Personal Branding Business

Plan your Personal Brand Photoshoot – COVID EDITION

We’ve all heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I’m challenging that! I believe a picture is worth A Million Little Clicks. Before we dive into that, I have a confession to make.

Now and then, I can be a little stubborn and not ask for help. There have been times I’ll spend hundreds or even thousands of hours researching and teaching myself before asking for help.  Can you relate? If you’re at all like me, you’ve gone down a Google rabbit hole at some point to solve a problem or obtain an answer you’re seeking.

This is precisely why I’m discussing this topic with you, to save you all of those clicks online trying so hard to tie together several little tidbits of information that lead to the end result you desire. You don’t have to ask for help. You don’t even have to Google it. I’m going to give it to you in the next few pages.

Background

About ten years ago, I was at a point in my career where I had recently taken the “next step” as a partner at a software startup. It was surreal and, given my background, a dream come true!  However, I quickly realized at the age of 24, I had a lot to learn about business and the psychology behind it.

After clicking around on LinkedIn a bit, I realized I needed to start showing up digitally. One of my first action items was to have a professional headshot taken. Back in 2009, selfies were nearly impossible. Well, good ones at least. And having a friend take a picture just didn’t provide the look and feel I wanted. Browsing prospective client’s profiles, I knew there was only one option: Hire a professional photographer.  

That first set of shots was great! He even took a few full-body photos. I was so proud, and let me tell you, I stood out. Especially for a 24-year-old! I was looking good, extremely professional, and in my mind, beautiful, and classy. That alone was priceless.

Then, something happened I wasn’t quite expecting, people started responding to me (digitally) differently. No, I wasn’t getting more online date requests–although LinkedIn has definitely turned into a little more of a “connection” site lately. Rather, seasoned professionals were engaging with me much more than they previously had. And that’s when it clicked: it’s not about spending the money to have someone take a picture for a status symbol. It’s about perception.  

Sidebar, let’s chat about perception for a second. Have you taken the time to think about what people perceive when they see a photo of you?

Disregard the candid selfies at Disneyland with family or you and your man at a holiday party. I’m talking about profile pictures. The first representation of you the world sees when engaging digitally.

How do people perceive you?

Different platforms should yield a different perception. But ask yourself this: are people perceiving you in the way you intended for that platform?

In having this conversation with several people, I’ve quickly come to realize there are a lot of misconceptions around the importance and the power of the right photo for the right platform and presence. There are two things I want you to take away from this article, and one of them is understanding the power of perception per platform.

I loved that first set of headshots so much that I used the same one for eight years. Yes, you read that correctly, eight years! The thing was, he did a great job capturing me and, since  I hadn’t really aged in appearance, it seemed logical. As my branding hustle began to take shape, however, I knew a change was due. 

The Pivot

In 2018, I was at the height of my public speaking and overall national engagement thus far. I was flying around monthly for large events and, each time in the program or on presentation slides, there was my same headshot. Honestly, it got old, really fast!

Before Toshiba’s annual conference in 2018, where I was the keynote speaker in six sessions, I decided to have a new shoot done. The thought alone was so exciting, and I could barely contain myself. I also made a stop at Ted Baker to complete the transformation. Of course, new suits, dresses, and shoes like a boss-lady!

Little did I know, this was my springboard into personal branding.  

The Toshiba event was a hit! It felt amazing having a fresh look, new headshots, and presenting myself in a fashion that fit my current lifestyle and headspace. I was relentless in promoting Toshiba and myself on LinkedIn during and after the event.

It turns out that a lot of people noticed my new headshot. I received hundreds of comments and DMs pertaining to just that! Admittedly, I was on cloud nine for a few weeks afterward. But, once the high wore off and my wheels started spinning, I couldn’t stop thinking about the engagement trends. I was up around 5,000%!

That’s when it clicked: For years I had spoken to my audience and inner circle about being the CEO of your own brand. I had also strived to impact others, especially foster youth and aspiring young women, on a regular basis as my passion. With this recent makeover and newfound confidence, my passion finally had a path. I would create a personal brand that could not be ignored. I would use my brand to fulfill my passion.  

After relentless research and conducting several interviews, I chose a branding firm that best represented me at the time. Keep in mind that before I went on my mission of a million little clicks that brought me to where I am currently.

Countless strategy sessions and Zoom meetings later, we charted a path to my personal brand that encompassed everything from photoshoots to YouTube videos to a website, social media, and hard copy design. Given my recent success with new headshots (photoshoots) and social media, I gravitated towards these the most.  

They wanted to paint me realistically; not just the businesswoman, but Maegan as a whole.  This included a photoshoot with several different looks. Content vertical wise, envision Grit and Grace, Company Ambassadorship, Modern Tech, Gardener/Cultivator, and Causes/Social Impact. These verticals, ultimately branding pillars, hadn’t taken form yet but were in the making.

Given that this was a completely new experience for me, I didn’t necessarily have a foundation to prep against. I prepared about 15 outfit variations, planned for multiple styles of hair and makeup, etc. It cracks me up now but had you seen me the day of, you’d have thought I had the Tasmanian Devil inside me.

All around, it was a great photoshoot. I felt a little out of place and insane to have embarked on the journey, but in the upcoming months, it was the leap of faith I needed to take.  

Finding the Missing Link 

If you knew me personally, you’d 100% attest to my innate OCD and mad scientist traits. Now, picture me reviewing thousands of pictures over a few months.

While it wasn’t a bad thing, it should have been rewarding in ways words can’t articulate. But it wasn’t. It was like completing a 10,000 piece puzzle, and there is one piece missing. It drove me fu#@ing nuts!

I experienced every emotion we women have hundreds of times and went to a dark place. The branding team couldn’t understand where I was coming from. My friends couldn’t understand either. Before long, the experience turned into a creative wall, and my motivation was 100% gone.

For me, when I have a vision, my mind operates at insane speeds connecting every dot you can imagine until I have a holistic masterpiece created. Then, it’s time to execute. And this was simply a roadblock to execution.

All the foster youth, organizations, and aspiring women I had planned to impact positively had been let down. It was so bad that I temporarily lost my best friend. And that’s when my million little clicks started. I disappeared into more rabbit holes than any sane person would during one life over the span of about six sleepless months.  

Slowly but surely, the creative clouds parted, and it began to click. It’s not different outfits, poses, or hair/makeup that result in the perfect representation of you. It’s multiple perspectives from multiple people, and this was the missing puzzle piece to properly paint my masterpiece and fulfill the different content verticals I had mentally curated.

Since this epiphany, I have partnered with four additional photographers for several photoshoots. The results have been staggering, and I can’t wait for you to share in similar experiences. However, I had to walk through fire to find that one missing puzzle piece, I was actually fulfilling my passion for helping you.

I navigated that frustration and made those million little clicks so that you don’t have to. You can learn from my mistakes and capitalize on the knowledge I gained, essentially saving you a million little clicks.  

Next Steps

So now what? Well, do not run to Mr. Google and go crazy trying to figure all of this out. I did enough of that for everyone reading this and I’m excited for you to learn from my mistakes.

My eBook on branding photoshoots and all that you need to know before taking part in one is now available. I poured my heart and soul into this project to empower you, and I know you will find the answers you need to everything photography, branding, and photoshoot-related.

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