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Personal Branding Photography. 5 Reason why you need it

„Pearls don’t lie on the seashore.
If you want one,
you must dive for it.“
Chinese Proverb

Finding a quote for a „5 reasons why“-post is difficult. But this Chinese proverb is actually pretty fitting and sums up what personal branding photography is all about. First finding your inner hidden gem (=a pearl on the ocean ground) and then bringing it to light with the images. It’s not exactly like diving, rather like uplifting. In short personal branding photography is the art of bringing something precious to light that is hidden, covered or not easy to obtain.

So why should you have a personal branding shoot?

Sure thing, not everyone needs personal branding or images that reflect your personal core values. But here are five reasons why you should start thinking about hiring a personal branding photographer. They are

Reason #1: You‘re outstanding. And want to have your business headshots reflect it.
Reason #2: You‘re mostly conducting business online
Reason #3: You want to get a personal spin on your business accounts on social media
Reason #4: You‘re unsure what your core values are
Reason #5: You need an empowerment tool

So let’s look more closely at each of them.

Reason #1: You‘re outstanding. And want to have your business headshots reflect it.

There are so many great business headshots out there. The ones with a soft grey wall behind the CEO of company XYZ. Or the guys and gals with crossed arms in front of a very impressive skyscraper from one of the worlds most important financial hotspots. We all have seen them. We all have thought about getting a shot like that. And we all blend into a huge mass of lookalikes.

When it comes to applications and presenting oneself we tend to do what everybody else does. We look for good practices and do what thousands of people have done before us. Because they all got a job. They all made a living, so what can possibly go wrong?

What can go wrong is that you can simply disappear in the mass. There you are, building your business. You have your personal mission. A different idea than anybody else. And you are simply not like anybody else. Still, when it comes to images. You tend to walk in the same shoes like everybody else before you. Does that sound reasonable to you? I hope not.

With all the saturated markets and over-crowded lifes of everyone, it is more important than ever to shape an image of oneself that sticks. One that people can remember you and your business by. And that brings a new requirement into the world of traditional photography: The pictures your photographer shoots should not just show your pretty face. It must convey more. It should reveal more. It is no longer you in the foreground and an impressive building in the background. People can get way more information about you and the services or products you offer when they look at a picture of you.

So use that power to promote your business. And find a photographer who understands that his or her job is no longer to simply frame you. The job of a personal branding photographer is to get an understanding of you, what you are standing for, what values you promote and convey all these information in one image. So that your business headshots get the right message through. That you are a diamond, ready to shine.

Reason #2: You‘re mostly conducting business online

Let’s face it. The business world has changed. 20 years ago you would probably have met your new business counterpart live and in person during a conference or at a company meeting. But these days? Someone probably connected you through Instagram, Linkedin or just simply gave you their mobile number so you can send them a quick WhatsApp-message.

Bottom-line: The chances are really high that you get the first impression of someone via their online profile, through a messenger service or in another digital way. So let’s be straight: You need to update your online appearance. It is no longer a nice to have. You are risking losing useful business connections if you don’t have the proper images for your digital introductions. Not caring for your images online or doing just the baseline things like having a LinkedIn-profile pic, taken on a vacation ten years ago, put on your profile because you need to have an account and therefore some kind of profile picture is bad. It’s like going to work without a shower and in sweatpants.

So unless you are an athlete and sports gear is mandatory for your work dress for the job you want. And use the same approach for your digital persona. From here we can go back to what I wrote about what a personal branding photographer does in the last paragraph of reason #1. This also applies here.

Reason #3: You want to get a personal spin on your business accounts on social media

Yep, I get it. Some of you just flinched. Because I wrote personal and business account in one sentence. But as a fierce believer in the power of maintaining sustainable relationships especially in the business world, relationships that are built on trust and loyalty, I recommend to always show something of your personality on your business accounts. I know, I know, we should always separate work and fun. But then again shouldn’t we use the word „should“ either and still there are so many „shoulds“ in every conversation.

My point: Relationship need personality. People need personality. And because a visual information sticks longer than the written word: You need images. But not just any kind of images. Sure you hanging out with your buddies at the golf course is definitely conveying some sort of personal information. But is it the information you want to share with your audience, clients and prospects?

Get yourself a photographer who understands personal branding. Sit down together and talk about you. Let the photographer ask you a lot of questions. Answer them. Honestly. So that your photographer really, deeply, sincerely understands what you want to show with your images. And then wait and let the personal branding photographer come back to you with an idea on how to present yourself. In a way that is aligned with your business vision and mission statement.

Because getting more personal on Social Media can give your audience a better understanding of what it is you are striving for. They can understand you better, get a better grasp on why they should hire you or buy your products. And when you give them a connection point, a point so that they see that you and they are on the same page, this creates a deep feeling of understanding, connection and familiarity. Which then leads to more loyalty. So don’t let this opportunity go to waste. Get a photographer that helps you create and foster relationships online.

Reason #4: You‘re unsure what your core values are

That one is a tough one. Have you ever wondered why some photographers create better images than others? Not from an objective craft standpoint. But in a  sense of „grasping the essence of a person“. Think of pictures you have looked at during the last week or month. Probably you have seen one or two were you stopped and thought to yourself „yeah, the photographer really gets this person“. Or „this photographer understood the moment“.

Shooting portrait pictures is always about getting people to open up and creating a connection between photographer and model. In order to create un-stiff and lively pictures, you need to make people open up to you. Usually, a portrait photographer starts when the shooting begins and stop at the point when people start to get comfortable in front of the camera. The work for a personal branding photographer starts earlier.

Like I described personal branding photography is all about understanding you and your values. Understanding what matters to you and why this is important to you. It’s necessary to create images that are not just pretty but do tell a story. Your story. So it has a very high facet of coaching and consulting, especially on the topic of branding.

So when you know you want to have more personal images or professional business headshots with a spin, that show more than just the usual „I can wear a Rolex“-crap, reach out to a personal branding photographer. Sit down, talk and get clear of what values you want to present and what values you want to stand for.

Reason #5: You need an empowerment tool

Getting new pictures of oneself can be like going to the hairdresser and get a make-over. So empowering. Or total crap because your bangs are too short and your new hair color makes you look pale and unhealthy. Why do I come up with this example? Because I worked with several people and there are usually two ways they described their experiences with photoshoots. Either „hell yeah, it was amazing and then I got the pictures and I felt so good about myself.“ Or a simple „She forced me to show my teeth while laughing. And I had to toss my hair back. I felt so unnatural. And didn’t like any of the pictures.“ So a photo shoot can have a very uplifting or downing effect.

The same goes for personal branding photography. Describing personal branding photography as an empowerment tool might sound presumptuous to you. But after having several personal branding shootings including the usual „get to the core of you“-sessions upfront I have realized: Personal branding helps people to get a better understanding of themselves. Because in order to create the right images the photographer needs to get very clear and very precise statements/thoughts/ideas/characteristics from the client. So that’s why I ask a lot of questions before we even have signed a contract yet. Probably more questions than any 3-year-old. And I don’t stop when the answer is „I want to look competent“. I want to know what competence means to you.

And even then there’s no stopping. I also want to know what you have achieved so far. And not just the obvious things like „I have a degree in“ or „I got a promotion“. There is always more to a person than some achievements. My pre-personal-branding-session stops when I have a mindmap of who you are beyond the things you would write in 08/15-standard-application. They stop after we uncovered your hidden talents and the hidden expertise and competences everybody has but isn’t aware of.

And that is the really amazing thing about personal branding sessions: Usually, people have the very uplifting experience of seeing more off themselves afterward. Presumptuous of me to say that? Maybe. But try it out for yourself. And see if it works.

When not to hire a personal branding photographer

If some of the following things apply to you I would surely recommend to not hiring a personal branding photographer:

„I am so not into spending time on thinking about myself.“

If you want a quick-jump-in-jump-out-session personal branding is not for you. To get an understanding of who you are is not an act of 25 seconds. I would even go so far as to say the shorter the time you spend with your photographer upfront the more the image of you will be created out of judgment and assumptions. It is then more an image of what your photographer thinks about you and less about what you want to show about yourself.

Also if you don’t like to do some soul-searching or simply are not into the whole „start-with-why“-business-mindset personal branding photography may also be not for you. Knowing your why or being on your way to finding your way is an important role for storytelling and personal branding photography is all about presenting your story and not about putting out a blunt statement.

„I don’t want to work for this.“

Photography – like any other type of work with more than one party – can only work if model and photographer both put there share of work into it. Especially with personal branding photography, there are more things than the usual „is my hair looking great“ to consider. Fear not, a lot of the things will be done by your photographer. But you have to be on board with the whole „showing a personal and maybe unknown side of myself“-thing.

„The internet will never establish itself. It’s only a phase.“

Yeah. Well. I don’t think so. But if you do and you don’t believe that the Industry 4.0 is a thing then I am surprised that you read this blog post until now. And I am pretty sure personal branding isn’t for you as it has a highly digital focus.

And for all the others: Get yourself a personal branding photographer if you want to make your digital business more personal. Or if you need a new headshot that shows more than just your pretty face.


After years of working in the automobile sector Anna Christina Harms decided that she should stick to would she really loves: Educating, photographing and strategizing. She is now living in Berlin and supporting freelancers and SMEs with their personal branding and social media strategy.
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