Emily Huynh is a traveling brand photographer and studio owner based in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. Over the last four years, she’s helped 80+ entrepreneurs revamp their online presence through creative brand photography.
She’s passionate about helping business owners stand out as thought leaders in their industry by creating strategic, eye-catching imagery that aligns with their marketing strategy.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Who needs brand photography and why do they need it?
- The biggest mistake when hiring a photographer for business
- Business owners consider hiring a brand photographer
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:06] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in the Bay Area. It’s time for Bay Area Business Radio. Now here’s your host
Lee Kantor: [00:00:17] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Bay Area Business Radio and this is going to be a good one. But before we get started, it’s important to recognize our sponsor, Leah Davis, coaching inspiring women of color to claim their wealth legacy. Today on Bay Area Business Radio, we have Emily Kim with Emily Kim Photography. Welcome, Emily.
Emily Huynh: [00:00:38] Hi Lee, thanks for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:39] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about your practice. How are you serving, folks?
Emily Huynh: [00:00:45] Yeah. So I am a brand photographer for entrepreneurs and business owners who want to stand out in their industry. So brand photography is kind of like commercial photography. If you’ve if you’re familiar with that phrase. And basically what I do is I help give small business owners and personal brands the confidence and the consistency that they need to market their business by providing them beautiful photography that elevates their presence both online and in print. So billboards, magazines, stuff like that. And I guess really the the people that I work with are all kinds of people, really. So when I say personal brand, that could be anyone from a realtor to a chiropractor to coaches to jewelry makers, they run the gamut.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:27] Now are they typically solopreneurs or owners of small firms? Or they could be a big corporate executive as well?
Emily Huynh: [00:01:35] Yeah, so they can be both. I primarily work with smaller businesses like solo entrepreneurs and maybe small teams, but occasionally I do have a corporate client who’s looking to rebrand their presence. Like maybe they’re speaking at events more often or they’re writing a book and they just want to elevate their presence.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:53] Now you mentioned the you use the phrase brand photography. How is that different than, like a headshot?
Emily Huynh: [00:02:00] Yeah, yeah, so with the head shot, right when you think about it, you kind of show up, you get your, you know, you get all judged up makeup, hair, you’re wearing a suit, maybe, and it’s just one picture of you that you use everywhere. But with brand photography, it’s not just one image, it’s really a gallery or a library of images that you can use, and it represents who you are and what you do in your business. So as an example, like with the chiropractor, a headshot would be just the chiropractor, you know, standing against a plain background. And that’s something that they can use. But it doesn’t really tell me what they do. But for chiropractor clients that I have, what we do is we go into the practice and I will take photos of them in action. So photos of them, you know, working on their clients, using things that they use around their office. So they have little like models and things that they use to show people with the spine looks like what they’re doing. I show pictures of their of them making adjustments and just showing off what you do in your everyday work, everyday life.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:00] Now that sounds good. If I have a job that you know, I play with toys and I do things like that. But what say if I’m a lawyer or I’m an accountant? How do you kind of bring out? My passion and what separates me from everybody else via photography, when you know what I actually do is, like I said at my desk and think,
Emily Huynh: [00:03:25] Yeah, that’s actually a really great question. So a lot of my clients spend most of their days in front of a computer, and I have worked with a law firm and let’s just take them. For example, they are personal injury attorneys. So the way that we pull out that information is we go through a planning process. So when you think of photography, traditionally a lot of the times it’s kind of like a you show up and you take pictures and then you leave. But with Brandon Photography, there’s a lot more planning and strategy that goes into it. So before the photo shoot, we have a planning call and I have you fill out a questionnaire and we go over what you do in a lot of detail. And that’s kind of how we start to pull out the things that you use in your everyday work. So a lot of the time it’s going to be a laptop, obviously. It could also be your phone. It could also be books. And then the more I learn about how my clients work with their own clients, the more I can kind of dig deeper and ask what other tools that they use. So with those personal injury attorneys, when they first meet with the client, they have these tiny model cars that they bring in so that the client can show them the situation that happened. So that’s not something that I would have thought initially like. Like when you say you’re a lawyer, I don’t think, Oh, you’re going to have little models that show off like what your client situation is. But that’s kind of how we begin the planning process and everyone comes to me and they’re like, Emily, all I do is work on a computer, but there’s always ways to show off what you do digitally in a photograph.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:53] Now what do you say to the folks that are like, Look, my camera? I mean, my is a camera. I’m on Instagram all the time. Well, like, why would I hire a professional photographer? You know, I can do it or my kids, 20 years old, they’re there on their phone constantly. They take a million pictures. Why don’t I just use them?
Emily Huynh: [00:05:13] Yeah, yeah, so a lot of my clients, when they first come to me, that is what they’ve been doing already, right, they’ll, you know, be out and about. They already look nice. They’ll ask their husband or their kid, Hey, can you take a quick photo of me? But then the more often you do that and as you grow your business presence online, that will get you to a point. But there always comes a point when you’re like, OK, I only have so many phone pictures. I’m imposing the same way and all of them, I’m tired of taking pictures. I’m tired of organizing them. I’m tired of editing them. Or, yeah, it just ends up being a huge time suck. So that’s where the library of images comes in. And then another reason that people stop doing that is they either get a big brand deal or they’re going to have a big feature in a publication and they’re like, OK, this is a really big publication. I don’t want to use my phone picture that my kid took in this publication. I want something professional that shows that I am a professional and I am a leader in this industry.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:10] So now when you’re working with your clients and you’re going over this, you know you’re having them fill out the form so you really can understand them and go layers deep to really explore possibilities in terms of getting the right framing the right background, the right materials in the in the photograph, are you helping them also kind of maybe get clear on what colors are the best for them that align with their brand? Are you? Are you? Kind of it sounds like you’re going a lot deeper than just I’m just taking a photo that looks good. I’m there’s more strategy to this that is maybe has more depth and more layers to it than a layperson would really realize or understand without talking to you.
Emily Huynh: [00:06:56] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Brand photography is a lot of business strategy as well. So one of the first questions that I ask is what are your business goals over the next one to three years? Because when I know that, then I can help brainstorm photos that will actually help drive those business goals, right? Because now brand photography is getting a little bit more popular, I guess. And when people first start, they see what they see on Instagram, right? And that could be, Oh, I need a picture of me sitting at a laptop because that’s where I work or I need a personality picture of me holding a coffee mug. Well, it’s like, OK, a lot of people probably use their laptop and use their coffee mugs. But what really starts to create compelling imagery is when you dig deeper into what are your goals? Where do you want to go from here? So another example is, let’s say I’ve had some clients that come to me and they’re like, Hey, I am working on getting into more speaking gigs, and that’s one of their one one three year goals. And with that, what we’ll do is will actually stage photos of them at like a faux speaking event. I will set up a mic, will have them all take pictures of them talking like in action, as if they were at a speaking event and having those pictures. It helps drive those goals, right? Because if they have a picture of them at a speaking event on a website, then people potential publications or events that are coming to their website are going to be like, Oh, this person, like has a picture of them at a speaking event.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:31] Now, when you’re doing your work and you have a client and you mention that it’s not one photograph or four or six or ten, it’s a hundred ish, are you kind of strategizing in terms of OK, since it’s a hundred, let’s give them material that’s going to work throughout the year. So like, is there a holiday pictures or pictures around, you know, meaningful events or days that throughout the year so that they can deploy these photographs, you know, year round or they’re evergreen, that they can kind of come and go as the year goes on, depending on what’s happening.
Emily Huynh: [00:09:13] Yeah, absolutely. So more along the lines of the business strategy, questions that I ask, I also have a business background, so I have my MBA and I have a little bit of experience in advertising as well. So when we first approach a new project, when a client first approaches me for brand photography, another one of the questions that I ask in addition to What are your business goals? What is your brand mission and the visual stuff, like you mentioned, will go into colors and more of the visual aspects as well. But another question I ask is what is their launch calendar or just their business calendar over the next year looking like in general? Because if they have an upcoming launch, upcoming event, holiday promotion, stuff like that, then yes, we can add into that gallery and plan. Ok, let’s make sure we get two to three holiday shots. Let’s make sure we get enough photos to fill out your sales page for this upcoming launch, and that’s those questions help us drive. The shot list is what it’s called is what are the must get photos that we get on photo shoot day?
Lee Kantor: [00:10:11] And then when you say a shot list like how many shots are there? I know there’s 100 ish photographs, but how many shots does that typically turn out to be? Is that twenty five shots of four photographs, eight each is the 10 and 10 like had? How is that determined?
Emily Huynh: [00:10:27] Yeah. So I don’t get super dialed into the numbers because what I what I like to do is the way we plan the photo shoot. We’ll plan for about two to three locations and then we’ll plan for a variety of outfits. And based on those locations is where we’ll figure out, OK, what are the types of images that we want to get here? So I like to call them themes or stories, and it’s basically pretty self-explanatory. They’re like one story that we might want to capture is my client working in their office or my client working with one of their clients. And that can be a story. So depending on how important that is to the client, like if they need photos of them working with their clients will prioritize that and that can yield more images. So it kind of depends on what the client’s priorities are. Wherever they lie. I’ll make sure to get more images in that story. But for example, holidays, right? We don’t need tons and tons of holiday photos because it’s only going to be useful for maybe a couple of weeks out of the year. So maybe we’ll get five to 10 images, depending on what they’re planning on doing, like if they’re going to be posting on social versus an email newsletter or something in print, knowing where they’re going to be using the images or where they plan to helps me figure out in my head how many will probably need to get per story.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:47] So now, when they’re working with you, is there also I know you’re capturing the photos. Are you also giving them some counsel on how best to deploy them? Like, Hey, this is going to be better for mobile or this is going to be better for your website, or this should be shared on LinkedIn. Like, are they also, you know, some kind of distribution suggestions as well?
Emily Huynh: [00:12:12] Yeah, absolutely. So this also depends on the client, sometimes I’ll be working with clients that have a marketing coordinator or a marketing strategist that will be able to handle that for them. And sometimes they’ll give me a list of, Hey, here’s where we’re going to be using the images. So I need, you know, a long horizontal image for the website header or I need a square image for LinkedIn or something like that. But if it’s a client that maybe is doing it all themselves, then I do have tips on, Hey, make sure you use vertical images for Instagram because those are going to perform the best and then I provide an after I deliver the whole gallery, I have some information on, Hey, here’s the best types of images to use on social versus here’s what you should be using on your website and stuff like that.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:55] So what’s your back story? How did you get involved in photography?
Emily Huynh: [00:12:59] Yeah. So kind of a roundabout story. I actually my background is in computer science, and like I said, I did my undergrad degree and then I did my MBA back to back. And the way I started doing photography is while I was still on campus, finishing up my graduate degree, I needed a way to make money, and I’ve always been that person that had a camera in hand and I had a couple of friends ask, Hey, will you take our graduation photos? And I said, Sure. And I just kept doing that. And then when I got a job as a software engineer out in the Bay Area, I just kept doing it because I liked doing it on the weekends. So, you know, I worked in tech, I kept doing my photography business on the side, and the more I did it, the more I was like, Wait, I actually really like this. And this seems like a pretty viable career option, too. So once I started thinking about it with like, Oh wait, I can actually turn this into my career, that’s when I started taking it a lot more seriously, and it was just a really good match for me personally. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial kind of spirit and then being able to work with all kinds of business owners and all different industries has been so rewarding just to learn about them, to see how they run their business, to help them run their business and give them marketing collateral that grows their own business. It’s been really, really rewarding for me now.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:20] Is it limiting in the sense that you have to physically be at wherever you are to do this kind of work like so all your clients have to be in and around the Bay Area? Or is it something that you travel like? How do you handle that side of the business?
Emily Huynh: [00:14:35] Yeah. So almost all of my clients right now are local, but occasionally I do get a travel inquiry and that is something I can travel for as well. I was I I mean, barring the pandemic, but yeah, I’m very open to traveling. I have something coming up in the next couple of months where I’ll be flying down to Southern California, hopefully. And it’s definitely something I can travel to. And if not, if someone’s not in the position to where they want to hire an out-of-state photographer, then I always have recommendations to help people because I just want people to have what they need, you know?
Lee Kantor: [00:15:10] Now on your website, it mentions that you do mentorship. Can you talk about that?
Emily Huynh: [00:15:16] Yeah, yeah, definitely. So I do a few different things in the mentorship arena. So sometimes I’ll have photographers come to me that are maybe wedding photographers or more personal portrait photographers that want to break into brand photography. So I offer a mentorship session for them and they can ask me whatever they want. They can come prep with questions and we’ll go over my process and how I go about running my brand photography business because it’s really great. And I love that other people are getting into it too, because I think that just elevates the whole industry. And on the flip side of that, sometimes I’ll have my clients that aren’t photographers ask for marketing help. So whether that’s helping them implement their images or helping them with their Instagram strategy, I kind of do. I can act as like a marketing strategist for my clients as well if they need support in that area.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:09] So in your work, you’re 100 percent brand photography or do you do that kind of the college? You know, those photos or the, you know, the family photos when asked as well? Or you just kind of, Hey, I’m a brand photographer, and that’s what I do.
Emily Huynh: [00:16:24] Yeah, I’m about 100 percent into brand photography. Occasionally, I’ll have, you know, long time brand clients that say, Hey, Emily, I need family photo for our Christmas card this year. Will you take it because I don’t want to work with someone else, then I’ll definitely do that. But I am percent in the brand photography field.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:40] Wow, is there a lot of people like you out there that are kind of all in on brand photography? Or is this kind of something that, just like the wedding photographer is just adding to their skill set?
Emily Huynh: [00:16:53] It’s definitely a little bit of both brand photography has grown a lot in the pandemic to because when the pandemic started and everything went online, everyone realized, Oh wait, I need to be online, I need to put myself out there. And when the pandemic first started, I noticed that my business had a huge I had a huge influx of inquiries just because everyone is online and everyone needs to promote themselves professionally online. So it’s definitely a growing field. And I see a lot of current photographers like wedding photographers, portrait photographers switching into the commercial field. And it’s also great because when you’re in brand photography and you’re working with businesses, you work Monday through Fridays. Whereas with wedding photographers, you’d you know you’d have to work your weekend, Saturday, Sundays, doing doubleheaders at weddings. So it’s definitely it works for some lifestyles, a lot better than it does for other people. And for me, I I didn’t want to work on weekends, so brand photography made a lot of sense for me in that area as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:51] So if there’s someone out there that is looking to raise their photography game and get a hold of you or somebody on your team, what’s the website?
Emily Huynh: [00:18:02] Yeah, so my website is Emily Kim Photography. And then you can see my brand photography services there, as well as my mentorship options.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:11] Well, Emily, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing such important work and we appreciate you.
Emily Huynh: [00:18:18] Thanks so much, Leigh. It was so great. Thanks for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:21] All right, this is Lee Kantor. We’ll see, y’all next time. Bay Area Business Radio.