So you’ve got a personal branding shoot coming up and you’re like…uhhhhhhhhhhh, now what??


First off, great job!! Whether you hired a photographer for the personal branding shoot or you’re deciding to take the photos yourself, give yourself a pat on the back. Getting your photo taken can be really stressful, but your business marketing will thank you later!


Now, after you’re done patting yourself on the back, it’s time to focus. We have work to do.


Where I start with ALL of my clients before a personal branding shoot is a phone call to talk about…them and their business. Go figure. All of the things that need to be in photos.


I ask questions like:


  • How would you describe your style? Give me 3 strong words here. (feminine, down to earth, comfy, organized, etc.)

  • Do you have brand colors?

  • How do you want your photos to come across? (approachable, serious, professional, tough, without a care in the world, etc.)

  • Tell me a little about your ideal customer? What are their likes and dislikes?

  • Have you had photos done before? (This question helps me gauge how much the client knows what’s going on. Before the shoot, I want to make sure I set expectations. For example, we are most likely not going to get photos in 6 locations in 2 hours….That’s just the nature of the beast. It takes time. If this is your first time shooting, then you may have really high or really low expectations. I want to make sure we are all on the same page.)

  • Are there any photos in particular you are wanting? (It is my opinion that every single photographer ever being hired to do a job should be asking this question. You hired me to do a job. I will definitely be getting the shots I think would work best for you, but customer satisfaction always ranks high on my list. So if there’s a shot that you want, make sure you tell your photographer specifically…even if they don’t ask.)
After editing example (All about that base)

From here, I tell them to take a look through Pinterest, search “personal branding photography,” and find some images that they think would work for them and their brand.

After they find about 15ish images, I have them send me the board so I can have an idea of what they are looking for. Some photographers don’t like people looking on pinterest at shots they have not taken. But in my opinion, that seems a little petty. For me, this is a pretty important part of the planning process. I want to make sure that if every photo you have picked out is airy and bright, then either I need to deliver more photos like that or make you aware that our styles are different and see how you want to proceed.


Whether you hired a photographer or are taking the shots yourself, getting a solid feel for the images you are expecting out of the shoot will only make you more prepared and more likely to get the shots you are wanting in the first place.

Branding photography graphic Designer

After the idea/mood board, it’s time to start working up a shot list.

Now, as a photographer, I do not expect my clients to come up with a shot list for every photo. BUT, if there are specific shots you want (like you with your dog or this random award you won once), then I do expect those to make an appearance on the shot list. If the term ‘shot list’ sounds intimidating, just take “shot” out and make a list. There. Much less intimidating, right?? I aim to please. 🙂 


If you are taking the photos yourself, you will want a more detailed shot list, (hint…keep on reading. I’ve got a little something special for you below!), because it can get pretty confusing when you’re in the heat of the personal branding shoot and you’re trying to remember all of the shots you’re wanting to capture. This way, you can just scratch off the list as you finish each shot.

Prop List personal branding

After your shot list is all squared away, next comes the prop list. And you might be wondering…What kinds of props??


Well, I love props that you actually use. There’s no need to go out and buy a bunch of random signs that say “Yay” and “Welcome,” UNLESS…that’s the whole reason for the shoot. Make it easy on yourself and choose props that you have around the house. Props that give you something to do with your hands. And props that are a part of your business. For me as a photographer, I would have a camera as a prop. Because I probably want a shot of me holding a camera to tell the world I am a photographer.

So ask yourself, “What props are involved with my profession?” “What things around my house do I use on a pretty regular basis?” “What are quirky little things that I like and feel like represent me?”

Pick out around 10 and start there. The more you do these kinds of shoots, the better you will be at picking out your props. And you’re JUST IN LUCK. I have a sample shot list freebie with a prop guide that you can download. Just fill out the form below!

Just remember to pick out props that fit with your personal brand! Meaning that if you have brand colors, props are a great way to incorporate your colors and stay “on brand.” Also meaning don’t veer too far away from colors just because it’s something quirky that fits your personality.


Ideally you want your personal brand and your personality to be aligned, but if they aren’t, brand comes first. Otherwise, this would just be a portrait session, right? 😉

Personal branding with product

Next comes outfits.


Y’all, this is a huge topic. One that I plan on finding an actual stylist to interview and ask about the types of clothes are best based on your body shape, etc. But for now, I will say this. For your body, if there’s something that you’re self-conscious about (arms, stomach, legs…), COVER them up. Ain’t no shame in wearing a sweater. If you’re not going to be happy seeing arm *cough cough* jiggles (I feel you here), take that out of the equation. Of course try some without the sweater because us photographers, we got tricks for the arms… 😉 But if you foresee this being a point of frustration or deflation in your attitude, set yourself up for success by choosing clothing that alleviates that. 


All of that being said, don’t wear a tent because you don’t want to look large. Part of this photo taking thing is to have CONFIDENCE during the shoot.

I know that’s easier said than done, but I’m begging you. Take this opportunity to have fun with it. And pleaseeeee, wear something that makes you feel like the hot and sexy mama that you are! <3 

For outfits, I recommend at least 3. Sure you may not have time for all of them, but you also may get there and hate the way one looks at the very last minute. The whole point of a personal branding shoot is to use these over and over again- allllllllll through your website, social media, blogs, and email. So get some mileage out of the photos by bringing multiple outfits. You can get away with one pair of jeans, but definitely prepare multiple tops (like 4 or more tops) with sweaters/jackets to give you yet another layer of looks by these simple changes.

Picking out outfits for personal branding shoot

After outfits, of course we have hair and makeup.


Again, guys. Lengthy topic here. And I plan on getting an expert on the blog to talk about it in a later post (stay tuned), but here’s what I recommend. Hire someone! Period. There I said it. Maybe it’s because I’m no makeup artist, and my hair has a mind of its own that I CANNOT tame (rawr), but I can always tell a difference between me doing my makeup and someone else doing it. That’s not to say I wear a lot of makeup. I definitely don’t. I’m more of an au naturale kind of girl, but the makeup artists have specific products and techniques to get rid of shine. They know how to match your skin tones and what to stay away from to minimize wrinkles. Sure, you can do it all yourself, and if you’re shooting your own photos, that may be the best route for you.

But if you’re already spending hundreds of dollars on photography for a personal brand shoot, then either add a hair and makeup person OR look for a photographer who already offers one as a part of the package.


And then hair. For goodness sake, y’all. My hair is a mess. I can’t brush it because it’s curly and then it turns frizzy and triangular. I’m SO bad at blow-drying it that it just turns poofy. So, at the very least, I recommend a blowout here. How much are those? Thirty bucks?? Worth EVERY PENNY. And then you’ll feel amazing the rest of the day. Unless you’re just skilled at doing your own hair, hire it out. Makeup, I can usually fix on photoshop with not that much effort. But hair is a bitch to fix, and because of that, I usually just leave it alone..friz and all. You’ve been warned. This is a time to know your skills and be honest with yourself.  😂

Makeup artist branding

And LAST but certainly not least, LOCATIONS!


Now, I want everyone to remember that if you’re hiring a photographer, one of the things you’re hiring is their experience. Their brain. Their ideas. And some of those ideas SHOULD be locations. It is not your job to come up with all of this stuff. Not to say you shouldn’t tell them if you have a specific look and location in mind. But, for real, do not feel pressured into planning this entire shoot because you’re not sure what is your job vs their job.


So what is your job??


Well, let’s say you’re in Denver (hi!!), and you want mountains as well as a clean background, but you don’t really want to drive 3 hours. Then it’s my job to see what our options are. Maybe that looks more like us renting a studio space in Boulder (which is closer than the Rocky Mountains), and then we can get both mountains and studio in a relatively short distance. Now let’s say that you want an industrial look. That would look more like a downtown shoot and some weird murals in the Rino District. What if you just want some “home studio” looks, but you HATE the way your home studio looks?? Hellooooooo Airbnb. 😉


My point here is that you have options. And it’s the photographer’s job to make you aware of them so you can pick what best fits you and your personal brand.


For locations, I suggest 2-3 locations with one of them being your home office/fancy AirBNB home office/studio space. By choosing home as a location, you not only have more background options than just deciding on one mural randomly downtown, but you also open yourself up to other types of shots…like making a cup of coffee in your kitchen. And in case you didn’t know, coffee shots work with a bajillion people because it’s relatable, yet also generic. 😉


The other 2 or so locations should be places that fit the style you’re trying to achieve. Say that “badass” was one of your words to describe your brand. Off the top of my head, an industrial setting with a lot of metal would be a pretty ideal location for what you’re trying to convey. Which means that a light and airy beach scene wouldn’t really work when creating a cohesive look. Just something to keep in mind. 


For timing, it will be 30 minutes to an hour of shooting for each location. You can weigh one location heavier than the others, but those are general rules to go by.

Don’t forget that you need to factor in outfit changes and travel time, which also eat up time in the photography package.

You’ll be surprised by how fast 3 hours can go by. This all being said, I would definitely recommend picking a location that can give you multiple scenes or looks in one place, which is why studios and houses work so well with different colored walls and furniture.

Branding Headshot Madison Yen Photography D3X_3658_1
Branding location office

To sum it all up.

Alright guys…phew. That was a lot. I’m tired of typing. Are y’all tired of reading?? I hope this guide so far has been helpful as you are preparing for your personal branding session.


If you’re looking for a branding photographer in Denver…I got your back! If you’re wanting to learn how to take your own branding photography for your business…I STILL got your back! 😀


And if you’re none of the above, fineeeee. I can take a hint. But either way, I hope your session goes amazing! Also, if you’re looking for the sample shot list that you can totally swipe for your next shoot, fill out the form below!


Till next time!



Wouldn’t it be swell to have your shots ALL PLANNED OUT before your branding session?? Check out my sample shot list with a prop guide so you can save time and get the shots you want!