This month we are very lucky to have Imani from The Colour Nest, blog for us. Imani is a creative mentor & colour-loving interiors Instagrammer based in Northumberland. Imani created the colour nest as a social media space packed with inspiration & authentic positivity. Grab a cuppa, sit back and enjoy.
The best advice I ever got as a newly emerging illustrator working to build my own Etsy business was from a creative mentor here in the North East, Ann English (Create Intrigue) who I spent valuable time working with. The advice she gave me (and I never ever forgot) was it wasn’t enough to just build a brand. Instead, you had to *be* your brand, and embrace that brand message in full; never missing an opportunity to showcase and represent your brand in whatever visual way you could.
Your brand identity is not just some abstract theoretical concept you hear about in business psychology textbooks. Your brand identity is crucially important and includes all aspects of your interactions with actual or wannabe customers. That very much includes all the visuals you put out there on websites, blogs and social media which together make up your digital footprint.
These days, our shop floors mostly tend to be virtual rather than literal ones. Your digital footprint can be make or break, and any visual information you put out into the public domain is so integral to communicating that brand message rapidly and effectively, in a way that words alone cannot always achieve.
So how do you ensure any visuals you put out there are brand congruent, and successful in portraying the very essence of you and the way you work, using imagery that creates attention-grabbing and positive split second first impressions from anyone stumbling across your work? Personal branding photography is one pathway, creating an accessible short cut to you successfully capturing the attention of your target customers, as well as bypassing markets you are not necessarily there to attract.
The first question that always pops into my head when I am viewing the website or social media of any business (as a self-confessed inquisitive person with a passion for interiors and psychology), is always what does their workspace look like. The inner psychologist in me (something I think we all have living within us!) wants to know more about the human being we’re considering investing in, so anything we can glean from the website’s visual imagery helps us construct that impression and construct a narrative around how we perceive the human being we’re potentially investing in. Aspects like how your workspace is styled and presented may appear to be superficial, but if your visuals tell a different story to your copy, the information will be lost.
So from a business owners perspective, how can you create personal branding that successfully tells a story and vibes with your wannabe customers? Once you’ve identified exactly what you’re trying to achieve by your branding and how you would wish to be perceived by those you’re specifically wanting to attract, the next important step is to give thought to how you can visually communicate that using straight forward and achievable styling that all combines to build a clear picture of you, encapsulating the magic of all it is that you do!
Here are my colour nest styling tips for how you can approach styling your interior shots and workspace so it’s photo ready for your personal branding shoot.
I wouldn’t call my Instagram interiors account ‘The Colour Nest’ if I didn’t have a thinly veiled obsession with colour in all it’s eye catching and fantastic glory! It’s a proven fact that colour attracts and influences, with different colours having different emotional effects on the brain and while some businesses will undoubtedly be better suited to a neutral or monogram aesthetic that doesn’t mean consideration of colour before your shoot is irrelevant.
If you already have specific colours across the rest of your branding that are recognisable as a feature of your brand identity, then that is a great start point, Try and make sure any photography of you in your workspace clearly integrate those core brand colours, or at least that any colours you select work in a complimentary way with your branding, showcasing those colours to the full.
A common really oversight I’ve observed is for business owners to spend a small fortune on carefully designed logos, banners, fonts & business cards, believing them to be all important, but then share photographs of yourself working from a workspace that in no way fits the rest of your styling and brand imagery. In a social media age when many of us are regularly allowing the public into our world on a regular basis; doing Facebook lives, IGTV or sharing daily work-in-progress pics in our Instagram stories, our workspaces are no longer entirely separate private and redundant spaces. If you are going to allow behind-the-scenes sneak peaks, ensure there is a good fit between who you say you are, and what message your visual branding gives off. Any disconnect will be noticeable to your customers.
Allowing the customer a window into your workspace is brave but so positive, as it really helps them visualise you at work so they can get a better feel for you and the specific energy you bring to whatever area of business your niche happens to be! People buy from people, and if you can present yourself and your workspace in a considered way, you are more likely to appeal to your customers of the future.
Props are any objects that you consciously and deliberately include in your brand shoot to add to the overall aesthetic and the mood or feeling you want to conjure up in your photographs for the viewer. Interior photography requires you to consider in advance what you want the viewer to see and feel, so your photographer can create a shots which conveys that mood or aesthetic on purpose. Consider what you would want to be prominent and noticed, and what you might wish to either remove or fade into the background so it is recessive and less dominant.
How I achieve this specifically in my own interior photos is laying out all the potential props I have available in one physical space; spreading out all the possible accessories, art, stationary and general clutter, and with an imaginary marker pen in my brain I imagine circling round and highlighting all the ‘must’ items that I am sure I would want to draw attention to.
If you lay out a large range of available options for props all in one place, like on table top for example, you can then begin tapping into your instincts during the curating and editing process. This editing process includes aspects such as seeing how the props look like next to each other, considering the colour palettes and whether they work together in a harmonious way that complements your brand aesthetic, and weighing up which particular props either add to or subtract from the overall look, vibe and mood you’re aiming to achieve in your brand shoot.
If you are not used to doing this curating process then it may well feel a little daunting to consider things in this way, so you might want to do your initial edit at a time when you are unhurried with no time pressure, and then ask for opinions from others who have fresh eyes and can give you honest feedback.
In my experience, props work best when you involve a mix of contrasting and overlapping shapes and textures as every surface texture, shape or colour has a different emotional effect. So whether you are a maximalist or a minimalist, you need to consider what emotional effects those props and alternate backdrops are likely to evoke in whoever will see these photos. Do you want your props and backdrops to create a mood of efficiency, cleanliness, organisation and productivity? Do you wish to show your warmth and approachability? Or maybe you want to use your imagery to demonstrate your more creative and non-conforming free and wild side? Whatever energetic vibe you want to get across and however you wish you express yourself and your brand to the public, without a doubt there are props out there that can help you achieve just that! It’s just a case of finding them, and being ruthlessly selective and intentional with them, being sure to get a second opinion from someone you can trust to be objective.
Examples of props could be artwork on your walls that fits with your branding, stationary (either branded stationary with your logo, or stationary which visually conveys the vibe, aesthetic and mood you wish to create, motivational quotes displayed prominently on your desk or on pinboards, evidence of communications with customers such as customer thank you notes. All this adds up to create strong brand messaging. Photography is a way of attracting attention, and this natural attention-grabbing element can be maximised by simple things like always including one particularly striking and eye-catching prop; something that you know will become a talking point; the photographic equivalent of a statement piece, giving your image that immediate WOW factor. Not only do you want your choice of props to attract attention, but you want to sustain that attention, so including one key eye catching prop can be a way to draw people into that image and keep them looking and remembering your branding, way after they’ve scrolled through and seen it for the first time.
Props will work more effectively if your chosen WOW prop is seen up against a clutter free background. Go banish that clutter before your personal branding shoot to allow your key props to really pop and to avoid them being visually lost among of a sea of unnecessary clutter.
Remember it is entirely ok to purposefully style your desk or workspace for the shoot in order to create a bank of workspace images you can use repeatedly in your branding, even if it is not a practical way for you to work on a day to day basis! The important thing with visual branding is aesthetics and creativity, rather than practicality. This is your chance to put practicality and routines aside and get creative, constructing a vision for your ideal workspace in a way that is likely to appeal to your target customers.
When I am looking for inspiration myself I always head to Pinterest or Instagram, and believe me, my phone gallery is FULL of screenshots of imagery I’ve seen that inspires me! If you can gradually collect images that you love and that fit your brand and preferences, it will be far easier to instinctively know where to start with styling your desk space, and if you can share your Pinterest board with Lauren, all the better.
This tip is a very literal one. Lighting for interior shoots is so important, and once you’ve firmed up your decision on which room (s)you want photographed, it’s time get to know that space more intimately in terms of how the lighting looks at different times of day and in different weathers. Have a go at snapping your room from different angles relative to the window and any artificial light sources, and have a play on your camera phone in the mornings, at midday and in the afternoon, noticing when the lighting in that room(s) is at its best and what angles work best. Good natural lighting is such an asset, and if your desk or furniture needs to be temporarily moved for the shoot in order for your desk space to be seen at it’s best, then it’s worth considering that in plenty of time before your shoot. In my home, my best photographs are always in morning light, but depending on the movement of the sun relative to where your home or building faces your optimum time for lighting may be quite different.
A personal branding shoot can feel understandably intimidating if it’s new experience for you, but by following these tips I hope you will now feel more confident about the preparation process and how to approach it. As with most things, the preparation and planning is often way more stressful than the event itself, but the preparation time is not just needless stress. All your time you invested in preparation WILL pay off when it comes to the day of the shoot, as that preparation time invested in advance will mean a far smoother and calmer time on shoot day Any prior planning you put in will be so worth it, as you and your photographer will be able to work smoothly as a team and be completely sure what you wish to get out of it. Because that uncertainty will be removed by having put the time into your preparation, you can then relax and focus on yourself and relaxing into it, letting yourself shine.
I hope these tips have helped. To see more of how I style my home, as well as hear about my creative mentoring service, you can find me on Instagram @the_colour_nest. or my website https://www.thecolournest.co.uk/
Enjoy your shoot and best of luck!