Updated: Oct 8, 2022
Sure, we could call our photo sessions “branding sessions” like everyone else. But unless you happen to be a bar of soap or delicious artisanal chocolate bar, you don’t need a branding session. Here’s why. Branding images typically fall under the category of commercial photography and refer to product shots — a sequence of photos that doesn’t necessarily tell a story. What you are really looking for are images that build a story — not organic coffee blends. At Goldenbrand Studio, we shoot “see it to believe it” editorial imagery for personal brands — and we do it all virtually. Here’s what editorial-style photography is and why you’ll love it for your next photoshoot.
What exactly is Editorial Photography?
Editorial photography aims to tell a story or portray a concept. It is commonly found in magazines, newspapers, editorial features, and journalism. Unlike commercial photography, editorial photography relies much more on a story than it does on a brand. The motive, therefore, is not to sell, but rather to express and engage. Traditionally, especially pre-social media, editorial images were used for print, fashion and beauty shoots like these . Recently they have become more democratic and are now accessible to every photographer, creative, and personal brand.
The motive, therefore, is not to sell, but rather to express and engage.
Can You Give Me an Example?
Sure. Imagine you're at a dinner party. You don’t know any magic or party tricks, but you do have a captive audience and you do want to dazzle them. So, what do you do? You tell a good story. After you’ve been to enough dinner parties and met enough new people, you’ll probably start to notice yourself telling certain stories again and again. Those anecdotes that really capture who you are and how you connect with other people. Editorial photography works the same way, telling your story through images with you as the focus.
Why We Love the Editorial Approach for Photoshoots
The pressure should be off during your photoshoot. With an editorial image, there are no wrong creative choices. You can’t make a mistake with the image because if it tells a story, it works. For you, this means there is no pressure to be performative. No pressure to show up to the shoot with your game face on, nervous as heck and feeling like you are out of your depth. We are focused on the storytelling aspect, yes, but ultimately, we want to capture our subjects candidly, honestly, and spontaneously.
With an editorial image, there are no wrong creative choices. You can’t make a mistake with the image because if it tells a story, it works.
Our goal for any photoshoot is to not overly curate pose and emotions. Forced smiles and poses are, in our opinion, the quickest way to a mediocre photograph. Ideally our clients know they are being photographed, but they aren’t taken out of the moment by the camera’s presence. This is much easier to achieve when you feel comfortable with us, which is why we spend time with our clients before the shoot. Including the strategy call, we remain in contact with one another right up to shoot day. Vulnerability is really about trust. And we’re all vulnerable, so it’s really the one thing that connects us all. How to capture it? Well, that’s in the magic that’s photography. That’s what’s exciting for me.
Finally, editorial photography is not restrained by brand image like commercial photography. Nor does it depend on the unpredictable nature of straight documentary style photojournalism. Instead, editorial photography allows us to use every tool at our disposal from location to styling, props, and the final edits to create an image that tells a story. Here’s how it plays out in the Goldenbrand Studio.
Instead, editorial photography allows us to use every tool at our disposal from location to styling, props, and the final edits to create an image that tells a story.
Begin With the Story
Meeting with a client for the first time and planning for their photoshoot is one of my favorite parts of the whole experience. I take time to fully research clients before the strategy call. I am known for digging up obscure blog posts, podcast interviews, and reminding them of their long-forgotten quotes. I never follow a formula for these calls, I never give my clients lengthy questionnaires to fill out ahead of time, and my questions are rarely the same because I always want to learn what makes each one special and unique. We talk about who they are, why they do what they do, and who they do it for. This is an integral part of the process for me and often very eye opening for them. We are all guilty of getting too busy working on our business and we so often forget to work within it. These conversations help us remember while bringing our stories to life.
I never follow a formula for these calls, I never give my clients lengthy questionnaires to fill out ahead of time, and my questions are rarely the same because I always want to learn what makes each one special and unique.
We've got you. Our recent session with Julia Carlson is a good example. Julia spent the first phase of her career focused on growth, building wealth, and scaling her seven figure financial business. When we met, she was feeling restricted by the financial brand. Her priorities were shifting and she longed to bring her passions and personality to her new personal brand. To embrace everything she was unable to bring to life in her corporate brand. We decided the photos needed to tell the new story of Julia — one focused less on money and more on health, joy, and love. Choosing to shoot the photos in her home signified a new sensibility in her approach to life; who she is, what she loves, how she moves through the world, and who she surrounds herself with. Click here to see images we pulled for Julia's Photoshoot.
Amanda Gibby Peters’ images immediately bring to mind someone smart and approachable — a woman with a well-defined vision, purpose, and an appetite for learning. Someone who is refined and has an ease about her, but who is generous with her presence and her thinking. Her beautiful and thoughtfully-decorated home was very much a second subject during the photoshoot, which was accented by Amanda’s incredible personal style and warm sense of humor. Click here to see images we pulled for Amanda's photoshoot.
Her beautiful and thoughtfully-decorated home was very much a second subject during the photoshoot
Create a Mood (Board)
With the story solidified, it’s time to create your vision for telling it. Mood boards help develop an overall aesthetic for your shoot and are integral for conceptualizing how to execute images on shoot day. In fact, our clients love theirs so much that we decided to share the entire process with you here. If you want to try your hand at creating one, try our template.
Location and Styling
Depending on what story we are capturing, location can be everything. Some shoots will require the controlled setting of a studio with solid backdrops, while others need the intimate feel of a personal space. As we consider the story, we think about what space will bring it to life. This also determines the styling. For example, does the styling need an authentic 50’s backdrop? Would the clean lines of a studio add subtlety to a 70’s color pop look? Would a warm brick background give a timeless feel to an otherwise modern story?
When finalizing the location with a client, we consider colors and styles of outfits. What colors dominate the pieces? Bright pastels or cool, dark blues? Next, we consider the colors of our setting. The setting is almost always the second subject of a photo. The right location will transport viewers into your story and narrative. We find that exceptional locations tell their own stories — the key is picking the one that fits into your own.
The setting is almost always the second subject of a photo.
Meg Keene photographed virtually by Lisa Haukom, Goldenbrand Studio
Hairstyling and wardrobe can be extremely important for specific editorials like the vintage 1960's images we took for Meg Keene (Author, Speaker). If your story is set during a specific time period or meant to reflect a specific culture, wardrobe styling becomes all the more important.
The best editorial images capture more than branding, clothing or a beautiful smile — they communicate an entire story in one image. They not only give the viewer a glimpse into your personal brand, but instantly convey your personality and make the viewer feel part of your world. This type of visual connection can be attempted in about pages and personal stories, but even the best copy cannot accomplish it with the elegance and impact of a great editorial photo.
As always, thank you for your comments, thoughts and love. Go behind the scenes of a virtual photoshoot here.