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Life Lessons From Behind the Lens: Image is Everything


Whether you’re flying solo or lucky enough to have the top PR agency as your wingman, it’s important to realize that as a smart businesswoman, it is your responsibility to create and maintain control of your image at all times. If you’re flying solo, here’s a guide to help you produce images that support your image!

With spectacular photos, you can leverage your website, social media, press kit and other publicity materials into a multi-platform approach to familiarize the public with who you are and what you do, but you have to do your homework in order to present a cohesive package.

Picture 1A few magazines our work has been featured in.

1) Main Idea: Who are you? What do you stand for? What do you want to be known for? Once you are clear on this one, every subsequent decision, from the clothes you wear at public appearances, to the organizations you choose to partner with, will be easy to make. Every action is an opportunity to consciously support your image, or run the risk of accidentally destroying it.

Picture 2

The cast of Pretty Little Liars teamed up with Staples and for their annual school supply drive.

The highly popular campaign featuring our photo was featured in stores across the country.

2) Who is your audience? You can refine your goal image (and photos!) based on whether you’re trying to appeal to kids under 10, those kids’ parents, the family’s teeny-bopper babysitter, or the forbidden frat boy she’s in love with. OK, so maybe there’s less melodrama as you imagine your prospective audience, but it’s still a helpful starting point!

Now that you know who your audience is, get to know them a little bit better. After checking out their favorite tv shows, movies, magazines and hobbies, you should start to see a consistent through-line. How would you describe the theme? Do you have anything in common with the tried and true favorites? How will you set yourself apart?

Picture 3This spread, originally featured on the modern women’s mag Move LifeStyle (, gives the audience

a taste of Jenny Mollen Biggs: laid-back guy’s girl, irreverent and slightly voyeuristic city dweller.

3) How do you want to affect your audience? For example, are you trying to establish trust, entertain, tantalize? Do you want them to feel your sense of humor, your sex appeal, or your expertise? Emotion breeds action. Whether it’s signing up for your newsletter or following you on Twitter, your images must evoke a genuine and palpable response from your audience in order to translate into your desired action.

Our spread of Jenny Mollen Biggs (above) might pique the audience’s curiosity enough to check her out and read her column in The Smoking Jacket, a division of Playboy.

4) Get specific. Now that you know what you want to say and to whom, it’s just as important to figure out the most effective way to say it with your photos.

For example, if your goal is to appeal to the college set, and you’ve decided to rely on your female wiles, decide what flavor aligns best with your brand. Undeniable sex on a stick for Playboy? Flirty high brow sexy for Esquire or GQ? Sweet and approachable, yet fashionable girl-next-door sexy for Cosmo or Glamour? Vintage bombshell Sophia Loren sexy for Guess? Off-beat hipster sexy for Nylon? Get as specific as you can.

Picture 4Our photos of Autumn Reeser (Necessary Roughness, Hawaii Five-0, The OC) were featured in Maxim and Esquire.

If your end goal is to submit your photos to magazines, make sure the art you want to produce will appeal to each specific publication and their demographic. Pay attention to the tone, styling and mood of the existing stories, and make sure it all lines up with your answers above to make sure the magazine is a good fit for your image.

If you’re not specific with the tone you want to create, your message will easily get lost in translation, especially when you’re relying on a photographer and a team of stylists (and maybe an art director!) to help you cook it up from scratch. Creative geniuses, yes. Psychic mind-readers, not so much.

5) Communicating Your Concept

The best way to communicate with another party is to appeal to their strongest skill set. Use visuals to communicate with visual artists. Screenshots, Pinterest albums, magazine tearsheets, sketches- there is an overabundance of visual tools at your fingertips these days. Use them to your advantage!

Picture 5Here’s the drawing Adam did to show the concept of the mad scientist shoot to the team of

hair, makeup, wardrobe, prop stylists, models and assistants.

However, as with any effective communication, an idea has to be clear first, before you can attempt to express it. As you’re culling inspirational images, start to pay attention to exactly what draws you to them. It could be any combination of individual components that calls to you- from hair, makeup and wardrobe styling, to location, mood, props, lighting, or any other indescribable “it” factor. At the same time, be sure to pay attention to anything you don’t like about them.

Finally, check all of these with your answers to the questions above, and eliminate anything that doesn’t line up. The images that make the cut will be the official inspiration for your photo shoot. Bonus: Feel free to make a list of adjectives to help highlight what you loved about each, as well as emotions that are consistent with your answers from Question #3.

Voila! A specific, descriptive, creative-friendly package ready to submit to your team!

Picture 6Mad Scientist Shoot finished product.

6) Final Aside

Now for the hardest part. After all of your soul searching, brutal honesty and market research, once you are at your photo shoot, you must decide to allow it to be a living, breathing creative process. Because you are combining a random assortment of components that you liked into something completely new, and then adding your unique self and all of your knowledge and goals into the mix, it is inevitable that you have the opportunity to create something brand new and special with your team. Enjoy the results of your hard work, and dive in to the fun of creating your image.


About Sylvia Hendershott

1/2 of Husband and Wife Celeb/Commercial Photography Team The Hendershotts - Sylvia and her husband Adam are a Los Angeles based photography team that specializes in kid's fashion and celebrity portraits. Their work has been featured in Baby Couture, People, US Weekly, 944 and more. When they're not working, they love going to the movies and catching up on DVR with their two fluffy pups.