I am now back from holidays and kicking off the 2017 interviews with a bang! I can’t wait for you to meet Briena Sash. She is one cool, creative and connected wellness entrepreneur. She has successfully taken her professional photography skills and her love of natural healthy living and created a thriving business creating stunning stock photography purpose created for wellness businesses. Please take a cruise around her site. You are going to love Wellness Stock Shop.
Photography is all about telling stories. Please share your story of how the worlds of photography and wellness met?
I think it’s common to get funneled into portraiture as a photographer. And so there I was – photographing magazine-style high school senior portraiture and LinkedIn headshots. The thing is that, no matter how “successful” I was – nothing came easily and I was actually pretty miserable. Arriving at the depths of that misery is what catapulted me into carving out a new space for myself and my photography.
It happened rather abruptly one day last fall that I realized – portraiture was completely out of alignment with what I wanted to be promoting, doing, and creating in my life.
I’ve never been super fond of luxury items – and that is how I viewed the industry I was in. I love beauty with simplicity and practicality. And so – even though my work was getting published in magazines and winning awards – I still felt empty and out of alignment with myself.
Working out of alignment as a purpose-driven creative is about equivalent to driving with an emergency break on. Needless to say – something needed to change.
At my deepest core, I stand for our earth and for living in ways that foster natural wellness and sustainability. I desired a way to express that. I wanted to use my skill as a photographer as a tool to support a mission I believe in and value.
In my free time, when I wasn’t working on my photography business, I was making my own non-toxic cleaning products and treating friends to “spa” days with essential oils – promoting natural, sustainable, non-toxic living. I was also tempted to switch gears completely and enroll in the health coach program at Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
In April 2015 I was flown down to San Francisco to work on the “Ban the (plastic micro) Bead” campaign for the Story of Stuff Project. That was so much closer in alignment with the mission I wanted to pursue. I realized, however, that instead of working on an environmental campaign, which speaks mainly to people interested in and open to environmental activism, I wanted to work with purpose in a way that more people could relate to – that would encourage natural, non-toxic lifestyle and would integrate more gently into the lives of all people.
I was working with several photography and branding clients in the natural wellness industry at the time, and became aware of a major lack of decent stock photography to support holistic wellness and natural living. I realized that – rather than becoming a health coach myself – my strengths and skills as a photographer could make a stronger impact by serving the already-existing industry with beautiful, accessible professional imagery.
I wanted to work in the natural wellness industry – helping to support and strengthen the reach and impact of experts who already exist. I wanted to create an accessible stock photography source for wellness entrepreneurs.
And that was it. I quit my portraiture business on that day and poured my focus into building Wellness Stock Shop.
And so the worlds of natural wellness and photography met.
What does Wellness mean to you?
Wellness to me means feeling connected with yourself and balanced on a holistic level – mind, body and spirit. It also means having awareness of your impact on and empathy for the surrounding environment and that which supports you – Living in harmony with humanity and with nature to establish sustainability and a peaceful balance.
Photography has a unique power to provide inspiration. What role does photography play in facilitating education, inspiration and community for the wellness industry?
I believe photography has the power to tell a story, make an emotional connection and impact viewers within a glance. It also has the power to massively influence trust and credibility.
The natural wellness industry is up against some powerful, influential forces backed by big money. Toxic living – chemicals, GMOs, processed and synthetic products, casual pharmaceutical consumption, invasive surgery and side effects – has become the norm.
With the help of big industry, the general population of consumers have grown skeptical of “alternative wellness”, often dismissing it as “wu-wu”. In order to regain traction and trust on a larger scale, I believe it is essential to the natural wellness industry to eliminate any initial barriers, which feed skepticism.
People certainly do “read the book by its cover”. Showing up in the marketplace with an unprofessional appearance evokes an immediate message to viewers, who are already often skeptical. It’s important to match the level of professionalism they’re used to in order to gain their trust. No matter how amazing the service – if you don’t express the professionalism and credibility through visuals and appearance first, you lose trust and interest.
Quality, professional visuals and branding DO matter – a lot.
By creating photography with the power to instantly connect with viewers on an emotional level, we open doors to new points of view and understandings. Telling a story within a glance intrigues viewers and opens up the mind to wanting to learn more.
This is why professional photography is not only a powerful tool, but is also vital to the world of natural wellness right now.
What are your favourite photographs to shoot and why?
I love creating styled photos simply because it’s such an art and is so rewarding. Most times I begin with a vision and the process takes it’s own direction and sprouts gorgeous and unexpected results. Every shoot feels like opening up one of those mystery sponge kits which were so exciting as kids – you know they’ll turn into fun creature shapes, but you’re not quite sure what they’ll look like until you add water. I love that element of surprise.
My absolute favorite photographs, however, are when I’m out hiking or somewhere in nature and the lighting presents a gorgeous and unexpected scene. Nature is where I find my spirituality and is where I feel my absolute best. I travel to Southern Utah twice each year to go canyoneering and the light play in the canyons is absolutely magical. It’s super fun and exciting to have spontaneous moments.
What are your top tips for people wanting to improve their own food photography (whether it be for their own blog, website or personal instagram feed)?
I can’t stress enough, the importance of using quality lighting. This is the basic yet most essential element of a good photo. If you did only one thing today to improve your food photography, I’d encourage you to ditch the overhead/lamp light and on-camera flash and use natural window light, if you’re not already. People are especially picky when it comes to food. It has to look safe and edible. So, if you’re posting photos that look yellow, dark and mushy – using overhead lighting or camera flash – you’re most likely eliciting the opposite reaction from what you’re wanting – which is, most likely, to inspire and lure viewers – rather than to gross them out.
If you don’t have a big budget or the know-how to use professional lighting equipment, make a commitment to scheduling your photo time during the day to make use of natural window light.
My second recommendation is to make sure your subject is in focus. Posting blurry food photographs makes food look mushy and unappetizing. Make sure you’re getting crisp photos in-camera, and are also posting the correct sizing for the platform. Failing to post the correct size to Instagram, for instance, (currently 1080×1080) will result in a blurry photo, regardless of whether it looks crisp before posting.
Third, I recommend aiming to create a story. Rather than posting all imagery up close and macro, try backing up and creating a scene around the plate. Have someone hand-model. This helps to draw people into your image, creating intrigue.
(I have so many more applicable tips available in my free 14 Day Healthy Smoothie Photo Challenge.)
Seeing your photographs used by amazing wellness professionals must be such a thrill. Can you share an example of how using the right imagery has added significant value to one of your clients’ businesses?
Absolutely! I LOVE receiving love notes from my clients and members who tell me how using Wellness Stock Shop imagery has been a game-changer for their businesses.
I recently helped rebrand a website for a health coach client who had graduated from a reputable nutrition school. Unfortunately, she wasn’t given much direction on imagery usage, which left her with many questions and confusions.
She showed me how she had been searching for “royalty free” imagery online and randomly downloading photographs to use on her website.
The result was a pieced-together website which lacked brand message, structure and cohesiveness. The unprofessional look of her website was sending the misleading message of a massively unprofessional service. This is a woman who had tackled MS, cervical cancer and managed diabetes simultaneously. She is an incredibly strong and gifted woman with so much to share, yet she wasn’t attracting clients and was having to support herself through temp work.
What’s more, she was risking hefty lawsuits because she was actually downloading imagery illegally (royalty-free does not mean free-to-use).
I flew out to her home in Nashville to spend a week on her branding and to reinvent her site with imagery from Wellness Stock Shop and some custom imagery we created while I was there.
The result was a stunning website that completely changed the game for her. Not only did she feel more c