We're Erica + Jon, professional photographers, Mr + Mrs and Mom + Dad. We like to share insights into our industry, behind the scenes and stories about our life and chips + salsa obsession.
When we receive a new client inquiry, one of the first things we do is set up a phone call to talk over their brand, their goals for imagery, and to get to know them as a potential new client. As the calls progress, we typically start throwing out ideas of what a photo session might look like and how we would accomplish their goals together. We consistently preach that two main factors will be the differentiators between a successful shoot and an unsuccessful one. Preparation and Location. And while this is especially true for personal brand shoots, it really is universal across all branding sessions. To help you with the latter, we’ve put together our tips for How to Find a Personal Branding Shoot Location.
We’ve shot in locations of all shapes, sizes, and themes, but the goal with every single one of them was to match the overall aesthetic for the brand we were shooting for. If your brand is bright, white, and minimalist, shooting in a dark and moody location isn’t going to be consistent for your brand.
One of the greatest luxuries the modern Instagram era has afforded us as brand photographers is an almost limitless supply of venues literally created to be Insta-worthy! We most often find these in the form of Airbnb‘s which work especially well for personal brands, but we’ve even shot in them for major household names before, too!
Shopping Airbnb’s is easy and allows you to source multiple locations for your client to consider. We’ve shot in bright and modern Airbnb’s, dark, masculine ones with dramatic lighting, and even homes with a modern French-chic vibe! Look at these photos we shot for our client Bobby in three completely different Airbnb’s. Each has its own unique look and feel.
One of our hard and fast rules of brand photography is variety. It’s always our goal to approach a session with the intention of leaving our clients with so much variety that it gives their audience the feeling that a professional photographer always follows them around! Aside from prior planning with props and wardrobe, the other biggest contributing factor to creating variety is the location.
Again, Airbnb’s come into play here for us as a perfect solution, especially for personal brands. By its functional design alone, a home offers variety with the number of functional spaces that correlate easily to real life. Think kitchen, living room, dining spaces, etc.
To make an Airbnb even more useful, we typically try to source locations in a trendy area that will offer outdoor variety as well. Some of our favorite venues are regular go-to’s for us not only because the space itself is incredible, but also because of the walking distance to additional outdoor spaces and features that we can take advantage of.
To help visualize this point, take a look at these photos we took for our friends and clients, Refuge Photography at a single Airbnb location!
We’ve learned a few things in our experience with Airbnb’s that we’d be remiss not to share with you in a blog post talking about the usefulness of Airbnb’s for branding shoots.
For starters, always make sure that the property owner knows your intentions with the property. Some owners don’t have a care in the world about photo sessions taking place on their property. Some even charge a cheaper rate for photographers because they know the cleaning costs afterwards will likely be much cheaper than someone who brings their family in to stay the night.
On the other hand, some property owners feel that their investment and time designing a photo worthy space is worth an extra cost to photographers, so they charge higher rates for photography in their space. And finally, others have a strict ‘no photo’ policy altogether and prohibit photos from being taken on property.
We always advocate for receiving permission on any location you plan to shoot at, so make sure you are up front and forward with your intentions and make sure the property owner is ok with what you plan to do. No location is worth sacrificing your integrity for.
Another issue we’ve run into is some space presenting themselves a little too generously on the Airbnb website. In other words, the wonders of wide-angle lenses and extensive photo editing can go a long way to making a space seem much larger, more polished, and photo worthy than it really is.
We actually ran into this issue on a location that our client picked for a shoot. From the photos, the space was full of natural light, had large open spaces in the areas we needed to focus on, and was recently remodeled and picture-perfect. In reality, the space was small and cramped, the remodel had been completed, but not as completely as the photos implied, and natural light was nowhere to be found – it was plain dark in there!
We did our best to work around the less advantageous features of that location and with our knowledge about lighting and Erica’s eye for styling we were able to still create bright images that were on brand for our client, but its definitely something to be aware of. If you find a location you like, try searching other platforms for that location to see if anyone has been there and tagged it on Instagram, for example, so you can see how their photos reflect the space.
As two people who not only take other’s brand photos for a living, but also work hard to produce our own brand content (and lived in a home for 2 years that was anything but photogenic) we love the value packed advantages that Airbnb’s can give for personal brand photo sessions!
Have you used them for your shoots before? How was the experience? Is there anything else you’d add to our list of advantages or disclaimers? We’d love to hear from you!