Getting Clear on Your Brand Story BEFORE You Hire a Photographer

Do the Images You Post on Social Media Reflect Your Brand Story?

Engaging on social media has now become an almost daily requirement for business. Sharing content regularly helps boost your brand, highlight your products, and give your followers and fans a behind-the-scenes look at who you are, what you stand for, and most importantly, why anyone would want to work with you.

The problem is social media is a visual platform and you have mere seconds (or less) to get your message across. It can be difficult to know what to say when you have the use of words at your disposal, but when you don’t, the task can feel impossible. The copy that accompanies your post is incredibly important, but it’s the image (or video) that ultimately stops the scroll and invites the viewer to read more. 

The images you use should tell a story. They should make your audience feel something and they should bring a sense of clarity to your brand, not confuse it. 

Let’s face it, not everyone is a natural-born communicator, and social media, like it or not, is all about communication. How many times have you struggled to find an image that matches the message you want to share? How many times have you thrown something up just to fill the void?

This disconnect often stems from one or more of the following issues. You haven’t taken the time to get a clear vision of who and what your business is all about. You haven’t crafted a visual identity that matches that vision. Or, you have a vision and a matching identity, but you don’t have any content you can use—you need storytelling-based photography. At Worthwhile Media, we help our clients tackle all three of these issues, but in this blog post, we are going to walk you through what storytelling-based photography is and is not, and how to establish a clear vision of your brand so you can effectively communicate, share more of your story, build trust, and connect on a personal level with your audience in 2022.


What Do We Mean When We Say “Branding”?

First things first, before you can express your brand to your audience, YOU need a clear vision of who and what your brand is and is not.

But what does branding mean, exactly? defines it like this: “Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.” 

Many people think branding is all about colors and a logo, but it is that and so much more. We like to break branding down into three categories. 

  • The words we write (Voice and Tone) 
  • The visuals we show (Graphics, Photos, Colors, and Fonts) 
  • The story we tell (Content Strategy)


What is Storytelling Photography?

Put simply, your brand is your story. And that story includes personality, your reason for existing, the battles you fight, the mountains you overcome, the wisdom that guides you—and to portray that in today’s visual marketplace you need storytelling-based photography. Sometimes this type of photography is referred to as “lifestyle photography” and in the marketing world, this is important because if you are selling something, your images should portray the lifestyle your customers want. 

Let me break it down for you. 

I love flipping through the REI gear catalog. Recently I saw a photo of a bunch of friends around a campfire on top of a mountain. They were laughing together. Someone had said something funny; I don’t know what. But what I did know is that I wanted to be there. And even though I work in the marketing space and I know all the tricks, I felt that somehow all I had to do was buy the boots they were selling, and I could be there too. 

If this sounds ridiculous to you, like you would never fall for it, well, the market research is against you. Storytelling sells. The emotion that comes from experiencing a story that personally moves you can drive purchases.

REI could have shown me a photo of their boot against a white background, and to be fair, they do that too, but when they put that boot in the middle of a story where I can see myself—that is what gets me up off the couch and headed to the store.  This is storytelling-based photography, and it works for service providers too.

Whatever it is you’re selling, you can share in a story.


Environmental Portraits vs. Storytelling Photography

There are a lot of personal brand photographers that specialize in environmental portraits to portray your personal brand. These images are necessary, and they do tell a story, but not the whole story.

Like a headshot, environmental portraits are all about the person in the photo. The difference is they are shot in a wider angle than a headshot and the goal is to show the environment surrounding the subject in order to tell a story about them. 

Another example.  

If we are going to photograph a chef, let’s photograph him in his restaurant, at the stove, or at the bar. If we are going to photograph an architect, let’s photograph her in front of a building they’ve designed or with their plans laid out on their desk. In both images, the “hero” in the story is the business owner, the owner of the personal brand. Ultimately, it is just a fancy portrait. 

Storytelling-based photography occurs when we insert the client or customer into the images so they can see themselves as part of the story – a story where your product or service is the solution to their problem.

Instead of photographing the chef alone, let’s have him serving one of his delicious desserts to smiling customers. Instead of photographing the architect in her office, let’s photograph her watching her clients step into their brand-new home for the first time. Story-telling-based photography makes the audience a part of the story. It’s not about you, it’s about them.

Lesson Over. Time to Get to Work.


How to Discover Your Unique Brand Story

If you’ve ever tried discussing the latest blockbuster movie with a large group of friends, you know that not every story is for everybody. The same is true of your brand story. Don’t get tripped up trying to speak to everyone, but instead focus on what resonates with your biggest fans. 

When trying to determine your own brand story you need to start by asking yourself a few questions. Before you can clearly communicate your brand through photography, you’ll need to understand your audience, because after all, this story is about them, not you.

So, who are they? 

If you don’t already know, let’s take a moment to find out together. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, or open a new document on your computer, set a timer, and spend the next few minutes really thinking through and recording the answers to these questions:

  • Who is your audience?  
  • What are they like?  
  • What do they care about?  
  • What stories do they want to hear?  
  • What gets them excited?  
  • What pushes them away? 
  • How does what you offer solve their problems? 
  • How will they feel when they engage your offer?

Okay—time. How’d you do? Were you able to formulate a good picture in your mind of your target audience? Do you have a clear picture of how what you have to offer will impact them? Can you really see, feel, and communicate your brand to them? 

Now there is a lot more that can be said on this subject, so if you aren’t there yet, don’t worry. Spend a little more time going deep, and if you need help, check out our Content Strategy Services 

Once you have your brand story locked in, it’s time to get visual.


Next, Let’s Get Visual

The internet today is a visual hunting ground—and your brand is competing with more and more images daily. With the plethora of Instagram stories, Facebook ads, reels, TikTok videos, and more, how do you stand out?

It’s all about establishing your visual voice and tone. 

What voice and tone do you want to set in your photography? Is it serious? Is it luxury? Is it fun and playful?

Melissa Swaney with hair dryer

These aspects make up your visual voice. Through this visual communication, you are relaying who and what you are about in one snap of a picture.  

Taking the time to answer these questions will help you determine your content strategy or the story you will tell before you start creating new content. 


Settling into the Photographer Brand Relationship

Once you have a good understanding of your brand story and a defining visual identity in place, the only thing that remains is to create content – and the good news for you is that you don’t have to do this yourself. Unless you like to DIY things, you can take your brand story to a professional photographer and have them create the images for you.

In our blog post on the 3 Critical Questions To Ask When Hiring a Branding Photographer, we included several of the questions you should ask a photographer before you hire them.  

Now that you have a better understanding of how stories are necessary to sell your brand, it might be a good idea to revisit those questions. You can find that blog post here. 

First off, you want a photographer that is interested in your brand. Make sure that your photographer is asking questions about your brand and your audience before they start planning. If they’re producing a shot list and they haven’t even gotten clear on who your audience is, then how will you know if you’re making the right images? 

That’s a red flag. 

To help guide your conversation, here are a few more questions you will want to ask during your discovery call:  

  • Can you offer guidance on how to create custom imagery that is specific to my brand? 
  • Can I see examples of storytelling-based photography in your portfolio? 
  • Can you tailor your editing style to fit my brand aesthetic, or do you have one set style you apply to every shoot? 
  • Can you tell me how the images we create together will connect to my audience?

The answers to these questions can help you in making your final hiring decision. 

Ultimately, you’re looking for an expert photographer and storyteller in one, who understands how to capture images that will bring in clients and customers and highlight your brand in the best way possible.

Your photographer should not only be able to create great images but also creatively direct the shoot to tell your brand story. 

With your new knowledge of your brand and your new insight into storytelling-based photography, these questions will help you determine if you are hiring a photographer or a creative director. What you really want is both.


Worthwhile Media—Bringing Big-Brand-Style Campaigns to Your Small Business

At Worthwhile Media, we believe collaboration produces the best results and we have the connections to assemble the team you need to share the burden of producing your shoot and achieve the results you are seeking. 

And what if you want the same look and feel that the big brands have with story-filled images, but your budget is slim? 

No problem. Read on… 

If you don’t have the budget to work with a large team, then our team absorbs those roles. 

First, we craft a story that’s going to sell. Then, we source locations, organize prop-styling, coordinate with hair and makeup, and source models as needed.

Melissa Swaney Behind the Scenes in Makeup

Then we go to work, crafting beautiful images to tell your brand story. Everything from first concept to final image is taken care of when you work with Worthwhile Media. 

And that’s just the way we like it.


Having Difficulty Telling Your Own Story?

We Can Help

I saved this part for last because it is important for you to know the hardest thing for people to do is to tell their own story. This is especially true of anyone with a personal brand. 

If you asked yourself the questions above but you still feel stumped about all the pieces of your brand story, take heart—even a storyteller falters when it comes to their own story. 

I struggle with my own story constantly, asking myself: What do I share? What is a part of my public personal brand? What is just for me? 

Melissa Hollingsworth in Front of Computer with Questioning Pose

We want to be authentic and genuine on social media, but the truth is, every good story has an editor. Through cultivation and curation, story takes shape.  

Editing your own story can be overwhelming simply because you have access to everything in your own brain all the time. That being the case, it is difficult to know what to filter out, what to curate, and what to grab from your own story. 

It can be daunting to figure that out on your own. 

When it’s time to decide what you want to put forward as part of your brand you aren’t sure what to leave in and what to take out because your life is complex—full of so many categories, personas, and ways in which you put on personality. 

Leading to that classic question—who am I? 

And when you try to distill that into bite-sized, manageable chunks to share on social media the task becomes seemingly impossible. 

But it doesn’t have to be because this is where we come in to help. 

What if you could work with a professional curator of stories, who, after listening to your own story – every messy, convoluted bit of it – could turn around and hand you your very own personal brand story? And what if after developing the stories of your brand they could provide you the written copy and images you need to engage your audience? 

Our included Content Strategy is one of the greatest benefits of working with Worthwhile Media on a branding photography shoot. Not only do we take care of all the details of production on the day of your shoot, but we spend hours in pre-production working with you to craft a brand story that resonates with your audience and converts clients and customers. 

We’ll guide you through it every step of the way! 

But there’s more. 

If you aren’t ready to hire a branding photographer, or you’re out of our service area, or maybe you’re just getting started in your business, we offer a Content Strategy Guide that can be purchased a la carte, without an accompanying media package.  

Some clients choose to start here, creating their own visuals and copy based on the stories and messaging we develop. We provide them with a guide and a plan to follow until they are ready to hand over the content creation to us.

If you aren’t sure where to start, then start here. We’ll have a conversation, get to know you and your audience, and develop the stories of your brand.


A Litmus Test for Your Brand

Whenever we create a Content Strategy Guide for a client, we often get comments like, “Wow, this is amazing,” but here is the thing—every bit of their story came from them. They said every word. We just curated it and put it in a package that allows them to drip it out as part of their social media campaigns for their brand. 

If you decide to work with us on a Content Strategy Guide for your personal brand — we don’t come up with your story—your story must come from you. 

But we can help you decipher and make sense of it, then put it in a package that’s easy to relay to others.  

The Worthwhile Media Content Strategy Guide removes all confusion, second-guessing, doubting, and decision making when it comes to posting on social media, not to mention the constant question, “Is this something I should talk about?” 

After our interview, we deliver to you a copy of your personalized guide that provides you with messaging themes and visual content ideas, that allows you to share your brand story in a way that feels authentic and genuine to you, all the while highlighting the services or product you provide. 

This guide becomes a litmus test for your brand. During those times when you wonder if you should share something or not, just go to your Content Strategy Guide and the answer is there. If you are struggling to come up with what to post, you can reference your guide for the next idea.

At Worthwhile Media, we eat, breathe, and sleep storytelling and we know how to tell a brand story well. 

Consider us your personal storytelling team. 

Remember, people don’t buy goods and services. They buy the story you sell them.

If you want to stop leaving conversions on the table and start drawing your customers in with high-impact content that converts, contact us today for a free initial conversation. 

If you are ready to hire a full-time photographer or just want to taste what it might be like to work with a pro in a single session, reach out to Worthwhile Media. We’d love to tell you more about how subscription-based photography can help you reach your audience, boost your brand, and bring customers and clients to your doorstep.

If you’d like to hear from us when our blogs go live you can sign up for our Newsletter Here. You can also download our FREE guide: “My Top 5 Tips for Creating 30 Days of Content in One Day!” 


Worthwhile Media is a full-service branding agency focused on custom content creation through effective storytelling in the mediums of photography, video, and the written word. Offering subscription-based services and single photography and video sessions, they provide images and content for web, print, social media, and public relations. From headshots and banner reels to seasonal marketing campaigns, Worthwhile Media is available to meet all your content creation needs. Reach out today to schedule your free discovery consultation.  

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Getting Clear on Your Brand Story BEFORE You Hire a Photographer

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