Photography can be one of the most rewarding or one of the most frustrating hobbies that a person can take part in. Sometimes the stars align for the right conditions and opportunities to occur, while in other instances you’re stuck with photos that just didn’t turn out right with a photo session gone wrong. For me, yesterday proved to be one of those instances where the photo session just wasn’t meant to happen and I wasted three hours with a photo session gone wrong and shot photos that I can’t use.

The idea for the photo op

This is the branding that I used before I decided to replace it, leading up to the photo session gone wrong

My current branding on social media.

Earlier in the week I was posting on social media when I glanced at my cover photo, an action that I performed and paid no attention to more than a thousand times before. Maybe it was the talk of brand alignment at work, but it finally dawned on me that my cover photo doesn’t match with my personal branding anymore.

The original idea for the branding conveyed by that cover photo stemmed from my time as a journalist, and a depiction of a typewriter was perfect for serving as a visual representation of my expertise in writing. As my profession steered away from journalism and shifted into digital marketing, I realized that an antique typewriter on a black background symbolized anything but the modern digital age, or the central topic to the articles on this website. It was time for a change, which is proving to be much more difficult than I anticipated.


What I wanted my branding to represent


When it comes down to anything design-related, I always pick the brain of one of my closest friends for advice and direction. Unfortunately, she was as stumped as I was in creating personal branding with a central message of social media or digital marketing. She asked me what messaging and values I wanted my branding to show; after some thought, I wanted to convey professionalism, credibility and a level of authority in the topics that I write about weekly.

After brainstorming for an hour or two, I looked at my taglines to see how I could combine my skills and expertise into a single core message that would be easily understood by potential viewers. It eventually clicked that my position at General Motors as a district digital manager was the single best way to show my credibility and authority in the digital marketing space. I also just purchased a Buick Verano last week, so why not utilize the branding of the company that I work for to represent these core values?


Research and comparison


Now that I had an idea of what I wanted my branding to be, I scoured the depths of Pinterest and Instagram to look at unique photos that showcase the Buick Verano. I decided on taking a photo of my vehicle on a nature trail or backwoods road; it’s October and the colors are changing, so it would make for a beautiful backdrop with some focus on the Buick. The challenge now was deciding on a day to take the photo, what time it should be taken at for optimal lighting conditions and where I should go to shoot.

Eventually I decided on Sunday at about 3 p.m.; I wanted a lot of natural light without entering the “golden time” of sunrise or sunset and there was a small chance of rain. I had also decided on travelling through Huron River Drive in Ypsilanti/Superior Township; there were a lot of backwoods roads and I remember the area being gorgeous in the fall as the leaves changed colors.


Photo session gone wrong

One of the photos from my photo session gone wrong

One of my photos that I took in Ann Arbor

This is the part of the story where everything started to fall apart. I reached Huron River Drive, only to discover that the leaves were still as green as they were in the summer. Not only that, but all the back roads that I traveled were incredibly shaded and had no shoulders to park on, which didn’t align with the vision that I had in my head when setting out to Superior Township.

After half an hour of aimlessly driving around, I stumbled upon a random entrance leading into a country club that had a shoulder and was relatively secluded with a trail of trees encroaching on all sides. If I parked at the right spot and shot at the right angle, no one would even know that I was thirty seconds away from a busy road in Ann Arbor.

I played with different poses, positioned my car in several ways and shot with different perspectives, but at the end of the shoot I wasn’t really satisfied with the photos that I took. Cutting my losses, I began my trek home, initially settling on a few photos that I shot as a new cover photo before deciding that I didn’t want to use General Motors as a cope out for my personal branding. My efforts were literally for nothing and I wasted three hours with a photo session gone wrong.


Branding isn’t easy

This experience wasn’t a wasted one; I did come away with the knowledge that brand alignment can be incredibly difficult. Luckily, my friend and I talked after my failed photo op and she gave me a really good idea that I’m going to run with. It’s going to take a bit of time to complete, but I already know that it’s going to be much better than what I had originally planned with the photo session gone wrong.