Amy Alexander video on photo shoots

What is a branded photo shoot? Plus, four times it’s a bad investment.

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What is a branded photo shoot?

A branded photo shoot is an opportunity to take custom photography that features your brand specifically. It doesn’t have to be your branded product if you don’t sell something tangible. Branded photography includes portraying the brand story lifestyle  you are trying to inspire in potential and current buyers. Practically speaking, this means you hire a photographer, set up your sessions and your environments, choose your own models that fit your persona, and take branded shots. If you have tangible products, you’re also going to include those products. 

At Story, we are big believers in the power of branded photography. But, that doesn’t mean it’s always worth the investment.

When is a branded photo shoot not a great investment for your company?

We have clients ask us, “Is it really worth it?” Developing your own photo shoot can be a bit of an investment. It can be anywhere between $2,000 to $5,000, depending on if you’re hiring models. This means the juice has to be worth the squeeze.

Four times a branded photo shoot is not worth the investment.

  1. One of the most important times is when you are a start-up that doesn’t have a lot of capital. It could be that you’re using the lean methodology that our team loves so much, which is essentially starting a company on cash flow. If you don’t have a product that you’re trying to stock, then there’s no reason for a lot of capital. And if that’s the case, a branded photo shoot is the wrong spend in the early months/years. Later on, it won’t be, but right now, you should use stock photography. It’ll absolutely do the job for you — especially if you choose the right stock photography. If you are a start-up with a lot of capital and you need the return on that investment faster, a branded photo shoot may still be worth the spend.
  2. When your company is in the middle of a huge pivot, and that pivot doesn’t have a clear direction or a clear product, a branded photo shoot will have you jump the gun. Sometimes, you are pivoting from one thing to another and you’re still exploring what that product might look like. If you’re exploring that new customer and vision, it’s just not the right time for a branded photo shoot. If you’re having to put up landing pages and do some marketing to test your verticals, you can use stock images.
  3. A third time to avoid a branded photo shoot is if  your company is taking a consistent loss, and you are looking for new important ways to make money quickly. You need your marketing to hit hard, but you don’t have a lot of money. A branded photo shoot, in our opinion, is probably the wrong spend. You need to spend money on really smart channels, the right voice, the right assets, and stock photos are going to work perfectly well for the time being. Stock photos will keep you from spending $2,000 to $5,000 when you’re already in a place where you’re experiencing a loss.
  4. The last time is a little bit nuanced. If  you are a larger company and you’re finding that you need someone taking photos all the time, a single branded photo shoot could be the wrong direction. Let’s say that you’re considering hiring an out of house photographer monthly or more, you may want to stop investing money in an external photographer with expensive one-off shoots, and instead invest in an in-house photographer. Also, if you’re looking to have control over a ton of photos all the time, that’s another great opportunity for an in-house photographer. It’s obviously a different kind of commitment, but it doesn’t make sense to continually put out $2,000 to $5,000 when you can hire someone — even if they’re part-time.

When is a branded photo shoot worth the investment?

In our opinion, there are a lot of opportunities for holding a branded shoot, or working toward a branded photo bank. 

When you sell a tangible product

If you have a tangible product you are selling, even if you’re a start-up, you’ve got to have photos of your products. And in our opinion, you also need to have photos of your products in  lifestyle settings. We’re not just talking about in the studio, on a white backdrop. You need to have your product used in what appear to be real life situations, so that you’re really mimicking that aspirational life that you’re selling to your potential buyers.

When you sell a facility or culture

We find that education is an area where people need branded photos frequently. This might be a time when you have someone come in regularly. Branded photos are a really important opportunity if you need to show off your facilities, or the specific culture your education provides. If you’re a private Christian school, you likely have uniforms, and you can’t get away with stock photography. When you have a company or an organization that is selling a culture and an environment, you almost always need branded photography. Because, while you may not have a tangible commodity that you’re selling, you are selling a tangible environment and space, and you are selling culture. The only way to capture that culture is to come take photos.

When you’re building a new marketing strategy

If you’re going to be re-evaluating your marketing plan, you might need to also add some branded photography to your strategy. Some companies can get away with only doing a shoot every couple of years. Most of the time, you’ll want to plan a shoot once or twice a year.

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Quick tips for building a successful photo shoot:

  • Plan to build a library. Shoot photos that can be used across your brand, over and over again. 
  • Expect to spend $2,000 to $5,000. The cost of a photographer is going to be somewhere between $2,000 and $3,000. The cost of models tends to be somewhere around $1,000 a day.
  • Use volunteer models. A branded shoot is a great opportunity for having  current customers that have become advocates–people that really love your product–be in your photos.
  • Never cut costs on a photographer. You want someone seasoned, who is very comfortable in commercial settings, and is a really, really great use of your money.

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