How unposed and spontaneous personal brand photos can have more impact

Think about the photos you are drawn to on your favourite websites or on Instagram. Do they have anything in common?

I’m always drawn to storytelling brand photos that feel spontaneous. The ones that seem to be taken in the moment, when the person is deep in thought or mid-conversation, perhaps gesturing as though they are trying to make a point and if they are making eye contact, it feels as though they are looking straight at me, and not just ‘saying cheese’ to a camera. They don’t typically follow traditional rules of photography and aren’t posed. The body language feels more real than ‘perfect’, the expression is genuine and matches the moment.

These photos are more about the moment than about the photo itself.

They have nothing to do with how the person looks, but have everything to do with how they make me feel.

These are the photos that make me stop scrolling, get curious, and want to connect. (Which is gold for your business because it means: more visibility, more inquiries and bookings from the clients you love working with and who trust you and see the value in what you do.)

What do I mean by ‘spontaneous?

The reality is that as authentic as I want my photos to feel, a photo shoot isn’t a natural situation. We curate the moments that we want to capture. Since following my clients around paparazzi-style 24/7 isn’t an option, I work really hard to make these situations and moments feel as spontaneous and natural as possible.

I have a few tricks up my sleeve that might help, so keep scrolling.

I think the word ‘spontaneous’ can feel loud, full of energy and a bit on the crazy side. Don’t you think? Since I lean more towards calm and quiet (as do a lot of my clients), it wouldn’t make sense if I took photos of me that didn’t match who I am when people meet me in real life.

But I want my photos to feel like they capture a real moment, real expressions and body language and gestures that come naturally, rather than copying poses and camera smiles that you saw on Pinterest.

This doesn’t have to be smiles either. If we are capturing a story that feels light-hearted and joy-filled, smiles and laughs might come naturally and if this is you, it will really help to capture your personality.

But perhaps ‘spontaneous’ is more thoughtful, calm and serious in some situations. The key is to not overthink it, be in the moment and react naturally. I’ll give suggestions along the way, let your own body language take the lead and adjust if necessary.

Stockholm business coach Agneta Ritums drawing a mindmap for a workshop

Why being spontaneous might feel hard

I can smile all day, but I have a habit of freezing up when someone points a camera at me. It’s like I genuinely can’t remember what to do with my face. And my hands? What am I supposed to do with them??

My guess is that you’re not in front of the camera every day. You might have memories of awkward photo shoots that left you feeling not so great about yourself. You might think that you’re unphotogenic and worry about wasting time and money on a photo shoot when maybe you won’t love the results.

Another huge risk is that you are so used to only seeing yourself in the mirror or when you take a selfie, that you never see yourself the way the rest of the world does. Your natural expressions when you are reacting in a real conversation. Your body language that has more to do with connecting and communicating than about looking ‘flattering, skinny, perfect’. This is why it can sometimes be a shock when you see candid photos of yourself, or why you might prefer photos you’ve taken of yourself than when other people take them.

What this means is that it can be easy to feel nervous about having a photo shoot and worried that you need to ‘perform’ so that you get photos that you actually like and that you’ll actually share.

I get it.

Been there, done that.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

I basically photograph my clients the way I want to be photographed (which means I’d rather forget about the camera, hang out with someone I enjoy spending time with all while they take a bunch of photos while I’m in the moment, feeling real feelings, moving my body in the way I normally move it and reacting naturally).

a happy energy-filled photo of brand coach Malin Hammar-Blomwall blowing glitter


1. Use your photographer

My biggest tip is to take the pressure off yourself, forget about aiming for ‘perfect’ and genuinely interact with your photographer. Talk to them as though they are the person looking at the photo. Laugh, chat, listen. Let your photographer guide you. Think about the difference between taking a photo yourself with the camera on a tripod and how it feels to have a real person behind the camera. Having a real person to interact with tends to lead to more spontaneous photos with real expressions. You can see in your eyes that you are connecting with a real person.

an unposed and spontaneous personal brand photo of coach Anna Arnetz holding a cup of coffee and smiling at the camera
a personal brand photo of writer Alexandra Mateus taking a photo

2. Interact with the location

There’s no point just picking a pretty place to take some pretty photos of you in pretty clothes. The photos might look good, but they won’t feel like you. They will lack depth and context and may not make sense for your brand or your personality. Your photos won’t help to convey your message and they risk looking like the other pretty photos from the same pretty location.

One of the first steps of the planning stage of my shoots is choosing locations that are meaningful to you and your brand.

Imagine what you would normally do in the location: eg. walk, drink a cup of coffee, sit on a bench, meditate, curl up with a book. Is it the kind of location that lends itself to calm mindful moments, like meditating, taking a deep breath, strolling and taking in the surroundings? Or does it fill you with energy so that you feel inspired to move, run, twirl or dance? Lean on the wall. Run your hands along the textured facade. Turn your face to the spring sun and take a deep breath.

a black and white photo of medium Anna Stomsi as she's standing with a takeaway coffee
a photo of brand coach Malin Hammar-Blomwall taking a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
a spontaneous photo of author Susanne Kleman on a bridge in front of Uppsala Cathedral
a personal brand photo of Anna Monika crossing a street in Stockholm

3. Keep moving

Have you ever noticed how quickly you stiffen up when you pose for a photo and stay still for too long?

A helpful remedy for the ‘stiffness’ and awkwardness is to keep moving. Take a few steps, look in all directions around at your surroundings as well as into the camera, tuck your hair behind your ear or fluff your hair, bounce down some stairs, shift your weight from one foot to the other.

One trick I sometimes get my clients to do is twirl. Yes, I said it. Twirl. As awkward as it sounds, twirling can be a fun way to add movement to your body, hair and outfit, it can help you to feel relaxed and it can really help you to look relaxed in the photos. It can be an energetic twirl with arms stretched out that is almost impossible to do without a smile on your face and a sense of freedom (and if you’re feeling nervous, sometimes the silliness of twirling is enough to make you laugh and distract yourself from the camera). Otherwise it could be a calm and slow twirl or even just a look over your shoulder just to add a little movement and give me the chance to capture you from different angles.

a colourful brand photo of personal brand photographer Emma Jackson on Riddarholmen in Stockholm
a black and white blurry brand photo of life coach in Stockholm
a joy-filled photo of coach and author Jessica Jäger as she looks back at the camera and smiles

4. Use your outfits & accessories

The clothes you wear for your photos can actually help you to look more relaxed.

Choose outfits that move with you, such as a flowy dress or a scarf. The dynamic movement of the fabric can be a really nice way to add natural movement and energy to the photos. You can hold onto a flowy skirt and swish it as you walk, walk with an extra bounce in your step to make the fabric really move. You can adjust your clothes or jewellery to capture natural movement, like rolling up your sleeves, adjusting a bracelet or twirling a ring.

a personal brand photo of life coach Consuelo in bright pink pants at Stockholm Stadshus
a brand photo of coach Agneta Ritums in a forest with a scarf
a black and white photo of coach Ulrika Hederberg walking in a forest

5. Let your hair down (literally)

Use your hair! Tuck it, fluff it, play with it, let it blow in the breeze. It’s a great way to add movement and spontaneity.

a black and white brand photo of Jill Nyqvist holding her hair in frustration while recording a webinar

6. React as you would if the camera wasn’t there

Instead of worrying about how you look, focus on expressing genuine emotions. This is what will connect your viewers.

I want my sessions to feel less like a photo shoot and more like we’re just hanging out having a great time together, and capturing the moments that naturally unfold. I give my clients things to talk about, think about and do. Instead of telling you to smile, I’ll try to guide the conversation to a topic that naturally makes you feel happy. If we want to create photos with more attitude, confidence and energy, I’ll make some suggestions or give you a chance to think about things that genuinely feel this way.

Don’t be afraid to gesture with your hands. Photos that feel like a conversation tend to come from real moments when you forget the camera for a moment and just communicate. I focus much more on your real body language and gestures than on posing. Yes, this tends to go against traditional ‘rules’ for photos, but I’d rather a photo feel spontaneous and less ‘flattering’ than posed to within an inch of its life so that it removes all authenticity from the moment. Often awkwardness can make a photo stand out, makes you curious and look a little longer.

a black and white brand photo of medium Anna Stomsi as she's holding her hand to her head and laughing
a black and white photo of executive coach Malin Hedlund as she's gesturing with her hands

7. Use props

During the planning stage, we’ll work out what props will be good to have on your shoot. What will make sense for our locations and for your story? What things would you naturally use in your work and your life? A phone, notebook, flowers, coffee, a glass of bubbly, tools that you use in your business, things that you use in your daily routines, for example? Giving your hands something real to do can help you to feel relaxed and just be in the moment. It takes the focus off the camera, gives you the chance to react spontaneously and let your genuine expressions come out.

a personal brand photo of health coach Cecilia Isakson as she's making chocolate balls
ett varumärkesfoto på hälsocoach Cecilia Isakson när hon lagar mat
a black and white branding photo of copywriter and coach Megan Taylor as she's writing in a notebook

8. DO something

Think about what you would normally be doing in the situation. Do that.

If we’re taking photos in a cafe, what would you normally be doing there? Ordering coffee, walking to your table, having a drink, scrolling on your phone, writing in a notebook, working on a laptop, people-watching, having a conversation, looking out the window at the people passing by, daydreaming.

If we want some natural portraits of you by a wall, well, what would you normally do? Would you lean? Put your hand in your pocket? Cross one leg over the other? Would you look around at the people walking by while you tuck your hair behind your air? Would you scroll on your phone? They all sound like fake scenarios, but if we’re trying to recreate a situation that you would naturally find yourself in in your real life, we can make it feel spontaneous by doing something that comes naturally to you.

9. Film naturally feels spontaneous

The movement of films naturally feels more spontaneous.

I’m now offering brand essence film shoots (either on their own or in combination with a photo shoot – click here to find out more) and they are such a brilliant way to capture movement and spontaneity. They are short film clips that complement your photos and they are packed with personality.

My clients have told me that it’s even easier to relax when I’m filming because there’s less pressure on getting one split second moment ‘right’. You don’t have to think as much about angles or your expression freezing in a way that you don’t love.

10. Let go of all expectations & be present in the moment

I get it. Photo shoots can be nerve wracking and it can be easy to worry about how the photos are turning out. The trouble is that this can lead to nervous expressions, stiff body language (like clenched fists) and it shows in the photos. The more you can relax and just enjoy the moment, the better the photos will be. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s worth trying.

Your personal brand photos are less about how you look, and more about who you are.

When it comes down to it, your photos are not about you. They are about your clients. About helping them find you so you can solve their problem, inspiring them or helping them to feel seen.

When I’m feeling nervous myself, just keeping this in mind really helps to take the pressure off.

Let go of the camera-smile and just react naturally. (And have fun!)

a brand photo of Katrin Berndt as she's holding a bottle and glass of champagne to celebrate a win

Longer photo shoots can actually feel easier than shorter ones

My half day shoots are about 3 hours long, which gives us lots of time to ease into it, warm up, feel really relaxed with each other, to test out a lot of different things and play, take a lot of photos (I tend to shoot through the moment, which means that we will get the photo we want), we have lots of time to chat and take breaks for coffee.

Some people prefer short photo shoots that are more focused on taking a specific number of photos and poses, but I’ve found the sweet spot that leads to the type of experience that works best for me and for my clients. Creating an experience that you actually enjoy leads to better photos that capture the real you.

Want to book a photo or film shoot?

Get in touch and we can talk about how we can work together and take your personal brand photos. You can find more information about my personal brand shoots here.

Which tip was most helpful for you?

Leave a comment below and let me know.