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katie taylor // estd 2019

11 Remarkable Brand Shoot Essentials

After a quick Pinterest search I realized that some of the best things I brought to my most recent photoshoot weren’t in any of the typical brand shoot preparation posts I’ve come across. Planning a brand photoshoot is no small job. And the last thing you want is to be disappointed with the results after so much effort and heart goes into the planning. Especially when you realize how easily the situation could have been avoided.

After 3 of my own shoots, and helping clients with their own when the photos will go on their new website, I’ve learned a thing or two, or thirty-seven things. But who’s counting?!

I know that these items can make just as big a difference as the outfits and poses themselves.

My Brand Shoot Essentials List

  • Command Hooks
  • Mixed Medium Materials
  • Something Fun & Unexpected
  • Office Items (the cute version)
  • Personal Items
  • Statement Pieces
  • A Talented Brand Photographer
  • Great Space & Lighting 
  • An Extra Set of Hands
  • Wall-Safe Tape
  • Food & Drinks

Command Hooks

No matter where your photoshoot takes place, you’ll likely be rearranging the space and creating particular scenes for the photographs. Adding items to the wall space creates dimension and balance in the photos.

Command hooks give you so many options without wall damage.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Woman faces wall smiling with a pen in hand as she makes notes on materials posted and taped to the wall.

I brought this framed art from my office to the shoot and the clear command hooks worked perfectly!

White paper with notes is taped to a white wall with large brown craft paper hanging in the middle from a black wall hook.

I loved the statement of the black hook but at a fraction of the cost of my original inspiration. You can also see I used the same command hooks and swapped out the framed art for a dry erase board later on in the same photoshoot.

Mixed Medium Materials

Composition through flow, direction, and visual balance, helps drive the story behind your image and grabs your viewer’s attention (credit). By bringing a combination of different materials you’ll create more compelling photos and an overall stronger visual message.

Even though I do alot of document work on my computer, I brought a beautiful tan suede binder for the photo shoot. I’m not the photographer here, but the bottom line is, it created better photo outcomes.

If you’re not sure how to incorporate mixed mediums for your own photos, brainstorm from these categories:

  1. Tone
  2. Texture
  3. Shape
  4. Size

Here are a few examples:

Neutral colored pens and pencil sit in glass cup atop a table with design papers in background. A woman's hand is reaching to remove a pencil from the cup.

This photo is a great combination of mediums. You’ll see oversized paper prints, a textured cardstock print with actual paint samples, some pantone cards, and the glass table I’m using adds diversity to the materials.

Design books sit next to gold table accent architecture on top of a white tabletop. The sun is casting a beautiful shadow against the white wall behind the books.

Even the books helped create photo composition. The ones I brought had different cover finishes, widths, and font stylings. We used the books in a variety of different photos.

Woman in coral dress is standing in front of a mirror and wood console table holding an open design book and skimming through the pages.

Still using books here, but creating a totally different visual presentation. Books are not the most convenient to transport, but they’re an affordable way to make a big statement.

Just for fun, let me tell you the effort that went into bringing books to this particular photoshoot.

The Story of Bringing Books to My Own Photoshoot: A Good Laugh

I rented a downtown Airbnb in an old historic building since converted into a beautiful second floor loft apartment. Parking was the next block over on the second level of a parking garage with no elevator or staircase. And there were two locked entrances before needing to climb the creaky stairs to the apartment door.

I originally packed one large suitcase anticipating the use of an elevator. Thankfully, I drove by the building beforehand and realized there would be no elevator to help me out. So I repacked into two smaller suitcases that I dragged up the stairs and back down again just a few hours later.

Don’t let anyone tell you a good, quality photo shoot doesn’t require effort. Likewise, don’t buy into the story that the photo results aren’t worth it. They continually transform my business.

Bring Something Fun & Unexpected to Your Brand Photoshoot

This is the perfect time to show off some of your personality and let your audience get to know you outside of what your business offers. I happened to be approaching my business’ 2nd anniversary so I opted for some on-brand balloons. I spent the night before watching, between the air pump noise, The Kissing Booth 3 (or is it 4?) and blowing up balloons for a super fun balloon arch.

A screenshot from Instagram of a woman sitting on the floor surrounded by various sized balloons in brown and white tone colors.

Creating something fun, aesthetically pretty, with a minimal look to it is totally authentic to me. I own the electric balloon pump, if that tells you anything. And it wasn’t my first balloon arch. Check it out!

Woman smiles and laughs right into the camera while leaning forward with elbows on legs and hands gently resting in the air below her chin. A balloon arch is faded in the background.

Office Items With Style

I personally love a good office vibe. You can see an entire post on my favorite office items here. But I grabbed some extra items for the shoot and they now also live happily in my office. Here are a few that work well for almost any industry.

The photo looks directly down onto a tabletop with an open laptop, iphone, clipboard and office notes. Hands are on the laptop keys and a cup of coffee sits off to the side.

Personal Items

Personal items are a great way to keep the photos from looking like a studio shoot with little personality or using generic items that don’t add much value to the photos. Especially if you go off-location to a new place like I did. I used my personal items to keep the photos genuine to me, my business, and what my audience expects to see when they view my brand.

Here’s what I chose as my personal items:

  • My laptop
  • A favorite plant
  • My family (awwww!)
  • A framed piece of art my daughter and I colored together
  • Books
  • Office Supplies
  • Wall Art

Statement Pieces

I liked that I checked this one off the list with the Airbnb rental I selected. It was so much fun looking at different spaces and dreaming about what I’d want my own large office studio to look like if I could walk into any place and call it my own.

Woman sitting on white chaise lounge wearing business casual dress and looking off camera in a white, industrial, stylish sitting room space.

You can see my sweet plant off to the left and my daughter’s rainbow art to the right. Everything else in this photo was already arranged in the space. D-R-E-A-M-Y!! The wall art and hand statue with the leather chaise chair brought some variety to my usual style, but without straying away from what I’m known for.

Mom and her young daughter share a smile together in their dresses while mom holds daughter's head in her hands looking down upon her.

Can you even with this mirror and mid-modern buffet? I would have happily brought both pieces home with me that day. And even though the gold bar stools aren’t ideal for daily life (I need a comfy place for my bum, people) they made for a great accent in many photos.

This space is actually a coffee bar for normal guests. We moved the espresso machine and microwave and brought the lamp and gold tray out from one of the bedrooms. It’s the same lamp as in the photo above, so many options here!

White industrial office space with design collateral hanging on walls and a large wooden desk positioned in front of woman looking at the design wall with a marker in hand.

Photo shoot are a fun time to ask yourself, “what do I love but probably won’t actually ever use or have in my business?” For me, it was the 14 ft exposed ceilings, the industrial piping, and yes, this glass top table.

Extra props to my photographer for working with this table. It was more challenging to photograph but the photos are some of my absolute favorites!! I can’t imagine not having those photos now!

An Incredible Brand Photographer

In the two years that I’ve been running Abundant Collab Co. I’ve had three different brand photo scenarios. I’d say this is a pretty common scenario for a new business.

It started by borrowing a friend, offering her coffee and lunch, and meeting at a cute town to grab some photos on my iPhone. When you’re starting out, budget is tight, and your business brand is continually evolving this is a totally appropriate option. Others disagree, but I won’t knock it because it served me well.

A year later, I asked a family and lifestyle portrait photographer to do a brand shoot at an Airbnb close to my house. We bartered services and again, the photos were what I needed in that season of my business.

That photo shoot was such a good learning experience (aka I saw how much work goes into preparing and executing. And I learned how tiring the day is, even though it’s fun). So I walked away with more great photos, so much experience, and a client project for her that I thoroughly enjoyed completing.

Now, let me tell you the difference in using a specialized brand photographer like Rachael Leigh.

Like I mentioned above, photo composition changes based on the photo style you’re looking to capture. Brand photography is unique in the elements that are involved. The photographer needs to be able to catch not just the people in the photo, but also the surrounding scene that helps to tell a particular story.

A brand photographer will share in the responsibility of planning the session, guiding you in the best photo choices, and take the lead on photo day.

A photographer shows her client an image directly off her camera. Assistant is standing on top of a gold stool after throwing confetti for the photo.

Here’s what it looked like working with Rachael

  1. Discovery Call: We reviewed my objectives and confirmed we’d be a great fit working together on this project!
  2. Questionnaire: I spent some time sharing more of my business and brand with Rachael through her custom questionnaire.
  3. A Call Together: We used this call to answer follow-up questions Rachael had for me and to start to iron out what some of the photos might actually look like and how they’d be used in my business, content, and marketing.
  4. I worked on gathering the specifics that we culled together to articulate specific components of my business.
  5. Photo Day!
  6. Photo Preview Gallery: This was delivered about a week after the shoot.
  7. Full Gallery Delivery: Her turnaround time was about 3 weeks, and delivered within the window she provided at booking.

I’m so grateful for the time Rachael spent preparing for my brand photoshoot. Together we not only created ideas, but clarified how to translate those visions into photography. It was magical.

A Great Space & Natural Lighting

Especially if you live in the Midwest like I do, don’t risk a poor lighting situation. As we’ve talked about here, this space had a variety of spaces to be used. We grabbed items from other rooms, rearranged, and turned this apartment into a stunning studio space.

What you can’t see is that the entire wall (off camera to the left of the last photo above) is an entire wall of 12′ windows with shade pull-downs. This gave us extensive control over the lighting throughout the day.

You don’t need a big space or lots of rooms to create multiple scenes and style setups. Outside of the shoot I personally enjoyed the TV area, cozy bedrooms, and beautiful bathrooms. In fact, had we used all these spaces, it would have felt overly busy and complicated.

An Extra Set of Hands

An extra set of hands, or two, or three won’t be wasted during an in-depth photoshoot like this. The photographer is guiding the session, tracking the photos that need to be taken and when. Whoever is in the photos is posing, changing outfits, or freshening up hair and makeup between shots. It is a busy day.

Here’s how those extra hands can help make the day flow with ease:

  • Watch for any out of place hairs during photos
  • Prepare items for upcoming photos
  • Clean away items no longer being used
  • Prep snacks
  • Hold items off-screen as necessary
  • Steam clothes before outfit changes
  • Tidy anything that the photographer notices as they go to snap a photo
  • Help hang the balloon arch and throw confetti (or maybe this was just for my shoot…)

Wall Safe Tape

I could have included this somewhere in the list above, but decided it’s worth mentioning on it’s own. In this case it’s used both visually and as a hard behind-the-scenes worker. I used decorative washi tape as one of my mediums throughout the photos. But what you don’t see is the painter’s tape holding up the magnet clips, balloon arch, and other miscellaneous items.

This image shows up close pantone color cards hanging on a white wall with magnetic clips. You can also see a watercolor cardstock print and some post-it notes around the pantone cards.

Food & Snacks

There’s usually not time to break and go somewhere for lunch. And like I’ve said (probably too many times at this point), it’s a busy day and you’re bound to get hungry. It’s hard to smile on camera when you’re hungry. It’s hard for anyone to concentrate when they’re hungry. You might even notice yourself light-headed or nauseous if you aren’t eating and drinking enough throughout the day.

Pack a cooler, grab some snacks beforehand, and don’t forget bottled water in case the tap water isn’t great.

Think about snacks that are easy to eat in between photos so you aren’t constantly needing to brush your teeth. I love cheese, fresh apple slices, and this trail mix for some protein and tasty chocolate.

All brand photography images shared in this post were captured by the lovely Rachael Leigh herself.


Hi there, I’m Katie Taylor! A website designer, business strategist, and creative analyst! I help service-based businesses take their websites from drab to fab with purpose, beautiful design, and strategy so they can stand out online with a better brand, easily book dream clients, and spend more time enjoying life. I also work 1:1 with businesses to create better marketing outcomes.

If you enjoyed this post, join me over on Instagram so you can keep up with more just like it! I know you won’t let Instagram burnout get the best of you!

Be sure to drop me a hello in the DMs so we can properly meet. You’ll notice my community is full of real people, like you. I remove the spam, advertisers, and anyone who doesn’t believe in kindness.

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You might also like this blog post where I talk about the photo planning process of an upcoming brand shoot! Check it out!

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A creative analyst at heart blending more than a decade of education, leadership, & design experience to create a space where entrepreneurs are able to show up as themselves without feeling like they need to do or be more in order to succeed. 

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