Does my website need professional photography? Profile: Sophie Carefull, Personal Branding Photographer
I get asked on almost every client call, if the business doesn’t already have professional photography, whether it is worth the investment. The answer is simple: YES. A bold, italic, capitalised yes! Professional photography will up-level your business like nothing else (except maybe branding).
I interviewed my go-to photographer (and girlboss friend) Sophie Carefull, to find out more about what she does, how she started and how she can help you with professional branding photography for you business.
Hi, Sophie! Can you tell us a little bit about what you do and who you serve?
I'm a Personal Branding Photographer for Purpose-Driven Women. I work with all sorts of creative entrepreneurs such as coaches, designers, consultants and therapists. I help my clients uncover their brand values and message, and translate these into soulful, dynamic portraits for their websites and social media channels. My goal with every client is to capture them as the very best version of themselves so that they can see and acknowledge how much they shine. I want them to go out into the world (or, at least, Instagram!) with unshakeable confidence so that they can magnetise their dream clients.
My photoshoots also incorporate styled stock photos so that my clients have a library of on-brand (and unique-to-them) images that they can dip into whenever they need something to post, rather than having to spend precious time trying to style and shoot their own photos off the cuff. After all, they're busy changing lives!
What’s unique or special about your process?
The most common piece of feedback I get from my lovely clients after their photoshoots is that they felt like they were spending the day with a friend. This means so much to me, especially when 90% of people tell me in their initial consultation that they don't like having their photo taken! Knowing that I can almost instantly put people at ease and make them feel comfortable and confident in front of a camera, often in a way that they never have before, is really special to me and I think this is what sets me apart. My background in digital marketing also means I can support my clients in getting the most out of their images so that they can truly make the impact they're here to make.
What does your average work day (or a couple of days) look like?
I have two types of typical day! On a shoot day, I travel to the first location to meet my client and get everything set up and chat to them before I get my camera out, which helps put people at ease in what could be a daunting situation. Once we've got the first set of portraits, we'll then move to another one or two locations to create lots of variety in their images. When we've wrapped up the shoot, I head home and download all the images and might start culling them (choosing which to edit) too if it's not too late. The next morning I'll edit a handful of sneak peeks as I love sending these over soon after the shoot so we can both get excited about what we captured the day before!
An editing day will be much slower-paced and I tend to stay pretty cosy at home! I'll get up around 7am and have a cup of tea on the sofa before slowly getting ready for the day (jeans, a jumper and fluffy socks are my usual uniform and I very rarely wear making when I'm WFH). I start work between 8am and 9am, depending how I'm feeling that day, and will finish up by 5pm. These days will consist of editing photos, preparing online galleries from previous shoots, having phone calls and onboarding new clients, researching venues and designing moodboards for upcoming shoots. I'm trying a new system where I batch some of these tasks on specific days, so I'll have to keep you posted on how that goes!
What does a day off look like?
I am generally pretty good at taking full weekends off (this definitely wasn't the case in my first year in business!) and I love to spend them enjoying Bristol with my boyfriend and friends. If I'm in Bristol and not visiting my family in Devon or friends in London, I'll usually start with a slow morning and maybe have brunch at home or out. We might then go for a wander down to the harbourside or around the pretty Clifton Village area or to a National Trust house a bit further afield. I love driving to new places for a mini adventure and always take my camera! My ideal evening is a chilled night in with a film and loads of snacks, or popping to our local pub for a quiet drink.
Can you share with us a couple of projects you’re particularly proud of? Why have you picked them?
I loved working with Sam Burgess recently on the images for her new brand Small & Mighty Co. It's always so exciting to create the photography for a business while it's going through a branding or re-branding process and Sam was super clear on her vision and mission so it was a complete joy to be involved! We hired a beautiful office space in central London to host a workshop for the website photos and we took Sam's individual portraits there as well as in Richmond with her gorgeous Miniature Daschund Monty, which was an extra treat for me as I love dogs! The light was gorgeous and the last of the autumn leaves lent themselves perfectly to the beautiful autumnal branding that Louise of Fleurir Creative has created for Sam.
Another favourite shoot from this year has got to be this one I did for Sophie French in the summer. Anyone who knows or has met Sophie will know that she is a total beacon of light and just the happiest person, so I'm really proud to have captured this in her portraits so that her Instagram followers can feel that without even meeting her. The sunset was stunning for these outdoor headshots in nature and the AirBnB we hired was beautiful for her lifestyle portraits so everything just came together really well. I had taken Sophie's first set of branding images 9 months previously so we already had a great rapport and I was able to build on the images that she loved most from last time while maintaining continuity between the two shoots so that she can seamlessly post images from either one at any time.
Can you share your most recent project? (Or a recent-ish one)
One of my last shoots of 2018 was with Harriet Wright who founded a stationery business a few years ago and is now transitioning into offering life coaching services to help others achieve their dreams too. Harriet is based in Surrey and asked for my help finding a light and bright office space for her branding portraits so we booked one I'd used before near Bristol that was perfect for customising to suit Harriet's brand. We both brought lots of on-brand props and dressed up the space into a dreamy office, the winter sun was gorgeous that day and we had so much in common we couldn't stop chatting the whole way through! The best portraits are always those taken when our guard is down and we feel open to be our true selves, and I really feel I captured Harriet's glowing soul in these images.
Why do you feel photography is so crucial for female entrepreneurs and small businesses building an online presence?
The rise of social media (specifically visual platforms like Instagram) has made us all much more discerning consumers and our standards are higher than ever. The market is also much more heavily saturated, so having good quality photography really helps you as a business owner to command the attention you and your services deserve.
When it comes to making buying decisions, we are emotional beings (logic goes out the window when we want something deep down), so intentionally fostering genuine connections with our audiences is an extremely powerful tool. When we feel connected to someone, we trust them and are far more likely to buy what they're selling. Personal branding portraits, coupled with an authentic online presence, help you to build these connections. The old adage that “People buy from people” couldn't be more true, so we've got to let ourselves be seen in order to grow our businesses.
How did you get started in your business?
My first ever (unpaid) photography jobs were shooting the drama society dress rehearsals at university in Sheffield and test shoots with aspiring models and makeup artists from portfolio-building websites. This was my first foray into portraiture and I loved it! I then shot my first wedding in early 2015 while still at uni before graduating and starting an internship at a web design agency where I was in charge of content creation for several of their clients. I then moved to Bristol and started work in another digital marketing role, and both of these jobs required me to use my photography at work. I became increasingly unhappy in this particular job for various reasons, so I knew I needed to get up the courage to leave! I eventually did but nothing I found on job sites looked appealing so I started to wonder if I could give photography a proper go (as opposed to doing weddings on the side, which had been my half-baked plan thus far).
I had several wedding bookings for the summer but nothing to fill the five months ahead of them, so I signed up to loads of networking events and decided to start offering branding photography to small businesses. As time went on, I figured out what I most enjoyed and where I could add most value for people, which led me to working exclusively with service-based female-run businesses. I've been so fortunate to work with some incredible people (including you!) and to get lots of lovely word-of-mouth and social media referrals, which is now how I get 80% of my business. The remaining 20% of enquiries come via Google searches and now that my website content is completely tailored to my niche (it's taken several rounds of tweaks over the last few years), these people are a perfect fit too!
What do you love about running your own business? What are you still working on?
I relish the freedom to do what I want, when I want to. I don't deal well with being told what to do, especially if I don't agree with the reason for doing it, so being my own boss is amazing as I only ever have to do things that I genuinely care about and I can do them in my own way and at my own pace. I'm an introvert so working from home and largely alone suits me down to the ground! And of course being able to make a living from taking photos (of inspiring female entrepreneurs!) is an absolute dream for me as I've always loved photography but never even imagined it could be my career when I first picked up a camera all those years ago!
Something I've struggled with (and am still working on) is my relationship with social media. I rely heavily on Instagram for my bookings but am also very keen to take care of my mental health as a priority and sometimes these two things can become at odds with one another. I try to find balance and use the platform as mindfully as possible, which includes stepping away when I'm finding things hard (and unfollowing or muting people whenever I feel that nasty “comparisonitis” creeping in) but it's an ongoing project for me strike the right balance!
What do you hope the future holds for your biz?
I'd love to continue building up my client base of purpose-driven creative women and expand into more overseas photoshoots! I think I'll remain a one-woman-band for the foreseeable future but may one day outsource some of my editing to reduce my workload so that I can dedicate more time to each client and also live a bit more! I love travelling so I'm really hoping to build up my business in a way that allows me to explore new places and work as I go along – beach shoot in the Maldives, anyone!?
Where else can we find you online?
You can find me at sophiecarefull.co.uk and under @sophiecarefull on Instagram