Creating Brand Photos That Stand Out with Katie Needle

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Episode: 15

In this Episode, Nichola is joined by Katie Needle, a talented brand photographer known for her unique approach in creating brand photos that really stand out.  Get ready to discover how to stop using boring headshots and turn up the volume on your visuals.

Katie emphasises the power of authentic imagery in building trust and connection with your audience. You’ll also learn practical tips for taking better self-portraits and get insights into planning your brand photography session with Katie.

Key Takeaways:

1. Authenticity Matters: Katie emphasizes the importance of showcasing your true self and brand values through visuals, breaking away from traditional corporate headshots.

2. DIY Photography Tips: Learn how to improve your self-portraits with simple techniques like using a tripod, leveraging natural light, and considering video recording for dynamic shots.

3. Customized Brand Sessions: Discover the different options for brand photography sessions, including full-day sessions, visual refresh sessions, and pop-up sessions in various UK cities.

4. Elevate Your Brand: Katie’s expertise in brand photography can transform your brand’s visual identity, helping you connect on a deeper level with your target audience.

To explore Katie’s portfolio and learn more about her brand photography services, visit Instagram or Katie’s website.

Until next time, keep shining with your authentic brand!

0:00 Brand photography and standing out on social media.
5:40 Using photos to showcase personal brand values and energy.
11:37 Creative photo ideas for solo business owners.
18:00 Using photos to show personality and attract clients.
23:27 Photo shoots for business owners with tips and options.
28:11 Using photography to bring brand to life.

Today I am joined by the extremely talented Katie needle. Katie is a brand photographer but with a difference. Katie is going to be telling us how you can really turn up the volume on your visuals on the photos that you use within your business. I mean, forget about your typical boring headshots. Katie is an absolute genius at bringing your energy and the fun to your photo so that they really stand out and show the real you and I can speak from personal experience having now had two shoots with Katie that she, she has, as I said, she's a genius, she really is.  So welcome, Katie. I really appreciate you giving up your time to be here. So thank you for being here.

Katie Needle You are more than welcome. It's my absolute pleasure. What an introduction. Thank you.

Nichola Page I've had photos done in the past, and it's just like, then they're okay but the way you do things is, is brilliant. And you put, you certainly put me at ease, because it can be a little bit daunting. But what we want to talk about today is, you know, when we're talking about brand photography, what is it? And how do you get your photos to stand out, particularly if it's on social media on your website. But before we delve into that, can you just share what is it that led you to doing the brand photography, and in particular in the way that you're doing? How did you get to this point.

Katie Needle So I've been a photographer for a really long time now, actually, I'm nearly 40 now. And I've been doing photography since I was about 24, as like a career started dabbling in like photo labs when I was a lot younger and then took on a job as a portrait photographer for families. So I did like that whole. If anyone remembers venture back in the day, that kind of that kind of family portrait stuff. And then it's just kind of evolved from there. And what I was doing, where I was kind of always shooting anything and everything if people needed a camera, I was there I was doing weddings, I was doing babies, pet photos, brand photos, all sorts of things like that I even worked on cruise ships doing photography. And it was when I came back from that, that I kind of started to really focus on being self employed. Previously, I'd always been employed by someone else as a photographer, but I went self employed after that, and then focus more on branding stuff and wedding things. And then COVID came along. And that was my opportunity to move away from weddings, because it wasn't, it was a love hate relationship. Some of it was great. Some of it was not and then luckily for COVID and then you don't say luckily about that for much. But it let me kind of move away because obviously weddings completely stopped. So I was able to rearrange bookings, a lot of bookings fell through and all that kind of stuff. And I was like, my true passion really is particularly photographing women. I did a lot of boudoir photography. for about eight years I freelance as a boudoir photographer. So I've always loved that element of helping women in photographs. And then it just kind of evolved into focusing on women in business, which I love to support because I myself obviously I'm a woman in business. And I just love that whole ethos of being self employed. We're doing it for ourselves and creating lives that we want for whatever that reason is more freedom more time more home with the kids, whatever it is, I just love kind of working with women that are in that same same mindset that they they've got that passion for working for themselves. And yeah, women I know have so many hang ups about having their picture taken. Okay, hear it all the time. I think everyone that comes to me is like, I hate having my photos taken. They're all like got their own twisted behind their back. They're like, Oh, no, I need to do it. But I hate it. And I just love that transformation that people will come at the beginning of the session, absolutely crapping it just so nervous. And then by the end they're like stashing away like Beyonce and having the best time ever and that's, that's brilliant for me. I love that. So yeah, so for about the last four years now it's been truly focused only on brand photography. And I would say 90% of the time for female business owners, which is I love working for them. It's quite Yeah,

Nichola Page When I first initially thought about having brand photography done, I just thought of your typical media, you know your stuff, having your blazer on the corporate kind of look, but you don't do anything like that. So what's different about what the way that you do? I mean, obviously, I know because I've experienced it, but then anyone listening, how is working with you different and how are you approaching bringing the brand into your photos.

Katie Needle So as well as you know, as well probably from a lot more marketing my mantra is hashtag say no to boring headshots, it is time to get everyone away from yes, that idea that kind of across all the different social platforms that you need to have a different look. I know lots of people are like, Oh, LinkedIn, it must be you know, white background, as you say wearing the blazer looking very corporate. And Facebook needs to be something different. And I just I think the most important thing is to show yourself completely as you are. That's the most unique thing about you. There are 10, a penny of us doing everything that we're all doing. And whatever your business is like, that can be a bit hurtful to some people, like we're not unique in our businesses, but we are us as people are. And that's what you need to show people. It's that critical, like know, like, and trust factor. And I just think that there's so much more you can show about yourself in photographs, I think it's you owe your business more than just sitting there with a blazer on or just sitting there with your laptop. Like you want to show your vibe, your energy, and it's so important for one attracting clients to you, but then also repelling people to you. If there's people that are going to look at your images and go, Oh, no, that's not for me. Brilliant, fantastic, move aside, make room for the people that do want to work with me, that's just as important. So I just love being able to dig into people and just really get even more out of them. Like we don't want to be surface level. Like we all know, we all work from home, we're all probably sat on our laptops quite a lot. Like your photos will be no different than anyone else's. If that's what you're putting out there, you want to grab attention, especially now. I mean, we're all scrolling constantly, you need something that's going to really stand out, but that you also then really love. So that's important too. I never like people to do stuff. Like just because I as you know, I do a lot of things in my photos with props and balloons, and smoking, confetti, all that kind of stuff, but only when it's appropriate to the person. Like it's about being the very Uist of yourself. So I try and really understand like people's personality, their little kooky bits, all the little interests that they have, so that we can really kind of get the creative juices rolling. And then on a completely selfish side, it just keeps it really interesting for me as well. I don't want to be photographing people on a white background, like doing a corporate headshot, I genuinely can't think of anything worse. That would, that would kill my love for photography. If I had that was all I shot. So yeah, so selfishly, it's so that I can keep doing really great fun stuff. And most importantly, it's how you can, you're going to grab attention that way, people are going to really look at your photo and go, Wow, that's amazing. And it helps you the more confident you feel about your photos, the more you're going to want to post them the more you're going to want to do stuff with your social media, which we all know can be a right pain in the ass sometimes. So it's really good to be able to be enthusiastic about what you're doing and feel energetic and feel confident about showing your face online, because it is intimidating. So the more you can feel good about it, the better. So that's what I'm always trying to aim for in the photo so that they really speak to you as a person so that you can really speak to your audience. Brilliant,

Nichola Page okay, so, because obviously, people are listening to this, so we've got no visuals to show them. So we need to paint the picture with our words, to really bring to life what we what you're talking about when you say you're bringing the energy you're bringing, we talked about brand values. So share if could you share maybe a couple of examples, I think of how someone's brand values can be brought to life with their photos and so that if those listening can can almost visualise what you're talking about?

Katie Needle Yeah, sure. So obviously, with brand values, they tend to be very similar to your own personal values. Which if you're a bit unsure of how to kind of start figuring out that kind of stuff, a really good little starting point is to get someone else to describe you always find if you get like a partner or close relative or someone just get them to describe you in like three or five words. And just, that's a really good point to go, oh, actually, that's how people see me. And that's what, that's what people think. So we're really bad at like doing that for ourselves. We're never very positive about ourselves. So get someone else to do it first. And that can kind of help you begin to kind of figure out what you're about and what your values are. And then yeah, it's kind of like a values and a vibe thing in the photos. It's how do you want people to react when they see that photo? Do you want to be are you quite a calm person? Do you want them to feel very safe when they see your image. And then, again, when we're talking about like the Kooky things that people are about the interest, how you can tie that into the images. So like, for example yourself, and we photographed you, you have a really strong affinity with the Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz stuff and a lot of the positive quotes to do with that and the rainbows. So we obviously went out and I managed to find you some Dorothy street art in Brighton so that we could photograph you against that with a quote and stuff. So it's kind of finding those visual bits that tie into it. But then thinking about how if you want to feel like calm if you want to show your calm in the photos, what does that look like? Do you need to be sat near water? Or should you be sat on a beach? Are you going to be looking just very like like direct eye contact in the photographs? Or then opposite if you're going to show lots of energy we need to be moving. So we need to kind of have you doing stuff in the photograph. So are you holding an umbrella and kind of kicking your legs up and that kind of stuff and just kind of bring that energy into the photographs that way? I've had a few clients where, for example, one of them was very interested in anime, and particularly like Dragon Ball, which she actually taught like 16 year olds, so it was like really appropriate that they knew about that but obviously a lot To tutors, we'd be like, Oh no, I can't like show that personal side of me. We actually ended up recreating she's into anime recreated those kind of shots from Dragon Ball with her, she got dressed up. And we like found a really cool piece of street art to photograph her against. And she's doing like anime kung fu kicking the photographs. And she absolutely loved them, her students went nuts for them. And it just built up that little connection, that little trust between the two of them that they then had more to talk about. So it's kind of Yeah, being able to just push the envelope in that way and not thinking that anything's too weird to be photographed, like, we can do anything, you don't just have to be sad or smiling, like, let's really show it off in that way. So as you say, it's quite hard to kind of like, like speak the words of what the images look like. But hopefully that was helpful. Hopefully, that was what you asked

Nichola Page And to give you a few more examples, like you said, the first shoot we did, because of my absolute love for the Wizard of Oz. And one of my brand values is courage. And obviously, that comes into play so that my values weaved into the Wizard of Oz, because there's obviously the lion finding the courage and I'm very heart centred and all of that stuff. So it's got a lot of meaning. But what I love about with you is that you just ask all of these questions and and when we were initially having a conversation about asking where is she going to go with these photos are I am, I know, I don't really have a creative brain. I'm very kind of practical and strategic. So for me to be able to come up with the ideas that you did, that just wouldn't have happened. So I think it's a case of like what you've said there is thinking about what you what you're really passionate about, even if you can't see the connection to your business right now. It pulls your personality out. And also, embracing your brand colours as well is important, isn't it in terms of how you how you kind of bring that into the photos. But another example that we we did, you gave me a smoke bomb. To kind of start with purple to match my brand in I was we was near down a side street in Brighton we let the the smoke bomb go off just to give a different look to the photo with the primary purpose of that to catch the eye, particularly in social media. We did have people coming out their office blocks looking to see if there was something fire but we weren't worried about that pretty much. But that's kind of the creative thing. So I want you to as you're listening to this is don't put yourself in a box. Just as Katie said, we can have smoke bombs, you can have props, I've had umbrellas, I've had gluta out all sorts of things. I know with brie, someone we know for her photo shoot, she was very much into Harry Potter and things like that. So you did the whole you had fire in the photos and wizard ones and all sorts. So I want as you're listening to really kind of if you can, if you're like me, you don't really have that creative brain to try and get those creative juices flowing is the main thing. Ben how how do you from your perspective, then? It's like how, how can someone who's sitting there listening to this thing? All right, I'm gonna give this a try. By myself, I understood that I want to have that boring sitting on my laptop photo. What could they what could they start to do to be a little bit more creative with the photos if they're just doing it by themselves.

Katie Needle So yeah, so definitely start by really understanding yourself and your personality, what your vibe is, what your brand values are, as I say that, that starting point of kind of asking someone else to describe you, in a few words is a really good tool, and then describe yourself in a few words. There's also quite a good exercise you can do where if you kind of write out your like ideal business day. And then kind of see what language you're using when you write that kind of really get descriptive as to what would be your perfect day in your business. And then yeah, pick up the language that you're using, because then that will help to kind of see what your vibe is and what your values are. Is it energy, is it confidence? Is it adventure, or is it kind of like calm and more spiritual, those sort of things will start to build the building blocks before you start taking your own photos, you need to kind of have a really good clear image in your head of what you're trying to put through in those photographs before you even pick up your camera. Otherwise, it's just going to be a photograph of your face. And you're not telling your audience anything more than just what you look like. And then yeah, look at what your brand colours are. So could you then put those into your outfits? Or could you put that into your locations find some street art or something, a coloured wall that has the same colours that you're using, and then push yourself to just as I say, think of those kooky things about you the bits that you think might not be that relevant. I know that particularly for yourself, Nicola your audiences Have a lot of gym, gym businesses and fitness businesses. Try and just think away from the usual typical thing like what you always see in fitness photos, and then try and turn it on its head and do something completely different. I actually have a client called Chrissy from the Mombasa method. And she always says to me, and no offence to anybody, but she always says to me, like, I don't want to look like a gym worker in my photos. So so we always try and like turn that on its head when I photograph her and we've kind of gone, we've done so much with her she's had like three or four sheets with me now. And we've like had her in like a beautiful ball gown with some like really killer heels. We've had her like semi naked in the kitchen with like fruit and stuff. We've had a dancing in the kitchen, in her underwear, which ties into her favourite Girls Aloud song. She has actually been naked up of a tree, we're having some photos taken before as well. And hardly ever do we photograph her in her gym gear, that's not very often that we do that we do a little bit of it, but not much, because she just wants to her whole ethos behind her business is more about connecting with the women that she's helping and how their health and fitness, like helps the rest of their life. So it's all about being confident and feeling good in your own skin. So she kind of plays more on that rather than here's me doing some weights, or here's me, really showing my lack of fitness knowledge here is me like doing a squat, which has its place, I think, but also the fitness industry, in particular for your audience is really saturated with those kind of images like everyone's in their leggings and their little crop top. And what can you do? What can you do differently to depending on who your clients are as well, like a lot of your clients won't necessarily resonate with seeing that like that can be a bit intimidating to see that kind of final, healthy, healthy photo, and you're not, you're not at that point yourself yet. So that's kind of it's always just thinking outside of the box and just trying to push it that little bit further a little bit different. What can you show what's your interests, what sparks you up, and then put yourself in that situation to take your own photographs, or then go further and get a professional to take photographs? Yeah,

Nichola Page and I think what you said at the start of this was very much about the mentioning that know, like and trust kind of factor as well. And that's something I always talk about when whenever I'm having conversations with fitness business owners, it is important for people to for you to be able to build that know like and trust and buy your because they don't they yet know You any photo that they do see, they will have they'll make a judgement on you. Whether you like it or not. That's that's the only thing they've got to go on. And if you're if you are a fun person, but you're just sitting there doing a the same old exercise, I mean, God if I had a pound for every time I scroll through my phone and see a specific Pilates move in a photo, I'd be a very rich woman it's like how how are you going to really stop people from scrolling in their feed for them to for it to really stand out. That's the purpose of this as well from the practicality point of view of how your photos helping you to attract people to you. But also really getting people to get to know you and be drawn to you feel like they they know a bit more about you without actually ever having spoken to you is is what you're all about. Isn't it is trying to bring and fun. bring that to life? If you're not into having fun at all, this won't work for you.

Katie Needle Yeah, yeah, you're gonna like a bit of fun to have a shoot with me for sure. Definitely. Um, but as I say it is about like doing it in a way that works for you. Like I wouldn't do something not everyone gets the smoke bombs. Not everyone gets the confetti, because it depends on what you're about and what you're what you're showing in the shoots all like wildly vary definitely because it is tailored to the person and what we find out about them when I ask all those questions. People are wondering what to these questions will help you do. But yeah, showing off your personality, as you say, get that audience to really like be drawn into you. And the more that you inject, like, think about a different location that you're having it done in different props that you're using. That might mean something to you like maybe wearing just even something as simple as wearing some earrings that you picked up in a bazaar in Marrakech or something like that gives you a talking point to use in your, in your images. When people then comment on stuff you've got. You've got starting points to talk to them about more things because the more conversations you have, the closer they're going to be to the more touch points they're kind of having with you to then get closer to making a sale from you. So yeah, showing off your personality is just so important. I think small businesses especially

Nichola Page so we've got the in order for you to really bring your photos to life. You need to give it some thought in terms of what what are you trying to portray. What are your values? What's your quote? A key thing about you what is it something that people don't like? Like Mine was the Wizard of Oz thing? What's your version of that? To try and bring that to life? But how can someone now take it? There's given some practical tips, and how could they go about taking some better photos of themselves if they're just trying to do it by themselves.

Katie Needle Yeah, absolutely. Which we all do at the beginning, you need to be able to just grab some, grab some pictures, don't you. So you want to be either using your phone and your camera, and you need to get it out of your hand, you need to get it on a tripod, or even just like prop it up against some books and get some distance between you and the camera. Because it's kind of taking it from that just that real close up headshot, that's just like a selfie, to them being able to show off more of your body so that you can pose more so that you can do more with it and get more kind of energy into the images. So a tripod so that the camera is further away from you. And then either use like your timer, your time is a great thing to use, like three seconds or 10 seconds so that you can see yourself in the frame, and then get ready and then use the timer if you haven't got someone else to help you take the photographs. And then yeah, so say think about locations you can go to, you also need to think about the light that you're using, the more lit these photos can be the better quality they're going to look. So even if you're just at home in your living room, just try and be like opposite your windows. So that's just lovely, beautiful, natural light just completely lighting you up. Or use some ring lights and things like that. But kind of general good lighting is just kind of opposite you just shining straight on, you're maybe slightly above sometimes need to think of yourself as like a bit of a flower and how flowers like lean up to the sunshine. So have your lights at like a kind of slight angle to use your little flower leading up to the lights. But the more well lit they are, the less kind of like you'll feel that you need to use filters and things afterwards because they will just help your skin look great because they'll be no shadows. If you've got like overhead lights on turn them off. Because they are the devil over headlines, they make the worst shadows ever. So yeah, nice, even light will really help you. And then if you're still struggling with like using a timer, a really easy quick hack that I actually use all the time. Some of my photos of myself I do this with is you can actually set your camera up to video you and then sometimes helps you feel less awkward. So you video yourself and just kind of move around a little bit as you're as you're videoing, you literally only need to do like a minute or two. Don't move really fast because of the next step. But you can then kind of just move around. So like move to the side, fold your arms move to the front, maybe point do just some different bits. within that minute or two laugh, you'll feel like a real crap but like laugh at the camera, smile at the camera, frown at the camera, just do some different things. And then what you can do afterwards is go back through the video footage, pause on it, clear your screen, if any of the icons and you can screenshot it, that's just a really quick way of grabbing some photos, especially if you're maybe experimenting with going outside and you feel really awkward with people seeing you do this, you can literally film a really quick one minute video, you'll probably get yourself like three or four great shots from that I do it all the time, because it's just really energy efficient. That's a really good way of doing it.

Nichola Page Yeah, and when when I first heard you say about that, I was like, Oh my God, that makes so much sense. Because of the amount of times I've previously tried to do the timer, step back. And then before I'm ready, the timer, it's gone off, you know, and it just takes forever, but setting it up to record the video. And then just going back and doing screenshots of, of the stills of it was Yeah,

Katie Needle yeah, it makes so much so much easier. Because I think otherwise, if you're using the time, you just get caught in the technical side of it. And you actually need to just be focusing on like your face and your body and the energy that you're doing. And so many of us now as well are way more comfortable doing video than having stills. So that kind of helps you get back in your comfort zone a little bit. I hear that a lot. Now from a lot of female business owners, they're like, oh, yeah, put me on live. No worries, record a quick story. Easy peasy. But put a camera in front of my face, and oh my god. So just kind of helps you get into that zone. If I'm just doing a video, it's not really having photos taken it, it kind of helps you cheat, cheat a little bit. So it's a good hack to use. Definitely if you're if you're doing it yourself.

Nichola Page Brilliant. Okay, so we've got some practical tips that you can do for yourself to start having a go at that. And obviously with Canva with the use of Canva now within photos is so much so much more that you can you can do so with the background of it as well with your photos. So there's lots you can do for yourself, but describe what the process is like should somebody be listening to this thinking? Yeah, I'd love to work with you, Katie have a photo shoot down what what are their options? What's the process? Like? What do they need to do?

Katie Needle So well very first of all, make sure you actually definitely do like me, say go and check out like some more of my portfolio that's all over Instagram, which And then also kind of like see some of my videos and things just to make sure you think that our personalities would click because when you do that with any photographer, you're gonna spend a lot of time with them. So make sure that you like them don't just like a person's portfolio you need to like them too. And then I offer like a range of different ways of having photoshoots. So I do the one to one full day sessions, which I know Nikka, you've had one of those ones. So that's when you have an entire day with me, we'll go to maybe sort of like five or six different locations, we'll change outfits, it's really in depth, really kind of very personalised, we'll have like a good 45 minute hour conversation ahead of the sheet planning so that I know exactly what I'm going to design for you, you'll get a Pinterest board designed with ideas where there'll be a lot of back and forth just to make sure it's really well planned out. So that's great if you're in need of lots of images, and you kind of want to just do it once and kind of get loads so that you're kind of set for like a good six months to a year with content. So that's a full day session. I do kind of like smaller, three hour visual refreshes, which I do in London or in Bournemouth, which is where I'm based in Bournemouth, but I do travel a lot, I do those in Bournemouth and in London, which is another way of getting photos. So it's a little bit more condensed, it's kind of like a bit small but mighty kind of session to have, it's maybe not as curated as in depth, but we can still get a lot achieved within that session. And then I also do pop up sessions around the UK cities which are coming to an end now as the weather is turning, the summer isn't really left now, so we're not doing those as much, but they take place all over the UK. So I go to London, into Birmingham into Manchester, I'm doing one in Bournemouth on Monday. And that's a shared session. So you come along to sort of meet with three or four other business people. And then I take you on like a two hour walk around shoot. So we get to choose like really good locations that kind of work well for everybody is a little bit more generic. But it's a really great way of if you don't have a huge budget, if you're very nervous about having your photo taken, you kind of get the camaraderie of the group, which is really nice to get little chance to network and chat. You're not having your photo taken all the time. So it's less kind of as intense as a one to one you get a chance to be like Well, yeah, I can step back. And people have really enjoyed those and they're, they're great to, they're great to do they're really good fun sessions, those ones. And then here in Bournemouth, I actually run a monthly membership for Dorset based business owners, which is my monthly subscriptions people come and have a shared shoot every month here in the Bournemouth area, which is lovely, too. That's been as my baby my brand collective I love my brand collective.

Nichola Page Yeah, amazing. Well, I think if you are, I can thoroughly recommend both I've done the one to one and then recently did something in London for a couple of hours. All of which is great. Katie's your way of putting people at ease because we were in front of other people that may have been looking at what we were doing. But it's not your it's so quick. And you the way that you do it, it's just is really good fun as well. So I can thoroughly recommend you do that, if that's something you want to do. And obviously, you've got some tips in this episode on how you can start to do that for yourself. So that is after we have come to the end. So thank you, Katie, that was really inspiring. Please do go and check out Katie connect with her all of her details are in the show notes. So you can go and look and see get some inspiration on her website, some of the shoots that she's done on Instagram and so on. But if you are thinking about doing this, then please do reach out to Katy and just have a conversation. So but I do hope that that has got your creative juices flowing. And you started to think about how you could really start to bring you and your brand to life in your photos. So you've as I've said, you'll find all the details in the show notes on how to reach out to Katie. So thank you again, Katie for your inspiration. And thank you for listening. And as always, if you have enjoyed this episode, please don't forget to SHARE SUBSCRIBE And leave us a review. That's it from us. I'll see you on the next episode. Bye for now.

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