Sometimes I still have a “pinch me” moment when I look back on this shoot. The day that Rachael’s inquiry rolled into my inbox, I was so stoked. She’s a retired pro athlete and Olympic bronze medalist turned mentor for young athletes looking to blaze a path similar to the one she’s walked. Talk about a stellar resume.
When we hopped on her discovery call she was in the midst of officially opening her mentor program and launching a new website for her brand Journey Strength, while also planning a destination wedding and wrapping up her final season of playing volleyball in Brazil. We talked amidst glitchy wifi connections via WhatsApp about her vision for the rebrand and the main storyline idea of “more than an athlete” was born.
That line guided much of what made it in the shoot, to show the layers of who she is and the lifestyle she lives to illustrate her story, achievements and the transformation she helps other athletes find in their mindset and routines.
We planned for a full day production once she returned stateside, but quickly realized locations that felt like her brand could make a home there didn’t seem to be showing up in our search results for Cincy. Rachael wanted the feel of a home for a set of lifestyle-driven photographs that she’d use to talk about her daily routines and that “more than an athlete” mantra we’d settled on. But, we also knew she’d need lots of photos with white space and a more clean, polished feel for her website. So we settled on a duo of spots in Columbus, a dreamy home from the selection on Home Studio List paired with Zurie, a natural-light studio owned by a photographer friend of mine.
I then set about my typical research process, which if you’ve at all followed for a while you know that it’s essentially glorified stalking. Including countless tabs open on my laptop and pages long google docs to house my findings. I emerged from that and into Rachael’s pre-shoot call with ideas that I was almost embarrassed to share where I got them from. Particularly since one started off with “Do you remember that color-blocked button-down you bought in Brazil when your mom was visiting? You should bring that for a photo.” When I say I do my research – I mean it.
Diving into the depths of my client’s online presence helps to inform not just my shot list and what gaps we’re planning to fill in their photo libraries or perceptions we’re hoping to shift in things like positioning, it also tells me what type of props or decor items they should have on hand. Things to make a studio space feel a bit more like their home or items they use in their daily routine that would make sense for them to have alongside them while working that they wouldn’t have necessarily included in their “tools” section indicated in the questionnaire.
Rachael’s shoot day was chalked full of concept after concept and kept us on our toes as we hopped from room to room to capture variety in the first space and then a bit more of a slowed approach to the studio time to ensure we were getting super intentional shots for her website, future speaking engagements and press releases.
If you want to see her brand photos out in the wild and at work in her business, feel free to peruse her website.
This was one of my favorite concepts we came up with. The quote card wall is filled with aspirational and inspirational words she regularly posts to her social accounts and uses to encourage clients. It’s shaped almost like a thought bubble to illustrate the power of a positive mindset.