3 misconceptions about designing a personal brand

3 misconceptions about designing a personal brand


There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about how we all must design our personal brands. When the term, “personal branding” first started to be used more often a dozen or so years ago, I admit I was unimpressed. Personal branding sounded like it must hurt!

personal branding isn't cattle branding and it doesn't hurt

Misconception #1: Personal branding is something outside of you thus, inauthentic

In my sometimes too literal brain, I imagined cattle being lorded over, herded into bovine torture devices, and being mercilessly branded by cowboys. The cowboys were oblivious to the pain they caused the poor passive animals. “Personal branding” evoked a powerlessness and unwillingness on behalf of whatever it was that was being “branded.”

Everything about the concept felt overly complicated and flew in the face of my ideas about “just being yourself.” 

People being reduced to logos, colors and fonts, and cookie cutter headshots appropriate for their industry, made no sense.  I quickly dismissed something as lofty sounding as “designing a personal brand” as a bit too egocentric for my liking.

Turns out I missed the entire point.

And the truth is, as I would later discover, is the opposite!

What personal branding really is

My friend, Tonya Leigh of The School of Self Image described personal branding this way on her podcast:

“A brand is the way an individual is perceived by those who experience her. In business your brand is your promise to your customer. In personal branding, I believe your brand is the promise to yourself.”

I kind of love that.

lana schlafer book author and life coach

Lana Schlafer, author, Manifest that Miracle

In fact,  “personal branding” has been around a lot longer than the term, the Kardashians, or  even I have been. (Think about people like Cleopatra, Napoleon, and Nelson Mandela.)

Recent client, Lana Schlafer, author and former life coach, described her recent personal branding photography session this way: ” I totally felt like I stepped into a new future version of myself.”

Which leads me to my second misconception about personal branding:

Misconception #2: You need to be famous to have a personal brand. It’s not like I’m Oprah or Meghan Markle!

Maybe it’s my age showing, but who was I to need such a thing?

Yet it turns out designing a personal brand is by no means just for the famous.  Your personal brand affects how you are perceived by everyone around you, from your children to your co-workers to your clients.

A well-designed personal brand can help ensure you are showing up in your life how you want to show up. It can even help you make decisions: Want to know whether to buy that pair of shoes, where to go on vacation, or… aha… which personal brand photographer to hire? Decide based on your personal brand.

By being deliberate about designing your own personal brand, Tonya explains, you get decide how you see yourself.

And since how you see yourself is creating your entire life, why not define yourself on purpose?

Misconception #3 Personal Branding is optional

Instead of always trying to  “fix” yourself, instead shift that energy into creating the next version of yourself, Tonya says. Create your brand or others are going to create it for you.”

In other words, if you. don’t take control of your personal brand, people will fill in the blanks because that is what our human minds do.

Where a personal branding photography session fits in

The photography sessions I create are transformational and creative on many levels. I work closely with clients ahead of time to design a shoot that will best showcase them. Many things go into the recipe, such as wardrobe and location choices, as well as overall look and of the final photographs. In the end, the photographs will reflect them as the people they are becoming, both in life and in their businesses.

richmond, va influencer personal branding shoot

Meghan Eggleston, health, wellness and life coach

Now I’m curious, what steps are you taking this week to design your personal brand? (And as a result, the life you want for yourself ?)

Need any help figuring this out? I’d love to help you. My transformational personal branding photography sessions include an initial brand assessment and the possibility of additional coaching after your receive your photographs to ensure you optimize the possibilities for how and where they can be used. Everything is customized to meet you current needs, wherever you are in your journey.

I know as a solo-preneur or small business owner you’re used to having to mind many details. My sessions allow you to let go of them with confidence. By the time your photography session rolls around, we will be so prepared that you are free to simply show up. The time will have arrived for you to fully step into the open and be pampered and cared for.  The future version of yourself is now! 

PS – I work out of my gorgeous studio in Scotts Addition in Richmond, VA –  but also travel to meet clients across the country (and coming in 2022 to dream destinations!)

Tonya Leigh is a font of wisdom and inspiration on these topics. Her podcast, The School of Self Image, is one of my favorites!

You can listen to her podcast on personal branding here.

Ready to discuss your own personal branding shoot?

Lifestyle Personal Branding Photography and the Pivot

Lifestyle Personal Branding Photography and the Pivot

In this video about I talk about the addition of lifestyle personal branding photography to my offerings. It’s my first time talking to the camera for any length of time and at first anyway, I was pretty darned proud! I took the plunge and put it up yesterday on Instagram and Youtube.

Then, as is normal for pretty much all of us, I started to question my otherwise sane first appraisal. One of my most constant inner critiques, got all annoying, making me question myself. Do I look okay? Do I sound okay?

Devolving quickly into, “For heavens’ sake AM I okay?”

The short answer is, of course I’m okay! (And yes, it’s true: I’m better than “okay.”) Another day, another day of going with the flow of my better instincts and not letting pesky inner critique hold me back from doing what I want to do.

Yet still the writer/editor and 50 something in me, couldn’t resist making the transcription a bit more reader friendly and on point. Excuse a few very long sentences. (Apparently, video loans itself to run on sentences). 😉

So here you go: 

As you may have heard, I’m making a pivot towards adding lifestyle personal branding photography to my client offerings. It’s not really a full pivot; it’s more of an addition. I’ll still be creating portrait sessions with my clients,. But by adding these more lifestyle-type photography sessions, outside of the studio, I’ll be better able to offer exactly they need.

Whether it be headshots, business or creative portraits, created in studio, or more lifestyle-oriented photographs, I’ll work with my clients to show them in their element, their various facets, and doing what they do.

As has always been a part of what I do for clients, the “what do I wear” part of the experience is important – particularly after so many entrepreneurs have gotten used to… ahem… dressing down while working at home. Pajamas, anyone? A personal branding photography session, now that we seem to be on the upswing from the pandemic, means it’s time to start dressing up again, and do it up a little — to get out in the world and dress like the person we are on the inside — or more importantly when it comes to personal branding — the person we aspire to be.

I’m looking forward to being able to really serve people with their personal branding photography needs, I work with mostly women, but I love photographing men too. Men’s photos often have different branding needs that as for all of my personal branding clients continue to evolve.

To sum it all up, I’m looking forward to being able to off my clients the whole package of whatever it is that they have dreamed of, wanted, and/or needed that to fully express their personal branding in their lives and their businesses.

Keep an eye out for lots of new content that will probably look a little different than what you have seen from me so far on my website and social media accounts.

I’m looking forward to getting back to my studio in Richmond and sharing the photographs from my sessions in New York. I was so lucky to be able to photograph these beautiful clients!

Missing Call to Action! My bad!

In this video, I went on way too long and ended up cutting it in half.  Never would have guessed I had so much to say, but I guess since I’ve been thinking about it for the whole pandemic, I had a lot to say!

I may or may not share the second half later. In any case, you may note there is no “call to action”.  I’ll put one here:

I’m curious to hear from you if you’ve taken the plunge into doing video to reach out to your clients? I’d love to hear your tips and experiences!

But what do I wear!?!

But what do I wear!?!

What to wear for your photoshoot and the portrait photography styling consultation

The styling consultation can play an important  role in the success of a Signature Session and the overall client experience.

When it comes to the stage of planning what to wear for your session, this is when things start to get fun whether…

… you have a closet full of designer duds or your drawers flow over with Target.

 … or are working on becoming more minimalist in both life and wardrobe, yet you still secretly want to raid a closet full of impractical only-to-be-worn-once, fancy items. 

… perhaps one more than one occasion, you’ve been called a “total clothes horse”.

… if your idea of dressing up is changing from sweats into a pair of jeans.

patty hmua richmond va


This is a time for us to start getting to know each other. I’ll offer you a cup of tea. We’ll talk wardrobe and a little hair and make-up. I’ll ask you questions. You’ll ask me questions.

With 3 – 5 wardrobe changes, I’ll encourage you to consider your different facets. To consider who you are today, who you aspire to be, and who you dream of being, perhaps?  A mix of casual, chic, and epic, maybe? How do you want to be remembered by your loved ones?

professional woman personal branding



How to get started in planning your photography session wardrobe

I encourage you to bring in some images you are inspired by. Follow me on Pinterest and we can even start a private shared board to start sharing ideas if you’d like. 

No worries if you don’t have time for all that though! How I work with each client will take on its own shape.

portrait photography richmond va



During our time you’ll be able to check out my studio wardrobe and we’ll both see what captures your fancy. You may try on a couple of things, so we can figure out what best captures your unique style. 


You will leave your consultation with some easy styling tips up your sleeve as well as both a Style and Beauty Guide with more inspiring images, timelines, and advice. I’ll follow up our meeting with an email with some more links and ideas for shopping or renting something for your shoot.

margo during session in scotts addition studio

And for those moments when you come face to face with your closet and everything becomes a big blur, I’m only a phone call or text away!

When you are ready to talk about your own styling consultation give me a call! I love working with clients to plan their wardrobes for their sessions! It’s a wonderful chance to get to know each other, get excited, and eased into the process.

Planning is the key to a fun and relaxing shoot!

Why we resist being photographed. Why we shouldn’t.

Why we resist being photographed. Why we shouldn’t.

Do any of these sound familiar?

“I’m not photogenic”
“I need to lose weight”
“Of course I want photographs of my children, but why would I want them of me?”
“I’m too old”

If you’ve got an excuse, believe me, I’ve heard it. And whenever I hear the words come out of a new client’s mouth, it actually makes me kind of sad.

exist in photos at all stages of your life

Why sad? Because as women we are our noisiest critic. We say things in our heads that we wouldn’t say to our worst enemy. We don’t treat ourselves well. We put our needs behind those of everyone else in our lives, sometimes to a fault.

But the truth is:

You are beautiful now. You deserve to have incredible portraits of yourself. You deserve to exist in photos. You deserve my personal branding and portrait experience!

Stepping up and existing in photographs shows your loved ones what it looks like to love yourself. It is a priceless gift. Plus they will cherish the portraits of you for years to come.

elegant mother daughter photo shoot in front of fireplace.

Here’s what I say to clients when I hear any of the above reasons they resist booking a shoot:

“I’m not photogenic” ~ I don’t believe in the concept of “being photogenic.” It is my job to connect with you and guide you during your photo shoot. Doing so will make you feel more beautiful, confident, and relaxed. When you feel this way, you inner light shines, allowing me to capture those moments when your inner and outer beauty converge. Then when all is said and done, your portraits may even change the way you see yourself.

“I need to lose weight” ~ The feeling of needing to reach the ‘perfect weight’ will hinder you only as long as you allow it. The truth is posing and lighting are everything. Do I believe that the camera can add 10 pounds? Yes, but I also know that the camera can take off 10 pounds (and yes, that’s before any Photoshop.) I will take photographs that will help you see yourself at your best and the way your loved ones see you.

mother daughter photoshoot on a favorite sofa.

“Of course I want photographs of my children, but why would I want them of me?”~ Having a portrait of your mother or grandmother, is something that every child will sooner or later understand the value of. Don’t make it difficult for them to find them!

But I totally understand wanting photographs of the family too. This is why I always encourage clients to give themselves the experience of the Signature Session. Then towards the end of the shoot, we’ll bring in the kids, dad, and maybe even a whole extended family for a few amazing portraits. I’ll capture the kind of shots worthy of being hung on the wall and treasured for generations.

“I’m too old” ~ Just because women over thirty aren’t well represented in the media, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be well represented in their own lives. No matter what your age, having beautiful portraits taken is a way to love, accept and honor the amazing person you are today.

Remember: “You are already beautiful. You are already enough. You are a work of art.”

Now give me a call and let’s get you in front of the camera. I promise you will not regret it!

You may also enjoy reading Wisdom from a few of my favorite women who didn’t put off being photographed

Quotes by women who didn’t put off being photographed

Quotes by women who didn’t put off being photographed

It’s true – women in the public eye have to be photographed every now and then.  Aren’t we glad they were?

Enjoy these quotes from and images of just a few of my own favorite female inspirations. I hope they will give a push to even the most reluctant among us to get out there and be photographed! (Learn more about my portrait and personal branding photography sessions.)

Some of these women were photographed often, while with others, I sense they felt it was more of a necessary evil (hello writers, Mary Oliver and Madeleine L’Engle.) 

Marianne Williamson, spiritual teacher, author and lecturer (Born: July 8, 1952)

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? 

This powerful quote has inspired me on many occasions. I’m extremely grateful to Marianne Williamson for saying it! When I meet people whom I want to photograph who are reluctant for whatever reason, this is the quote I most want to share with them.

We are all worthy of being gorgeous, talented, and fabulous! (And I know you already are.)

Audrey Hepburn (May 4, 1929 – January 20, 1993

The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.

Audrey Hepburn was not just another fashion icon and pretty actress, but a beautiful soul. She made few movies in the last decades of her life, and died at age 63.  She dedicated much of her time to her work for UNICEF particularly in Africa. I wish she was around to see how obsessed so many women are with her these days!


Mary Oliver, poet (Born: September 10, 1935)

I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

I once heard someone say, “Everyone needs a little Mary Oliver on their bedside table.” And I couldn’t agree more. This also is probably my favorite photograph of the bunch. I wasn’t familiar with what Oliver looked like and was glad to find this stunning portrait, taken by Mariana Cook, the last protégée of Ansel Adams.

Madeleine L’Engle (November 29, 1918 – September 6, 2007)

The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.

To me this is the quintessential quote about embracing getting older. It takes societal defaults on aging – all black balloons and “Ugh, I’m turning thirty-nine again” or  “I was afraid I’d burn the house down with all those birthday candles,” and perfectly turns it on its head.

Carol Burnett  (Born: April 26, 1933) 

Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.

Carol Burnett is the funny lady who inspired all who followed. She was funny before women were funny. She was a sharp businesswoman before women were businesswomen. Her variety show which aired from 1967 – 1978, and again for several episodes in 1991, would have never happened if she hadn’t had the guts to take control of her own life.

Maya Angelou ( April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

Angelou lived life to the fullest. Her life was marked by always trying something new, being courageous, and speaking up. Most of her works as a poet and writer are at least semi-autobiographical, but if you want a quick rundown on some lessons we can learn from her, read this. And isn’t this photo of her fabulous?

Oprah Winfrey (Born: January 29, 1954)

The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.

I was so excited to see that Oprah’s profile photo on Twitter was this stunning photograph below. It’s hard to say anything about Oprah without sounding trite, so I’ll just leave it at her quote and image and by saying, I love love love her glasses.


Eleanor Roosevelt (October 11, 1884 – November 7, 1962)

With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.

Roosevelt was longest serving First Lady in history, having held the post from 1933 to 1945.  Today she is best remembered as having filled in for her husband, President Franklin Roosevelt, on many occasions after he suffered from paralysis. At the time she was best known at her outspokenness, particularly on racial issues. She wrote a weekly newspaper column, hosted a radio show, and held regular press conferences.

Eleanor Roosevelt cph.3b16000

Margot Fonteyn  (May 18, 1919 – February 21, 1991)

Jumping for joy’ is a very basic human reaction, and a child skipping down the street is simply an untrained dancer.

Margot Fonteyn was an English ballerina who spent her entire career with the Royal Ballet. As a person named Margo and a dancer for many years, I have always been in awe of her. She wrote an autobiography that reveals not just her exciting life, but her imagination and remarkable unpretentiousness.


Meryl Streep (Born: June 22, 1949)

Don’t waste so much time thinking about how much you weigh. There is no more mind-numbing, boring, idiotic, self-destructive diversion from the fun of living.

As I was finishing up this post I remembered it was Oscar weekend, so I wanted to include something from Meryl Streep. She’s a straight talker, yet always polished and like a good mother, always has just the right thing to say. Also, The Post is her 21st Oscar nomination! She continues to break her own record!

Based on the fact that almost everyone says they want to wait until they lose weight to have their photograph taken, this quote from Streep was a no-brainer!

Now! Who are the women in your life who you think should be photographed?

Hopefully these women have inspired you to understand that that woman may just be you!