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Photography, Professional photography, branding photography, photoshoot

Minal meets Claire Gardner, Claire Gardner Photography

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Claire Gardner Photography

Investing in your business is something every small business owner should do. Yes, it does come with a cost, but it IS worth it. One of those things is photography.

I’ve always known photography is important when it comes to marketing. In my various marketing roles, I’ve worked with lots of professional photographers. Let me tell you this: it’s always worth the investment.

In this Minal meets, I chat with Claire Gardner of Claire Gardner Photography. If you’re thinking about investing in a branding photoshoot, read what Claire has to say. And, if you’re reading this in Hillingdon, hire Claire for your photoshoot. I did!

Business background

Minal: Tell me a bit about your business. What do you specialise in?

Claire: Hello! I’m Claire and I’m a Branding photographer. I’ve been shooting for the past 12 years; I was originally trained in wedding photography but have since evolved through newborns, families, and women’s portraiture into headshots and branding. I now work with entrepreneurs, and small to medium businesses to make sure that they use the right images for their brand and grab their ideal clients by the eyeballs.

Minal: When and why did you start your business?

Claire: My grandfather worked in the film industry all his life and I was given a camera as soon as I could hold one. After graduation, I had a career in Financial Services and after the economic crash of 2008, I began to rethink my life. I retrained as a wedding and portrait photographer, building my business up alongside full-time employment until I left the corporate world in 2014 and went full time with the camera.

Getting the most from brand photography

Minal: Why is professional photography so important for micro and small business owners?

Claire: The past couple of years have seen everyone move online and it’s a crowded world out there. Professional photos show that you have invested in your brand and your business and you are serious about making this a success. They will also make you stand head and shoulders above the competition.

Imagine you are a coach and there are several coaches in your area all doing roughly the same thing. When you look at their websites you find that you are all using the same or similar stock photos and the only thing to differentiate you online is price. You know how much time and effort you’ve spent getting qualified and studying and you want to charge premium prices. If you LOOK premium with a set of images that really show who you are and how you work and what life will be like for your clients once you’ve worked with them, then clients aren’t going to quibble about price.

Minal: I’ve heard you talking about photos and Google. Can you explain why that’s something you’ve focused on?

Claire: Google API cloud vision is a new development in the world of SEO and something that has caught my eye as it’s going to have a big impact on those websites that are image-heavy. Google is now using artificial intelligence to read and interpret the images you use. It’s looking at objects and emotions and will use what it thinks is relevant to a Google search.

You might be using a photo to emphasise a certain meaning. But if Google thinks it’s about something else, it will push you down the search rankings. I think it’s hugely important to help business owners build their own bank of brand-aligned images so that they have more in their arsenal to promote their business. If everyone in your sector is using the same images for the same reason and Google has got the wrong end of the stick then it’s damaging to you and your business.

Professional photography, photoshoot, branding photography
Business branding photoshoot in Woking, Surrey at the stunning Royal Holloway University and Woodhaven.

Minal: What types of photos original photos should business owners have?

Claire: I recommend business owners come out from behind their logos and be seen! Images of you, your workplace, your processes, your products, your team, and your tools of the trade. They all help to build the story and let your clients connect with the humans behind the name. Us humans are nosey creatures. So the more you can show, the greater the emotional connection and the greater the chance of an order or sale.  

Minal: What about stock photography? Is this something your recommend they use?

Claire: I do get it – stock photos are easy to get hold of and they might help you launch fast. BUT they will never match your brand perfectly, never tell your story and help you connect with your ideal clients. Also, we tend to recognise a stock image. There are studies that show that overuse of them actually turns clients off you. So I’d always recommend that you start to build a bank of your own brand images as quickly as possible.

Minal: What should people consider when hiring a photographer?

Claire: Oh that’s a good one! Do you get on with them? You will be spending a fair bit of time with your photographer. I’ve had clients with me for years – they become friends. You need to check out their portfolio, can they deliver the quality of images you want and also the style. If your brand needs dark and moody images then there’s no point in hiring a photographer who only shoots light and airy. How far are you willing to travel to them? Do they have professional contracts and terms and conditions and insurance?

Professional photography, photoshoot, branding photography
Business branding photoshoot in Woking, Surrey at the stunning Royal Holloway University and Woodhaven.

Minal: What’s the biggest reason micro and small business owners don’t prioritise professional photography?

Claire: I think the investment puts people off; they don’t think it’s important. They’ve spent time and money on the logo, the brand, and the website. But think that iPhone photos or Bob from Accounts with the nice camera can do the pictures. They will spend hours trawling stock photo sites looking for images that sort of fit. When you cost the time out you’ve probably spent more time looking for an image than you would have spent on a photoshoot.

Minal: What would you recommend people do refresh their brand photos if they can’t afford a complete photoshoot?

Claire: Reuse and repurpose – images can always be reused with different words, and your audience may not have seen the image the first time around. If you are tempted to pick up the iPhone then make sure you have good natural light, include your brand colours in the image and take some candid shots.

Minal: What are your top 3 tips for getting the most out of a photoshoot?

Claire: I’d say:

  • Prepare – put some time and effort into thinking about how you want your business to be seen. Work with your photographer but remember this is YOUR business, not theirs. We will help you visualise but we are not mind readers.
  • Plan – what jobs do you want your photos to do for you? Are they to entice clients to buy your new course, or click through to sign up for a lead magnet? Think about what they need to do for you.
  • Have some fun – be yourself in the shoot, people buy people and if your clients can see you being you then they are more likely to buy from you.

Having had two photoshoots for my business, I can definitely recommend hiring a photographer. You get to tell your business story in a visual way and you also get to show yourself (and your team if you have one), which is important because people will do business with you!

If you’d like me to interview a particular expert, email me and let me know!

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