split image of nespresso coffee and sweet and spicy tea

Episode 19 | Better Brand Photography

Mar 27, 2023

Description: Today we are pulling out some wisdom from Esther, our resident photography expert, on how we can get better brand photography. She share’s why she loves photography, what value it adds to every organization as well as a three simple tips on how everyone can level up their smartphone photography.



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Kerri: Hello and welcome to the Flourish and Friends podcast. I’m your host, Kerri, and I’m here with my friend and collaborator. Hi Esther.

Esther: Hey, Kerri. Hey friends.

Kerri: Our goal for this podcast is to create an avenue for our Flourish community to gather around important conversations that lead to more growth and more flourishing.

Esther: Yeah, nothing is really off the table because how we lead our life spills into how we lead at work, and overall, our brand reflects that, especially as creatives. 

Kerri: Today I’m chatting with Esther, our photography specialist, all about images and how to elevate imagery for your brand. But first, let’s start with some fun things that are giving us life.


Kerri: Esther, what’s your fresh pick this week?

Esther: Okay. I can’t go another week without acknowledging my real lifesaver Nespresso. This is not an ad. This is just out of my love and appreciation for the quick espresso machine that it is. I, I have learned to crave it more than regular espresso, which I don’t know how they’ve tricked me into that, as you might know, if you’ve listened to the podcast, I am more of a coffee drinker, Kerri’s more of a tea drinker. I dabble in tea a little bit, but Nespresso is something. If I’m not at a cafe, I am drinking and I love it. I have the Virtuo machine and it makes the espresso really frothy, so when you add milk, it’s just, yeah, you still get a little bit of foam, even if it’s cold, which I think is fun.

Kerri: Sorry. You know, I’m not in the world of coffee. I cannot visualize this Nespresso machine. Is it like a Keurig?

Esther: It’s a, so made by Italians, which, you know, is, it’s gonna be higher quality. But, it is similar in the fact that they use pods. The Virtuo though, is a bigger pod, so it. I, I. exactly how the machine works differently than the original Nespresso cuz the original Nespresso looks more like a Keurig pod. And this one is, yeah, like rounder. I think you get more of that espressoy like crema and stuff like that from this one. But it’s, it’s just really simple. You just put a pod in, you have water in the machine, it pulls it. One of my favorite recipes to do is like, pour this espresso over some honey, and then add some oat milk and ice and maybe a little cinnamon. But.

Kerri: That sounds like a drink. Yum.

Esther: It is, is, I mean, it’s, it converts people to coffee. I’ll tell you what,

Kerri: Challenge. Challenge not accepted.

I’m glad that you have that in your life and that it’s fueling you, and ..Yeah. Sounds like, sounds like a really convenient option for, because real espresso is, it’s like a process, isn’t it? It’s like a, I don’t know, I just feel like I’ve heard people talk about, it’s like a thing, so to have something that you feel like is quality, but is not all of the work or equipment.

Esther: Yeah. A lot of people, they’ll end up getting like a, at-home machine, but what they don’t realize is that it doesn’t have the same pressure, like water pressure that a normal machine has a lot of the time, like the cheaper ends. And then, it’s so expensive like an Nespresso is maybe, I’m gonna butcher it. It’s a few hundred dollars, but yeah, it’s not gonna be in the thousands like an espresso machine. And yeah, those ones you have to actually tamp the espresso and that. But yeah, it’s, it’s good and convenient and it gives me all the caffeine I need for the day.

Kerri: Awesome.

Esther: But what about you, Kerri? What’s giving you life?

Kerri: I’m continuing our drinks theme. I thought I would just share another, another great tea that I’ve been enjoying honestly, more of like a fall tea. So maybe this will be good for you, Esther. I don’t know if it’s coming up or if, if you, if you may have it in Australia, I’m not sure, but it’s called Sweet and Spicy.

You may have seen it before, but it kind of has like an orangey label and you can get it both caffeinated or decaffeinated. I like either, but I just really like the flavor. It’s a great tea that you can have just by itself. You don’t need milk, you don’t need honey, and it’s just a great balance of sweet and spicy.

So highly recommend that and make sure you check when you get it if you’re wanting to get decaf, make sure it’s not caffeinated. Cuz that’s what happened to me. I accidentally got caffeinated ones, which I’m still drinking, but I had kind of wanted it cause I like to drink decaf in the afternoons.

And so it is a like a tea bag, so it’s not like a tea blend or anything. And yeah, they’re available pretty much at all stores, so it’s a good one.

Esther: Is it black tea based or is it more of like a root?

Kerri: It’s black tea base. Yeah. I mean, the decaf obviously is not technically real black tea because that’s not a decaf. But in general, yeah, black tea base, good stuff.

Esther: Cool. I’ll see if they have it in Australia.

Kerri: I will not try an Nespresso. Haha. We’ll grab your coffee or your tea, and we’re gonna chat about photos.


Kerri: All right, Esther, I’m gonna drill into your expertise, which is photography. But first I’d love just a quick background for our listeners who don’t know, just kind of your history. We talked about this in the creative journeys episode. Just like kind of a quick background on why you love taking photos and what you like taking photos of and that, that sort of thing. Love to hear it.

Esther: Yeah. so I’ll start by just saying I’ve been interested in photography for many, many years. I really got into it when I had my first camera in high school. So I’ve been shooting for over 10 years. If you wanna go back to like, when I had disposable cameras at camp, then you can, you know, extend it even farther. But everyone had those, so.

But I love photography. One because I am an observer. If you know the Enneagram, I’m a type five, which is the observer, but I, I really do feel like I am always looking at my surroundings and so I ended up going to art school. Against my high school professor’s advice. He was like. Cuz I was in all the calculus and physics classes. And he’s like, why don’t you become an architect and build buildings that people will take pictures of and not devote yourself to taking pictures. 

But I felt like that was a really limiting view of photography. And I wanted to pursue that, but I just started by taking photos of things around me, so observing plants or animals or my family. And that’s really grown into what I do currently for, like, my studio practice is more landscapes. 

I love photography because everyone has a different perspective and view, and when you have the tool of a camera, you’re able to really show people what’s important to you. So if you’re taking a picture of something, you’re adding value to. You’re adding value to your subject. And yeah, everyone has the power to do that. And especially in today’s world where images are everywhere. I mean, social media’s really blown up the industry of photography. And having camera phones and all of that, the people are snapshotting every day, all day, to a point where it’s arguably. Not helpful to be present, but there’s just something innate about us as humans that want to remember something and so we wanna capture it. So there’s that ability of photography as well that it captures a, a moment in time that you can go back and reflect on. But there’s just so many reasons why I love photography.

Kerri: Thanks for sharing that. I wanna circle back on something you mentioned about, adding photography, adding value. And as our listeners and different creatives think about using our smartphones

Esther: Mm-hmm.

Kerri: To take photos maybe on behalf of our mission or our brand, so more in the professional context how can we do that in a way that’s going to create value for our brands?

Esther: Hmm. That’s a good question. I think there’s a few different ways you can approach that. A lot of brands, what they tend to do is just not capture anything and that really undervalues what you’re doing and what the work that you’re doing. In those spaces. And so I think by wanting to capture it on your phone. The cool thing about a phone is that it’s, it’s disarming.

If someone comes in with like a full zoom lens and a camera, You’re gonna start having people performing for the camera. Right? And so we talk about this a lot in the photography industry, is how to create natural moments. What people will do, like professionals will do, is really try to engage with their subject off camera so that when the camera is then introduced, they’re able to get something more natural. 

But I think. When you just are doing some sort of low-key event or outreach or, you know, doing things in the community, I think a simple capturing video on your phone. Maybe there’s someone’s story that’s really standing out to you and the team, like taking a moment and asking them, “Hey, do you mind if we share this story? Can I grab your photo?” I think it adds value to them because they, they feel seen, they feel heard. But if you’re getting into sharing people’s stories, there is that line of exploiting that we could talk about later.

But, I think just, yeah, being present is adding value to people, but then also being able to share it, it with your community that’s not able to be there. And I mean, I’m thinking more specifically of nonprofits. You have a lot of stakeholders who are investing resources into your organization. And so by having even just like those snapshots from your phone really start to put stories together of the impact that they’re making rather than just hearsay and second or third party information. It’s just been passed down, but it becomes more solidified. 

So there’s a real person, they can see that person, or they can hear their voice through the video. yeah, it, it just, it creates story, it creates context and like I said, when. You’re choosing to photograph something, you’re placing value on it. The difference between just the organizer capturing is adding value, but hiring a third party person to come and take photos out of context can feel a bit overwhelming to patrons who maybe don’t feel comfortable getting their photo taken. Or maybe they have some protection of their identity. 

You know, there’s, there’s a lot of nuance within, that you have to kind of walk through. But if you are part of the organization, you will already understand all those lines. And, yeah, I think bringing in the context of taking photos, it just helps communicate with those that can’t be there, what the impact is. Does that answer your question?

Kerri: Yeah, that was really helpful. I love that you touched on the authenticity of the way you’re showing up and the way you’re approaching taking photos. Because it does add value, because it does give, hopefully give power, in a way that as organizations, we can make sure that we have clear language and maybe even policy is kind of a strong word, but kind of a framework around who, who do we send where and when?

What is like the visual photo that we’re going for? What does consent look like at different events, an event versus an outreach program versus a community event. Those are all different spaces and I think it’s really important to know that as staff members, not everyone may have a creative background that we’re asking to, “Hey, grab some photos.”

Esther: Yeah.

Kerri: But that we have, are creating kind of a shared purpose of why we’re doing that and how we wanna approach that. So no one certainly, like you were mentioning, feels either pressured or has, has have their photos taken in a context where they’re not comfortable and it’s kind of something that we have to always take, we always have to take it into consideration.

And I also understand that a lot of organizations may not even think about this sort of thing. They just kind of are trying to take as many photos as they can get, which is also great. Like both strategies are important. Like it’s great to get as many images as possible and to also have kind of a thoughtful, intentional, authentic approach about it too.

So I really like that you, you touched on that. And I’m curious, you kind of mentioned the professional photographer. I think we all know what that feels like when the really fancy camera enters the room or you’re, you’re being photographed. It just kind of feels like it’s a different vibe. 

Esther: Mm-hmm.

Kerri: What, what do you think is like, the line between those candid, candid versus stage shots and you know, the snapshots versus professional in a general sense.

I know it’s gonna vary depending on your mission and your organization, but how, how do you kind of see that playing out from your background?

Esther: Yeah, I think there’s context for all of it. There’s a place for all of it. I think of the example of a formal dinner versus a casual dinner. There’s different expectations in place and kind of expect you to dress a certain way or act a certain way in either one of those contexts. 

So things like your website, think about, okay, do I want this to feel professional? Most people do. Then I need something that’s a cleaner, more directive photos. So that would be a context where you hire someone with brand experience that can really visualize what those values are. 

And then there’s the context of, like you’re saying earlier, events like things that you’re capturing in the moment, for maybe social media newsletter. those don’t really need to be as refined because you are, if it’s too refined, it will feel inauthentic and it won’t feel like, oh, It will feel like everything is staged, or you’re kind of saying things without doing them. 

Like if you’re using old photography that you hired someone to take and you’re talking about an event that just happened, the context doesn’t really line up. So it’s much more impactful for the image to line up than it to look clean and put together. in the context of a newsletter, say you have a word from your ceo, you want a beautiful well represented photo of them. And then farther down you’re talking about kids’ classroom you know, we did these certain crafts or activities, and you wanna show that. And maybe the kids need to have their identity protected. 

And so you could either go the route where you’re just going to Unsplash and you’re like, I’m gonna look up a photo of a kid drawing without their face or maybe with their face, you know, some stock image. Or you could go the route where you took a photo on your phone of their art hung up, or maybe a closeup of them drawing. I think it feels a lot more attached because they can tell, oh, they took this at the event versus they went to a stock image site and wanted the cleanest photo to feel cohesive. You know, there’s context. And so I think when you’re looking at professional versus snapshot you really wanna look at context. 

And you don’t need a lot of money for good photography. You don’t need to hire a photographer for your company that can take photos at every event. So maybe training your staff on like basics in photography so that they feel equipped to take a photo on their phone and it’s, it’s gonna feel less muddy. I feel like a lot of photos. If you don’t have a lot of experience with photography, can end up feeling cluttered and you don’t really know the subject. But I will say that you don’t need to invest in photography for year round stuff. But you can, you can definitely utilize that for the big events and the big campaigns.

Kerri: I love that. Touching on that strategy. So having an intentional approach with where do we wanna invest our dollars? And I love that you talked about training. Could you give us just briefly, like what makes kind of a good photo and how can people take better photos? Cuz we take photos all day long now.

but there are ways to kind of elevate it and things to think about. What are some tips that you like to tell people that can just help elevate it a bit from your smartphone.

Esther: Yeah, I think number one, you want a clear subject. So, that really comes into play of, is it in focus? Is it the center? That’s an easy way. I mean, you can talk about rule of thirds if you understand rule of thirds, go for it. But if not, just center your subject so that it’s the most important. 

And then good lighting. So, if you’re outside, it’s really easy to get good photos cuz the sun and even when it’s overcast, it’s just really well lit. When it gets to being a dark space, a dark room, you wanna make sure that all the lights are on. maybe even opening up some windows to let more light in, so the most light as possible can help you. And then our phones are pretty good in low light, but you just have to make sure that it’s not slow shutter. So there’s a higher chance of you to take a really blurry photo. So just be aware of that. 

So good lighting, a clear subject. And then also I think good context as well. So you are taking a photo with maybe a person, if you put them on a white backdrop, and you’re trying to portray maybe their story throughout your service.

Removing them from context will remove part of their story. So what you could do is it doesn’t have to be exactly the right context. So if it’s someone that is coming to, I’ll just say like a food pantry, you would want to get their background to be some sort of part of your organization.

So maybe it’s the food hall or something so that it can create more of a story. If it’s more of something that’s a bit more sensitive, maybe it’s taking it in their space. So it doesn’t even have to be revealing much of their space. It could just be their couch or in their dining room. But creating that context I think really sets that image apart from just putting them on a blank wall. Yeah, I would say those are my top three suggestions for a good photo. Is that helpful?

Kerri: Always helpful. Yeah, I think, like I said, I think we can sometimes feel like we know how to take photos, but how to take a good photo or maybe a better photo now that we all have a smartphone is always great to do. And like I mentioned earlier, just having that framework for your organization.

What’s the vibe of photos we’re going for? Can we try to get photos as out-outdoors as much as possible, or in our space as much as possible, or both? Whatever, whatever it is for your organization. Outlining what that is and,

Esther: Mm-hmm.

Kerri: Giving everyone the power to be kind of, we’ll say a brand, a brand ambassador to collect photos. So you as a creative, have just a bank of photos to choose from when telling stories. 

So I guess that would probably be my last thing would be just making sure you try to get captions so you have that context for the story like you were talking about Esther, cuz it always provides more color and helps give folks identity when and where possible to have their name and the, the date obviously will be timestamped on the photo, but location, what was happening. 

So when you do go back and look at that photo bank that your organization may have, you have some context for. What, what was happening and, and what was going on and what the, what the story is. So that’s always helpful too.

Esther: Yeah.

Kerri: Any last thoughts on photos for folks at purpose-driven organizations?

Esther: Yeah. Just Kerri said, create a bank. Just start creating and gathering stories, because you’ll never know when you want to share them when you’ll need to share them. If you have a monthly newsletter or you want to start a monthly newsletter, these are great spaces to share. With the right consent, of course. I will say like if your subject is a person, you have to have full consent from them. And if it’s a child, you have to have consent from their parents. That’s important, especially with protected identity. 

Just being aware of that and start collecting stories because honestly they’re everywhere. They’re probably with people that you have worked with for years and there’s probably stories that are popping into your mind that you already are thinking of wanting to share. And so just creating that natural environment, making it feel safe, making it feel like you are elevating them, elevating their story when you’re working with people is really important. 

Because once you make that clear and actually are doing that authentically it just creates such a healthy space where they feel yeah, comfortable sharing maybe more of their story that you didn’t know. And that can impact other people as well. 


Esther: Alright, let’s move on to our next segment are bookmarks. So Kerri, how about you start with what you’ve been checking out?

Kerri: You may have seen this new story or not, but I wanted to just kind of bubble to the surface the story around, a woman’s organization called Chief. And it’s a really interesting organization and since it’s Women’s History Month, I thought I would just mention, link to this article. So you can go ahead and dive in and do a little bit of your own research as well into it.

But I think it really speaks to the, what we talk about at Flourish with inclusive brands, kind of the optics to authenticity spectrum. And what’s really been coming out with this women’s executive organization is they’ve had a lot of talk about being inclusive, there have been members coming out on LinkedIn and different social media platform, sorry ex-members, I should say. 

Women who have since left the organization, just to kind of tell their story and how there are structural, structural issues with the organization. This organization has a lot of power. It’s valued, I think at over a billion dollars and it costs like nine, nine k a year to join. So it’s just, you think about this structure, this brand that they’ve created.

I’d certainly heard of Chief before but never on my radar cuz I can’t afford a $9,000 year subscription. I’m not exactly sure what you get for that $9,000, but apparently a lot of the women are saying not very much so yeah.

And I have no personal experience. I’ve just, from what I’ve been reading online, I just think during Women’s History Month, thinking about intersectionality, thinking about perform performativeness, and it’ll be really interesting to see how this organization shifts or doesn’t shift.

Kind of interesting to see how they’re attempting to shift, even though. Yeah, there’s just, there’s a lot of layers there. So if you haven’t heard of this story, just go check it out. I think it will be interesting to see where this goes. It also kind of reminds me of the, there was a women’s networking space called The Wing.

I don’t know if it’s still around anymore, but it was really big before the pandemic, and it kind of had a similar narrative where it kind of became like very, like centric on white women, and kind of women of color. And it was a very exclusive place to belong. I mean, it’s a club. It’s basically like, it’s a club.

So, I think part of it’s maybe inherent in like what they’re doing, but then when you’re trying to brand it and market it as inclusive, it’s just like, yeah. It’s just, it’s just interesting. So, yeah.

Esther: Yeah. That’s an example of projecting something that there is no place in your organization. There’s no evidence of that value. But Yeah.

Kerri: Exactly. How about you, Esther?

Esther: So my bookmark this week is a book by Maya Angelou called Letters to My Daughter. I listened to this the other week and just felt like It was a beautiful memoiresque. It’s kind of got essays, it’s got poetry, it’s got memoir but it’s just her letter to her daughters of all race and all over the spectrum. Daughters she’s never had. So you read pretty early on she just had one son and she talks about the journey of an unexpected pregnancy and but yeah, I, I think it was a really thoughtful book and it’s read by the author, so highly recommend listening to it.

Her voice is just Deep and I don’t know, raspy, I love it. I think she read it maybe in the eighties or nineties. But yeah, it, it talks about all things from what she’s learned in life, both faith and just things and just full of wisdom. but yeah, its highly valued by other literary authors and people in literature, so. 

Kerri: What a gift to have her recorded reading that because she’s just, anytime she speaks, it’s just immediate.

Esther: She’s a legend. Yeah.

Kerri: She is a legend for a reason. So I have, I will add that to my list every ti I feel every week. I say adding to my list.

Esther: Yes, and I didn’t know much about her upbringing, but she kind of talks about, you know, growing up in segregated Arkansas and in a, a really religious family and how that all has affected her and her outlook on life. So really cool really cool memoir-esque book.

Kerri: So good. 


Kerri: Thank you for joining us today. Be sure to check out flourish creative.co/podcast to hear our show notes.

Esther: Yeah, we’d love to hear from you. You can send us a note to hello@flourishcreative.co or tag us on Instagram we’re @FlourishCreativeCo. And feel free to leave a review wherever you’re listening. This helps new friends discover our podcast community.

Kerri: Until next time, live well and flourish.



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