The Importance Of Image: Founders Ponder Mastering Photography And Brand Aesthetics

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 16 founders and executives: How did you choose and execute your brand aesthetics and photography style?

Laszlo Aszalos Co-Founder, Magical Tree

When we started, we were on a very tight budget and decided to take photos and process the images ourselves. We had some prior experience using tools like Gimp and Inkscape, but achieving our goals proved easier said than done. However, with time and a lot of practice, plus tons of advice from friends, after a few months, we managed to find our unique style.

Lisa Raciti Founder and CEO, KIND-LY

The design and branding component will likely be the single biggest cost outlay when launching a new brand, but one that I believe is essential in establishing an identity for your brand and to give direction going forward. As a startup, I’d recommend reaching out to smaller design firms initially as, generally, pricing will be more affordable than larger firms used to dealing with big multinational companies.

I found my designers, Black Squid Design, after researching online. Their portfolio of work appealed to me and their visual style stood out. Being open to the creative process is very important as is having trust in your design team and allowing them freedom to present ideas that you may not have thought of.

We had to ensure our products would stand out on store shelves. We needed a fresh take on the deodorant category and to make sure our products also packed a punch when featured in social media posts. Natural, organic brands tend to play it safe with the visual aesthetics. KIND-LY’s style shows that you can still be all-natural, organic, vegan and cruelty-fee, but also be fun, friendly and not afraid to show some personality.

Brittney Rankins Founder and Owner, Oh Honey Skin Care

Instagram and Pinterest were a huge help in developing my brand image. Skimming through pages of similar brands as well as brands that have nothing to do with the beauty industry was how I started coming up with visual ideas for my brand. Once I found images I liked, I looked for the pattern in the all the images. They were all crisp, clean and simple.  That's how I want my brand represented.

From there, I began taking my own product photos with my iPhone. I also took a course on Skillshare, and utilized other similar sites to learn how to take my own beautiful shots and it became pretty easy. I learned how use natural lighting [and] when is the best time of day to get the light that looks best for my products. Playing with different settings on my phone, I began to learn how to do it myself.  

This was very helpful starting out when the funds aren't there to hire a professional, but you still want to look professional.  Basically, social media and Googling became my best friend in learning how to build my brand's visuals.

Francelle Daly Founder and CEO, Lovecraft Beauty

I wanted something cool with a New Orleans feel to it. The city is where I grew up and discovered my love for makeup. There is so much inspiration to draw from. My husband is a graphic designer, so we were able to design the packaging and logo together to showcase an overall vibe that feels minimal with gothic tones. When the first product came out, we knew that we wanted photography that stayed true to our developing style. We were able to shoot some of the brand images in-house, and the rest became a collaborative effort with close friends.

Jennifer Odom Owner and Creator, Meraki Botanicals

Developing the photography for Meraki will always be a work in progress. I appreciate several different styles of photography, so I play around a lot with what I'd like to do. In the past, my photos have been darker with more shadows and props, and a little more crowded. For now, I've settled on lighter, brighter and cleaner photos, highlighting the products against a neutral background with lots of natural light.

I enjoy photos of hands holding products, which you often see on our Instagram and Facebook pages. The next step is more texture photos of the actual product itself, rather than the container…the waxiness of the balms, the shiny oils, the grittiness in the toothpaste. Keep an eye out for it!

Charles van Valkenburg Founder, Apis Cera

I do everything myself since I’m the only one running my company. I love photography and get inspired by artists, especially paintings, and other brands, of course. There is a lot of me in the photos. I always try to add an element of humour and not do boring shots.

Also, it’s a big challenge because I only have four products to sell, and each photo has to stand out. With Instagram and other platforms, I try to tell the story around my products, around the theme of bees and nature. I think depth is what is missing the most in some brands.

Eugene He Founder, Ceramiracle

To be honest, I don't think there will ever be a right photography style for Ceramiracle. The world, the industry and customer expectations have changed tremendously, so I believe fluidity and adaptability would be key to a brand's survival.

I developed Ceramiracle to be constantly evolving, much to the chagrin of my design colleagues, so we could be reactive immediately to any changes in trends. When we first started, we focused a lot on showcasing our ingredients or on nature and landscapes as a way to quickly allow potential customers to identify us as a nature-oriented brand.

Now that we're two years old, we're shifting towards light and shadow, and playing with more colors to let our personality come through. We've never used any agencies for branding and photography, so what you see now is really what we're feeling this moment as a brand.

Zane Piese Founder, Atlantis Skincare

We were really lucky in that the designer perfectly grasped our brand from the outset. We wanted the Atlantis name to be conveyed effectively, but the rest of the branding and packaging to be simple and concise in keeping with the natural clean beauty concept of our products.

The designer came back with a logo that perfectly captured the essence of Greek mythology, which is so focused on the power of nature, like our products.  As a premium brand, the gold coloring on our logo adds another dimension displayed on the canvas of our simple white product packaging.

We’ve continued to use the theme of a white backdrop and clean lines throughout the website and the rest of our branding collateral/imagery as it allows people to clearly see the product and the brand identity.

Sabeen Zia CEO and Founder, Muskaan

As far as photography style and aesthetics are concerned, it was important to maintain a clean, minimal look so that the product really pops. In the age of Instagram and short attention spans, each image has to be strong enough to stand on its own, yet fit into the larger story of Muskaan. Chic, white backgrounds with brightly colored products will catch your eye while showcasing Muskaan’s luxurious yet charming style. Muskaan translates to smile, and I want to ensure that when a consumer looks at the brand, it instantly makes them smile.

Janna Sheehan Founder, Ojai Wild

Margins were not our main concern. Standing out as a brand was. Going to a branding agency seemed impersonal and generic, like margins, especially since I am an artist with working experience in several mediums of art. I can articulate my vision and want, and need to collaborate with like-minded individual creatives to maximize the creative impact of each packaging aspect.

Over the course of years, I cultivated relationships working incrementally with a core group of creatives, including our product designers in Brooklyn, Third Kind Studio. They are responsible for our distinctive wood over cap; Ojai-based branding and package designer (musician, illustrator and filmmaker) Dustin Byerley; and printer and craftsman Chuck Tinucci at Color Incorporated in Los Angeles. Also in LA, [there are] artist and box architect, Eric Ward and fine artist Samira Yamin, who was a constant voice and mastermind partner.

Dustin and I worked together and honed the look from his original God's-eye concept, which evolved into a visual spectrum language for each fragrance. Having a synergistic approach to aesthetic was important. This process was intimate and required a trust, mutual respect and shared passion for what went into making the fragrances, both practically and emotionally.  

Other details: our wood over cap, box design and printing were equally important, and I worked with all these folks individually and separately to refine our look.  We pulled from our background as fine artists to translate a language of modern simplicity with the formal elements of composition: Volume, weight, line, color, light and space.

Allison Taylor Co-Founder, Le Prunier

Our aesthetic is largely informed by our upbringing in Northern California and our travels throughout Asia. The person who is buying our product values the unique heritage of our family farm and authenticity behind Le Prunier ingredients, so we did our best to convey that story through our imagery and packaging. It was also important for us to include elements of the Japanese art of Ikebana as we’ve grown to appreciate its beauty and simplicity.

We strive to keep things classic and beautiful, yet educate consumers through a bold and fresh approach. Shooting our web imagery was really fun. The photographer and models are good friends of mine and offered to shoot so it came together pretty easily. It’s so important to work with people who get your vision and, when it’s friends and family, even better.

Jules Founder, Deco Miami

Basic graphic design and photography were skills I began to teach myself when I started working on Deco. Since all of the creative decisions are made and executed by myself, all of Deco’s branding is consistent and clear.

Even as the branding has evolved from 2016 to now, it’s done so seamlessly as my own personal tastes change overtime. You can see this clearly if you scroll through Deco’s Instagram. The feed’s look is different from two years ago, but it’s also the same. The cool thing about photography and graphic design is that you just keep getting better and better the more you do it, and it’s an awesome investment in myself as an entrepreneur.

Lena Kanise Jensen CEO, LENAJAPON USA

It’s almost sudden rush of inspiration - afflatuses, so to speak. But we always tried to make the pictures symbolize our brand concepts of simple and elegant, high quality, maternal love and, last but not least, natural Japanese beauty. That’s the reason why we use vivid and soft colors of nature, and the natural ingredients of our products in every picture.

We also took a trial-and-error procedure for artistic perfection, photographing products from every imaginable angle to give life to them like blooming cherry blossoms. It is important to have a clear vision of the brand as well as passion and confidence when taking photos of any products.

Kirsten Thomas Founder, Ayr Skin Care

There's a great deal to consider before deciding upon the photography style or overall look for the brand. It's really the first, and sometimes only, opportunity to make an impression for a customer. The main reason we chose to go for a clean white and silver packaging look was because we wanted the overall look of a clean, modern and elegant product line.  

For our branding on social media, our website and printed media, we wanted our customer to see the products and have some bright colors to make our message pop, but it all has to be done in keeping with our overall image of quality, luxurious skincare. We keep our images either spa- or garden-oriented to highlight our message of self-care and the importance of the natural ingredients.

We have been happy with our choices, learned along the way, and are always open to tweaking and changing slightly with specials, seasons, etc. Always remember to maintain the integrity of our customer profile when determining our photography and overall aesthetics for the brand.

Gitte Dalberg-Larsen Commercial Director and Co-Owner, OrganiCup

We’re from Denmark, a country with a long history of design that typically focuses on simplicity, clean lines and natural materials. We wanted to bring such ethos to the world of period products. Our brand design and aesthetics are incorporated in everything we do: our website, informational material, packaging, you name it.

We wish to combine our design approach with our ambition to destigmatize periods. When we started in 2012, it seemed like one of the most uncomfortable things you could possibly talk about was periods. We saw an opportunity, through branding and design, to pave the way towards a more positive and normalized relationship with periods by simply showing menstrual cups and periods for what they are, not as anything else.

So, we don’t shy away from saying period or menstruation or from using red liquid instead of blue. Traditionally, brands haven’t talked about periods in a natural way, which has resulted in making periods something unnatural to talk about and even something to be embarrassed about. Therefore, we talk to our community as they are our friends. We don’t talk down.

Amanda Stultz Founder, Sítrónu

As I was developing the concept and product lineup, I was largely inspired by a trip to Iceland where the environment plays a large part in everything they do and consume. Nordic cultures, in general, focus on sustainability and minimal packaging in a big way, ensuring most everything is eco-friendly. I wanted this to be at the center of Sítrónu’s story, all reflected in the logo, branding, and packaging.

So, I designed everything from the website to the labels to the bottle choice with this simple and clean aesthetic in mind. I also chose not to overdo the packaging materials. For instance, no bottles or jars housed in pretty boxes that just get thrown away.

As a company, we are really trying to encourage our customers and inns/small hotels to move away from the small, throw-away sized bottles to refillable larger containers or wall dispensers for the showers. Our 16 oz.- or gallon-sized products are the most cost effective options for our consumers as well as being the most eco-friendly. The photos we use are generated in the same vein: white, clean backgrounds with a minimalist approach, which really lets the product and simple packaging shine.

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