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Meet Gina Cinardo of Ginici Studios

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gina Cinardo.

Hi Gina, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I grew up in Los Angeles with artistic parents.

My father, Nick Cinardo, owned a custom black and white photography lab in Hollywood in the late 60s – early 70s. It was called CPS Labs. Because my Mom, Jinny Cinardo, was an artist, she would request planning a photoshoot so she could have painting material. She and my father would conceptualize a photoshoot with costumes and sets. Of course, this meant my brother and me, and friends of the family would be the models.

Okay, I’m not going to lie, I loved these days. I got to wear the coolest costumes. Because my Dad dabbled in acting and had friends who were actors, we had access to the wardrobe department at NBC. I was a barmaid, cowgirl, and clown. but my favorite was I wore a southern bell costume with orange polka dots. There was a label on the costume with Liza. Could this be the exact costume Ms. Minelli wore in an old episode of Laugh-In?

I was surrounded by the arts so much that I knew I was going to become either an actress or an artist. When my parents divorced she moved my Brother and me to Arizona. The moment I entered High School my focus was on art and photography. I ended up graduating as a straight-A student and won Artist of the Year at Westwood High School in Mesa Arizona.

I went on to get a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art Photography from Arizona State University. My goal after college was to get a job working as a photographer and eventually become a freelance commercial photographer like my Dad. While I was working at an offset printing company as a graphic artist I was commissioned to photograph a men’s aftershave called Quarterdeck. My father was so excited and proud of me. For several months he and I collaborated on the details of how I should photograph it.

The weekend of my first studio Commerical photoshoot comes and I’ve rented all the equipment I need to accomplish it. My Dad was super supportive, and even though he was on a camping trip he would check in to see how all my final tests were going before the official shoot day. This was not easy to do before cellphones. It required hiking to a payphone. I told him I’d call him on Monday to let him know how everything goes.

What happened next changed my life forever. That night I got a weird call from my Mom telling me she was coming over, even though it was after midnight. She and my brother walked into my apartment and my brother burst out in tears that Dad had died in a car accident coming back from his camping trip. I was in utter shock and yet the next day, under a cloud of tears, I still photographed the project.

I am not sure why it’s important to tell this story but what I do is a huge part of my life and I love it. I guess in some weird way my work brings me closer to my father. When I focus on the project and what needs to be done to tell the story I hear him and me in a deep discussion trying to decipher the best way to capture it.

After this experience, I got a job managing a glamour studio called Headshots Photography in Mesa, AZ for almost 11 years. I also worked for several printers as a graphic designer and freelanced as a photographer on the side. Then went on to work as a contractor Media Specialist for the Air Force for over 4 years before I finally took a leap of faith and moved back to California in 2010 to start my own business.

I now work as a full-time brand photographer. I’m hired by people that aren’t emotionally connecting to a target audience. They want exceptional-looking photographs that authentically illustrate their brand essence and their message.

With over 30 years of photography experience and a strong working background in visual marketing, I learned the importance of making a great first impression and how to capture the brand story with photography.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Part of what I just told was a big struggle but ultimately becoming a business owner was not easy for me. I was not a business person, I was not even a great salesperson, I am an artist. And I was good at labeling myself a “starving artist” for that matter.

After working with the Air Force as a Media Specialist and Outreach Designer I loved that I had a lot of diversity in the job. I was a graphic designer, web developer, and photographer. I would put packets together and signage for special events.

So, when I started my business I wanted my business to be like that job. But I had no idea how to run my business. I searched locally for a resource to help me and found the Mission Community Services in San Luis Obispo. They host the Women’s Business Center which offers self-employment training classes. I was on board immediately.

So my title, in the beginning, was Graphic Designer and Brand Development Specialist. Photography was one of my services but not my title. When you introduce yourself as a designer people instantly ask “Do you do websites?” So, of course, I said yes. I needed to make money and survive. After 4 years in, I realized I was making a huge mistake. Being a graphic and web designer was not what I wanted to do. I was so unhappy.

I had to completely rebrand myself as a photographer. I had to figure out the kind of photography I wanted to specialize in. I had a lot of experience photographing people, and I loved doing glamour headshots. But my connections and primary network were other businesses.

It wasn’t until I was asked through the Women’s Business Center to do a presentation on photo branding that I realized it was an actual niché. In 2016 photographers were specializing solely in personal branding photography. Beyond just a headshot, this was storytelling. I was hooked.

My other big challenge was trying to figure out my personal brand. I had to walk the talk, you know? I knew how to develop someone else’s brand and how I was going to capture it. But my brand, I didn’t have a clue how to do it. I was too close to it.

Being a business owner for me has been a journey, not just figuring out the logistics of being a business owner but how to truly walk into my brand as the authentic person I wanted to be seen as. This is ultimately what I hope for all my clients and anyone on their entrepreneurial journey.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
I am an enthusiastic portrait photographer who specializes in personal branding, editorial, and lifestyle photography. I have a knack for capturing a unique essence of an individual in their portrait. This is why I believe one’s true charm is their genuine spirit and the portraits I take of them prove this.

I am hired by people, mostly ambitious businesswomen, that don’t visually stand out in their industry. They are ready for big growth and they want to connect to their ideal customer but are challenged by how others are marketing themselves as influencers in their field.

When I work with a new branding client I first explore their goals and blueprint their personal brand. We create a mood board to give us a visual of the vibe we want to project to their audience. Then we plan out the editorial stories we’re going to capture digitally that illustrate their brand message. I capture more than just a headshot. Personal brand photography is storytelling.

We show the story of the brand set in a lifestyle manner with their essence shining through. Sometimes the stories show them working and what they do, and other images capture them beaming with joy or in deep contemplation. It’s very customized. It all depends on what the person does, what captions will go with the image, and most importantly, who they are trying to engage.

What my clients end up with is a library of digital images that show them as the rock star of their business. They can post these everywhere. On their blog, website, social platforms, and professional profiles, as well as printed marketing.

We offer multiple-sized sessions for someone who may need only a portfolio of 20 images to someone who wants 60 or more images per quarter. It all depends on how often they share their stories. Of course, the more often the better outreach.

It’s such a great way to leverage social media that’s essentially free marketing. On the other hand, crafting messages to post online is not easy for some people and takes a lot of time. When you have a portfolio of photographs that tell some kind of story, it’s so much easier.

I think a huge advantage of hiring someone who specializes in personal branding photography is just knowing how to craft the entire photo session. We work with great makeup artists and a style consultant to help people look their absolute best. The day of their photoshoot is really fun and exciting.

I think anyone who is hoping to step into their brand and become the influencer they want to be should experience this for themselves.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
I think the most important thing for me is to become completely authentic. To do this requires becoming fully aware of your self-talk and exploring where it comes from on a deep level.

Integrating our shadow side requires true compassion and self-love. When we think of what we don’t like about ourselves we need to see that as something to be healed. Our ego rules our thoughts and most of what it believes is false.

Getting out there as a brand to a public that can be embracing or brutal, is not easy. It’s vulnerable. My heroes Oprah Winfrey and Berne Brown have also shared. It’s because they have experienced it and have been honest about who they are and are okay with who they are.

It amazes me how I can be in a public situation and see people who are nowhere in the actual room. They are still at work in their head, being a mom in their head, or reliving past trauma. Being present is key. It’s what allows us to be of better service to others and business professionals because we are listening.


  • A starting price for a branding photography session is around $1995.
  • A standard headshot ranges from $325-$550
  • Any lifestyle or beauty session is $325 and up but a digital and print package can range from $600-$5000. It all depends on what kinds of heirlooms the client wants.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Francisco Debs, Athena Wilde, and Ginici Studios

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