photography blog by celia ragonese / philadelphia

Authentic Branding Photography - How To Tell Your Visual Story and Keep it Real | Philadelphia Branding Photographer

UPDATE: When I wrote this blog post, I did know that "authenticity" was having a moment but would never have imagined that the spring 2019 issue of The Magnolia Journal would feature this very topic. Read Joanna Gaines' "A Note from Jo on Authenticity" for an insightful view on how to stay present especially in this day and age of curated moments.


Lately I've been thinking quite a bit about authenticity and how the heck to truly tell an authentic story through photography. Which leads me to sharing some sneak peeks from a session with a talented and gifted entrepreneur, Mary, who you see here, and some recent quotes from my research to fully define what authentic branding photography is. (Because sometimes I miss grad school and doing research! Who knew?)

Forbes posted a great article "Why Brand Image Matters" and included this gem of a quote:

"It's not just about the logo or slogan; your brand image encompasses both visual elements and brand associations." - Solomon Thimothy

To tell a rich visual story filled with authentic elements, it's important to know your why (another great Forbes article) and to seek out elements in your "pivot story" that help fuel the photoshoot.

Your pivot story is the moment you decided to make a change in your life to create your business or make a change within the business to solve a certain problem. 

It could even be someone saying to you, "You really helped with something I was struggling with..." and that story becomes an intrinsic part of your brand because it was a lightbulb moment for you to start a business and (re)define your brand. Though it may seem tangential to a photoshoot -- it's not though, I promise -- elements of those stories become part of the photo session. Truly. With many entrepreneurs seeking to be heard above noise, the best way to be heard is to offer something unique and the best way to offer something unique is to be truly YOU (because no one else can be you).

"Um, that's great, Celia. But what is brand authenticity exactly?" -- I hear you! I went on a deep dive and found a Journal of Consumer Psychology article written by a great team with this quote:

"Brand authenticity is how people "perceive a brand to be faithful toward itself, true to its consumers, motivated by caring and responsibility, and able to support consumers in being true to themselves." - Felicitas Morhart 

Professor Morhart and her team tackled the task to define authenticity because its qualitative nature can be hard to pin down, so I loved this blog post, "When Brands Get Real...", which is definitely worth the read.

So how does all this information factor into a photo session?

A great example was this photo session with Mary, who you see above and who is creating a brand-spanking-new business. Mary and I discussed her "why" and how she authentically works to solve problems for her prospective clients who seek web-based solutions that Mary can provide.

I'm sharing some snippets of our branding session to help others and make sure that when it comes time to discover what is most important to your brand image, I photograph a visual story that is rich with elements of your brand story, like I did with Mary. Every "scene" in our session and every prop has authentic roots in her story, how she works, and how she decided to start her brand, and I can't wait to share more work soon.

If you have a new brand or just need photos for your brand, I urge people to consider mining their pivot stories, their testimonials, what people say about them, and their "why" because all that will help provide direction and clarity for the visual story and help authenticity shine through the images.

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