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Personal Branding Photography | Podcast Talk with Éadaoin Curtain of Firechild Photography

Talking all things personal branding and the wider things to consider when thinking of the power of the personal brand and owning your personal connection.

Personal Branding Photography

Talking everything personal branding and owning the personal brand in business with Personal Branding Photographer Éadaoin Curtain

On launching something new – The Personal Connection Podcast – there was a natural first guest for me to interview, the amazing Éadaoin Curtain of Firechild Photography.

Éadaoin is an absolutely brilliant photographer, based in Dublin, Ireland, and she’s the lady who I entrusted my own personal branding photography to!
But I wanted to start The Personal Connection with Éadaoin for another reason – I knew we’d really get to dive deep into what The Personal Connection is all about, and why you should be owning your personal brand in your marketing.

Éadaoin Curtain – Personal Branding Photographer

What is it that Firechild Photography does?

Éadaoin: I suppose to distill it down, what I try to do for my clients is to give them the confidence to be visible.
To show up as themselves. Most of my clients are creatives, consultants or coaches, so if they have employees or not, they’re still like the absolute core of their business. Their business doesn’t operate without them, and it’s their philosophy and their ethos that the business is built on. It’s about them showing up on making those relationships stronger.

You and I both know the power of networking. And when you’re face to face with somebody and you get to tell them a story about the work that you do, or you get to hear their stories, you get to make that eye contact. And that really,  human to human contact. And really what I try to do is give my clients  a version of that that they can show online, so it’s, it’s congruent. It’s the person who you’re meeting at the networking event is the person that you’re meeting on social media or on the website. It’s just, polished high quality images that they can, they can feel and make contact with their clients. 

Stuart: That’s what it’s about. I mean, that’s why I came up with the idea for this podcast. So the personal connection, because yes, we see the visual connection, but I think we both understand the power of it being more than that and a hell of a lot more than that. It is about that whole brand, that honesty, that integrity is a big word that I use with my clients and transparency as well.
It is definitely so powerful. And these days people almost don’t trust what they see online, I think more so than ever because there’s just so much out there and we’re exposed to so much, in the media. So you need to actually make a proper connection with people. And that’s where the idea of personal branding comes in. I think a key distinction, let’s throw around another way.

Personal branding, is it just like an expensive headshot session? 

It can be if you, if you go about it in a certain way. For me, I will have people get in contact with me and I will turn them away. I’ll say, you don’t need photographs yet. That’s not where you’re at in your business. IF someone’s coming to me, I want them to have, a good few clients, the clients that really love working with, so that they know who they’re talking to. So the process that I go through with my clients, like what we did together before your shoot, it’s a very in depth interview. 

It could be a questionnaire, but then the potential to go, ‘oh, I don’t really know’, it’s just too easy. So when I can interview somebody, I can pull on the threads, I can reframe the question, I can get down to the core of what their values are, how they want to be seen, who they want to be seen as and who they’re really talking to.

So, all of that preparation work is done long before the shoot and maybe before we’ve actually met face to face. And that way it’s not a headshot shoot. It’s so much more than that. 

It’s about creating the space. Where I have all the information, I’m not coming with any assumptions. We know exactly what we’re doing. And it’s just creating that space for the person who’s being photographed to actually relax and be themselves. So, even like yesterday I was talking to a woman and somebody contacts me, I have three very basic questions:

Why do you need photographs? Why do you need them now? And why me? 

And it’s not a, flatter me question. I need to know, what is it about my work or about me that makes you want to work with me? Because then I can understand and it gives me a good idea of what they value as well. And sometimes it’s just like, ‘I’m just looking at your work, and they just look like real people’. And that’s the thing. It’s about being honest. 

I remember when we first spoke and we went through the whole thing as proper clients, and you really deep dived into, into me, my ethos, my values, and even brands that I associate with as well, which I thought was genius, not because you wanted to style my shoot like that, but just to understand what made me tick, but it was when we were doing the shoot, we went through that whole thing of, okay, you’re the photographer, do you want to see the photos? And I’m like, no, forget that – you’ve got to just do what you do because there’s so much of a connection within your work. And that’s what I wanted to get across to my clients.  It’s how you make people feel is the big thing. And as you say, you’re trying to make your clients look great and so that their viewers feel them. But it’s also about how you make people feel on the shoot as well, isn’t it? That whole comfort and confidence and bringing the best out of people and using the one chance that you’ve got to make one hell of an impression. 

I know and I have that ground work done on the preparation, done for a task, that I can do really well with it. But going in without any preparation, doesn’t suit me as a person. This process that I’ve developed to prepare for the shoot, it means then that the client knows that I get them. They know that there’s no doubt that I’m winging it. There’s no, [question] or that I didn’t explain this to her, or I didn’t tell her that. We’ve had those conversations, so there’s nothing left to talk about except, ‘right, is it going to be the red shoes in the picture or is it going to be the blue shirt and the black shirts?’ They’re the questions!

I used to do  Facebook live videos quite a bit, just in the whole area of branding, and when I was talking [it was] to myself as much as anybody else. like I was speaking about the stuff that I needed to be reminded of and I needed to learn as well, I suppose. But one of the things about a personal brand, if you were to [write] a very basic definition of a personal brand is, a considered representation of the self. You get to choose in the same way that we use different language when we’re talking with our friends or our parents or children or colleagues, we use different vocabulary, different tones of voice, et cetera. That’s basically the same thing when it personal brand; it’s not something that we construct, but we can choose, but it’s not about us: my personal brand is not about me. It’s about my clients. It’s about the people who want to hire me. And it’s the same then for my clients. Their personal brand is not about them. It’s about the people who need them, who wants to hire them and showing up for those people. 

you think about, it’s gotta be “you”, but it’s actually nothing to do with you,  
it’s to do with who you’re trying to speak to

It’s trying to bring all that together, so it is very much thinking about how you want the message to come across and who you want it to go to and how you want to make them feel. Then you can capture that, that ‘one of a kind energy and personality’ and all that to use your buzzwords, but if you don’t know who you’re speaking to, it’s just noise. Everything has got to be considered.  I guess that’s why you don’t work with clients who just come into you, you’ve got to discover whether they actually need you or not to make it worthwhile. 

Totally. And on that note of like, having a client avatar and stuff, I don’t believe that you can really [construct one]. If you go online and you can find any amount of courses and exercises and things to define your dream client, but you define your dream client by getting out there and doing the work and meeting the people and going, ‘oh Siobhan, if every single one of my clients was just like, Siobhan, my life would be made.’

That’s the thing. You can’t just ask, ‘where does she shop and what clothes and what kind of brands does he wear and what’s his favorite restaurant? I don’t know. I call it bullsh*t. I think it’s a lot of busy work.

Client Avatars…just BS or something key for your marketing?

You follow all these mantras, building that persona, building that avatar, and it’s just like, ‘oh man, these questions mean nothing…’ Because it’s just because someone buys a certain thing or dresses a certain way, doesn’t qualify who they are and doesn’t make them who they are. It’s that whole thing of sitting down and talking with someone and, understanding what makes them tick, and yes, doing it month after month, year after year, you get to understand who you want to be working with and why you want to be working with them. And then when you do that, that’s, that’s who you’re after. It’s not some mystical being, or some style of shoes that someones loving, or some handbag that the ladies are choosing to buy, it is why they are who they are. Then you can deep dive into that and create something really pretty special. 

Personal Branding Photography – is it just for women or for men too?

Sometimes I’ll get asked. ‘You don’t photograph men, do you?’
I’m like, you’re on my website to be fair, but you’re, you’re the token guy. And yes I do photograph men, but not as many, but then by that same token, I don’t photograph all women. It tends to be creatives, coaches, and consultants that I work with, but actually at a different level, I would say that all of my clients have an energy. They have that masculine energy that pushes the business forward, that gets the work done, that has the courage to act. But then they also have a very strong feminine energy, around  relationships and nurturing connections and caring about people.
So it’s not not like the women that I work with are masculine, or the men that I work with are feminine. It’s not that it’s, it’s that they have a business. The business is moving forward. They’re in growth. They’re doing all of those things. But they also understand that need for connection and relationships. That’s not definable by what supermarket you go to or what magazines you read.  I’ll have clients from ceramic artists to mediation consultants. They would probably never meet, but they’re both my asbolute dream clients. Deciding who you’re showing up for, and to maintain a sustainable personal brand, something that’s gonna last over the years, it still needs to be you. It can’t be, ‘well, if I talked like this or…’, It’s still has to be you!

The Power of Networking…it’s all about building relationships.

Totally, as you say,  we understand the power of networking, and if you’re in a repeat networking group, you’ve got to be yourself, because people see through it otherwise. Yes, don’t get me wrong, when I turn up for a meeting, I turn up smart, but apart from that, I’m always me, always open, always honest, because you’ve got to be, because people, as you say, see through the BS. So you’ve got to be honest, got to be truthful and make the connection for the right reasons and be authentic about it all. It’s so powerful if you can be true to it, because then people see that, don’t they, and pick up on it. 

Yeah. And the whole seven touchpoints… Very few people are going to come onto your website or onto social media and on straight away, they’re hiring you. I mean it will happen if they know who they’re looking for. It’s happened with me a few times where, you know, someone’s gone onto my website, booked a call, ‘yeah, you’re the person I’ve been looking for’, but it’s not always the case. You could be talking to somebody for a year or two years, or you could be meeting them at network events and then they get to a point where they’re ready to hire you for whatever it is that you do. 
That’s a relationship thing. Like in Ireland…you have to have the goods, but it’s all about who you know. It’s all about building relationships. If you’re going to do that well, and get a good reputation. Putting it on, it’s not going to cut it – you’re not going to go the distance.

Totally, and I think you’ve hit on a key word there for me as well: relationships. When you hear personal connection, people will see “The Personal Connection” flagging up in their podcast, and wonder what is that about, assuming relationships and everything else. But, it is part of that because that’s business as well. –   you’ve got to make that connection with people and that’s where the power of brand  photography and everything comes from as well as you know, you wider brand, your wider understanding because it is about making that connection and being  you within it. 

Personal Branding Photography – let your personality shine through!

I love seeing your photos as well, your personal branding photos that you had done, because I can look at that and I know that you, and it’s totally authentic and you know, with your bright lipstick, your wacky hair, it’s just wicked. It’s just you. But you know, that’s what you’re going to get when you get on the phone, and when you get on the shoot as well. You know, you’re going to have a good crack and that’s, that’s what it’s about. It’s being true to yourself all the way through, but understanding that you are building a relationship every time anyone looks at your social media, your printed literature, your website, whatever,  it is all about starting to build that connection with someone that then hopefully will lead them to be a client.

I’m too boring for personal branding photography….

I’ve had people ask, ‘what if your client is really boring?’ I’ve never had a boring client. I’ve had clients whose brand is about being just the girl next door, kind of really nice person, very simple, very subtle. That doesn’t make them boring. I’ve had this conversation with other photographers where you know, ‘Oh, but I don’t have a strong personality.’ You don’t need to have a strong personality. I know for a fact that there are people who will never work with me because I’m too much for them. But that’s okay because the clients will find somebody else to work with, and the people who do want to work with me, they’re working with me because of who I am and because of how our relationship is going to work together.
So it’s not about having a strong look or a strong personality or needing to  grow that. It’s about just being honest and integrity to yourself. 

I think if you could totally honest and totally transparent with people, you actually get the right clients as well – that’s the point. I find it with both sides of my business, where with the wedding side, the brides who booked me are right for me. 

I always get asked, ‘do you get bridezillers?’ And I’m like, no, that don’t book me because I’m not right for them. I deliberately put them off. It’s not an active thing that I put on the website, ‘no bridezillers, I don’t want you’, it’s because my brand speaks so openly to people. They get what I’m about, and if they’re not that, then sweet, it’s absolutely perfect. 

There’s the classic marketing saying that one of the best answers that you can get is a “no” is so true: it’s got to be right. It’s got to work for everyone. Work with the right people and enjoy what you’re doing. 

Totally, I think it is the benefit of having a strong brand. Like no matter what you do, whether it is the wedding photography or commercial, or whether it’s business coaching or, any kind of therapy, if you’re putting yourself out there in a way that people, either can be repelled or they will be attracted. You know? 
I mean, even if you think about it in terms of music, like your favorite band, you can love them to the end of the earth. There will still be people who hate them.  And that’s the beauty of it, because whatever they say to you, is a strong or stronger than what it says to the person who doesn’t like them. That’s what you want. If you look outside of like the pop world and the kind of the manufactured bands, but if you at rock, folk, indie, all of those, where people are just playing the music they were made to play. Then love them or hate them, they’re being themselves, and you have to admire that!

The Power of No!

The power of a no is just brilliant: don’t be vanilla, be something different. Bring the power of personal branding to a wider business as well, it’s trying to connect that if you’ve got the whole core ethos of a business, you can use that same power to communicate that across. And it’s not just a person – if you can be authentic and be true and honest and open with the business, then as a business you appeal to the right sort of people as well. 

Yeah, there’s an awesome book by Paul Jarvis. He’s a Canadian web developer and, thought leader. He wrote a book last year called “Company of One”, it’s all about there can be 500 employees, but it can still have that same, ethos – it’s not about growth for growth’s sake. It’s about staying true to the ethos and the philosophies of the business. I’ve had clients who havehuge teams, but it’s still based on them – they’re happy to be the face of the business.

What would be your must do’s when it comes to personal branding? 

I would say it is about getting out there – human, face to face networking is really important and not being afraid of that and not being afraid to go to the formal suits and sweaty hands hands kind of scenarios, but also to remember that not all networking is like. 

That there’s a book, a StoryBrand, by Donald Miller. There’s a really basic framework. The hero of the business who is your client meets a guide, who is you, who offers them help with their problem, and the result is success! Sotake that framework, create a very basic story, a sixty second pitch or it’s a, ‘this is what I do’ kind of thing, go out and talk to people, tell them stories about what you do and make that  human, personal connection. 

They would be two big things.

Using social media in a way that works for you, however you do that. Whether it’s through lives or stories or emails, keep talking about the thing that you do so that you’re researching and you’re finding that point of view.

Speaking at events or hosting events, whether it’s online, through social media or your website But showing up as the expert,  which means taking it to the next level and that means an investment. Up until that point, you’re investing time, obviously, in the early days when you don’t have the money. But then when it comes to investing money in your business, investing in training; if you’re nervous about speaking in public, invest in presentation skills, invest in photography, invest in video so that you can get your message across.

Once you’ve refined that message and you’ve worked with people and you know what it is that you’re doing, and then keep showing up

There’s no rocket science to this whatsoever. It is being, being open, being honest, being transparent, being yourself, and doing it for the right reasons; doing everything authentically. And if you do it for that reason, and also do it in a way that you have fun with it, then that’s best way isn’t it? 

If you can enjoy yourself with whatever you’re doing, then it will always come more naturally. But it will also connect with people more authentically as well as, so just get out there and don’t hide!
Put yourself out there. Build your brand within yourself. Whether you do it on your own or you need to work with a coach there’s people who are amazing at unlocking that personality, that connection, that potential within everyone. 
So if you need that help, go out there and get it. But once you’ve done it, don’t hide. Get out there and keep doing it. Keep pushing, keep driving and keep having a damn good time doing it as well. 

Key Takeaways from talking with The Personal Branding Photographer, Éadaoin Curtain

My message that I’ve taken from that, it just get out there and make the connection – show up, be you, and use your branding to give you confidence. Embrace it. There are so many ways that you can get out there and connect your business. But if you do it from a true and authentic place, you’ll go far.

Thank you again Éadaoin for all you shared – you’re an inspiration and I adore your work.

If you want to see Éadaoin’s work you can find her at www.firechildphotography.com or check out her latest work at www.instagram.com/firechildphotography/

For those who would rather sit back and listen, the podcast is here: