When you’re looking to hire a photographer to take marketing photos for your small business, it can be hard to distinguish which service aligns best with your needs.
Do I need lifestyle portraits?
A personal branding session?
🤔 😵💫 😓
While you search, you’ll find photography jargon that isn’t clearly defined or explained, and terms used interchangeably.
As a neurodivergent entrepreneur, I appreciate clarity in language when making decisions that involve significant financial investments.
I’m here to help!
Let’s break down what these different terms mean and help you find the service that best aligns with your needs!
Language is fluid, and words carry different meanings for everyone. A lot of this language is influenced by SEO and search keyword performance, so people might intend them with a different meaning that what the word carries. I’m defining the words as I understand them, and I’m a fallible human. Disagree with me? Let me know!
When choosing a service provider, ALWAYS take any opportunity to talk to them on the phone and ask them questions to clarify your needs and ensure they can provide what you’re asking for. Even if you dread talking on the phone like I do. It’s worth it!
Different kinds of photography sessions
(all photos included in this blog post were taken by me!)
Portrait session or Lifestyle Portrait Session
Photos taken for personal use and enjoyment. Great for milestones (think graduation, birthday, engagement, etc) or just for fun.
Traditional portrait sessions are typically shot in studio or outdoors, and emphasize posed moments over candids, although this will vary greatly from photographer to photographer.
Lifestyle sessions tend to be shot outdoors or in-home for a more laid-back, prioritizing candid or unposed moments.
These images cannot be used for commercial use (advertising or marketing). Your photographer likely has protections against that in their contract, and might take legal action if you breach that contract.
In my strict definition, headshots are photos shot from the shoulders up, just of your face, on a solid background. When you think headshot, think corporate, or passport photo. No distractions, no frills. Think passport photo (although you’ll probably want to smile).
This term can be expanded to include things like actor or author headshots (which can be shot in other locations and with more personality), but usually you’ll see those modifiers included for specificity.
Generally, headshot sessions are short & quick, and you end up with the ability to choose your 1-2 favorite images to have retouched.
These images are generally intended for personal use, and you might need to disclose where you plan to use the images for your photographer to determine if a commercial license is needed.
For example, a book author might need a commercial license for book jacket or cover image, as the book will bring them revenue, and is therefore no longer for personal use, while someone using the photo on LinkedIn may not.
Unsure if you need a commercial license? Ask your photographer!
⚠️ Ok, this is where things get a little bit blurry. Here are my definitions, which remember, might not always match with other photographers’s definitions. This is why it’s ALWAYS important to get on a consultation call with your photographer to ensure your visions match.
Personal branding session or Lifestyle branding session
These sessions are like a portrait/lifestyle session for you as the founder of your business. The photographer will capture a mix of headshots, lifestyle portraits, and “stock” type images for use on your website & social media.
They can be posed or unposed, stylized or candid; that all depends on your brand and who you choose to work with.
These sessions should come with a commercial use license, which allows you to use the images for marketing & promotional purposes. The terms of the license will depend on your state and your photographer; read it carefully! Make sure you agree to the terms before signing.
Because they tend to read more like portrait or lifestyle sessions, they tend to be more headshot-centric. This can be perfect for personal brands, but don’t always hit the mark for brands that don’t center the founder, or for introverted or camera-shy entrepreneurs.
Brand Photography session
This is what I specialize in! Brand Photography sessions are not just about capturing you as the founder/CEO/face of the company, but about capturing the essence of the brand as whole!
You will collaborate with the photographer to capture all facets of your brand, taking the intangible values and vibes of your brand and expressing them in images. These sessions will focus more on targeted, strategic images that have a specific purpose.
For example, instead of just a gallery full of photos of you smiling with your laptop, you might also capture an image of a stack of envelopes showered in confetti, used specifically to send to a new subscriber when they join the email list, or perhaps a image of you eating Flaming Hot Cheetos, because it’s something your audience associates with your brand.
It can get real specific, which is where the magic happens! This is when your brand becomes recognizable and unforgettable, which is what every business owner really wants!
These will always include a commercial license, outlining the terms of where you can use these images for marketing & promotion. The terms of the license will depend on your state and your photographer; read it carefully! Make sure you agree to the terms before signing.
Content creation sessions are geared exclusively to social media. They are likely to include video clips (shot on a pro camera or on a phone) for you to use on Reels or TikTok, or longer shoot days to bulk-record your content for Youtube or social media all at once. I don’t have sample images to share because this isn’t a service I myself offer, so here’s a photo from Cassandra’s branding session, showing some BTS of the content creation side of their business!
This is great for anyone who hates recording content and want to work with someone more often in smaller spurts (raises hand).
This service can vary widely across providers, so as always, do careful research that who you hire is offering what you need!
Product photography session
This session is exclusively for capturing physical products. Think photos of skincare on a solid background, or close up shots of a product in use. These may require you to ship your products to a photographer or to be on set.
These sessions can be priced hourly or per image, and good product photography is not cheap. However, the return on investment is high, as good product images can significantly increase sales.
Again, commercial licensing required! Confirm with your photographer before booking what the terms entail.
Determining what you need
Here are a few questions for you to figure out what service you might need. See which best matches your situation and choose accordingly!
🤔 I want photos of my family/myself/my child to hang in my home – go with a Portrait or Lifestyle session!
🤔 I just need 1-2 photos of myself for my business card/website – try a Headshot Session
🤔 I want casual photos of me to promote my business, and I love being photographed – go with a personal branding/lifestyle branding session!
🤔 I want marketing images that aren’t all of my face – a brand session will be great for you
🤔 I only need photos of my products – book a product photography session
🤔 I need help recording reels/TikToks – schedule a content creation session
Checklist for finding the right provider
- Do they offer the thing you need?
- Are you in alignment with their values and vibe?
- Do you like their portfolio/work samples? Would you be happy with work like the samples they show?
- Does their pricing fit your budget? Would a payment plan help?
- Do they have reviews? What do their prior clients say about them?
- Does their workflow support your needs (you might need to ask questions to get the best answer to this)
- Did you get a good vibe from them on the consultation call? Is their email communication consistent and reliable?
I’d love to hear from you!
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I can’t wait to see you shine, friend!
Thank you for reading! All my love,
What could new brand images do for your business?
If you’re curious about learning more about my services, email me at email@example.com!
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