If you lurk or socialise in the entrepreneurial world, you’ll probably have noticed an increasing number of posts promoting or talking about the new “virtual shoots” which are taking place during lockdown.

A sneaky behind the scenes snap from an actual in-person shoot from earlier this year – I miss my camera and my clients so much!

Some are offering them as a fun way to spend some of your enforced time at home, others are promising 30 days of social media images for a small fee.

Obviously social media photos are, among other things, what brand photographers specialise, and as with all photography, our usual fee reflects our skills, talents, kit and experience – very little of which is actually shown in the end product of a virtual shoot.

I’ve had a few requests for them and as I always advise my mentoring clients to weigh up marketing tactics and then do only what works for them, I thought I’d take my own advice – and also explain why!

These “shoots” are not actual photography shoots at all – brand or otherwise – they are a live Zoom or Facetime call between a phone (client) and a computer (photographer), and the resulting images are a series of stills or screenshots from the call after direction from the photographer and the client positioning the phone and posing.

As a fun, creative project, it’s a lovely idea – it’s another way of creating with pixels and we are at heart image creators.

But as an alternative to professional brand photography, even temporarily? Not a chance.

A question of quality

I tried it with a close friend and previous client – she has another shoot booked in, so we thought this was worth a try while lockdown prevents travel. We both agreed that the quality, even after editing, was not appropriate for either of our businesses. You can see the difference between the “virtual shoot” and a similar shot from one of her actual brand shoots, here.

And here’s the thing – the point of a brand shoot is to create stunning, high quality, professional and consistent photographs which reflect you, your values, your brand personality and the message you want to share with the world.

You might get away with using these images and collages on social media, but they are not the quality you would usually get from whichever brand photographer you booked – we are capable of so much more in normal circumstances.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using your phone to take photos for your business, and I actually have some courses planned to help with this – I do understand that pro photography is an investment that not everyone has the money for immediately.

But if you are at a point where you’re ready to invest in your business, and your chosen investment is in high quality marketing images that will last you years, a series of screenshots in your home is not what I am comfortable providing as a pro.

Each shoot I create involves in-depth planning, a carefully thought out shot list to start from, and crucially, most professionals will have lighting gear to help create the shots you booked us for. Some do shoot with natural light only, but most of us will have at least a flash or two in our bag in case of dodgy lighting situations.

Light, bright and bold

My own shooting style is bold and bright, and most of my clients book me for the light-filled but vibrant feel of my images. Some of those images were shot in a windowless room – and it takes skill and equipment to fake daylight that just isn’t going to happen on the other end of a video chat.

I’m not willing to compromise on the quality of the photographs I produce for my clients. I promise gorgeous photographs which can be used in all their marketing, and that’s exactly what I produce – stunning, on-brand images which can be used anywhere from print to social media.

If that means I can’t shoot while lockdown is in force, then so be it – I’d rather have a waiting list for after lockdown than give my clients a less than amazing experience and end result. I feel this is even more important for my clients who are booking their first brand shoot – I don’t want their introduction to experiencing brand photography, and my work, to be a virtual shoot which doesn’t do full justice to their business or mine.

Each to their own

As I said at the start of the post, my advice is always to take the marketing tactics which work for you – so there is no judgement here on anyone who is doing virtual shoots. I know some are using them as lead magnets and booking real shoots from them – and that’s wonderful!

But for me, your experience and the quality of your final images is the most important thing – and I care too much about representing your business in the way it deserves to compromise that with virtual shoots.

If you’d like to chat about a brand shoot (planning now, shooting when guidelines & insurance indicate it’s safe to do so), give me a shout!