How to Find a Personal Branding Shoot Location | Erica + Jon Photography

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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.

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How to Find a Personal Branding Shoot Location

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.

Consider Your Brand’s Aesthetic

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.

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Phoenix Arizona Brand Photographer | Phoenix AZ | ericaandjon.com_0044.jpg

Look for Locations that Offer Convenient Variety

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!

Phoenix Arizona Brand Photographer | Phoenix AZ | ericaandjon.com_0047.jpg
Phoenix Arizona Brand Photographer | Phoenix AZ | ericaandjon.com_0045.jpg
Phoenix Arizona Brand Photographer | Phoenix AZ | ericaandjon.com_0046.jpg
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Phoenix Arizona Brand Photographer | Phoenix AZ | ericaandjon.com_0050.jpg
Phoenix Arizona Brand Photographer | Phoenix AZ | ericaandjon.com_0049.jpg

Helpful Disclaimers

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!

comments +

  1. Michelle

    January 14th, 2020 at 6:15 am

    This is very useful information, thank you! My only question is: do you just rent the space for a few hours? Normally they require you to rent it for a minimum overnight stay. How do you go around this?

  2. Erica + Jon

    January 14th, 2020 at 9:36 am

    Hi Michelle! Great question! When we inquire with the Airbnb host, we are upfront about our intentions like we mentioned in the blog post. When we inquire with them we ask if they have availability and/or special rates for photoshoots if we only need the property for a couple of hours. Some are 100% on board and provide us with a special rate and availability within the window of time we requested (especially in non-busy seasons). Other times, they say they’ll allow photography, but we need to pay the normal overnight rate, in which case if we really want that property we’ll pay it and either absorb the cost if it’s a shoot for us personally, or pass that cost on to the client. In our experience, the overnight costs are even relatively low in comparison to studio rental time, so it’s a win-win either way!

  3. Emily

    January 14th, 2020 at 9:27 am

    Thank you so much for sharing! I have the same question as Michelle. I don’t mind paying the overnight rate, but how do you communicate the time you’d like the space? Most Airbnb’s have 11am checkout and 4pm check in, which leaves out the best time to schedule photos.

  4. Erica + Jon

    January 14th, 2020 at 9:41 am

    Hey Emily – thanks for the question! Like we mentioned in the blog, we are as upfront with our intentions as possible with the property owner. In our experience, they’ve made exceptions to the timeline posted for regular stays if they know what we are wanting to do – so we just ask! In our opinion, the worst that can happen is you receive a ‘no’ in response.

    Most people who have photo-worthy locations know they will be asked about shoots and are likely prepared for your questions. If not, use it as an opportunity to educate them on why you’d like to use their space during certain hours (ie: lighting) just like you’d explain to your client when scheduling their session time around ideal light.

    We’ve had the most success with flexibility on properties in off-hours and off-peak seasons, so keep that in mind as well! For example, baseball’s Spring Training season is HUGE business for Airbnb’s in Arizona, so even those owners we’ve developed relationships with are unlikely to bend rules when they are booked solid or have a high likelihood to book their space for more than the value of our shoot.

    Hope that helps, and best of luck!!

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