I was scrolling social media, as you do, when a targeted ad appeared on my feed. Perfectly posed photos that could’ve been of young models, perfectly edited, and the appealing price of £60 for the session, saying they’ll print your favourite photos too on the spot. It also made a bold claim: no need to be self-conscious, there’s no photographer. It was for a self-portraits studio.
And, yet, even in Korea (where the self-portraits studio is originally from), people hire photographers. In Japan, which is also a country known for technological advances (try the toilets in Japan House next time you are shopping on Kensington High Street), people hire photographers to do cosplay sessions!
If you are extremely introverted maybe learning to take self-portraits is a good idea for you, but that’s the thing. In spite of the clickbait title (it’s the year of the goddess 2023 on the Internet, I had no choice), I’m not here to tell you you shouldn’t. But I want to tell you what it really looks like to take your own photos. Then I’ll tell you what it should feel like to work with a photographer, and any other info you need to make an informed decision.(More on choosing the right photographer coming, stay tuned)
In spite of making a living out of selling pictures, I think your marketing has space for less polished content. In fact, that could be the ticket for a deeper engagement with your clients. People love to connect with humans, although different people have different preferences for what they like to see.
You don’t need to be someone you are not, but if they are your ideal audience they like you. I gravitate towards people who make curating a life of beauty and pleasure a priority. It’s one of my main values. Bring on your beautiful homes and carefully laid out altars.
Selfies and self-portraits like a Photo Booth in a 2000s teen movie can be fun. I love them to commemorate a day out with friends of family, or wearing an outfit that slays.
If you’re thinking of it to cut the cost of a portrait photographer, you need to think carefully. You risk just cutting the £60 out of your overall budget.
The studio in question offers unlimited photos, but it has a timed slot. If you are not comfortable in front of a camera, you need to be absolutely sure the problem is that someone is behind it. I struggle to take photos of myself. Even if I spent years studying from big names in the industry so I could get better at posing people. It’s a lot harder to see yourself than it is to see others. Even when you can see the preview and use a remote control instead of a timer (that’s the biggest selling point for me, by the way).
Their website has 30 min at £40 or 60 min at £80, with extra costs per people and you get all the digital photos you take for another £10. I don’t like to offer short times because I know that it’s hard to loosen up. Especially when you’re not used to having your photos taken. And I don’t want you to have bad photos at the end.
The limitations of self-portraits
If you need a standard headshot for your profile picture, and are confident that you can nail the correct pose in the time allotted, that’s a great price. Unlike at home, the lighting has been worked out for you (presumably, it brands itself as a studio). And you can always use an easy photo editor on top.
In the 60 min session you may get away with some small changes like removing a jacket. But believe me time goes by a lot faster than people anticipate. It’s best if you go in with low expectation. Focus on getting the one star shot. If you’re lucky and nail your poses right away you’ll get a few more, but it’s not going to give you unlimited usable ones.
Personal branding photoshoots show more of you
Personal branding photography has grown to be a niche in its own right because it blends portraiture of different styles. You get classic headshots, environmental portraits and lifestyle photography. Sometimes product photography too. It portrays you in a physical environment that shows your brand and what you stand for. It has different uses because its purpose is visual brand storytelling.
Studio portraits, even if you hired a photographer to do them, are limited in their uses. The difference is if have a long photo session you get a few changes of clothes. Depending on the studio maybe a limited amount of props. That’s why personal branding specialists take their sessions outside of the classic studio, although many professionals have been successful at using more traditional portraiture in their personal branding. And I don’t mean just actors and models either.
Visual Brand Storytelling is the key
At the end of the day, it’s all about your marketing skills. If you are a seasoned marketing professional you can bootstrap it all and be good at it. But if your zone of genius is somewhere else, it’s worth investing in what gives you the highest return.
If you are looking to build your visual brand storytelling resource pot, you can save yourself a lot of time and hassle just by looking into how you can afford to delegate. Maybe you need a website that is a lot less image-heavy to start with. Even if you look at all the Tonic templates with as much longing as your lover after a long separation. No judgement there, I have lusted after the French75 for months.
My first website was just a portfolio website. The only images available were those you see on my portfolio page now. Then as you get more and more clients you can set money aside for up levelling your brand. It doesn’t mean you need to do a full rebranding, or a big reveal (although they can be fun). You can make small adjustments as they become available.
It’s okay if your visual brand storytelling builds over time
It’s common for portrait photographers to have standard packages, but I offer personalised prices for a reason: I want to know your brand and present you with options that serve you best.
If you have been in business long enough (and not likely to do a whole rebranding that changes your colours in the near future), then getting enough images to cover your marketing for at least half a year at a time would be a good investment.
If you are new to being in business, the odds are that you are still experimenting with what truly resonates both with you and your audience. You may find out that your assumptions in the planning stage are subverted when you are actually out there. Then it would not be the best thing for you to bulk as much content, and a smaller package would be best.
Or I can offer you the bigger one as a retainer for smaller batches of work more frequently so that I can capture your evolution and help you build your story over time.
A lot more goes into planning photography for brands, personal or otherwise, than just standing in front of a camera and smiling (which, by the way, also has a lot of considerations if you want one that looks great).
But a self-portraits photo studio sounds like a lot of fun for personal memories, and I can’t wait to try it for myself.