Building Trust With Your Brand

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Building Trust With Your Brand: One Photo At A Time

I’m curled up on the sofa in my cozy new Charleston home, sipping a hot cup of coffee and working from my laptop when suddenly, I hear it! It’s a faint noise in the far off distance. “is that?” I think. I stop typing in an effort to get super quiet and direct my gaze out the window. As if looking in the general direction will help to make it appear. A few more seconds go by and I hear it again. “It is!”


It’s the sound of the ice cream truck!


Now for those of you wondering why I’m getting so excited about an ice cream truck [and no, my pregnancy at the time had nothing to do with it], you have to understand that I had not heard that sound in years! Image, what’s one happy memory that you haven’t experienced in over a decade or more? Chances are if it suddenly appears when you least expect it, you’d be a little stoked too.


See my husband and I had just relocated to Charleston and while we had previously lived in VA, I had spent the last 14 years straight in Boston. Living in the city, there were no ice cream trucks. No colorful vehicles luring children from miles away with festive music and the promise of a cold and tasty treat. There were parks, zoos, aquariums etc., but no trucks.


What does this have to do with business?


Think about what just happened. A grown woman, who hasn’t heard the company jingle since she was a child [and almost forgot the business even existed], heard a song from far away and knew exactly what is was and what was being sold.


A brand just communicated to me, some 30+ years later and all in under just five seconds flat.


Something as simple as an ice cream truck can be taken for granted but there’s a huge lesson to be learned here. It’s the power of consistency in your brand’s communication. This is understood so well in the world of ice cream, that its songs are often universal, being played again and again, on trucks everywhere.


They understand the importance of consistency.  


Just like the trucks, your brand is always communicating to clients and potential clients. It may not be playing a fun, sing songy tune for all to hear. But it is sharing a message through your website, your social media pages, printed materials, your client emails etc. Your message can be shared through text, video, photos etc. But since the majority of social media is made up of photos, let’s start there.


Let’s imagine for a moment, that each truck driver wanted to mix it up. They wanted to be different, to stand out. What if instead of playing “The Ice Cream Truck Song,” they opted for Metallica? And what if another driver decided he/she wanted to be more modern. So, Ed Sheeran it is! We would not be able to distinguish the difference between an ice cream truck and the kid down the street who constantly blares his music too loud.


The harsh truth is that when it comes to image, many small businesses do this all the time. They are all over the place with regards to photo content, consistency, color, crop, etc. In other words, they play too many conflicting songs and then expect business to just show up (or run from the houses as they drive by).


Now more than ever, you have the ability to control the image of your business. You no longer need to hire a photographer for your daily online content. You can work without a photo stylist if you chose. And with filters, who needs a retoucher?! You have the ability to control the image, but now you also have the responsibility.


Photos for personal use are fun. Photos for professional use are a branding tool.


If you had to use one photo to describe your business, what would it be? Would it feature your products? Your Services? Your raving clients? A lifestyle? Would it be dark and full of contrast? Light, bright and airy? Does it have a cool tone? A warm tone? These are all things you should be considering before posting any photograph that is intended to represent your business.


While there’s a lot of things you can do to reinforce your brand with image, let’s break it down to just three things; light, simplicity and series. Master these and you’ll start to see people follow you, support you and become raving fans, just because they appreciate and trust your brand and it’s style.



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When using the same type of lighting, you can photograph a variety of items [or people] in a variety of places and it will still look consistent. Unless you understand lighting, I like to recommend natural light. You can use natural light both outdoors and indoors. If inside, try staying in the same spot [preferably by a window] and shoot at the same time of day. This will help your lighting stays consistent. Of course if it’s a dreary or rainy day, skip it all together and double up on another day. If you’re outdoors, try always shooting in bright, direct sun. Or in the shade. But don’t mix the two. Pick one and stick to it. Remember consistency is key. If you’re not sure which one to chose, play around with a few styles. See what you’re drawn to. See what fits your brand’s personality. Which is easy for you to work with? Just remember that once you’ve chosen on a light source, you want to stick with it!


*Hint: If you’re photographing a product indoors with natural light, place a white foam core board underneath the product. It will help you create a bright, magazine style look without professional lighting. Just make sure you’re light is even and there are no bright or dark spots on the board.



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Have you ever taken a photograph, loved it, posted it to Facebook, and days later realized there is a big pile of laundry in the back corner?! As the photographer, you know what you’re focusing on. But you can be so focused on that one thing, that you miss out on things that can be distracting for someone else. The more simple you can get your photo to be [meaning fewer distractions], the better you will communicate what it is your featuring.


I recommend taking your photo, then stop to look at it. Look at all of it. Look at the background, look at the top of a person’s head, look at the floor etc. Then take the photo again, this time cropping out anything that doesn’t belong. You may even try breaking it into two or three photos; you get a clearer message out there and you get more content to use.


*Hint: If using your cell phone, crop in by walking closer to the item you’re photographing. If that’s not possible, take the photo and crop when you post the picture. Avoid using the zoom feature on your phone as this will deteriorate the resolution quality.  



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Sometimes you want to feature a special event, sale or product launch. You might want to celebrate Spring or Fall etc. You get the picture [pardon the pun]. A great way to do this without confusing your client, is by creating a series. A series stands out from the others and is easily recognizable as a separate group of pictures. As a fashion photographer, we work in series all the time, we just call them collections!


I often post in series of 3 but 6, 9 or even 12 photos that have a similar theme, color combination, lighting set up etc. work really well, especially on Instagram. During fashion week, my Instagram [Shannon Michelle Photo] is nothing but series. There are literally thousands of photographs taken in one afternoon, often under a variety of lighting conditions. When pulling for Instagram, we will select outfits that have the same color pallet or we’ll post a series all from the same designer.


You can also create series through color. Pick one or two color pallets and run them through a series of photos. Pretty In The Pines [on Instagram] does this really well. Every photo has a blue/grey tone and color to it. Another one of my favs is Nectar And Stone. They stick with all floral colors and decor. Who knew dessert could be so beautifully consistent?!


And beautifully consistent is the key. It’s what keeps people coming back, keeps people engaged and builds trust. There are very few things that offer stability in this world anymore. People like to know what they can expect from a brand. After all when you hear the ice cream truck song [even as an adult] you don’t even have to look at the menu, do you? You know you’re getting the red, white and blue bomb pop!



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Shannon Michelle is an award winning fashion photographer. Her work has been featured


More. Shannon is passionate about using her experience in the fashion industry to help inspire women to love themselves on camera. She speaks nationwide, is a guest writer for a variety of publications and her educational materials have sold worldwide.


She is also the author of Beauty Comes From Within And I Can Prove It. A beautiful collection of artistic photographs compliment this book, which provides a blunt and candid peek into the beauty industry. It features behind the scenes stories, celebrity interviews, as well as her honest opinion about what makes someone beautiful, and why no one else is talking about it.


In addition to her fashion work, Shannon owns and operates a photo studio specializing in

beauty. She is currently located in Charleston, SC.