How To Get Beautiful, Brandworthy Photographs That Project Your Authentic Self

A Note From Lesley

Some really great performers, most actors, and models love the camera, and, come to think of it, most men don’t mind it either. In fact, in my experience, women face the most difficulty when preparing to be the subject of a photo shoot. And the older we get, the harder it gets.

You’d think that, as a photographer, I would love having my photo taken. But I don’t! Like a lot of us, my head is full of negative self talk.

To my ladies out there: 25 years of photographing women has taught me that you are enough, you look great, your work is healing the world. The easiest–and hardest–thing to do is to love yourself, so I am sending out love to each and every one of you. My mission is to help you see how beautiful you really are. True beauty is not skin deep.

STEP 1: Be Yourself

In order to be your genuine self, you need to get to know who you are deep down… and embrace it. The more you showcase your glorious self, the more easily people will see you, understand who you are, and know what you stand for. That’s when success will join you.

As a photographer, I need to know these things to be able to capture the real you. Infuse your photos with this self-love by asking yourself these questions:

  • Am I being authentic in my messaging? Does it feel right? Does it feel connected to my values in business and in life?
  • What qualities do my clients most often compliment? (ex. “We love your energy!” “Her expertise is second to none.”)
  • Why am I doing what I am doing?
  • What essences do I bring to the party

Whenever I step in front of the camera, I promise myself to have fun, to laugh, and to breathe. It always helps so much because joy is one of my essences, and I love to have fun in my photo shoots.

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STEP 2: Find Your Mission

Authenticity is the key to attracting your ‘tribe’ and the right clients to you. Creating trust in your marketing (via your photos) and developing personal relationships will help you stand out and ultimately create lasting success. To figure out exactly what those photos should communicate, you will need to know your mission–in business and for the photo. Consider:

  • Have you been showing up in the best way to compliment your life/business/mission? (ex. Exercising regularly and staying fit? Presenting your best self? Investing in your mindset? All these things add advantage to your position and brand in the marketplace.)
  •  What are you trying to accomplish or say? (ex. Approachable, smart, cheeky)
  • What problem do you solve? (ex. “I help new moms get better sleep.”)
  • What is your mission? What have you been put on this earth to do?

Lesley cherishes the art of photography so deeply, she has made it her life’s mission to help people find the beauty in themselves and showcase that in a photograph.

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STEP 3: Define Your Style

Style affects everything. From sales conversions to trustworthiness, research suggests that your appearance affects how powerful people think you are. Most people forget or speed through this part of the process because they don’t understand how essential style is to setting the tone for your business.

If your face is your brand, then you need to be extra conscious of how you will be seen. You’ll need to dress for success in whatever style works best for you.

  • Create full outfits with clothes that fit. Start from the ground up–shoes matter. Tailor your clothes to fit you–no matter what size you are–and you will feel amazing. A badly fitted jacket can make you look both unprepared and out of date–no matter what the scale says. Also, I always recommend upleveling your style from what you consider your normal day-to-day biz wear for your photo wardrobe.
  • Color is everything. Choose solids and wear your favorites. Find clothes that match a color from your eyes. (ex. For me, there is a specific blue that makes my eyes stand out, so I always look for pieces in that color family.)
  • Create a vision board with your colors and style. If this boggles your mind, then pull out the colors you use for your logo and website as starting points. (Pinterest is a really good resource for this.)
  • Research the competition. See how your competitors use their photos and on which platforms they are marketing (social media, website, etc.). Your job is to figure out how to do it differently… and better.
  • Work with a designer to define your style. I always recommend spending money on a stylist or investing in a few classic looks for your closet (and future media events) so you aren’t scrambling to find something when you get the last minute call for a client meeting or a chance to speak at an event

My style has evolved through the years, but I feel comfortable now saying that my style is Confident Casual–wearing sneakers with a signature jacket or jeans with a beautiful blouse. This translates a sense of ease and comfort for my clients when they are in the studio trying to get their best photos. Style is subtle, but powerful.


My goal when setting up a brand photo session for myself is to make sure that people ‘see’ me and allow my truth to shine through–and that usually involves a smile. I love life, and I am a little goofy. I love to have fun, and I love a good laugh. Sometimes I want to be more serious, but a great smile is so relatable.

Smiles open up your face. They are welcoming and approachable. You are much more likely to attract clients when they initially see you smile than if you are serious in all of your photos. There is definitely a time and place for serious portraits, but to attract the right customers/clients you should use your best smile as it will open the door to your business.

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STEP 4: Translate Your Mission and Style into Your Images

All iconic photographs, whether soulful or happy, are magical because they open a window to the true self. Images like this align integrity, approachability, and personal style. Consider the image you want to project to the outside world. Do you need to elevate your style to step up your brand? What energy do you want your photos to reflect? What is the moment of insight into your true self that you want to share? A good smile or laugh, a contemplative look away or a serious black and white will go a long way in helping you create unique images.

  • What overall feeling do you want to project? (ex. Professional, approachable, light and airy, corporate, natural.
  • What kinds of photos do you need? Are you looking for a portrait? Lifestyle? Action? Health? ‘Just a headshot’? Do you need a specific image like an author shot for a book jacket cover or a speaker poster? You might also want to think about the kinds of images you will need in the future when your business grows and takes off into the stratosphere (ex. media kit).
  • Who are you marketing to? Who will be seeing your photo? Who is your ultimate client? (ex. Corporate conservatives? Fitness freestyles? Energetic entrepreneurs?) Remember, you’ve only got seven seconds to make that great first impression.
  • Where will you be using your photos? Iconic images can cross many platforms. Know where and how you will be using them before the shoot. (ex. Having both horizontal and vertical images is useful for your website and social media.)
  • You did the prep work. You’ve shown up to the studio, and now it is time to relax and be yourself. If being yourself is difficult, then make sure you have something to refer to or think of when you are in the moment so that your photos have life and personality.

I like to project a sense of ease and friendliness so that my clients know that they will be able to relax in their photo session. When clients trust me, it is much easier to capture their most unique self.

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STEP 5: Show Up

I can’t stress how important it is to be consistent: How you do one thing is how you do everything. This holds true in prepping for your photo session. Not only do you have to do your homework and figure out the “you” that you want to capture in the images, but you have to show up in an authentic way to make a lasting impression.

  • Be PRESENT! Make sure you actually show up–and I don’t mean just arriving at the studio. This is the moment you have to allow the photographer to see your true personality (your soul, if I may be so bold).
  • Meet me halfway. I can get you all the way to 100% (a photo of you that is  authentically you–attractive and smart), but you have to ‘show up’ ready to push through your fears. You are allowed to be afraid and to voice your discomfort, but you will have to push through that fear of being seen and be willing to open your heart.
  • Let go. Photography is 50% technical and 50% magic, and it’s the magic that we are all striving to capture. You want to have that iconic portrait that everyone tells you that it’s the best photo and it has really captured the real you! If you are someone that likes to control the outcome of your business and brand (and who doesn’t?), you will have to allow the photographer to direct you and be open to the magic. By picking the best photographer for you, you won’t have to control the shoot. All your preparation brought you to this moment, so collaborate, trust, and allow your true self to shine through so you can find that magical photograph.

‘Showing up’ requires me to be very present in my body, I remind myself to open my eyes and to look directly at the camera as if it were my best friend. Before the shoot I usually collect a few happy moments from my life that I can quickly recall when I am asked to smile. With just a thought, a natural smile blooms across my face.

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Step 1 of 4

(ex. “We love your energy” or expert, determined, elegant
Why are you doing what you are doing?
(ex. approachable, smart, cheeky) Do these adjectives match your branding?
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