If you’ve landed on this blog post, you’re probably either:
- an entrepreneur and business owner, and you’re looking to get your brand photos done soon.
- a photographer, and you’re interested in niching into personal brand photography.
So today, I want to chat a little bit about my background and past experiences, and how they were the perfect match for personal brand photography!
Why? Well, obviously not to just ramble on about mY tRuTh (any #batchelornation fans here?), because that’s tacky and nobody cares.
Today, my goal is to share a couple of things with you:
- why I love personal brand photography and how I landed in it, and
- how my background and past experiences can serve you on your entrepreneurial journey.
Ready? Let’s go!
You’ve heard the tale before: broke college kid; need money; surviving on instant noodles and leftover Panda Express.
Yup, that was me.
I needed to pay for tuition while I was getting my MBA at The University of Alabama,. Badly. But, I absolutely did not want to take out yet another student loan. So, I put my thinking cap on, and thought about different ways to make a bit of cash. The hours needed to be flexible because I was already working a couple of part-time jobs at school and around town. That ruled out getting another part-time job.
*cue lightbulb moment 💡*
Wait, hollupaminute. I’ve always been the girl to carry around a camera and document literally every moment of every thing. A friend of mine had already asked if I could do her senior graduation photos…why don’t I just do that?
And with that, Emily Kim Photography was born! My days were spent studying corporate business frameworks and spreadsheets; and my golden hours were spent behind the camera with college graduates, caps, diplomas, and gowns.
The move to the San Francisco Bay Area, and the wedding photographer that never was
After graduation, I got a full-time job in the San Francisco Bay Area. (Which I’m still working at today!) By then, I had fallen in love with photography and running a photography business. So, I bundled up my lil’ camera bag, and we were off to the west coast! 🌊
I had adamantly declared that I would be a weekend wedding warrior: I was going to become a wedding photographer.
…or so I thought.
I picked up a few assistant and second shooter gigs. Lil’ ole me thought, “with a few of these under my belt, I’ll be ready to be the lead photographer at a wedding soon!”
Oh, how wrong I was.
I very quickly learned that weddings were NOT for me. There were a few reasons why, but I won’t get into the specifics because they aren’t super relevant. The gist: my body literally could not handle the long days, and I didn’t want to spend all of my weekends away from my then boyfriend, now fiancé.
The brief stint in blogger photography
I spent a lot of time dabbling in other photography areas after weddings were a bust for me. High school senior portraits, pet photography, fashion photography, engagement photography, you name it. Eventually, I landed in the blogger-o-sphere, thanks to a few Instagram hashtags.
At first, it seemed like a great match! The photos were creative, the bloggers had unique ideas, and it was overall just fun.But, if you’ve ever dabbled in blogger photography, you’ll quickly learn that budget-wise, it just doesn’t make sense for bloggers to book pro photographers. They need to be constantly producing content, so it makes so much more sense for them to learn how to take great photos of themselves on their phones.
By then, I was burnt out and tired. I was booking blogger sessions frequently, but I couldn’t raise my rates without losing clients. I felt stuck, confused, and unsure if photography was even something I wanted to continue pursuing.
Introducing: personal brand photography
Sometimes, it takes someone (figuratively) slapping you in the face to realize where you actually want to be.
A few months into that rut, I traded headshots with another local photographer. While we were in downtown San Jose chatting about business, she said, “oh, I’ve been needing brand photos for a while. Then I realized, wait, Emily does brand photos! I should just book a session with her.”
Me: “…brand photos? What the heck is that?”
Oooooh man. You know how sometimes, you misplace your sunglasses, and you’re screaming about how you can’t find them, and then somebody points out that they’re on your head?
That’s what this felt like. 😂
I got an MBA and a minor in advertising. Building and marketing student organizations in school was my jam. I designed websites for small businesses at a part-time job… I LOVE everything about running a business.
Duh. I am a brand photographer!
MBA + personal brand photography = ❤️
Once I was slapped in the face with the fact that I am a personal brand photographer. In fact, it was tumbling. Snowballing down a freaking mountain. Everything quite literally just fell into place, two years into my photography business journey.
Even though a Master of Business Administration is traditionally geared towards large corporations, I found myself applying the frameworks and tools that I learned in grad school towards my own business. Why couldn’t I do the same for other businesses, while also helping them build a library of strategic, on-brand images?
Luckily, I’m a digital packrat. Over the course of the next few weeks, I dug through my Google Drive archives to pull out allllll of my MBA coursework. I sifted through EVERYTHING, so that I could find what was relevant and share it with my personal brand photography clients.
Basically, I got my MBA so that you don’t have to! 😂
Creating strategic images that generate revenue for you is my absolute JAM. I love crafting unique, creative, and flattering images, while also keeping your business and marketing strategy in the back of my mind. Oh, you’re looking for someone that can pose you, help you feel confident in front of the camera, and also help you create strategic marketing material? Hello, it me. 👋
The road ahead
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve niched into brand photography, and it’s been an amazing journey. I’ve gotten to meet and work with so many incredible business owners, from jewelry designers to neuroscience experts to authors and more. Even though it took time to get here, I wouldn’t change anything!
So, allll of that to say, I wouldn’t be where I am today without my past experiences.
If you asked me what’s next for Emily Kim Photography, I’d say that I’m going to continue to work with entrepreneurs and thought leaders. I’m going to continue learning and studying, so that I can help you succeed in your own business to the best of my ability.
My side gig’s side gig
Over the course of my business’s life, I’ve had the chance to create some pretty neat things, including:
- Your Goal-Getting Guide — a free, 22-page guide that walks you through my goal-setting and planning process.
- Brand Your ‘Gram — a course that teaches you how to brand your Instagram grid using just your phone.
- The Vibrant Mobile Preset Pack for Lightroom — the same presets that I use in my pro photography work, available for you to use on your phone!
If you’re really nosy and want to see a few of my recent work, check out some past clients here:
- Alway Services – small business relief & consulting brand photos
- The Valle Team – San Francisco Bay Area real estate brand photography
- Welsh Design Studio – Bay Area interior design brand photos
Now, If you’re interested in what the heck brand photography is, and how it can help you in your business, let’s chat!
Until next time,
You are so amazing and I loved reading this and learning more about YOU! I’m so glad our paths crossed and I look forward to working with you more in the future. Hugs.
Thank you, Kat! I’m so glad we met each other, and I’m so excited for what the future will bring! 💛
2 Comments on Personal brand photography: how I got started