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Freelance SEO Glamour: Our Brand Photos Tips
Ever try to see what an SEO freelancer looks like? Let me give you an idea: two disembodied hands on a laptop in a random coffee shop. That’s not us. We wanted something more representative so we opted to have photos taken for our website. Selfies at the beach in Hawaii or cropped coworking shots in a crowded Viennese rooftop bar aren’t really what I want for our branding. My face ends up on the internet a lot more than I previously thought. I decided professional shots were something of a must. Here’s what the whole process looked like for us as a freelance duo:
- Determine why you need a photoshoot
- Define your budget
- Create a mood board
- Find a photographer
- Find locations
- Gather your props
- Be at your very best
- The day of the shoot
- Get your first edits
- Share your pictures with the world.
Figure out why you need those photos. Our goal was simple: get pictures for our little French SEO company. Once you pinpoint your why, you’ll figure out what kinds of shots you want and what kind of style you gravitate towards. We needed photos that would showcase our partnership. We are a boutique agency: two Frenchies headquartered in Montreal. I wanted something that showcased our vibe and how we work. I tend to be the more visible of the two so it was important to show a different side of our collaboration beyond conferences, teaching and other high visibility events. Here is what I decided we needed:
- Conference photos for each of us
- Images for landing pages and service pages
- Images with visual cues where we look to the left and to the right
- Portraits of us working together
- dog. dog. and more dog photos. We really like our dog.
Invest in yourself. Figure out what your budget is though. I considered these photoshoot pictures to be an investment rather than merely an expense to be minimized, as they are going to last quite a few years and they are complementary to our web design. By the time we need a new website, we should have a new look and be ready to take some new headshots! Prices vary a lot for photoshoots.
The first time I had photos taken of us, I honestly couldn’t talk about pricing, since we traded our photos in exchange for some solid SEO advice. The person who took them in 2018 was an amateur photographer. These photos worked well for a while, but eventually, we wanted something that reflected our stage of business better.
In 2021, we had a new set of photos taken by a different person, Jeff, who happens to run the idéemarque agency and also offers professional portrait photography service (with his “startup-friendly video production and photo studio” business) as a “package deal” complement to his main marketing services. And let me tell you, we were more than happy to pay him in the four digits, as his dedication, professionalism and talent are absolutely through the roof. The difference was night and day, and since we launched our new website with the new set of photos in 2022, we have been continuously receiving praise (from our friends and business partners) about our photos. Idéemarque+ATYPICA is probably one of the best kept secrets in Montreal, other than the sauce recipe for shish poutine.
So, while you can get away with DIY or bargain-basement prices, we can confirm from experience that sometimes, the best photographers can be worth their weight in gold (luckily, Jeff is pretty slim… or was, until we started feeding him hotdogs from Costco).
A mood board is a collection of pictures, illustrations and colour palettes that reflect the ambience, the vibe of the result you want to achieve. Here’s how to get started with your very own moodboard:
- Figure out what pictures you like: that part was hard for us. We are two people and couple + colleagues combos are not photographed as often.
- Figure out what types of clothes you like: for us it was black because it’s our favorite non-color and it’s easy to coordinate.
- Are you standing or sitting: we both tried not to slouch. That was our objective.
- Are you working? Yes. The answer for us was yes. Except that I work in weird positions and spots. I also gesticulate and shout a lot. Basically….I was made for this photoshoot!
- Do you have something in your hands? We needed to figure out how to incorporate our work tools in the shots.
- What colors do you like? Us? We had to have orange due to the hair but also because it’s my husband’s favorite color. The entire website is purple so it’s a nice compliment.
I used a Pinterest board to get this done. It was quick and easy to search and add stuff on there. This will help communicate what you have in mind to your photographer. It’s a nice kickoff document in my opinion.
We travel a lot, so finding photographers was not always easy. We’re not very active on Instagram either, so the first time we sought out a photographer, we opted for word of mouth. We asked friends and we asked groups of other web freelancers. I checked a few of my peers out and asked who took their photos for them. I am incredibly picky about what I want so I made sure to work with someone that would get my vibe. It’s not about looking good for me, it’s about giving you a feel for who I am. For Augustin, it’s more of a question of “not looking like a serial killer”. He has an unfortunate history with portraits and squinting in a scary manner.
The second time, we simply asked Jeff, who is a trusted friend and colleague with solid understanding of marketing imperatives driving our photographic requirements, to be our photographer. We lucked out, because he “gets it”, better than some fashion photographers we know who charge 5x more.
Your moodboard and local hangouts already give you a few ideas when it comes to location shoots. We ended up deciding to go with our natural environment, aka our home. It was easier because dogs are not allowed in many establishments in Québec.
Plus, I can’t imagine optimizing websites while taking a long sexy walk on the beach or lounging in an office cubicle.
That’s just not me (or anyone else you want to work with). Sun reflection and neon white glare are things that do not picture well either so eh! I love working from home on my sofa but I know that what makes working from home good for me is my partner. We tend to work in the same space without necessarily having conversations. So we decided to go for a common photoshoot in our office space.
Familiar objects help give your images more context. Yes, you feel more at ease surrounded by your things but it also gives the photographer something to work with. I know that in our office, we naturally had a few props. I love dinosaurs and shiny things. Knick-knacks are a thing in our house. Here’s what we ended up using under the guidance of our first photographer:
- Our monogrammed notebooks
- All of my office dinosaurs, including the hot pink triceratops eraser.
- “Talented Motherfucker” plaque given to me by a friend (best office prop ever).
- Our dog but she was more of an employee than a prop (she works hard for her kibble you know!).
In our second photoshoot (with Jeff), we just improvised with melons and bananas, then went outdoors to a nearby café, which provided a lush environment, although third-party locations can make the job harder for your photographer, since it’s not a controlled environment (thankfully, Jeff lugged around some of his lighting equipment).
Hair And Makeup
Do you have colored hair ? Make sure your hair color is not faded. I had neon orange during the time of the first shoot. I had to do a few things:
- figure out what goes with neon orange
- make sure the other human in the shot was color coordinated somewhat
- we had to decide how to wear our hair
- makeup plan was to not look like shit - concealer, highlighter and prayer.
In the second shoot, in 2021, I had my natural hair color so this was a non-issue.
What You Should Do To Prepare
3 Days Before:
- Work in tech? Do your nails. Trust me
- Make sure you grab a pair of glasses that don’t reflect the screen too much (if you wear glasses)
- Pick what you are going to wear
- #selfcare: sleep, hydration, no alcohol, no shitty food
- Figure out how you are going to do this with physical distancing.
The Day Before:
- Get a hydrating night mask. You can use La Neige or Niod but get some gel-like hydrating overnight solution for your face.
- Clean all the accessories with a microfiber cloth (especially screens, glasses, etc.)
- Prepare everything in one spot or in a go-to bag depending on your situation.
The Day of:
- Are you like me? Did you read my list and think to yourself: “There’s no way I am going to do any of this”? OK, listen good. Invest in a photofluid vial. This stuff is made by NIOD from the makers of the Ordinary brand of skincare stuff. GET IT. This stuff reflects the light and it works wonders in photoshoots.
Consult with the ATYPICA studio team for hair, makeup and clothing advice (yes, really)
I know this might sound like a really weird suggestion, especially for you ladies, but Jeff and his collaborators actually know what the hell they are doing when it comes to understanding light, skin texture and radiance, facial complexions, and the effect of clothing on lighting, depending on your age, gender, and skin pigmentation. If you are not already a fashion master and you are totally lost when it comes to looking your best in front of the camera, then they might be able to help. Very few photographers actually understand these more scientific aspects of the art, but these guys do. I am not saying this lightly. For high-end portraits, they are worth every penny. Seriously, look at this Prince of Darkness right there 🤤
Photoshoots are not fun for me. As an ex fat girl, I know how horrible it is to discover new folds and bulges after the fact. I say ex fat girl because I have grown into a beautiful fat woman. I graduated thank you very much.
A Photoguide You Didn’t Know You Needed:
Figure Out A Game Plan
Be honest and write down what you don’t like and what you like. This will help your insane amounts of Googling to find ideas for poses. It helps to have a chat with your photographer beforehand regarding this. Be transparent and include them in your tactical approach to dissimulating the tummy in action shots. You might also want to be like Ariana Grande or Mariah Carey and figure out your best side. Find your new favorite profile.
If you have no clue (and/or no time) at all about what to do conceptually-speaking, then idéemarque’s branding research & marketing planning services would be a really sound investment before you go nilly-willy into a photoshoot. You don’t bring a Miami Beach duckface to a gun fight photo shoot.
Let The Pros Do Their Job
First there’s random shots to test the light and the other important bits and bobs. Have fun while this is going on: figure out what you are looking for, what poses work best and how to look semi-comfortable in this alien situation. Unless you are an Instagram goddess in which case you already have all of that covered. Keep that checklist of shots you want for your website in mind. Make sure you do them all. Piece of advice: get some “landscape” orientation (horizontal) shots, not just “portrait” (vertical) shots. Ask for feedback as well to adjust poses.
The best is if you can benefit from Atypica’s tandem shoot service, where Jeff is accompanied by his shoot direction assistant, Hal (if you’re not overly shy at the thought of having her comment live via videoconferencing), to make the shoot happen faster and with better results. Even for a seasoned professional like Jeff, creatively directing a shoot while mastering all the technical details (hint: lighting is a bitch!) is a huge challenge, and having someone around to assist makes it easier to accomplish superior results in less time. You might want to pay extra for this, as you’ll save time in the studio (your butt will thank you).
Still Not Sure You’re Taking A Good Picture For A Freelancer?
- Work on your laptop.
- Get bored.
- Tell a joke.
- Laugh at your own joke because it’s really fucking funny.
- Take a sip of your coffee now that it’s not burning hot.
- Write something in your notebook.
- Grab your phone.
- Act like you enjoy working on Excel spreadsheets!
- Sorry, I meant, look like you are enjoying life!
How Long Does A Professional Photoshoot Take?
Each of our photoshoots took about 3 hours total. The first time, it was really annoying towards the end for me, whereas Augustin was simply drained and wanted nothing more than to run away from the camera. Get ready because this stuff is tiring!
Normally, a few days later, you should get the first edits of your photos. I know that we had asked for quite a few pictures so we got the first batch a week later. You should always agree on what you want after the photoshoot. In our case, the editing style was discussed on the day of the shoot so I wasn’t surprised to see a few Photoshop edits (mainly to adjust the piss poor light we had that day). Be clear on what you want and what you get. Once, someone tried to remove my wrinkles and I was not OK with that. I looked like a smooth humanoid emoji. No bueno.
Introducing The SEO Freelancer Unsplash Collection
Now that I have beautiful pictures of myself, beautiful pictures of the dog, of the partner and of the office...it’s time to share them with the world. I didn’t want any of that generic SEO expert vibe in our pictures. So yes, we will be updating our profile pictures on social media, on our website and even making new Christmas cards for the family. But most importantly, we are uniting with Alizée to create our very own SEO Expert Unsplash collection!!
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