Caveat Emptor

February 24, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

As a trained brand photographer part of my service is staying on top of current best practices, so whenever I see an opportunity to “learn branding,” I try to take it. I came across an ad on social media providing information on creating your brand online. It promised to do so in a short period of time, and I could watch a video for free information.

Within 1 1/2 minutes the presenter began to bash brand photography. Within another 45 seconds I decided this needed to be addressed.

What came around the time we got halfway through the video had my jaw on the floor.

Here’s the summary.

Presenter complaint #1: hiring a brand photographer is expensive and “not good for cash flow.”

My thought was that the presented price tag actually seemed quite appropriate for what they got from the brand photo shoot described, especially as a return on the time value for the business owner. In theory, strategic use of these photos should be helping the brand earn back their investment with additional qualified business. If cash flow is an issue, perhaps they could find a brand photographer that offers a package that better fits their budget or a payment plan.

Presenter complaint #2: she felt it was “extremely limited” to spend four to five hours with “no plan” and minimal outfit or location changes.

With a properly trained photographer, there should be a brand shoot plan, and four to five hours should be plenty of time to create what you need. We want to work smarter, not harder, and frankly I'm a little tired after four hours of solid work. How many outfit or location changes do you need to represent your brand? I don't limit it, but they apparently found someone who did. In any case, your shoot should be focused and intentional, and lots of good work can be created in half a day.

Presenter complaint #3: with standard brand photography, you “only” get 50 or so photos, of which you only use 10, that are edited in the photographer’s style, not necessarily on brand for your business.

First off, 50ish photos per quarter will allow you to post daily Monday through Friday, with just enough room for you to blend other graphics or “in the moment” social media photos. You should be refreshing these fairly regularly, and if you are only using 10, that's an important conversation you should be having before your next session. A brand photographer should be creating a clean slate of images for you to edit to match your brand as desired, or ask if they include editing to your style as part of any of their packages. For instance, I provide clean edits and allow further editing. I also offer further edits, such as cropping for particular social media or retouching. Want them warmer or cooler? Sure, I can do that. These details are all part of the planning process.

Presenter complaint #4: you have to organize the content yourself with no extra support.

This is an important conversation to have with your brand photographer ahead of time. You should be pre-planning what you need your images for and how you will use them. If you skip that step, your photographer cannot help you. They are shooting blind and don’t know how you best access your assets. If they do not offer pre-planning, find another photographer who does. A brand’s photography service should be able to provide you an organization option that matches your needs.

Presenter complaint #5: hiring someone with no stake in your brand and no marketing knowledge of your industry or who is not trained to create marketing content for your needs.

Well, that's true. You hired a brand photographer, not a brand manager or social media manager. Ideally, you will look for a brand photographer who has experience in your particular industry niche. Collaboration is the key to a good business relationship, and a good brand photographer will get to know your brand and marketing needs and become part of your business content creation team alongside you. Yes, they do have a stake in your brand, because if they don't do it right, you don't rehire them and you do not refer them to your colleagues.

The presenter then goes on say, “no wonder people only wanted to create custom content every few years.” I'm trying to figure out why they didn't hire a brand photographer they felt comfortable with, who provided for their needs, or why they didn’t rehire them when they needed fresh material. This should be part of your regular marketing plan so that you can show up online consistently. Brand photography is not a “one and done” kind of thing. You should be reviewing and renewing regularly. Ideally this would be seasonally, but you can still gain great benefits from twice a year or even annual shoots, if done correctly.

So, what did they say you should you do to create your online brand presence if standard brand photography is so disappointing?

Imagine my surprise when the offer for her services started and it was for... drumroll, please... a subscription model branding photography and social media management package… for approximately these same cost per month that she was complaining about at the beginning of her video, requiring a 12-month commitment for four shoots per year.

It surprised me that the very thing she was doing wrong was her answer.

Don’t get me wrong: their offer does sound good.

I think it’s perhaps too good to be true.

First, they set up a “brand identity” for you with choice of two fonts and four colors that match your “vibe” – but they'll use yours if you have one already.

Secondly, they'll set up a brand photography shoot, complete with travel to wherever you want to hold it, with an agenda and shot list and prop list and all of the things that a good brand shoot photographer should provide you in advance when you have collaborated with them. They promise 600 to 1000 images per shoot. After a full day of photography, it is quite possible to have 600 to 1000 images, but I have to ask: why do you need that many pictures for a three-month period? Are they all going to help move your business? Are you really going to use ten different pictures a day?

Third, their base price includes “daily” Facebook and Instagram social media posts scheduled for you, and of course you can invest more to get more. No indication was provided as to what captions are written for the posts, how many, etc.

And of course, they'll plan and photograph new content with you every three months (or four times per year) as your business your changes needs change through the year. This is actually a best practice, which is why you need to set up a plan with your brand photographer.

At the end of the day, I'm scratching my head at how they are profitable at the quoted price, but maybe they make it up in their “other services” upsell or there are unspecified fees (like travel?).

And needless to say, I was quite disappointed in the bash and pitch.

If you want to grow your brand, there are ways to do it properly. Find a brand photographer who will work with you to bring it to life and communicate with them.

Reach out if you want to learn more.


Women are multi-faceted, and I love helping them share images that show their authentic, beautiful, confident shine! How do you want to be photographed? Let's meet over coffee and talk about it. Contact me: text/call 434-226-0365 or email [email protected].



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