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How to Go Full-Time with Headshots & Branding Photography

13 min read

Go behind the scenes with headshots and brand photographer, Meg Marie. See how she’s leveraged her passion to enhance the dreams of others!

“I was only gonna photograph weddings.”

Meg Marie was decidedly building a wedding photography business when a friend asked her to make some headshots for her startup. As all personal branding photographers do, Meg said, “sure,” really casually, while her insides jumped for joy at having booked another client—any client.

Instead of photographing a small series of run-of-the-mill headshots, however, Meg took her friend into town and created a spectrum of images. Magnetic headshots, energetic portraits, bold personal branding photos: the pictures were alive and full of story, and (more importantly) they dramatically increased her friend’s growing business.

Here's How To Go Full-Time with Headshots

Now, Meg earns 80% of her income with personal branding photography and brand-building add-ons. With a vision that challenges and surpasses the headshots status quo, Meg consistently delivers photographs that become as much a part of her clients’ personal branding as the services and products they sell.

“To capture people’s seven second attention span, you need stunning images that tell the unique story of your brand.” – Meg Marie

What is personal branding photography?

Personal branding photography refers to professional images that represent people, like entrepreneurs and small business owners that need help build their brand and earn money. The personal branding pictures you take fit your potential clients’ visual identity through their use of tone, colors, props, style, and more.

A personal branding session may involve a photoshoot of your clients, including their team, style, processes, products, and services. Personal branding photography doesn’t end with taking your client’s headshot for a website. It’s important you can produce well-crafted pictures that will serve as the customer’s marketing material.

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Other than text-only content, images are the key to better engagement. For example, business-to-business marketers include visual aspects for customers to trust their content marketing strategy. Meanwhile, articles with a photo once every 75 to 100 words receive double the social media shares.

>>> Photographers: Learn about branding for photographers in our in-depth guide on how to brand your photography business.

Who needs personal branding photography?

Potential customers for your personal branding photography might include:

  • Small business owners
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Musicians 
  • Authors
  • Coaches and consultants
  • Fitness experts
  • Food bloggers
  • Models
  • Social media influencers and public figures

Going beyond headshots

Headshots have been a staple of business marketing since the earliest days of boardroom executives and real estate agents. With the advent of social media, however, the need for photographs has evolved beyond headshots and into personal branding photography to small business owners. And while people continue to request “just a few headshots,” Meg knows this approach is rarely enough.

“In today’s world, we’re bombarded with so much information and marketing all the time. That’s why it’s even more important to be intentional with your branding and the images you post online.” – Meg Marie

Selling her vision

Convincing your clients that they need THIS when they think they need that can be a challenge – especially for budget-aware people with brand-new businesses. Meg’s contagious passion for personal branding photography bridges the gap between each client’s initial request and what she ultimately delivers to them. Meg follows a strict protocol when booking a new client. It’s one that combines collaboration with confidence and connection. Her first step? Getting the client or business owner on the phone.

Get clients. Get paid. Get happy.

#1: It starts with a phone call

Meg’s first step with any new potential personal branding photography client or business owner is to connect with them by phone. Getting to know each client or business owner is a critical step in creating – not just headshots – but a holistic collection of personal branding imagery. She has chosen to not publish her pricing model on her website, because she’s learned that her clients are more likely to invest when they’ve had a voice-to-voice conversation with her.

During the call, Meg listens first and talks after. She seeks to understand the passion her client or the person behind feels for their own brand and business, then shares what she can do to refine, emphasize, and empower that brand.

Meg asks questions like:

  • “Where do you see yourself and your business in the next two to three years?”
  • “What is your vision for your photo shoot?”

These questions help Meg determine whether her approach is the right fit for an inquiring client.

“A lot of times, people get wrapped up in details like inventory and pricing, and they don’t yet know who their client is. I ask them to think about their bigger vision – why they’re doing what they’re doing, and the lifestyle they want. I want my photos to be an authentic reflection of my client and their brand.” – Meg Marie

Here's How To Go Full-Time with Headshots

Meg Marie Photography

#2: Send the branding questionnaire

When a client decides to proceed with booking, Meg’s next step is to send her new client a branding questionnaire. The branding questionnaire includes a short series of questions designed to help her client clearly define the brand message they’d like their photos to convey.

Meg Marie's brand questionnaire for headshots

The responses to this questionnaire will inform Meg’s approach to their headshots and lifestyle imagery.

Here's How To Go Full-Time with Headshots and Brand Photography

Meg Marie Photography

#3: Schedule a strategy call

Once the branding questionnaire has been completed, Meg schedules the strategy call. During each strategy call, Meg invests up to two hours collaborating with her client about every detail of their upcoming experience. They talk about everything from the questionnaire responses to details like location, wardrobe, and props. One questionnaire item is particularly helpful to Meg when trying to understand the intended vibe of a client’s brand. “List three to five words that describe your brand.”

“I have one client whose five words are: self-care, stillness, relaxation, indulgence, and bliss. Then I have another client whose words are: bold, fierce, unapologetic, and so on.” – Meg Marie 

These brand adjectives bring Meg into her client’s world. Make sure everything about a high-quality photography session is crafted with these words in mind: the location, the props, the lighting, and the mood Meg works to capture during the photography session.

Here's How To Go Full-Time with Headshots and Brand Photography

Meg Marie Photography

PRO TIP: Pinterest is your friend

Pinterest can be frustrating when a client presents you with a board of 500 photos and says, “I want photos exactly like these!” Pinterest is your greatest ally! Make sure you ask your client to create a Pinterest board with up to 50 digital images that represent their brand. These can be photos, works of art, or relevant articles. The pins will provide a visual component to the brand questionnaire, and help you in creating a shared vision.

Here's How To Go Full-Time with Headshots

Meg Marie Photography

Headshots, lifestyle, and all-around FUN

Meg invests a great deal of up-front time in every single client; but the real time investment is the shoot day itself.

“We go to three or four locations, and I photograph four to eight different looks for my client. I deliver around 150 final images, so clients walk away with a ton of truly unique content to use in their marketing and their branding all year long.” – Meg Marie

With people often paying for hair and makeup services and purchasing new clothing, Meg aims to deliver a diverse collection of headshots and lifestyle photographs that will last.

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What to charge

Meg charged $200 for her first personal branding session. Today, that same shoot books for $1550. Setting your brand session pricing may feel daunting, but it really all boils down to simple mathematics – and a big, old-fashioned dose of confidence.

Know your numbers

Every pricing structure should be prefaced with a deep dive into your costs of doing business, as well as a clear understanding of what you must earn to live. (Or, if you’re partnered to a high-income earner, what you would need to earn if you didn’t have that partner.) Homeroom‘s Courtney Zerizef does an excellent job of breaking down pricing formulas in this post.  Knowing your numbers is the first step toward building sustainable pricing!

Here's How To Go Full-Time with Headshots

Meg Marie Photography

Know your clients

Every individual client is unique, but so is every photographer’s preferred demographic. What works for one photographer’s clientele may not work for another’s. For this reason, you’ll want to know how to create ample opportunities for your potential clients to share feedback with you—and you’ll want to truly listen. Meg’s first brand sessions included a gallery of images, but only 25 downloads were included, and her clients had to manually select their favorite 25. Additional digital JPEGs cost extra. This pricing structure was completely reasonable, but through asking and listening, Meg uncovered what her clients really wanted.

“Entrepreneurs and business owners—they are busy people! I’ve learned that they prefer to pay more up-front, then have access to all of their photos without having to pick any favorites. Also, they don’t like prints. They want to put photos on their websites and post them on social media, so I use ShootProof to make downloading easy.” – Meg Marie

Here's How To Go Full-Time with Headshots

Meg Marie Photography

“No prints?!? Then how do you add value?”

Meg recognized early on that she didn’t want to use beautiful images with people who then didn’t know how to use them. So she began offering value-added upgrades.

  • Instagram Makeovers. Meg collaborates with her client to develop a social media strategy incorporating their new photos, researched hashtags, targeted descriptions, personality and style.
  • Seasonal Packages. For bigger businesses, she offers a package that includes three sessions per year. With an ever-growing library of headshots and lifestyle images, people never run out of fresh content!
  • ShootProof Gallery Extensions. Some people will diligently download their photos and save them in multiple locations. Most people, however, will download a few photos, forget where they’re stored, and come back to you for more. Offer an Always Online option, where, for a yearly fee, you’ll keep your client’s gallery live and active in ShootProof, ready for them to access at any time, from anywhere.

Contracts & invoices for Pros

Here's How To Go Full-Time with Headshots

Meg Marie Photography

Businesses helping businesses helping businesses…

Meg Marie’s brand photos has impact far beyond the enjoyment a client gets from seeing beautiful photos of themselves. From fine-tuning brand messaging, to creating visual representations of that brand, to providing guidance and marketing insights, Meg’s business is helping other businesses to thrive. And they, in turn, enhance their own communities with their solutions, purpose, products, and services.

“This week, two different clients gave me the biggest compliment I’ve ever received. They said, ‘You do so much more than photography. So much more for your clients. It’s not just taking photos.’ ” – Meg Marie

And to us, that’s what photography is all about.



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