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Brand Your Creative Business

Lesson 16 of 22

Telling Visual Brand Stories with Photos

Megan Auman

Brand Your Creative Business

Megan Auman

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Lesson Info

16. Telling Visual Brand Stories with Photos

Lesson Info

Telling Visual Brand Stories with Photos

We've been talking about this idea that a brand is an emotional connection repeated over time, so we're really now kind of trying to drill down and figure out how can we communicate those emotions to our audience? And how do you quickly and visually share the emotions behind your brand and there's? One major tool that we haven't yet talked about, which is quite possibly the best and most compelling way to really create that emotional connection and that's through your brand photography and that's, what we're going to be talking about in this segment is really how to get the photography up to the level of your brand. Now, in the last segment, we actually took a look at mood boards, and I did have a chance over the break to take a look at some of the mood boards that you guys in the studio audience have been uploading to the gallery, and I love them. I think they're fantastic. I can't wait to see more, so keep up loading those. I think we've got some really great visual styles coming thr...

ough, but as we create those mood boards and if we could actually go ahead and switch back over to my computer for a minute, you know, the mood boards are that perfect illustration of just how much photography really communicates the emotions and the stories that we're talking about, so if we take a look just really quickly, I want to show you guys again our studio audience mood boards because they're really great and they're really going to give us a sense of their brands moving forward so you can see, you know, if we're looking at cathy's mood board here, she's got this sort of, you know, really sense of kind of china have this glitter and this I love these were about to say of magical for you that you kind of brought up here, and I love these really childlike images it's a great example of really using the visuals to communicate that story, and also looking at kind of how people put art into their spaces and really making people, you know, things that you haven't quite been able to articulate, like it's in your space, and you have to describe it really well and that picture just bam! I see it, I see how it fits into the space and you really get the sense of what's going on, and then I think you know the same thing when we look at monica's, you know, you guys can really use photography teo, show that kind of idea of the sheikh mom. You know, I think if we look at, you know, someone even like you, I see you have rachel zo here and she's, someone who I think it's really transition into like I'm a mom, but I'm still chic you that's a great brand icon for you guys for sure, so we can really use our photography and then you know what? I think it with sarah's, we immediately see that japanese influence and that really natural form, so and we start to see that kind of sense of the transformation and the and the fire within and so your photography and this is just found photography. So now what we want to talk about is using our brands to actually construct our own photography that really drives home the mood, you know, and the emotion for our customers. So photography really communicates that emotion and that story to your customers and it's also the best tool that you have to help your customers connect to your products. So the reality is that pretty much everyone every one of us now has an online business, right, and so it's becoming less likely that someone's going to come across your product of the stores in a store, they might be coming across it through social media through pinterest three website but they're coming across it online and it's not the actual product it's translated through your photography and those of you online who are you know our service providers are photographers the same thing they're coming across you not in person probably but through the visual ways that you're communicating on your website and so for photographs are really the best tools that you have to help connect your customers to your product and quite frankly as we all know they can make or break your online business right good photography I can really help people crave and want your products which is really what we want here and bad photography can turn them off completely so first of all let's talk about the types of brand photography that you're going to need so first and foremost you need product images right? So we have products we have to have those images and your product images can take a couple different forms so you're probably going to have something that's just the product you know we'll talk about backgrounds in a minute but it's just going to the product but if your product is used you might also have product photography that's on a model right? You know freshly picked her product photography she's got the product but then she's got the product on cute kids right? So you're in your product photography there's probably always gonna be product isolated product in situation you know, same thing goes for kind of home to core this is susan connor she's got you know the pillow but then she's also got the pillow in the situation so the same thing with whatever your product is you know in the case of sarah is going to be the jewelry but you should always have some model photography to that really helps people see the scale and that's really I think what thes situation shots do that's so important is it helps people see scale you in your case kathy the image by itself then the image presented in a space so that's the first thing is your product photography the second thing is you're gonna need some company images images that reflect different aspects of your company is going to be things like your headshots it might be things like your studio or production whatever makes sense for your brand we're going to skip through this slide really quickly this is a really old picture of me I don't know why and you take new head shots that's my us now I have a to do list to um but you can see I also have you know, some studio images that I can pull out if I need to um this I think is a killer killer shot this is sarah's cell oudin her brand is girls can tell this is actually her about paige image and when I thought I was like a perfect company image, you get sarah, you got the product, you get a hint of the process fantastic company image so you need those types of images as well, and a lot of times, you know, depending on the scenario, you might need head shot, and then you might need this kind of further out image, so make sure that you have both of those things, you know, for our photographers, you know, head shot and then an image of you working on location, those are gonna be two really powerful images that you're going to want to see so that customers start to feel comfortable with you the's company image is also create that connection that we talked to out, so we talked about how do you make people feel more connected to your brand? You show them your face, and they know there's a human behind it and not a giant, faceless corporation that makes them feel more connected. And again, when you're doing those company image is, think about the emotions that you want to communicate, so you better be smiling in yours. Kathy, right? You should look happy, right? Monica should look like I got this, like, I'm under control, you know, so making sure that you're really communicating those brand emotions in that company photography you also need customer images when I mean by that is images of customers interacting with your product, and this is gonna look different for everyone, you know, anytime I can. I tried t if I see a customer wearing my jewelry, I try to take a picture that's really important if I can grab those images that's really useful because it shows real people in real situations wearing the product and those customer images also placed your customer as the hero of the story. So we talked about the idea that you're not the hero in your brand story. The customer is the hero, you're the tool that helps them get there. So when you have good customer image is it helps them imagine themselves is the hero or in the case of a brand like freshly picked, it helps them imagine their kids is the hero, right? So this is a brand that is a great job of constantly showcasing customer images, and the way that you get those customer images is you ask them, you ask them to share those images with you and, you know, this is another good example of, you know, they know that they're going to turn around to get shared and that's really exciting, so ask for those images so that you could turn around and share them. Even also asked and encouraged through things like a hashtag. So we talked about dog eared before they do that, and then show that on their website where they have a hashtag good things happened and also a hash tag for their brand, and they asked people to share the jewelry, and then it gets posted on the website so the's air, customer focused images and they don't have to be fancy. You know, we're in this great social media world now where people expect to see images like this no quick shots, cropped filter, that's really normal, so really encourage your customers, teo, you know, give you those images because it's gonna generate a lot of great content for you. Now you do also need press images, so we're going to spend a lot of time in this segment talking about making really conscious decisions about how you photograph your products, you know, the kinds of backgrounds that you're going to use, how you're going to present them and that's really, really important, but we're guard lis of how you're photographing them for your online space or for your catalogues. You do need a version of your products on a white background at high resolution that's, your press ready images and those air super important, because if somebody calls you you couldn't send them that image and they can pop it right into the spread so you can see here this is where one of my pillows was used in elle decor and they didn't actually I don't have to send the product they took my image and they popped it right in there, so I just want to point this out because as we're talking about these different background choices, keep in mind that you do have to have at least for, you know, your most popular products. This kind of white background image to share with magazine editors because we all want that press right? Good. Cathy spread. Did they send you the digital file copy of that seek had something to post on? Yes. So they actually for the elder coarse bread. They sent me the digital file copy, and they sent me actually a hard copy of the magazine, which not every publication does, but they actually did that too. Okay? And this is side note, but after that, I sent them a thank you card. Bridget lions who's, a pr pr guru that's something that you want me to say there. So, yeah, they sent me that I send them a thank you card that was all just a card, so your photography should help your brand stand out, not blended so one of the things that I think happens a lot in the online space as we see what everybody else is doing, you know, like, oh, that looks great, right? So I'm going to use that, too, you know? You can see kind of if you knew there was a while where if you took a look at etc, you could see how those trends swept through, right? Like everybody's using that background now, everybody's using that prop now you don't want your products to blend in, you want them to stand out. So as we're thinking about these decisions, really keep that in mind that you don't want to do whatever what else is doing just because everyone else is doing it? And the way that we do that is that your any use your mood board and your visual brand guide to make conscious decisions about your brand photography conscious decisions? I can't emphasize that enough, so you're going to ask, how does this decision support my brand? And when it comes to your photography, every piece of it is a decision and we're going to talk about all of those decisions, and if you're following along in our workbook, we're going to talk about all of those as well, starting on page thirty three, we're gonna really kind of dive in there. But just this kind of a reminder when we're thinking about our visual branding, we have those two keys, aesthetic recognition and emotional resonance, so the aesthetic recognition peace means that we're keeping our photography consistent once we make decisions were sticking to them. If you decide you're going to use a certain type of background, you're going to use it in all of your product photography. If you decide you wanna light it a certain way, you're gonna light it that way. All of your product photography, right set that first piece once we make the decisions were sticking to them and then the second one is emotional resonance. So does it give you the emotions? And again, some of this is easier said than done in terms of your photography I straight up product shot probably isn't going to have the same emotional resonance as the product in cathy's, serene but happy space or the product on ah model who's clearly been through that transition. And she's come out the other side a stronger person, right that's going to have a different emotional residents than just your regular product photography. So that's okay, it's okay? The main things aren't quite as emotionally resonant as the people in the spaces and those really storytelling, you know, images. But that said we also want to fight it so I'm not going to start photographing my jewellery on like a pale pink background with flowers spread all around it right that that takes away from what we want so keep that in mind all right? So now let's get into some of those conscious decisions with your photography are you gonna photograph one product or multiples so we're going to use I actually decided it would be a little easier if I did a lot of variation so I actually took this is my melissa necklace and steel and you're going to see this a lot in the next several minutes because I actually want to photograph it in a lot of different ways so that you guys could really get a sense of what I'm talking about. So do you want to have one product or do you wanna put multiples in one image? You know, maybe if your brand is really about something like abundance, you know, worth, then you might make sense to have multiples they're also certain product categories where that makes a lot of sense. Pottery is one you know, people typically you're thinking or at least you're hoping they're thinking about by not one but a set of six right so photography might pottery might be an area or multiple products make a lot of sense uh this is another great example of where multiple products make so much sense in one shot this is heather skinny lem inks really amazing brand based out of south africa on guy love what she did here where she said okay, you know what? Each of these comes in three color ways or four color ways I'm gonna put those all in one shot and you really immediately get a sense of that and it really fits with her brand too, so that was a conscious decision that she made. So then what angle will you shoot your products from? Are they going to be head on, you know, kind of straight for shortened and then maybe you need multiple product angles to really communicate you monica, you guys probably need aa lot of angles to really show particularly with, you know, with the diaper clutch you need a lot of angles happening, but just thinking about things like changing the perspective really changes the feel of the product, right? So if I'm shooting it straight on versus kind of at an angle, it changes the way the product feels freshly picked is clearly a brand where she shoots from multiple angles, so she's got all the different sides and that's also really important if you're a brand where people are buying online right and you and your piece looks different from different directions, they want to know they want to see what's going on how big will your product being the frame is it going to be clapped cropped in really close is it going to be kind of far away? Well you crossed the product at all is it going to bleed off on edge is it going to be centered or offset so maybe you know you wanted at a jaunty angle up in a corner or something you know maybe you want to come in close enough that it's cropped partway you know it's it's still clear what's going on in that necklace but maybe that kind of creates more of an in your face element to my brand if it's cropped in a little closer um and it's a little hard to see in the way the screen comes up but I actually think this is a really interesting technique that kate spade uses all of their images are vertically oriented and I'm sure that they do that because it's much more pinterest friendly but what they did is they set all of those images of the bottom of the frames you have this nice tall rectangle with images at the bottom that's a really strategic choice that they made so then what proportion will you use for your images are they going to be square later be vertical maybe they're going to be sort of just off square where they're really tall maybe they're going to be horizontal and again you want these to be conscious decisions since the brand called well kept, they just launched menswear line men's not men's wear men's bath line there we go and so you can see that they mean a very conscious decision to shoot everything in this horizontal format, even though some of the products are clearly more vertical than others, but they made a conscious decision that you start to see this consistency in their brand. They also made this very conscious decision to use this textured background, which makes so much sense for them because it evokes that kind of bathroom vibes that they're going for be well kept dot com is their website, I'll give him a little shadow, so then your background becomes a really conscious decision. What color will you use for your background? Will they be plain or textured? We'll use props, you know? So I showed you well kept and that textured piece you know what happens if you shoot on different colors? All these backgrounds made me crazy and I did it just to show you guys, you know, that can really have an impact and you can also really own a colored background so nasty gal is the perfect example of this. They shoot all of their products on this kind of texture, a pink background if I come across one of their items on pinterest, I don't have to look, I know that it's something that nasty gal is selling so you can use the colored background as an opportunity to really own that kind of imaging and you could also think about, you know, does it texture make more sense for you? Do you want that really smooth background, or do you want to play with some texture in there? And again? This is where you want to go back to your mood board and make those conscious decisions, right? So it shouldn't be arbitrary. It should be like, oh, I found this door outside and I really liked it. I did find that door outside and I did really like it, but that shouldn't be the reason to use it. The reason she is it might be actually, you know what I realized looking at my mood board that there's a little bit more texture happening that is actually happening in my product photography, so maybe I do need to bring in a textured background, then you might also decide if you're going to use props, right? Maybe you need to break up the element in case you're curious that's a piece of leather that's, a coil of steel so you might want to use props in your background to break out the space. I do have a word of warning about props, make sure they make sense for your brand what the hacker seashells doing in there I don't know they don't make any sense for my brand just because it looks pretty doesn't mean you should use it do they also confuse people what's the product I threw in the the's glass beads that I picked up in a great little shop in l a are those the necklaces that the necklace so don't use props that confuse people I'm going to make a little statement here and that might be controversial but it's been driving me nuts so I'm just gonna say it jewelers what's with the rock what's with the pebble so many jewelers use that prop and I think a lot of times it actually confuses consumers they're not sure if it's part of the product and if everyone else is using it it doesn't support your brand so if you're going to use those props be really strategic about them don't just put it in there because it's pretty now there are obviously kind of exceptions to that. You know, in the case of cathy you have a product that's about being styled in the space so you could probably get away with a few random props in a way that a jeweler can't so again really go back to your mood boards and make those strategic decisions yeah go ahead through actually because people um this one lady had or ordered something from me but I actually state all the props photographed in this photo are not included in the canvas you know you have to state that and then this lady only she's like where's swarovski crystal I thought there was a crystals like no it's actually on the crystals on the piece which is like oh oh that's what it was like I'm sorry if you miss red the right and she's like no no no it's just that it was my fault but and when I don't want to confuse you either so yeah, I think it's important, but that also does bring up a really great point when you're thinking about your brand photography people don't read. Yeah. So, um my sister was telling me that you know, she does a lot of online shopping and she's constantly looking at the reviews and the number one uh saying that people complain about in reviews is that they didn't realize it was going to be such and such a size I thought it was bigger, I thought it was smaller every product where that comes up, they list the dimensions without a doubt they list the dimensions people don't read and they don't conceptualize things like size so the more of that information you can give in your product photography, the better it's going to be but again making sure that you're not confusing people so you know things like props sparingly you make sure that they know if there is she's show if you're showing multiples you're only selling one right so make sure that's really clear what kind of lighting will you use is it going to be soft and diffuse is going to be bold and dramatic that might have a big influence on your brand uh is it going to be you know bright is it going to be moody and then what's the tone of your image is going to be are they going to be on the warm side the cool side kind of neutral you know for me I like to sort of tweak everything a little bit cooler like I like the cool gray and the cool black and sarah's case you're gonna tweak the otherway you want everything to be a little bit warmer right so that khun come out in the way this that you light the photography and the way that you adjust it and then for those of you who are using models you can go back in and apply all of the same decision making to the models what backgrounds are you using? How are you going to light the scene? What are the proportions? How are you going to crop but then you also need to think about you know a few other things how will they pose? You know what settings will you put them in you, in my case, I play with a couple different settings, you know, for pose. I'm a big fan of the I call it the leslie knope look off into the distance and think about your strong female role models pose for those you don't know, leslie nervous parks and rec amy poehler uh, so that supposed that? I kind of like to think about with my models, or I like to put them in moore street style scenes where this kind of got that industrial vibe behind you can't see that because I cropped that image to show you the difference between cropping and not, but you're thinking about all of those things really intentionally, you know, every choice that you make with your photography should be very intentional hire models from assuming some of our online audience probably don't have that, yes, that's that's a great question this is actually a friend of mine who happens to do some modeling and acting work the most convenient kind of friend to have for sure. Uh, that's a great question, so I've used I use a lot of friends, I actually don't hire a lot of people, you know, people that kind of look like my ideal customer, maybe you're sort of the idealized version of my ideal customer. Um but that said you can always go on to a site like model mayhem so mano mayhem dot com on and you confined models in your area to work with so if you don't have that kind of a friend that works in your look for your look that's a good way to go for sure on then of course you know, if you could encourage customers to give you images, it cuts down on some of the need for some of that model photography as well that's because we didn't actually have that question without saying when people try on there they're products of trade shows accept jewelry is it okay? Yes so that actually that when I showed you those images for the customer images that one woman that was at a trade show and she is someone who was trying some things on and and she's clearly very photogenic and she's like you've got the attitude and she got the right post, can I please take your picture and you know I had good back then I had a good camera my bag now everyone has their smartphone and it works the same s o you absolutely ask people, but be honest with them say, like, can I take your picture and then just and you show them if it's on your smartphone, make sure they like it you know make sure they're happy with it and then say, hey, do you mind if I put this on my website or is it okay if I posted to instagram but absolutely if you see people trying on your products ask if you could take a picture not every will say yes but some of the will and then for those of you have to shoot you know kind of the home decor in the situation shots again going through all of those same questions so you know what other props will you use? What is the style of the decor? Will you zoom out or crop in? I think rebecca atwood who's a textile designer is a good example if she sets a very clear mood in all of her product photography, you really get the vibe that she is going for it it comes out really strongly you know how detailed do you want to be so this is again sarah from girls can tell how I showed you before and I love that she sort of has this shot of like the products in the packaging but it's a very different way to present products and packaging right it's like this repetitive shot which makes so much sense because her brand is about creating diagrams it's all that sort of meticulous repetition but then she's got the great kind of styled product shot as well so the photography decisions you make do need to carry across your entire brand, so when you're picking things, make sure you can keep at it, you know, I really can't shoot on I couldn't shoot on a black background because I have some black jewelry and some so the bronze jewelry would work, but the steal jewellery wouldn't work very well, right? So you have to make sure you can keep those decisions consistent if you go to, like anthropology is website, they carry a diverse range of jewelry, but every single one is on the same kind of background, and again, this is what builds that aesthetic recognition for the brand if you're scrolling pinterest just like with that nasty gal example in the pink background, you know, that's, a piece of anthropology jewelry, even if it's not tagged as such because once you've seen that they use this background, you know, they use that background, you know, I'm not shooting like one piece on something other one piece on something else, you know, there is that consistency in the way that they're all kind of styles and put on there, and I'm actually I'm not gonna lie to you guys doing this segment, I'm like, I want to read you all of my photography so it's something that is a constant sort of evolution for everybody on and that's. Okay, because it can be part of your creative process. Just realize that when you commit to those changes, you are committing to all of it. So now I'm thinking, if I want to change, if you want to change your photography now, we're changing everything, right? So that is something to keep in mind.

Class Description

Every small business owner shares two common goals: increasing sales and marketing more effectively. One of the most powerful ways to achieve these goals is to define and tell the story of who you are as a creator. That story is your brand, and a strong understanding of how to tell that story to your customers will take your business to new heights.

In Brand Your Creative Business, you’ll explore what makes your business a unique brand and find ways to share it. You’ll learn about implementing a brand strategy and growing and protecting it. Megan Auman will teach:

  • Why branding matters
  • How to define your brand
  • Storytelling to promote your business
  • How to develop a strategy to implement your plans

You’ll leave this course equipped and energized to create a strong, consistent presence in every aspect of your company – from packaging to customer interaction and beyond. You’ll also develop the confidence use colors, logos, and fonts to reflect your style - even if you’re not a designer

Whether you’re an Etsy seller looking to grow or an occasional crafter trying to build a full-time business, this course will give you the tools you need to connect with customers and sell more products.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Megan Auman - Brand Your Creative Business Resources.pdf

Megan Auman - Branding Bibliography.pdf

Megan Auman - DIY Photography Resources.pdf

bonus material with enrollment

Megan Auman - Brand Your Creative Business Syllabus.pdf

Megan Auman - Brand Your Creative Business Workbook.pdf

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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a Creativelive Student

I was drawn in immediately. Megan's ability to tender precise, goal-oriented, and REAL life experience-infused information is what captivated me the most...AND...I logged in 30 minutes late on the first day of her class. I am excited to know that her course is STILL available, and on sale a couple of days after it aired live. TY CreativeLive for this opportunity; it is truly a gift to myself which will keep on giving...I have often used storytelling to build my brand, but Megan's guidance has given me a structured approach, which I really needed. Paying it forward, and sharing her amazing course with others will be a joy, as I feel an obligation to others I know, and those I have yet to know, all who will benefit from her plethora of carefully cultivated information. Her use of emotional connections to build a brand, and to reach a solid audience based on one's authentic voice is clear, clean, and easy to follow. Thank You Megan Aumen!


This is such a great class! Great content, great advice, great examples...great, great, great!! I'm so happy that I have a clear path to create a great brand for my business. Very empowering! I especially love the bonus information, especially the video on how to make your own logo in Illustrator. Exactly the information I've been looking for. Great job, Megan!

Laura Captain Photography

I'm in the process of launching a creative business and this class was what I was looking for. With procrastination and indecision cast aside, I will now confidently plan and carry out a productive and well organized branding strategy of my own. Before this class I felt somewhat confused and overwhelmed by all the miscellaneous branding information I had been trying to piece together. Even though I already knew some of the information she covered in the class, she put her own spin on it, gave some great examples and put it in an easy to follow plan. I particularly liked the segments related to naming your business and social media branding because I had a lot of questions on those topics. I'm very excited to get started with branding my business and I'm so glad I took the time to go through Megan's class, it will be so worth it in the long run. A big shout out to Megan, I love your business branding, your jewelry and your teaching style, great work!