  This is hard even for the best of us.  Most of us aren’t living in a white washed studio loft with floor to ceiling windows (in my dreams!).  If creating and sharing imagery is an important and regular part of your business then it is crucial that you find the best light available to you and set up a little mini studio where you can create the majority of your images in bulk.  A window with diffused (in-direct) sunlight and a few inexpensive white matte boards are all you need to get started.  

Intentionality:  Planning out your images based on the interests of your readers or followers and your current projects. This might sound obvious but we have all fallen into the bad habit of realizing that we should probably post something but we have nothing planned . We impulsively scramble to shoot and share something that either is not well executed or essentially serves no purpose with our ideal client (guilty!) This kind of poorly executed imagery can do more harm than good depending on your industry and what you followers are there to see.  Ask yourself these questions. 1. What are my followers here to see – what interests them. (A look at your most liked posts can give you an indication).  2. How will this post help or inspire my ideal client specifically? Will this post serve my client well? Will it make their day better?

Styling: Making the prop and composition choices that are right for your brand. The two most common questions that I receive in my styling and product photography workshops are, 1) How do I decide which props to use and 2) How do I know where to put things!? Let’s talk for a moment about those two things.

2013 Shay Cochrane

1. Props: Curating and image that speaks to your target audience.

Let’s pretend for a moment that I am a lifestyle blogger that has been sent a bottle of Chanel perfume to use and feature on my blog and Instagram feed.  When I am pulling items to style into the image I am going to have two primary considerations 1) What is the brand aesthetic of the company being represented? (I want my image to fit their aesthetic to increase the likelihood that they will want to use and share my image) 2) What is my personal aesthetic that my followers enjoy and have come to expect from me?  A strategic image will attempt to marry those two things.  I am true to my creative interpretation while simultaneously creating something that is going to accurately represents the brand featured. In this case, I choose a clean white background, and overhead perspective – something that represents my style and high end feminine props that will resonate with Chanel fans.

If you are not regularly styling for a particular client and the feature is just to serve your own audience I would encourage you to identify and stick to the aesthetic of your brand in your prop choices. This includes not only the color palette of the items being worked into the images but also the lighting, tone and theme that your audience has come to expect from you.

2. Styling and composition (aka – where in the world do I put things!?)

There is no right and wrong place to place things in an image.  There are some compositional guidelines out there (the rule of thirds, the golden spiral) but ultimately it comes down to what feels right to you and is true to your own personal preferences.  Your post should have a goal (share a fabulous recipe or DIY projects) and then the question becomes how can I draw my reader into this image.  For this first styling of this Chanel perfume I attempted a loose interpretation of an actual scene – items spilling out and in use on a desktop.  This was not a true “scene” but plays off of the strength of my own personal minimalist overhead style while bringing in a human element.  While this is pretty, my main issue with this image is that the Chanel bottle is not the start of this image.  It is a pretty scene but distracts you a bit from the goal which is to feature the perfume.

In this second styling attempt I was going for another loose interpretation of a real scenario where my curated props are spilling out of a purse.  I like this idea in theory because you can almost connect with (and want to be) the girl who owns this clutch full of pretties. The problem with this image is that, while the perfume bottle is now central to the styling, the polka dot background is distracting, makes it hard to read the label (important for my client) and there are still a lot of potentially distracting or competing elements in this image.  If the viewer leaves on a hunt to find that beautiful Pave bracelet I have failed my Chanel client!

2013 Shay Cochrane

For these reasons, I decided to scrap the use of these props all together and take a completely different approach…one that I knew would enamor the viewer, be true to my style and also put all of the focus on the featured item.  

I placed my Chanel bottle front and center and began to build around it with soft florals.  I had picked up a small bunch of tulips in Spring hues that just happened to compliment the soft pink bottle but those alone were not enough and would not give the ethereal softness to the image that I wanted.  I had actually just thrown out some dying roses from an earlier client styling and, I kid you not, I went digging through the trash and managed to salvage one garden rose head that literally was falling apart in my hands. Perfect. I salvaged all of the still colorful petals that I could and began to work them around the bottle in a way that would provide some movement across the image.  Finally, to break up the texture and provide a little more visual interest I pulled in some Sugarfina candy pieces that were still laying around the office from a recent shoot for them.  I don’t think this element was necessary but the color palette was perfect and I like adding in a little unexpected detail when I can.

2013 Shay Cochrane

I love the result, don’t you!?

I hope that that this has been helpful and inspiring!  You can keep up with my commercial work by following along with @shaycochrane on Instagram and take a peek at our shop full of gorgeous styled stock images for bloggers and creative businesses.  Do business beautifully friends!

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