Taking control of my own brand imagery has been one of the single best things I have done for my business. I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts about the initial stages of defining the visual style which best represents your brand.
In an ideal world we would start this process at the beginning stages of your small business, but as we know sometimes things are not ideal. Whether you are taking the images yourself or you are hiring somebody to do this on your behalf is irrelevant at this point, creating a mood board as a tool to guide you along this process will always be helpful in ensuring that you achieve a cohesive look to your photography and that you don't go off on a tangent. I am old school and as much as I love using Pinterest, using a physical mood board is the ideal in this instance.
When somebody looks at the visuals of your brand you want them to know that it belongs to your business and creating a visual mood board in the first instance is a good first step in achieving this.
Let's assume for now that you have already chosen your logo, brand colours, design i.e. typography, company values and who your audience is. With these important decisions made you can now begin to look at how you represent all of these things through imagery. I will talk briefly about stock imagery in a little bit which absolutely has its place and can be brilliant when starting out, however it is really important that you begin to create your own imagery, whether that be producing this yourself or hiring a professional.
Creating the Moodboard
The best way to create a physical moodboard is to use an A3 size piece of MDF which should allow you enough space for all of your initial ideas. The key elements that you want to make sure you have captured on the mood board are as follows;
Steps 1- 7 below
1. Colour Palette
3. Style (rustic, minimal, contemporary, traditional
4. Composition Ideas (also perspective, depth of field)
5. Prop ideas
It is worth mentioning that just as you need to consider elements 1-7 (below) for creating the mood board you will also need to have the same considerations for each image. You will always be checking in on your process and what you are creating to ensure that it continues to be 'fit for purpose' and in line with your look and feel.
Whether it's the colour of the backdrop you use for your flat-lays or how you choose to edit your images this will go in to creating an overall look that should be cohesive. If done well, it will ensure you tell a story / set the brand apart / show a lifestyle and allow for a cohesive brand look.
'A powerful brand identity is more than just the logo and a couple of colours, it's made up from a number of elements which add depth, texture and personality. And it's the sum of all of these parts that creates a brand identity that will really resonate'. Fiona Humberstone.
Allow yourself a minimum of a couple of hours to create a physical mood board. To create the mood board you can use magazines, Pinterest print), colour paint charts, other businesses images (who do it well), images created by stylists, online websites (that you aspire to) and even competitors. This mood board is not intended to be made public, just a source of reference for you to continue to check in on.
So let's break down each element as detailed above.
1. Colour Palette
Print out your brand colours, Coolors.com is a great website for collecting colours either when choosing the colours or once chosen and you are just needing to print them out. My brand colours are inspired by Autumn, so this in itself led to a more rustic look in my photography (also impacted by the Tudor building that houses the shop), worth mentioning as you can see the architecture of my building also impacted the style of photography for my brand. You can create your own backdrops using mdf or canvas and choosing paints that complement your colours or use the exact colours (if you have the HEX number, you can have the paint mixed). For press to pick up your product images you will need white background photography which you could decide to use throughout your website and have lifestyle images alongside (great example of such a website is The Future Kept).
In the same way that you would create a mood board for an interior space, a simple piece of fabric could be the beginning of this board. Same for choosing colours for your brand, it may be that a piece of fabric is the starting point. If it was, stick it on this mood board.
Example of an MDF Backdrop painted in a colour that mirrors my brand colours.
The values of your business should be another reference made on the board. Whether the word is 'Dynamic', 'Honest', 'Passionate' you get my drift, these will all have an impact on your photography style. So reference them on the mood board.
3. Style (rustic, minimal, contemporary, traditional)
If you are a product based business, creating a style for your photography can feel a little easier as you already have a physical product that is tangible. If you are a service based business and work from home or an office, have you used similar colours to decorate a space that you can photograph (or small area which can be used for shoots). My shop is curated in a style that is reflected throughout my images (curated by colour, old and new, layered spaces, lots of texture, natural materials). You could also use Canva to create 'quote' posts that are in your colours using the typeface that you use throughout your website. Print images that have a distinct style that you are looking to achieve this will help with the overall mood board.
Image with rustic background showing product.
4. Composition Ideas
There are a few rules in creating great imagery and composition is one where there are a few. Choosing images of composition styles you like will help you focus on creating compositions that work. If you do not have the experience yourself and want to gain it, it can be helpful to notice composition in product images produced by professionals where a stylist has been present and assisted on these images. Plagiarism should not be what you are doing this is simply about noticing the art of composition and why one photograph is better than the next. When you are starting out looking at more experienced photographers/stylists work will help you learn and never settling for the first image but moving objects and yourself around as you take the image you will start notice why one image is better than the next. Search out the composition 'rules'... Dead space, Rules of Third, Perspective and Vantage Point are all things to consider and thinking about how you want it framed are all things to be considered when it comes to composition. Print out images of your favourite compositions and how products / services are presented and styled.
This image is jam packed but it shows the value of allowing each stem its own place. Vases of flowers have been arranged at varying heights and how the flowers graduate from top left down to the centre and then up again. I don't like the fact that the orchids look like they are growing out of the tulips but the frame didn't allow for much room and the idea was to show the abundance of flowers available at a pop up by Cherfold Flowers at my shop and also notice the backdrop is clean and unfussy.
Remember arrange in odds and to use dead space. Like when arranging flowers you use odds not evens and it's a rule to apply to your photography. I have started going off on a tangent and talking about how to style rather than my original purpose of being here which was to tell you about creating a board to define your style.
You should note down the image and why you like it. The light, colour palette, composition etc. So that you remember why you chose the image.
This flay lay is cropped so that only part of the product is on show, adding interest and intrigue to the image.
I have focused on the foreground here (vase of flowers) rather than the background. It may be that you print this image for that reason, or because you like the light or the ambience.
5. Prop ideas
Using props in your images will help create the story. Setting a scene and telling a story helps represent the lifestyle you are trying to portray.
Print images with prop ideas, so when you are on the hunt you it helps you be reminded of props you liked in other images you had seen.
I wouldn't suggest you obtain a dog as a prop, by I reckon this image peeked more interest than what it would have done without my little Hugo.
The more that you think of the steps above as you observe different photographs the more you will notice stories behind the image. What are they trying to tell the consumer, what message do they want to portray. Is there a theme for the image? Worth printing out some images where the message is clear to you and they have used backdrops (could be landscape, house, artwork), props and models to get the message clear.
A (grainy) pic of our workshops. This pic shows a workshop happening. Although a low quality image, it does create an atmosphere. The quality (resolution) of your imagery is key, balanced along with the size of your imagery to ensure it doesn't slow your website down.
Lighting is everything to great photography especially if you are choosing to use only natural light for your images. As you look at photography you should also notice where the light is falling in the image, so where is the light source coming from, also notice the shadows, does one thing have more emphasis,
The image below was taken at the same place in my workshop that I always take images. If I want clean images with consistent light I will use a diffuser to dilute the light. On this occasion I hung a dark throw against the window but allowed a peak through of light to fall on the faux hydrangeas. Obviously it's worth thinking about your product images vs your lifestyle photography. When someone is buying something online they want to see an accurate representation of colour, size etc. But for lifestyle photography you can play more with shadows, perspective, props and colour. You could create quick flatlays for social or for use on the website.
I hope this post has helped you think about photography as an extension of your brand and how you can go about improving the photography you already take.
Any questions do get in touch or of course you can check the photography workshops I run at the shop.
Thanks for reading.