Picture Perfect: Branding Photos for Your Independent Studio

At the beginning of 2020, I drew up a lot of plans for marketing and expanding my studio. One of them was to do a photoshoot of me at work. The plan was to hire a photographer to come to my studio, see me work with individual students, come to the venue where I was doing a performance coaching series and get shots of me working in that capacity, and then finish up at our end of the year showcase at an upscale retirement community to catch my students in performance, the culmination of my semester’s work.

The students were in place, the venues were booked. All I had to do before this could happen was to finish my performing gigs for the season, get new lighting in my studio, have the room painted with the teal and purple brand colors I had chosen (which was going to be done while I was on my April vacation overseas), and hit my goal weight.

Well, I do have new lighting.

And my hair is now teal and purple.

But the gigs were cancelled, the venues closed, the vacation didn’t happen, and we’re not going to talk about my goal weight.

I decided to go forward with the branding photoshoot anyway.

A branding photoshoot is different from ones focused on headshots and performance because it is meant to show you working – it is intentional, not posed, not in character. You aren’t recreating scenes or looking off into the distance mysteriously or flirtatiously into the camera with a semi-smile and your head held just so. Your goal is to establish who you are in your business and to attract your ideal client so that more people will come and work with you. There is an energy and an authenticity that needs to be a part of it. There needs to be action.

My brand name is Mezzoid Voice Studio, and the tagline is “Curiously Strong Singing.” My brand name came from being in a church choir where the director said to my section, “Altoids, let’s try that again.” My response was, “Excuse me, I happen to be a mezzoid.” He said “what’s the difference?” and I said, “I’m still curiously strong, I just happen to sing a minor third higher.” (Cue music nerd laughter here.)

Curiously Strong Singing came about through consultation with my business coach and curator of the Speakeasy Cooperative, Michelle Markwart Deveaux. Over the past year, I have defined exactly what that means to me in my blog. But a big part of it involves embracing risk, telling the truth, and bringing others in to the process.

How did I do a branding photoshoot in the middle of a pandemic without in-person students? Well, when I moved online, I connected a stand-alone monitor to my laptop so that I could see larger views of people than what my MacBook Air’s screen would allow. I decided for the photoshoot, I would turn the monitor around. That way, my photographer could see the student and see me without having to come behind the piano.

There are many articles about how to prepare for a branding photoshoot. I read none of them. I knew I probably should wear a solid color – but I didn’t. I didn’t have anything solid that felt like something I would actually teach in.

I didn’t plan the photoshoot except that I knew who I would be working with. I pulled out a few props that I knew would look good on camera – my Hoberman sphere and my flow-ball pipe that I got at the Voice Foundation last year.  I used them in places where they were appropriate and where I figured they would look good. Basically, I just gave a lesson the way I always do – perhaps slightly higher energy – and pictures were taken.

My photographer was Shealyn Jae of Shealyn Jae Photography in Baltimore. We didn’t discuss a plan for the shoot – I said I’d be teaching a 14 year old girl and I just wanted her to get pictures. I trusted her to get the right pictures. She does a lot of work with theater companies throughout the DC-Baltimore area taking pictures of shows at their dress rehearsals and during their opening weekends. She is excellent at capturing things as they happen and finding the right angle (or in my case, the left, because my right side is not my good one).

I had budgeted $350-$500 for the shoot. My particular shoot came in at somewhat less, to my delight, and included all the shots that she had curated from the shoot, from which I chose about 50. From those, I used about 40. I only had one picture retouched in any way, which was the only one I really posed for. Some are already on my profiles in Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks. Many will be on my new website, www.mezzoidvoicestudio.com.

Perhaps I should have read some of the online articles to prepare for this. But I’m extremely happy with how mine turned out, because I feel as though they’re representative of where I’m at in my teaching and my life.

When we go to in-person lessons, I will probably do another shoot in the scenarios I outlined at the beginning of this article. But these will work for now, and since I intend to continue an online presence even after in-person lessons are possible, I can use these. At least until I change my hair color again.

Originally published in InterNos (Fall 2020), a NATS publication for independent voice teachers. The article (with pictures from my shoot and other teachers’ shoots) may be found here.


Published by Mezzoid Voice Studio

Christine Thomas-O'Meally, a mezzo soprano and voice teacher currently based in the Baltimore-DC area, has performed everything from the motets of J.S. Bach to the melodies of Irving Berlin to the minimalism of Philip Glass. As an opera singer and actress, she has appeared with companies such as Charm City Players, Spotlighters Theatre, Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Theater of Northern Virginia, Opera North, the Washington Savoyards, In Tandem Theatre, Windfall Theater, The Young Victorian Theater of Baltimore, and Skylight Opera Theatre. She created the role of The Woman in Red in Dominick Argento’s Dream of Valentino in its world premiere with the Washington Opera and Mary Pickersgill in O'er the Ramparts at its world premiere during the Bicentennial of Battle of Baltimore at the Community College of Baltimore County. Other roles include Mrs. Paroo in Music Man, Mother Abbess in Sound of Music, Dorabella in Cosi Fan Tutte, Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, both Hansel and the Witch in Hansel & Gretel, and many roles in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Her performance as the Housekeeper in Man of La Mancha was honored with a WATCH award nomination. Ms. Thomas-O'Meally received an M.M. in vocal performance from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She regularly attends master classes and workshops in both performance and vocal pedagogy, and is certified in all three Levels of Somatic Voicework™ The LoVetri Method. Her students have performed on national and international tours of Broadway productions, at prestigious conservatories, and in regional theater throughout the country.

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