8 Mistakes you should avoid when creating a Flat Lay

 

 

Have you ever started creating a flat lay for your business, only to discover that you can’t manage to make them look like you had in mind- but you don’t really know what you’re doing wrong?

Today is your lucky day, because in today’s video I will show you the mistakes you need to avoid when creating a flat lay for your business- and what to do instead.

 

 

Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

This video is a collaboration with landscape architect Margalida Nadal, who will show you how to arrange flowers in a flat lay so they look their very best.  Margalida has an amazing youtube channel with plenty of tips for your garden – so if you speak Spanish, go check it out after this video.

Let’s begin!

So, what is a flat lay? A flat lay is a photo of a desk or any collection of objects taken with a bird’s eye view- or in other words, from above. Flat, because that’s how all objects look from that view (there’s nothing tri-dimensional  no objects out of focus, no background other than the one where the objects lay. They’re very popular on Instagram because they’re relatively easy to take with a phone camera and you don’t need funny lenses to do so.

They look easy- but if you’ve tried to take one yourself you may have realized they’re not so much so. So, to help you out, I’ve compiled the most common mistakes I’ve seen online-so you can avoid them, and simple easy solutions you can put in practice today.

 

Mistake Number 1: You don’t have a strategy behind your flat lay

This is the number one mistake most people make. Having a strategy means: you know in advance where you want people’s eye to go, what you want them to focus on, what feeling you want to provoke in them when they see your photo and how and where you will be using the photo.

You are a smart ladyboss, you make sure you know this before you begin:

  1. What do you want to showcase: A product? Lifestyle? Some object you want people to identify with you.
  2. What feeling do you want to evoke: Fun? Ease? Aspiration? Comfort? Cozyness? Joy?
  3. How will you use the image ? Will you add text? Will you crop it in several different images? Will you overlay blocks of color?
  4. What objects that you have around your house speak about you, about who you are, about your values, about what matters to you? Could you add these to your photos?

 

Taking a few minutes to answer these questions will help you create faster and with ease photos that enchant your customers and grow your business.

 

Mistake Number 2: You don’t have a clear focal point or you’re not using it correctly.

The biggest mistake. This is when it’s not clear in the photo what you should focus on, or the most important objects are away from the places where the eye is naturally drawn.

You need to decide what you want people to notice FIRST when they see your photo, and place that object in the right place for that to happen.

What’s the right place? Here are a few examples:

Center: The easier one, where the rest of the objects frame the object in question and direct the eye to it. 

Rule of thirds: draw two horizontal lines and two vertical imaginary lines in your background and place important objects in the intersection between two lines. Movies and series do this all the time (show framing of Outlander). 

ONE NOTE: If you are creating a flat lay with negative or white space where you are planning to add text, consider text your focal point and style accordingly.

 

Mistake Number 3: There are too many objects distracting from the focal point

I love props. I adore them. Scouting them, buying them, styling with them. But the key with props is to use them STRATEGICALLY, to direct the view and to say things that you can’t say with words. Objects denote luxury, coziness, spirituality, fun, child-like joy, or your heritage..and pretty much anything you want to say, and, as such, are powerful assistants.

But when they clutter the image, they detract from your focal point (and remember, the focal point is what brings sales!) . Cluttered images are overwhelming…and an overwhelmed person won’t buy.

Allow the eyes to rest….and when in doubt, remove until what stays feels  just right.

 

Mistake Number 4: The lines in your flat lay take the eye away from your focal point

Remember those foam hands with pointed fingers that were everywhere in 50’s adds? Or those images of a woman pointing at text?

The objects in your flat lay need to act like those fingers, they need to be like arrows pointing at your focal point.

So here’s what you need to do:

1) Take a look at the shape of the objects you’re planning to include in your flat lay and make sure that they’re directing the eye where you want them to. Example: pen, post its, erasers, spoons.

2): Use hands to draw attention to the most important objects by holding them or framing them

 

Mistake Number 5: The composition is not balanced

You either have too many objects on one side or none at all. Remember: The Human eye likes symmetry, so unless you’re creating a flat lat to act as a frame or partial border, make sure there’s balance in the number, position and height of your objects…

Which brings me to the next point…

 

Mistake Number 6: Some objects are out of focus

In a flat lay all objects should look crisp and sharp. You should be able to quickly visualize everything in them- which is why they’re so great to photograph with your phone camera

But in order for all objects to be in focus, you need to take care of two very important things:

1) Have the right camera settings. If you’re shooting with a DSLR, make that your aperture is higher than 4. I shoot flat lays at 7 or above (depending on the lens, the sharpest aperture varies). Lower numbers are great for close ups because they blur the background, but terrible for flat lays.

 2) Make sure that all objects have similar heights.

Want to use flowers in your flat lay? Trim them! I cut the stems super tiny and put mine in a small glass of water (the tiny ones from Ikea). And always, always, always, set the focus on the most important object (your focal point).

 

Mistake Number 7: Whites are not white

This is the trickiest one, especially if you shoot with natural light, from a window that doesn’t reach the floor. Have you ever seen flat lays where objects that were supposed to be white look yellowish or blue?

This problem is called white balance. Some times, it’s easy to fix, sometimes it’s not.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Adjust white balance in your camera, and use custom white balance. The way this works is you shoot something very white first, so the camera can understand what constitutes pure white and adjusts automatically the color afterwards.
  2. Adjust white balance in post production. I correct minor color problems in camera raw, for example
  3. If all the above sound too complicated…choose backgrounds in another color. I promise you, there will be much less to adjust and you can add some personality to your flat lays.

Greys, blues, wood and pink and great options. Look at your brand colors and choose backgrounds that will make your products pop!

 

Number 8: Your flat lay lacks personality- or has a personality other than your own

 

You are a business woman, and as such, your flat lays (and all your photos) should promote your business and help you sell. The way to do this is for each and everyone of your photos to contribute to telling your brand story.

They should showcase your brand personality, remind people of who you are, start conversations.

Lots of people fall into the trap of the “luxe lifestyle” photo and end up choosing images that have nothing to do with them, their message or their target audience and end up alienating prospective buyers.

When you choose stock images or create your own, make sure your best friend would recognize YOU in them.

Think:

what do you talk about in your blog and social media posts?

What objects remind you of defining moments in your life and career?

What objects could act as anchors of your message and your personality?

What objects reproduce the shape of your logo?

 

Got it?

 

These were the mistakes you need to avoid when creating a flat lay and what to do instead.

If you liked this video, subscribe to my email list below because many more are coming!

See you soon, with more videos to help your business grow beyond your wildest dream

PINK M

Want photos that look like you- and no one else?

Click here to book a call so we can discuss your needs 

How I create [Calling the Muse]

Have you ever wondered how people do what they do? How bakers create their cakes, how designers come up with gorgeous logos, how photographers photograph? And no, I don’t mean backstage footage or photos (which is also fascinating).

I mean what comes before: the process that leads to an idea being born.

The rituals that help us conjure the inspiration, call in the Muse.

 

I’ve shown backstage videos and photos of my work and I’ve created step by step tutorials many times too. But I’ve never talked openly about the process that leads to my photos being a certain way.

A part of it is science: I know about color theory, design principles and I know my camera well enough to make it do what I want it to do.

But the crucial part, I must confess,  is magic.

Not the magic of card tricks or flying wizards, I haven’t joined Howgarts yet (the damn owl refuses to bring me a letter).

The magic of calling in and opening myself to the creative energy and allowing it to show me the way.

I have a series of rituals that help me be in the right mood for creating, and today I wanted to share with you one of them: Creating my amulet mixed art painting.

I learnt this process from Jo Klima‘s beautiful course AMULET and it has been a fantastic way to let go of blank photo card paralysis (like white page paralysis, but for photographers). And since then, whenever the fear of starting a new project settles in, I know I can exorcise it with a bit of paint.

The process is simple, and highly intuitive and it seeks to create an anchor, a reminder of our intention. To declare our openness to divine inspiration and divine guidance. To call in the energies we want to play with, intentionally and consciously.

It’s not about knowing how to begin a project, it’s about feeling our way into it, one brush stroke at a time- which is why it works so beautifully. It shuts down the mind, and opens the heart.

It starts with a paint and paper and dirty hands…

It continues with glue, and glitter, mantra music and marker pens…

And by the time I’m done, resistance is gone and taking the next steps of a new project are easier, because it feels like I’ve already begun. 

The painting above marked the beginning of a project I’ve been dreaming about for some time and that I’ll be birthing into the world in the next few weeks.

I used red, orange and turquoise to call in creativity, passion and free-flowing communication. I called in the energy of Goddess Fortuna, so it’ll prosper and the help of the dragonfly, to connect me with the best ideas within me. I called on the Earth to anchor this project into reality, Fire, to bring it to completion, and the Moon, to imbue it with divine feminine essence. I called on Mars for strength and courage and Jupiter for blessings.

I saged the room before beginning, lit a candle to illuminate the way, and played one of my favorite mantras while I painted.

I’ll tell you more about this project and the rest of my creativity conjuring rituals in my next blog posts.

And now, let me know: how do you create? 

 

PINK M

Want photos that look like you- and no one else?

Click here to book a call so we can discuss your needs 

Visibility and the great power of authentic photography

Visibility & Photography

A few weeks ago, I saw this article, and it got me thinking about something I’ve known since I started working as professional photographer, but had never written about, or communicated with anyone other than my own clients.

It got me thinking that photography is both affected by who we are, and affects our definition of self at the same time. 

Let me explain.

A good portrait captures the essence of who you are, and how you show up into the world.

It has your same energy, and is recognizable by those who know you. It says things about you that it would take paragraphs to express in words. It conveys who you are and how it feels to be in your presence.

A good portrait is authentic and because of that, it is powerful. It provides people with the most real and authentic vision of who you are, and it does so in seconds. It’s like a banner that says ” This is me, this is my energy, and this is what I bring to the World”.

A great portrait allows you to realize that the person you hope to be, is who you already are.

It allows you to see (actually see) that those qualities you dreamed of having are already inside of you. And by doing so, it helps you step into your power, and claim those qualities in your day to day life.

A great portrait helps you become more visible and lose fear because it shows you the light that is inside you.

I often tell my clients that my camera is my wand and its magic lies in its two mirrors: In one, it captures your idea of yourself, and with the other it reflects back at you who you really are, in all your greatness.

It’s not makeup, or pretty clothes -though those may help, for as long as you feel like you when you wear them.

It’s knowing, with all your heart, that who you are is enough.

This is particularly powerful when it comes to business portraits and business lifestyle photos. 

It’s virtually impossible to succeed at business when we don’t believe in what we do or in who we are. This is what you Sue Bryce calls  “The stink”: the energy of “I’m not good enough” that repels clients and customers away.

The truth is, most of us start feeling like a failure, and continue to struggle with these feelings every time we face a big upgrade.

Business, like life, is not linear and easy. We don’t get to a point where we can confidently say ” That’s it, I made it, now there’s no more struggle over anything”. Every time we master one aspect, a new challenge appears, and new phase we must move into, a new area where growth calls us to show up.

Business, to me, is the greatest journey of self discovery for exactly this reason: we never get it done, and in order to step up our game, and move to the next level, we need to go within and become the person we need to be to get there.

The thing is, sometimes we don’t realize we have it in us to move forward, until we see ourselves embodying those qualities in an image. 

The process of change and growth is, many times, a gradual one. We transform within, shedding old skin, but we’re so used to ourselves that we frequently don’t notice the transformation until the camera shows it to us.

The best part? It’s the same with product and business lifestyle photos. Great product and branding photos help you realize the greatness of your work- and show it to others with pride.

An amazing portrait helps you redefine your identity and those of other women who do what you do. 

What does a powerful woman look like? How does a leader look like in your eyes? When I say successful, what do you picture first? What do you think about when I say beautiful?

For centuries, success was defined by others. More precisely, by men. The yacht, the private plane, the big house with golden everything, the power suit, the power poses. Luxury and Power evoked very defined ideas in most of us, because that’s how power and luxury were portrayed in advertising, movies, and the photos of glossy magazines.

The more and more women enter the entrepreneurial world, the more these ideas start to be redefined.

Luxury, for some, is being able to retire their husband, travel the world, bring the kids to school. Crystals and not expensive handbags is what we buy with our money. The causes we help with our money, the conditions under which we employ people, the lifestyle we choose to have are not defined by Vogue or the Financial Times any longer.

Taking photos of yourself and your business in a way that portrays what success, business, power, luxury and aspiration look like to you is an act of courage, and even rebellion.

Your photos make a statement about  who you are, what you believe in, and also about what is possible. They help others like you feel less alone in wanting something different. It helps them see new possibilities that may seem closer to their hearts.

They help you define, by yourself, who you are.  Shatter stereotypes. Reclaim your truth.

And that is powerful. And revolutionary.

PINK M

Want photos that look like you- and no one else?

Click here to book a call so we can discuss your needs 

When you should hire a professional photographer

When is the right time to hire a professional photographer (2)

A few weeks ago, I wrote a controversial article. I told you when NOT to hire a professional photographer.

For days after I wrote it, I received emails thanking me for it, from previously overwhelmed entrepreneurs who now felt they could relax and focus on what mattered.

Most of those emails also asked a question. I know when NOT to hire someone, they said. But how do I know when to do so?

Ah.  

The missing piece, of course.

The moment that tips the scale and lets us know that the time has come, and that a photo-shoot is,not only an investment but even a necessity.

When does it occur? And how can you know? 

Here’s my take on it.

I believe the right time is marked by certain business timelines. At some point, not upgrading your visuals risks stalling your growth.

Can you have a successful business without professional photos or professional web design? Absolutely. Can you grow indefinitely without them? I believe not.

In the years since I’ve worked as professional photographer, I’ve come across certain situations that make hiring a professional photographer a must do. These are the ones I’ve listed below, and they’re based both on my observations and on conversations I’ve had with my clients.

Here they are:

1. When your time is better spent doing something else.

When you’re just starting out, DIYing is normal, advisable even. With no money to spend, and uncertainty over whether your product or service will take off, it’s wise to fiddle with foam boards, spend nights on youtube watching white balance tutorials, and climb on the kitchen table to get the perfect shot. A selfie taken with your phone or the laptop’s camera will do, for now. We’ve all been there.

But, as your business grows, and you start making money, your time becomes more and more valuable. The two hours you spent shooting that perfect salad and the morning your spent trying to make your home-made organic eye-mask jar looking like an ad by Chanel suddenly are costing your business money.

How can it cost you money, you ask? 

Because the time you spend in your business either makes you money or costs you some. 

If you didn’t have to take photos and edit them in Photoshop, how many more products could you create? How many more clients could you book? How many more sales funnels could you write? How many more Facebook ads could you tweak? How many more guest posts could you pitch? How many more social media posts could you schedule? 

Spending one month photographing your cookbook may mean that you neglect blogging, or get to publishing time without a sales and promotion calendar. It may mean less coaching clients, or not launching that course you had in the back burner for years. It may mean less money, and it may mean less growth.

Spending a weekend  photographing and photo-shopping your products so they’re ready to be listed on Monday may mean no time with your family, and being over tired, and therefore less effective at work the rest of the week.

And that is the best case scenario, which assumes you can get the same results as a professional.

This was the case for my client Mayi Carles. She hired me because she realized that her money was better spent in activities that brought money in, the ones she couldn’t delegate, the ones that make her brand unmistakable. A couple of times a year, she emails her printable products and mails the physical ones for me to style and shoot on the other side of the world. While I style, shoot and edit, she creates, makes sure all parts of her business run like a well-oiled machine and takes time off.

Find out how much your hour of work costs. Find out which activities make you the most money, then do those as a priority and delegate the rest when you can.

2. When you’re losing opportunities

Let’s be honest here: Sub-par photos will only take you so far. Why? Because visuals affect trust. 

If you don’t believe me, read this real life story by Derek Halpern, where he explains why he spent $25,000 on web design and some amazing portrait photos. In that blog post, he talks about how he submitted an article for a major mainstream publication but, when they checked his website, they thought he was a scam.

You may say, well that’s just because they didn’t know who he was. If they had contacted him, or spent more time on his site they would have known that he wasn’t a scam.

And all that would be true.

But people make split seconds decisions.

And people on high powered places are extremely busy and under no circumstances want to risk their reputation with someone who may not be trustworthy. Over and over again, I receive emails from my clients telling me how better photos helped them land press coverage and other opportunities that were closed to them before.

So, if the time has come for you to play in the big leagues, if you want to get your products on magazines and your recipes on select publications, start thinking about upping your game with professional photos too.

Help people realize as soon as they land on your website that your business is as professional you say it is. Help doors open for you easily.

3. When your current photos- though maybe pretty- are not doing the trick

Great commercial photos are not simply great looking. They help you direct the viewer’s attention where you want to, paint the right picture about your products or services, establish an emotional connection with your audience, position your brand and, ultimately, help you sell more.

In order to do this, professional photographers, like me,  study elements of design, visual persuasion, composition rules and theory of color, among others. We know how much blur to add to the background, how to play with lights and shadows to send a different message, even the psychological effect different portrait poses have on the viewer.

This is the true power of professional photography.

So if your photos are not converting into sign ups and money- consider hiring someone who can: 1) pin point what’s not working and 2) Create images with the wow factor your work deserves, images that pull in the right customers effortlessly. Images that make people CRAVE your creations.

My clients tell me it’s worth the investment. And they’re not the only ones that believe so.

4- When you’re getting your business professionally branded.

When our businesses start, most of us DIY everything and, as a consequence, our websites and visual presence sometimes end up being a mismatch of different styles.

My first logo was a blue and grey pennant banner with french script font that I had created in PicMonkey following an online tutorial,. My website’s background was  light blue with white polka dots digital scrapbook paper I’d bought on etsy. My blog photos looked  all different, as I experimented with different backgrounds, textures and styles. One recipe was girly, pink and romantic, the next one dark and moody. There was no cohesive style anywhere.

Maybe you can relate?

DIY design and DIY photos are normal when we begin…but if you’re upgrading your design, you should upgrade your photos too, or your website and social media presence will still look scattered and unprofessional.

Great images convey everything your brand is about in seconds. Use their power. 

Does this mean that you need a massive photo shoot with hundreds of images? No, of course not.

I’m all for incremental upgrades and I believe that,when you’re first upgrading,15 personalized, stylish and versatile images are the perfect starting point. This is why my GROW package includes exactly this amount, together with video tutorials to make the most of your investment.

Start small, and build from there. As you reap the rewards of your new branded look, and your business grows, you can add more photos or update them later on.

5- When you want to enter a luxury market.

If you’re read my previous blog post, you’ll know I don’t recommend stressing about visuals when you’re just starting out.

But there’s a caveat to that, and it’s when you’re targeting a luxury market.

Luxury products and services require luxurious visuals. Period. 

Amateur images just won’t do in a market where everything is taking care of to a T.

True luxury is about refinement, craftsmanship and elegance.

As Vincent Bastien put it: “Luxury is the expression of a taste, of a creative identity; luxury makes the bold statement “this is what I am,” not “that depends”– which is what positioning implies. It is identity that gives a brand that particularly powerful feeling of uniqueness, timelessness, and the necessary authenticity that helps give an impression of permanence. Chanel has an identity, but not a positioning. Identity is not divisible, it is not negotiable– it simply is. Luxury is superlative, and not comparative. It prefers to be faithful to an identity rather than be always worrying about where it stands in relation to a competitor.”

Photos of luxury products should reflect this identity, this uniqueness, this timelessness. They should FEEL like your brand, and they should certainly feel luxurious. They should create dreams, not merely show your product or services’s qualities.

If the photos you take can’t achieve this, it’s time to hire a professional.

6- When there’s a disconnect between your photos and your written voice.

This is a big one, and one that I see very often.

Have you taken the time to think about the way you sound, and be intentional about it? All great writers are very consistent in the qualities in their voice, but sometimes they forget that their photos speak too, and that what they say should match their words.

Is your voice funny? strategic? warm? perceptive? sharp? genuine? elitist?

What idea of yourself does someone get when they read your words? What idea do they get when they see your photos?

Someone who understands this very well is Denise Duffield-Thomas. She is very clear that her brand is fun, chill and summery. This is why she doesn’t whine, and she doesn’t complain about winter. She wants people who land on her website or on social media to get a chillionaire vibe, and she makes sure she’s consistent about it.

My brand, for example, is not funny or shocking, though I know very well they are great for calling attention. My brand is loving, warm, magical…posting images that shock would be immediately perceived as out of character and erode trust with my audience.

Sometimes it’s easy to find stock images, or create some that fully represent what you stand for. Some others, not so much.

If you’re at a point in your career where your written voice is defined but can’t find photos that match your uniqueness, it’s time to get custom photos. 

 

7- When you want the experience of your brand to be different

Visuals affect how others experience your brand. They convey emotions better than anything else and pull, powerfully, the right persons towards our work-or repel it.

Ramit Sethi speaks about the importance of providing your customers with an intentional brand experience in this video, where he explains why he regrets not taking care about it earlier. Watch from the minute 17 onwards).

Ask yourself: how do you want your customers to feel when they see your photos? Do your current photos match that experience?

If they don’t, it may be time get custom photos, designed with that purpose in mind.

8. When you want to push a product.

 

Do you want to promote one of your products above all others, and really make it the best seller it’s meant to be? Make sure you have great photos of it.

Ask Mark Hayes put it ” Good pictures answer questions and lead to more traffic and more sales”, but sometimes a full overhaul of all your images is not realistic.

This is when I advised my clients to focus on one product they want to make a best seller. If you can’t photograph your whole collection, photograph first a new product you want to launch with a bang, or in the one that people are already responding to the most, so you can promote them heavily, and they can convert as you desire. Then, move backwards, and photograph the rest.

This is what my clients, Panamanian company Life Blends did last year. They were launching a new line of clean eating meals and knew they needed great photos to promote it, because ” we eat with our eyes”, as they put it. Since it was a new venture and they didn’t know if it was going to take off, they started with 3 recipes.

The launch was so successful that they ran out of food to sell on the first day and, that month, they broke a sales record. That’s when they hired me to photograph the rest of the meals. You can read the rest of the case study here.

If you want a product or service to reach its full potential, get professionally taken custom images of it. Don’t be afraid to start slow, just make sure you get started.

 

9. When you hate doing it

I’m going to get all woo here and talk about how the energy of what we do affects its outcome. If you’ve been ready for a while you know I’m a hippie and this shouldn’t surprise you.If you’re new: welcome, I sage my studio before a shoot and play a singing bowl. Nice to meet you. 

Here’s the thing: If you hate taking photos for your business, and you hate editing and you hate the sub-par results you get, that energy of annoyance and frustration will permeate your images. This “deliberately introduces resistance into your experience” in the words of Abraham Hicks.

Either you find a way to start liking it, or you should delegate it to someone who adores shooting, editing and overall working on your photos, so that the energy of joy populates every part of your work.

If you’re in one of the above situations and would like to start upgrading your business images, here’s what I advise that you do:

1)Get a great portrait and a few lifestyle shots, so you have a wonderful photo of yourself to send to publications for guest posting, and with press releases. I am a big fan of  behind the scenes shots, that show your process and give people an insider’s pass into how you work.

2) Photograph your best sellers, or the products you most want to promote first. For example, if you’re launching a new line of earrings, make those photos your priority so they sell like hotcakes. If you provide services or info products, you could commission photos for a new course first, then move to making the rest of website and online presence stunning.

3) Photograph the rest of your collection so everything ties together.

Have you taken photos for your business before? How did the experience go? Tell me in the comments below! I’m listening.

PINK M

Want photos that look like you- and no one else?

Click here to book a call so we can discuss your needs 

When you should NOT hire a professional photographer

When you shouldn't hire blog and pinterest

I have a confession to make: I’m a woman of many strong opinions,  though I may not seem like one at first sight. And one of the things I have a, perhaps controversial, opinion on, is the right timing for entrepreneurs to hire a professional photographer like me.

I very often read blog posts, or hear podcasts where design and photography professionals advise their readers to invest in their brand identity and custom photography from the get go, with sentences like “Once you choose a style, you’re stuck with it forever” , “People won’t think you’re professional if you don’t look professional” “Choose well from the beginning because it’s very hard to change later” and “If you want to stop trading hours for dollars, you need to look pro“. And it makes me sad, because I see that words like these cause paralysis and fear in many women, and stop them from building the businesses they’re meant to build.

Here’s the thing: I’m not in the business of taking money from people at all costs.

I’m in the business of helping, with my work, those who are ready, willing, and excited to work with me, so we can create photos that are a mirror to their soul and the greatness of their business.

I know that when I work with the right people, at the right time, results come easily. And that’s what I want for every shoot, for every client, for every business I have to honor to work for: the best results possible.

In order for brand photos to shield the best results, some things need to be in place before the shoot. \When they’re not, photos are an expense instead of an investment. Building a business is like building a house: each piece is important, but not everything is fundamental from the very first day. Just like you wouldn’t put a couch in a house without roof, I’d advise you to think about professional photography after the following things are well in place.

My goal with this blog post is to help you focus on the things that will help you grow your business consistently. To help you gain peace of mind, and put aside photos from your mind and your to do list without fear or guilt, if it’s not the right time…knowing that when it is, you’ll have a much faster return on investment.

Ready? Here they are:

When you shouldn’t hire a professional photographer

 

  1. When you don’t know how your business helps others

If life was a Hollywood movie, we would all be born with the clarity to know exactly who we are, and a strong knowledge of our Life Purpose, which we would of course easily fulfill doing a job that we love.

But life is not a Hollywood movie and, sometimes, we start in business with a very general idea of what we want to do, with no clear business differentiation. We swim in a red, bloody ocean, like the book Blue Ocean Strategy explains.

This was my case: When I started working as a professional photographer, I had no clue what I was bringing to the table for people to choose me. Photos? Yes, ok, but so did 1000 other photographers and most people with a DSLR or good quality smartphone!

It took me 2 years, tons of listening to my clients,  and a lot of personal work to realize that my “secret sauce” was an ability to unveil, in a loving, gentle and intuitive way, that which makes my client’s work connect to their ideal clients and translate in into concrete objects and beautiful visuals. I have a knack for understanding which objects will evoque which emotions and who reacts in which way to different aesthetics. The psychology of commercial photos and advertising fascinates me and I have an innate understanding of them, probably due to my diverse background and how much I’ve traveled and lived in different cultures.

I didn’t know this was even remotely valuable when I began, it took time.

The reason this matters is because what I photograph is what makes you and your products or services special.

In order for your photos to become effective marketing instruments and selling machines you need to be clear about who you are as a business, what you stand for, what makes your products or services different from those of the competition, what problem you solve, why you do what you do, and why your customers or clients should care. You need to know your positioning.

Do you provide peace of mind and a sense of safety by advising your clients the best dates to do business according to Chinese Astrology? Do your products allow your customers to share precious moments around a breakfast table, without the hassle of spending hours in the kitchen? Do your recipes help women look and feel young, beautiful and vibrant without having to eat cardboard tasting foods for weeks in a row? Do your planners help entrepreneurs avoid procrastination, while having fun?

How about how you do it? How do your personality, values and beliefs affect what you do? Do you provide a safe haven for people to open up about their fears? Do you guide your clients with a firm hand? Do you inspire transformation, like a modern day Gandalf?

The energy and essence of all this needs to be present in a photo for it to work at its maximum potential. The more you your photos look, the more they’ll attract the right people.

And this brings me to the next point…

 2.  When you’re not sure who you want as a customer.

Sometimes, when we’re starting out, we want to help everyone. We think for as long and someone (anyone!) pays for our services or products we’ll be fine, because our only focus is to get some money coming in the door.

The problem is that, when it comes to aesthetics, different people often are attracted to very divergent things. Said in other words: there isn’t a single idea of beauty and different images evoque different emotions in different people. And the last thing you want is for your brand photos to generate the wrong feeling in your customers.

Let me give you an example about this: When I was a teenager growing up in Argentina, a horror house from the US came to town. You know the ones, those that consist of a dark alley where you walk and every now and then a hand comes out of the curtains to touch you, a skeleton appears hanging in front of you, etc. This particular house of horrors was using a scare tactic that, apparently, terrified Americans: they hanged dead cattle (fake I presume), with dripping blood. Assuming Argentinian society was similar, they used the same stunts…until they heard a woman say to her husband  when the dead cattle was revealed: “Oh honey, this makes me hungry. Let’s have barbecue after this“. Epic fail. They closed for a few days, completely re did their scare stunts and opened again.

This is also the reason we’re starting to talk about flexible branding. Take a look at these findings:

“In fact, there’s never been a one-size-fits-all consumer. Back in the 1970s, the demographic survey company Claritas (since bought by Nielsen) identified 40 different lifestyle segments — corresponding to ethnicity, age, wealth, urbanization, housing styles and family structures — within the U.S. population alone. And today, that number has ballooned to 66.” 

and

” For online shoppers, customization matters. A 2015 joint study produced by Magnetic and Retail TouchPoints revealed that more than 50 percent of Internet users preferred websites that catered to their interests, age, location and taste” 

In order to make sure that my photos appeal to the right customers, I always walk my clients through a process of finding a muse  and distilling the qualities that make that person ideal for their business . I also research their current customer base and the one they’re trying to reach, to understand their taste and aesthetics, so we can create photos that they’ll love to like, share, pin…and that will make them want to buy.

In order to do this, you first need to be clear about who you want, and who you don’t want in your customer seats. This step really is unavoidable, and will make your whole business much more successful.

 3. When you’ve never made a sale before

If you have a clear idea of where you want to take your business, and who you want to help, but you’ve never made a sale, your idea is not yet validated and I’d advise you to wait until it is to invest in custom photos.

Let me explain: Many times we want to help people who 1) don’t want to be helped ( Yes, I know they they neeeeed it, but if they don’t want to, you can’t make them) or 2) want to be helped but are either unwilling or unable to pay. These are not the right clients, because a business needs sales to survive, and happy customers, willing to delegate, implement, and commit, in order to thrive. This is what Ramit Sethi calls ” the willingness and ability to pay test” and, if you target those who don’t pass the test, your business risks not being sustainable.

This is a mistake I personally made in the first year of business. I created a new website, took photos and promoted to a consumer base that did not value custom photos unless they were extremely cheap. Consequently, the only way to get clients was to lower down my prices to unsustainable levels. The problem is, that someone who doesn’t value the work you do, will not be a great client even at super low prices: you’ll need to convince that investing any money at all is worth the cost, they’ll likely to complain more and the minute they can pay more(because their business grows), they’ll go elsewhere. I even had a client hire another photographer to shoot the rest of her collection  with the styling I had designed for her!

It took me a year (and enrolling in Ramit’s zero to launch) to learn this lesson, and to understand that targeting that customer base was simply not worth the effort. That I was better off targeting those who already wanted custom photos, understood how they could help them, were happy to pay for them and wanted me as a member of their team. These were the clients that keep coming back for more work and recommended me everywhere.

For this reason, I invite you to first validate your idea, and once you know for certain which clients help your business thrive and want more of them, come back for custom photos. Then we’ll make sure they’re not only gorgeous, but also hyper targeted to attract them.

4. When you’re going through a major business re-defining moment

You have a business that works, you have clients, you made sales…but you’re going through a bit of a crisis and are not sure whether what you wanted for your business is what you’re meant to continue doing. You feel an inkling of a doubt and are wondering whether it’s resistance because you’re ready to up-level, or a major sign from the Universe, telling you to pause and ponder whether this is the right direction for you.

In these cases, it’s very common to focus on a change in aesthetics. It’s like going to the hairdresser to radically change color and cut and buy new clothes when you want to change the rest of your life…but just as a life doesn’t change until we make the hard decisions, neither do we find clarity in our business or a renewed sense of direction by simply having better photos.

Or as my friend Marbel Canseco said to me once : ” You can’t brand yourself out of confusion. “

If you are unsure about what you want to do in your business, focus on that first. If you’re not sure whether your current clients are the right ones, solve that problem first. Those things need to be clear before we can take photos that will shield you the great results you deserve.

5. When your business finances can’t afford it.

I’ll go against the grain in this issue too, and tell you that if your business can’t afford to pay for your custom photos, if you need to go into debt to pay for them, it may not be the right moment to invest.

I know it’s a common saying, especially in the coaching business, that “you need to invest in order to make money” and that “you have to invest as much money as you expect to make” and this is correct…to a point.I believe that it’s great to invest and upgrade progressively and, that unless we continue investing in order to grow, our businesses risk stalling. But I also believe that the stress of debt hanging over your head might be overwhelming, and when we’re in a state of overwhelm and fear, we rarely make the decisions our business needs to move forward.

I also believe this is related to point 3 above, business validation.

This doesn’t mean that photos may not be a considerable investment for you at the right time,  but it does mean that I consider it advisable to make sure your business is already profitable, so that they can help it become more so.

Take custom photos when you have the funds, so you can move full steam ahead with your plans, and feel the effects of the upgrade sooner.

What to do instead

 

If you’ve been through the list and checked some marks, here’s what to do:

  1.  Celebrate. Now you can stop paying attention to those fear-mongering articles!
  2.  Focus on your message and your mission. Go through the list of things you need to know about yourself and your business in point 1 and find your blue ocean.
  3.  Focus on getting your first client, and then more, and then more. Validate your idea. Make adjustments as needed. Ask your clients why they chose you, then re-adjust your blue ocean.
  4. Focus on helping your clients to the maximum level possible, and analyze who you work best with, who  you love helping and what they have in common. Make notes. Implement changes.

When all the above is clear, you’ll know the time has come to get custom photos.

Your business will ask for them to keep growing. And this time, you’ll be fully ready to make the most of them.

It won’t feel scary, it will feel like the coronation of your effort. And it will be wonderful.

PINK M

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How to make your visual content engaging: the strategy of empathy

visual-content-engaging-marcela-macias-photography-cyprus-visual-strategy

 

One of the biggest misunderstandings about visuals and marketing that I see very often is the belief that high resolution photos will instantly equate more engaged fans, higher sales and a perception of professionalism that will allow us to charge higher rates.

Let me give it to you straight right now: It’s just not that simple. 

If it was, with so many sites where you can get good quality photos for free or for a minimum price, everyone would have a cult following and a thriving business.

We would all get a drag and drop theme for our website, find a free high quality image to use as Header, or purchase one, and bibiddy babiddy boop, we would have hoards of followers waiting for us to produce our first product, which we would, of course,sell out in 5 minutes maximum.

If it was only a matter of pixels and dpi, everyone with a DSLR camera… or even an iphone, would be rich and famous.

And we all know that it doesn’t work like that.

So what works, you may be asking yourself?

What is the magic trick that will make your visual content engaging, helping you generate the all mighty tribe of 1000 true fans and followers that will, in turn, purchase everything you release?

What makes a photo effective when it comes to marketing, and what makes it just another one of the pile that we never even notice?

How can you use visual content in an engaging, effective and strategic way?

That, my friends, is what I set out to discover last year, as I mentioned in this previous blog post, and what I want to talk to you about today.

I’ve said before that I wholeheartedly believe that the key to effective marketing and effective visuals is caring for everyone that comes into contact with our businesses.

Truly, deeply caring about them, even if they don’t buy, even if they just read our social media posts and don’t sign up to be a member of our communities. Caring for the work we do, and caring about the effect it has in our followers and customers.

What does this have to do with visuals? 

Everything.

Visual content is a form of communication. We either use it as a way to scream from the top of our lungs how awesome we are (even if no one listens) or we use it to start conversations, to connect, to tell stories.

Visuals, when used right, are a conversation starter.

When it comes to words, we all know that in order to start meaningful conversations, and communicate effectively we need to listen, to observe, and to be aware of other people’s feelings. Visuals are no different.

Let me explain. Some people believe that their visuals are supposed to be about them: what they like or don’t, what their life looks like, their aspirations and dreams. Others believe visuals are supposed to be all about their customers, regardless of what they like or don’t like, and regardless of whether what they post fits their personality or not. Both positions have some truth in them, but both forget something important.

If your visuals don’t appeal to your customers, they won’t connect and they won’t buy. If your visuals have nothing of you in them, they will sound off and fake and sooner or later, you’ll lose face.

Successful visual content lies at the intersection of who you are and what your customers like and need from you. 

YOU

Your visuals need to have your personality, reinforce your positioning and contain elements that your followers already identify with you, in order to anchor these in their mind. They need to look like you in order to be authentic.

This is why, when I start working with someone, I read all the copy from their website and their blog posts. This is why I their social media, paying special attention to the posts that get more engagement and how they are already connecting to their customers. This is why I ask my clients to take a series of branding personality tests and to fill a questionnaire I’ve especially designed for them.

The props I choose in a photo are directly aimed at generating an instant connection in the mind of my client’s customers that makes them recognize her photos and anchors the right elements of her personality and her brand in their mind.

This is why I use cubes to spell the current year when shooting Mayi Carles printable planners, because I know one of the key elements of her video backgrounds are cubes with her name, and that her followers associate cubes with her.

2016-CON-CUBOSwebbis

This is why I make sure that the colors, backgrounds and style of my client’s photos match what people already know and love about them.

And your visuals need to consider your clients as well, so they can connect to you on a deeper level. And this is a matter of observation, empathy and care.

If you want people to engage with your visuals, make sure you’re creating them with your clients in mind.

Here are a few ideas on how to do this:

  1. Always post what is authentic to you. Drop the fear of not “looking premium” or “professional enough”. You are who you are and who you are is enough. Be proud of what you have to give and the story that brought you where you are. You don’t need macarons on a golden desk if you’d rather eat a chocolate chip cookie on a beach-side wooden tablen with your toes in the sand and a mason jar with lemonade and a paper straw in your right hand
  2. Take an interest in those who follow you. Visit their profiles, engage with them from the heart. Engage first, from a place of true interest, honesty and caring.
  3. Observe and listen actively: what do they like? What do they share? What do they connect more to? What photos drive more engagement? What photos drive more sales? What aspects of your personality and your brand resonate more with your customers? What do you share with them in terms of likes, values, dreams and aspirations?m (hint: I observe reality on instagram and facebook and aspiration on pinterest. Sometimes they match, sometimes they don’t and that’s very interesting).
  4. When something works, do more of it. For example, the pen that you see in the photo of Mayi’s printables above, that looks like Gru‘s spaceship with polka dots, is always a hit. Whenever Mayi posts a photo with the pen in it, she gets comments about it. The reason I originally chose it was that 1) Mayi was pregnant and I wanted a more child like fun prop in her photos (before we had been using one with Florentine design because Mayi studied art in Florence). 2) The shape looked like a rocket, and we were introducing it for a launch 3)  Its polka dots colors are present in Mayi’s printables. When it became a hit, we continued using it and now it’s a prop I only use for her photos because it has become part of her brand. (side note: I totally took it from Zoe’s pencil case but let’s keep it between you and me, ok?  😉
  5. Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes. Remember why you’re doing this, who you help and how. Remember that people have different tastes and there’s not a single definition of beauty. Consider the emotional impact what you post can have in your ideal customers.

One example about this: I was once working to define the styling of a client who had been using, until hiring me, very luxurious looking stock photos. I asked her how those photos had been doing and she mentioned that not well at all. She was puzzled. The photos were gorgeous but they were getting 1/3 of the engagement than her more ” real” ones. And she couldn’t figure out why.

Here’s the thing: For some people, luxury is enticing and they like to browse aspirational sites to day dream of how they will one day live, when they have that kind of money. For others, though, luxury is a trigger that reminds them how far away from that they are, and instead of provoking enthusiasm, it depresses them.

You need to be aware about this differences in perception when planning your content, if you want your visuals to help you grow your business. You need to know who your ideal clients are, what they’re going through and what they need from you to craft visuals that help you grow your business.

And the only way to do this is by testing, observing, listening and caring.

Now let me know in the comments below: how do you plan your visuals? What type of visuals get more engagement from your audience?

 

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