What You Do with It
Have you ever had something make your heart jump, sink, melt, and inflate all at the same time?
She’d brought in three dresses. I photographed her in them for a total of nine different looks. Light background, dark background, ambient light, studio light, wall, brick, sitting, standing… I'm a firm believer in moving someone every which way across the studio with the goal of creating some great variety for Personal Branding. And she was very inspiring.
I showed her 58 images to choose from when it came time for her ordering session. When we got to image number 46, she got very quiet. Then, she blurted out:
“This is a beautiful photo, I love it… but what do I do with it?”
These are a couple of her other images:
And here is image number 46:
– Image number 46. Total Badass.
I’m rarely at a loss for words. My jaws clamped shut at her question — not because I had no response, but because her genuine perplexity felt like it entered my bloodstream. The rush of my answer, of my many answers, almost stopped my breathing, they wanted to flood out so fast. My eyes closed for just a moment. I needed to inhale and exhale slowly to let the sensation pass of wanting to shout with anger, cry with sympathy and sorrow, laugh with sheer joy, grab her and shake her til she not only knew her answer, but felt it with me. I couldn't speak right away; speech felt too minimal a vehicle to adequately transfer to her what I knew about this particular photograph, why I chose to create that scene for her in the first place, and yes, what it could do for her.
“What do I do with it?”
She is by no means the only person to ever ask me this. Others who come in specifically for Personal Branding have asked using different words, or using no words at all. (It shouldn't be a surprise that I see even the unasked questions in body language or the slightest change in facial expression… a shift in energy.) People who come in for wall portraits never have this question. The more luxury we can add to a wall at home, the better. So, then, why do so many of us restrict ourselves to a safety box when it comes to our professional walls?
As much as I’d love to photograph everyone in nothing but skin and tulle, I do know the line between what’s “appropriate” for your home gallery versus what you choose to post for colleagues on LinkedIn. I also know what makes a page of grey suddenly come alive with impressive visual presence. The way her particular question came out — the way it held true frustration, as if she didn’t mean to ask it, but impulse and raw fear of never knowing what she may be missing won over her classy self-control — I realized I had to do a greater job of letting people in on what I know for sure.
Even though the answer to this question is exactly why I dove headfirst into this profession, somehow I need to make it clearer what we can all do with a damn good portrait of ourselves.
So, I share a couple of marvelous breakthroughs of what to do with it.
. . . . .
Breakthrough #1: Ill-fitting suits and crossed arms are out. Personality is in.
What do you do with it?
Indeed break through the pages of grey and upload these kinds of photos in the same way you would display a typical profile photo.
The truest thing about Personal Branding is — wait for it — it’s personal. The images we create together are collaborative, visual representations of how you want to show up for the people you want to connect with. Heard the word authentic lately? Proudly displaying your distinct charisma is the reason why I label this area of my services Personal Branding and not headshots. You’ll stand out in the most amazing way, because the sparkle in your eyes is magnetic and enticing, and people will trip over themselves to know what it’s like to work with you.
Breakthrough #2: You are a badass.
What do you do with it?
Hang a print of it close to your desk, so that before you begin your day — and even as you’re working — you are reminded of your awesome badassery.
It amazes me, those times during an ordering session, when someone will hold back a smile with all their might after I ask if they like their images. Most will say ‘yes‘ or level it up a notch and say, “I LOVE them!” Then there are those that, in response, get completely red in the face and tighten their lips and put their hands over their eyes as if one can hide during a Zoom call… Why do they do this? “Because,” they tell me, “it sounds so vain to say out loud how great I look in these.”
Here is your official permission from my expert, professional point of view. Say it loud. Say it often. Look at your new images, into your own eyes, and know that it wasn’t a trick of the camera that makes you glow that way — no camera in the world has that type of magic. We need reminders. Life is tough. Full of responsibilities. Full of to-do lists and never enough hours in the day. Full of challenges that help us grow and challenges that make us weary AF! These images are reminders that we are more worthy and more powerful than some days lead us to believe. The jolt we get from having these framed and protected moments in plain sight around us fuels us. Imagine what desirable states of living and doing you can reach with that kind of fuel.
. . . . .
I want you to know that this classy lady left her ordering session with images that made her happy. She didn’t leave with image number 46, and that’s perfectly fine with me. It’s never my intent to coerce or guilt anyone out of a comfort zone. I’m happy that she’s happy — and she’s totally rocking her new marketing. Lounging amongst strategically placed shadows may not be the specific message everyone wants to send, but the intent in my writing is so that the next time an image of yourself makes you stop and suddenly blurt out, “It’s beautiful! I love it!” that the next question will never again be, “But, what do I do with it?” Make your decisions based on knowing exactly why that image strikes you… and most importantly, how it can support positivity in how you view yourself.