Your customers are buying ‘you’ – using lifestyle photography to build your brand


I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with a number of local small business entrepreneurs and I’ve come to realise just how much this new breed of business owners, can benefit from sharing their lives as well as their products online.  The rise of social media marketing as an accessible, free way for new businesses to reach their customers is well documented, as are the many an various reasons why some businesses are more successful than others.  Jasmine Star has a lot of great content on this over on her blog, so I won’t repeat it here, except to say that using social media successfully to build a brand and attract loyal customers takes a lot of work!

One the key things I noticed about those I’ve recently worked with, is that they share a lot online and it’s not always directly related to their products.  They do share products, great pictures showing the lovely things they offer, but they also share their lifestyle – and that’s where great photography comes in.  I think this comes down to a couple of things.  Firstly – we are more likely to buy something we need from someone we identify with, someone who we feel ‘gets us’ and who we trust to provide the product we need.  If there’s a choice between a faceless organisation with whom we feel no connection, and someone we know and trust – all other things being equal we’ll go with the person we know.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Secondly, for many people, the desire to support and help local businesses, especially smaller, newer ones is strong.  Certainly here in Surrey there’s a big movement against big chain stores and in favour of supporting more niche, local businesses who provide different products, better quality or simply a better customer experience.  So telling people about who you are, what you do and what you offer that’s special can tap into this instinct to support and help.  Sharing how your customers’ support makes a difference to you, helps you grow, helps you improve or simply helps you put food on the table – can be a powerful motivator.

The kinds of imagery you need to achieve good results in this area is a little different to the standard corporate headshot. I’ve blogged before about how great imagery makes a massive difference to your business website (see here) and in many ways this is similar.  The images should reflect your brand, be excellent quality of course and communicate about who you are.  However, with these kinds of images we are looking for something else as well – we are looking for ‘soul’.  It’s a tricky thing to put your finger on, but essentially it’s honest, fun, sometimes quirky images that capture both the person and the business and draw people in by engaging with them on a human level – it’s about selling you and your story, much more than selling your product or service.


Many thanks to Juliette Phipps of Flowers By Juliette and Sally Hurman of Getting Stuff Done in Heels for allowing me to share some of the images from their recent shoots!

Check out my website at and follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @siantphoto



Getting creative with children’s portraits – babes in the wood!

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how to vamp up the traditional children’s portrait and create something unique that’s fun for the kids but also fun to shoot.  I spotted that a local florist had posted some snaps of flower crowns she was making for a wedding and decided to create something around these beautiful pieces. Luckily for me, the lovely florist Juliette was up for doing the crowns for me free of charge in exchange for access to the images and so all that remained was to style the rest of the shoot around them.

I began by creating a mood board, gathering ideas about colours and locations as well as the overall feel I wanted.  I’m fortunate to live within spitting distance of the Surrey Hills so finding a lovely open space with good light and plenty of green was straightforward and I’ve used this particular spot before for family shoots and love the graphical nature of the dead tree.  It’s great for kids because its a very short level walk from the car park and the tree makes a fun climbing frame for use even when we’re not shooting.


My wonderful models are the children of my local friends and I owe their parents much of the success of this shoot because they did an amazing job of sorting the girls out with outfits that met what I was after.  I wanted two different looks from the shoot, one more of a rock chick look with denim and black, as a contrast to the softness of the flowers and to reflect the personalities of these girls – who are not really girly girls at all.


And then one more dreamy but not too ‘bridal’ looking, to make a sort of modern take on a sixties/seventies look, flower power and the summer of love.


The important thing here was to make sure the girls were having fun!  The whole shoot took around 90 minutes and we had plenty of breaks for them to just hang out while we were doing wardrobe changes and sorting out gear.  Any longer than that and I think they would have got fed up.  As it was we got a great selection of beautiful images and a really good mix of serious and smiley faces which is something I want from every shoot.

You can never be sure how kids will respond to this kind of modelling and I really think that the key is never to push for a shot that just isn’t happening – the more you push the more they will push back – it’s just what kids do.  You have to go with the flow and take advantage when a good shot presents itself.  Some direction helps but you have to take what they give you and it can be golden.  The shot above centre is a case in point.  The only instruction I gave her was put your hand on the log and look at me – that foot point we can only think comes from watching a lot of Strictly Come Dancing!

When working with kids I also find that having a lot of gear is a problem – they seem to react negatively to having lights or even reflectors in their face.  So all these images were shot on moderately high iso with only the available light.  Fortunately this is an area with really good even light and it was an overcast day so shadows were minimised.  However, this did mean they took longer than usual to process, as more sharpening and smoothing was needed due to the higher iso and the need to shoot fairly wide to get enough light in. However, it’s worth it to get the shots with happy mini-models in natural daylight.

A massive thank you to my mini-models and their two Mums (and one Grandma) who were just wonderful on the shoot.  A shout out too to Juliette Phipps who did the flowers and who I hope to work with again soon – you can find her work at


For more of my work visit


New discoveries in photography podcasts

It’s been quite a while since I wrote my original Top 3 Photography podcasts blog and I’ve discovered some great new shows so I thought I’d share them with you all today.  I love a good podcast when driving or when pottering around the house and I’ve learnt a huge amount, about both the technical and artistic aspects of photography through podcasts.  However, there are so many out there which ones should you choose?  Here are my current recommendations

1. Petapixel Photography Podcast with Sharky James

Now at episode 111 and linked to the ever-so-useful Petapixel photography news site, this is a really fun podcast about whatever’s new in the photography world that week.  It covers new gear and software as well as a whole lot of other news content including ethical issues, copyright and silly season stories about photographers around the world.  Sharky is a sports photographer in the main so we also get to hear about what he’s been up to on the sidelines at football games (that’s American football for you Brits) and every week he introduces someone from the world of photography as part of his intro – this is really useful if you’re looking for people to follow on Instagram!

Fairly short and sweet, the shows usually contain a number of different stories with plenty of Sharky’s dry sense of humour thrown in.  I just love the fact he calls it like he sees it and so much of what he says is grounded in grown-up, family man thinking with plenty of pragmatism and a realistic view of what’s sensible for the average photographer.  Sharky is also really active on social media so follow what he’s up to on Instagram.



2. TWIP (this week in photo) Family with Jenny Stein

Good podcasts that have just one guest per episode are hard to come by, but I love TWIP Family in which mom and photographer Jenny Stein talks to guests whose work is primarily around family and child photography.  The conversation ranges from discussions about their artistic vision and the meaning of their images, to practical business matters.  I’ve found the business aspects particularly useful over the past few months as I’ve been launching and developing my own photography business. It’s not the same as taking a class in that there’s not a lot of detailed information to be had, but learning about the different approaches to a successful photography business is really helpful in plotting your own course.  I still think you’d get a lot out of the podcast if you’re not in business, but some episodes more than others.


3. Photo Taco with Jeff Harmon

Part of The Improve Photography Network, Photo Taco is the only place you can get “photo tips you can learn in the time it takes to eat a taco–or perhaps a burrito” – I love that tag line!  I’ve only just started listening to this one, initially because Sharky James was a guest in a mammoth episode they did on sports photography – but so far I’m enjoying it.  The tips themselves range from the sort of Q&A style session with Sharky, to information on features of digital imaging software, to a really basic explanation of what the numbers and letters on lenses mean.  It’s usually short (that’s kinda the point) so even if you think you know all about the topic, it’s worth a listen as more than likely you’ll pick up a nugget or two.


This week’s images are of East Wittering in Sussex – one of my favourite weekend photo destinations and hopefully where I’ll be heading tomorrow – if the rain ever stops!


Top 3 Photography Magazines

The weather has been so foul recently that I’ve found myself huddling close to the radiator, photography magazine in one hand and cup of tea in the other. I know that the hardier landscape photographers of my acquaintance will be out there regardless, capturing the fleeting moment of dazzling light between the rain and the gale force winds, but I have frankly no inclination to join them.

Photography magazines come in many flavours, but here are my top choices just in case you’re wondering what might be good. Or perhaps you’re fed up with seeing the same re-hashed seasonal stories in your current magazine. Yes, this is a perrenial problem in photography magazines, there are only so many guides to shooting “in low light” “for autumn colour” “long exposures” and so on, that you can really be interested in!
1) Lenswork

I talked about the Lenswork podcast in my photography podcasts guide last year, and everything I said about it also applies to the print magazine.  It’s a small format, bi-monthly magazine produced in the US but easy and not too expensive to subscribe to in the UK.  Lenswork is primarily a showcasing magazine with portfolios of work from different photographers each month plus editorials.  The thing I like best about Lenswork is the sheer variety of work they show.  You’ll get brand new work from digital photographers alongside a collection of black and white film images from the 1960s.  The editor and I clearly share some taste in photography as there is rarely a portfolio I do not enjoy and given the mixture of landscape, abstracts and documentary style work that is saying something.

I’ve just renewed my Lenswork subscription because so far I’ve found no repetition in the editorial articles and they are always thoughtful and accessible.  For what is essentially a fine art publication the writing style is neither arty nor snooty and retains a conversational style throughout. I also bought the book “The Creative Life in Photography” by Lenswork editor Brooks Jensen and thoroughly recommend it!

2) Black + White Photography

Black + White photography walks a fine line between showcase and teaching magazine.  The whole aesthetic of the print publication is cool and high quality and they spend a good deal of time on both inspiration and perspiration. By that I mean that you’ll find plenty of portfolios from talented people (inspiration) alongside project ideas you can try yourself (perspiration).  The great thing about the projects is that they aren’t formulas for creating certain images, they are just ideas to get you thinking.

Another great feature of recent editions has been articles on printing, and not just how to get a nice print (which is in itself useful!) but also ideas for making things like booklets and other forms of presentation.  I really like this holistic approach to photography, its about more than just making the image, it’s about the whole process from visualisation to printed product.  I really think that reading this magazine has made me think more creatively about what I do with my images as well as how I make them.


3) Aesthetica

While not strictly a photography magazine, Aesthetica is the latest edition to my print subscriptions and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve recently become interested in fashion photography and opted for this subscription because it carries plenty of art, fashion and pop culture material and will I think be a great source of inspiration for styling shoots (and possibly my wardrobe!). Aesthetica does feature a lot of photography, some is featured as photography but much is editorial accompaniment and even that is really beautiful.

There’s also a lot of great information about exhibitions all over the world, and since I’m not likely to get to many of them it’s great to read about the artists and see a snapshot of the content, all while drinking a coffee at home.

Since this is quite a new subscription for me it’s hard to say whether the content will start to repeat, but I’m hopeful that it’s focus on current and upcoming exhibitions and new work will mean that it won’t.  In any case I recommend picking up a couple of issues if you’re at all interested in art, fashion or pop culture in the broader sense.