Benefits / Resources / Articles
September 03, 2020

Don’t Be A Branding Hot Mess: Tips from Stacy Pierce

Stacy Pierce will be joining our speaker line up for Imaging USA 2021 but she joined us live on an episode of PPA In It Together to give us a little sneak peek into her Imaging USA class on branding!


From Sales Rep to Photographer

Stacey started her career as a successful pharmaceutical sales rep but after years of pushing herself to the limit to achieve success and feeling only stress and frustration in return, she knew it was time to make a change. She decided at that moment that she needed to do something that truly brought her joy, even if it meant starting from the ground up.

As a young girl, Stacy was always drawn to photography. Since she didn’t have the money to buy a camera she would buy disposable cameras–waiting impatiently for the film to be developed at the local store. When she made the decision to leave her career in pharmaceutical sales, she spent her savings on a camera and took the leap of faith into the world of professional photography. 


Choosing to Photograph Things That Bring You Joy

When Stacy went public with her decision to become a full-time photographer she was inundated with advice on how to be successful. One of the things she heard repeatedly was that she needed to do weddings, so she did her prep work and took her first job with her new camera photographing her sister’s wedding. Stacey laughed as she told us this story and followed it up with some advice: “For anyone who is just starting out and considering doing something similar… don’t.”

After trying to do what “everyone else” told her she needed to be successful, Stacy made the decision to only photograph things that truly brought her joy. This started with small business owners looking for headshots. Stacy knew she wanted to approach headshots for these clients in a unique way yet clients often came to her with very specific ideas about what they were looking for. Stacy got creative–she would give the clients what they wanted BUT she also offered to give them some extra time in front of her camera (for free) during which she would photograph them the way SHE wanted. Most clients were open to this and it allowed Stacy to get creative and truly capture the client’s personality from her perspective creating images that were truly unique. Not only did this help her build a portfolio showcasing her own style as a photographer, these photos often ended up being the client’s favorite images!


Stop Playing the Comparison Game

If you don’t take anything else away from this, remember to start where you are with what you have and stop playing the comparison game! Every photographer is on their own unique journey and you can’t compare your chapter one to someone else’s chapter twelve! We all have to start from somewhere–why not start from right where you are? It doesn’t matter how many followers you have, if you’re doing what you love and sharing that with the world, your passion will come through and people will want to get to know you and be a part of what you’re creating. 


Start Where You Are With What You Have

Instead of dwelling on the things you DON’T have, shift your focus to what you DO have and how you can use your available tools right now. When Stacy started out, she didn’t have access to a film production team or expensive video equipment but she knew the Instagram algorithms favored video, so she began filming videos on her phone to share on social media. 

“There is something about video that connects people in a way that cuts out some of the BS”. Says Stacy. Videos allow her to show up in a way that feels real and authentic and gives people a chance to see what it’s like to be around her and work with her. Something that’s much more difficult to express in photos or in writing. 

Even if all you do is hop on a video to say hello to your followers and let them know what you have coming up, what you’re working on, or even just to thank your clients–you’ll be surprised at how you can connect with people who wouldn’t have otherwise stopped their scroll. And the best news? You don’t need special equipment to do so!


Get Creative and Learn to Adapt

Stacy doesn’t have her own studio and when she first started out, she was reluctant to share this with her clients. She saw how other photographers could bring clients into their studio to do photo reveals and wished she had the same option. But again, instead of dwelling on what she didn’t have, she decided to leverage what she DID have. She began using Facebook Live as a way to do her photo reveals with her clients. 

Not only was this successful and fun for her clients, but the videos also ended up attracting others who wanted to see these reveals and even created a sense of community among her clients and a greater audience. Since all of her clients are small business owners, these live reveals introduced each client to a new audience and even allowed viewers to “discover” new small businesses and entrepreneurs to support. 


Invest in Education and Mentoring

One of the things that Stacy is very passionate about is the power of education and mentoring. In the beginning, she didn’t like to tell people that she was spending money on classes and mentoring because the first thing people would say is “why would you pay for that when you can just find it online for free?!”. The internet is great, and yes, there are lots of free resources available to photographers, but according to Stacy, “it can only get you so far”. From personal experience, she’s found that investing in education and mentorship have been some of the best investments she could have made. “We can google things all day, but in the end, we are only googling the things WE think we need to work on,” says Stacy. Getting out from behind the computer screen, connecting in real life, and letting someone else have the chance to see the things you can improve on (some of which you may not even know you needed to work on!) can help you take the next big jump forward in your career. After all, the best investment you can make is in yourself!

Whether it’s photography classes, business workshops, conferences, mentorships, or anything else that allows you to connect one on one with others can make a huge difference in allowing you to grow, both as a photographer and as a business owner!


Get Specific and Find Your Niche

Stacey decided a few years ago to niche down and focus very specifically on creating “badass business images for online entrepreneurs who want to stand out in the online space”. Her goal is to help these business owners feel confident about themselves through their images which, in turn, allows them to be more comfortable sharing these photos and showing up for their audiences online. It is more than just showing up for a photo shoot at a coffee shop, snapping a few images of your client holding a coffee mug or working on their laptop–it is about capturing the true essence of the client and their business, tell that story through images–and make it fun! If you have ever been interested in diving into Brand Photography, be sure to check out Stacy’s class this year at Imaging USA! Stacy will be sharing how she approaches her branding sessions and creates uniques experiences and imagery that keeps clients coming back.


Final Thoughts

Sometimes the big wins cannot be quantified by the number of followers you have, or the number of shares and likes - you are going to have to believe that you and your brand matters. You just have to know who you are, stop looking for validation, and keep showing up!

“Find some black friends.” Stacey laughs as she says this but reminds us that the world is changing and if we have the opportunity to talk about how the world is changing on social media, we should as it affects every single one of us. We all have to be willing to get comfortable getting uncomfortable, stay open, and know that there are ways for all of us to be a part of the change that goes beyond a like, a share, or using hashtags. Everyone can show up in their own way, it’s about finding your own way to do so. It is not as much about the urgency of the now, but more about moving into the future with an open mind, paying attention, and finding small ways to be a part of positive change when you can.

We can’t wait to see Stacy at Imaging USA 2021 and we hope you will check out her class and be sure to register for your all-access pass at


You can watch the full conversation with Stacy here or watch the video below. If you enjoyed this conversation and are looking for more like this, be sure to check out our In It Together playlist on YouTube or check out PPA’s Online Education Platform for hundreds of videos, deep dives, and curriculums to help you grow, both as a photographer and a small business owner!