I’m going to be honest, you have a lot of competition. In fact, it does not take much to hang your shingle as a “professional photographer”. A few thousand dollars in equipment plus an overnight website and virtually anyone with the entrepreneurial bug can call themselves a pro. Many photographers are concerned that the clients they are competing for in this tough environment, won’t know the difference between the real deal and the weekend warriors. Photographers are competing with the “moms with cameras” that were their own clients, just last year.
The field of professional photography has grown exponentially in the last few years. Even in a bad economy, in some cases because of the bad economy. People are looking for extra work or a career change. This makes for more and more “professionals” going for the same pie, which is getting sliced thinner and thinner.
What is a working photographer to do? There is a way to take a stand, by standing out and defining your fantastic service, product excellence, and the unique artistry you bring to the industry. Developing your brand is now as important as purchasing a professional camera. We can help you map out a plan.
Think of your photography business as a product. Like Starbucks coffee. Like Tom’s shoes. The product of your photography business is you.
You and your photography style. You are unique, and you are an artist. Building your brand will create more value for your business and attract the kind of clients you deserve. Defining your brand will give you a strong voice, you can build on everyday, with social media and marketing, customer service, and product lines.
Defining, creating and building your brand can be a daunting task. The following path can help you get started.
What is photography branding?
Bulls-eye: targeting your target audience
Finding your unique voice: Creating a brand called you
Let’s get busy: get inspired
Finding a designer
Make it cohesive and consistent
Make it creative
What is Photography Branding?
Branding is more than a logo. Think of your brand as your touch point. Every way you reach your clients and potential clients from your logo to your marketing, and your product to your customer service is your brand. Therefore, branding should be purposeful design. Everything, every vehicle, every communication should have a purpose and send a clear message of who and what you are.
Bulls-eye: Targeting your Target Audience
Your brand is not what you say it is. It is what they say it is. “They” are your target audience. Questions to consider about your target audience”
- What kinds of clients are you going after? Engaged couples? Parents? Parents to be?
- What is their demographic?
- Where do they live? How much do they earn?
- How much education have they completed?
Finding your unique voice: Creating a brand called you
The next thing we need to do is look for your brand essence. This is the heart and soul of your business. This is where you establish who you are. Start by defining your work, your approach, your product. Ask who is this business? Choose 5-6 words that best describe your studio or business. Are you altruistic, stylish, funny, boutique, modern, couture, polished, classic, bohemian?
Once you have established your brand essence you need to create your brand positioning. What makes your business different from your competition, and what makes your business unique? Are you a children’s portrait artist, or rock star wedding photographer? Is your photography emotional and photo journalistic? Are you kid-centric or romantic? Think of all the ways you differentiate yourself from other similar businesses.
Let’s get busy: Get Inspired
Now that you know who you are, what makes your studio different, who your competition is and who you are talking to…it’s time to get those creative juices flowing and get inspired. Look to places outside the photography industry for inspiration. It will stop you from mimicking your competition. Fashion, architecture, music, fine art, fine food, where ever your muse lies, don’t be afraid to interpret.
Pinterest is a fantastic place to create style boards and have a sneak peek into other creative formulas. My obsession with typography has me following Anna Garforth and Jessica Hische. I swoon for Joy Cho / Oh Joy! for her all around design inspiration, Chloé Douglas for color, and my new favorite Diane Keaton, who’s impeccably unusual and strong sense of style always makes me smile.
Below is an example of an inspiration board created by my client and how we translated it into the branding and an online presence for Studio Diana. This is the kind of vision you should be prepared to give your designer.
Finding A Designer
I recommend hiring a designer, like you would recommend hiring a professional photographer. It is that important. Your first few years in business, while you are getting your feet wet, figuring out your way. You can probably get by with a ready made logo, marketing template, and website. There are some really professional looking ones available through companies like: Design Aglow, ProPhoto, we even offer some through Identity Café.
As soon as you have a foothold in your business, and can stake your creative claim, hire the best designer you can afford. Pinterest is a great resource for finding a designer. Ask for recommendations from other business and studios whose branding you admire. Ask about their experience, as the working relationship with a designer is as important as their ability to churn out great work. They need to be able to listen to you and interpret your brand.
Please, please, please do not go to 99designs with a handful of your favorite identities with instructions to replicate this design. You are not only cheating yourself out of the process of discovering and creating the visual voice of your brand…you are just cheating. A real artist puts in the work, that is who you are, don’t cut corners here. Judy Garland once said
“Always be a first rate version of yourself, instead of a second rate version of somebody else”
Make it Cohesive. Make it Consistent.
Once you choose a design path make sure there is a thread or a few that keeps your brand cohesive and consistent across all mediums. Print, online, advertising, promotion, and sales. Make sure the color, patterns, fonts are all the same or in the range of your brand.
Your brand presence includes: your website, your social mediums (ie, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter), your packaging, your print collateral; business cards, printed price lists, and brochures. Depending on the size of your studio it may also need to be incorporated in your signage, or some of the architecture of your studio. It is important that you work with a designer that can help you see the bigger picture and make sure your branding remains consistent throughout all these different facets of your studio’s visibility. Don’t be afraid to loosen the reins, you can create a cohesive look without choking your brand.
The Last C: Make it Creative.
So, you have your strategy, you have your inspiration boards, you know all the pieces that need to be incorporated. Now it’s time to get creative. This is where the magic happens. The “ah-ha” moment. The spark, that can be realized as your own personal touchpoint or brand.
The creative process, and our ah-ha moment for Mario Masitti Studios, went something like this. Mario, specializes in senior photography, in Denver Colorado. He contacted us, already knowing that he wanted an umbrella brand and a separate identity for his senior and growing kids division. I talked to him about really developing that umbrella brand first and creating a second and tertiary brand for his senior and kids division. Mario’s style is all about play. His phenomenal photography plays second fiddle to his warmth and positive energy. I saw a video of him conducting a photoshoot with one of his senior clients and that was the entire story. The video starts with a shy senior, a bit stiff, after a few minutes she is moving as he directs her, slightly, easily and she moves like she has been modeling her entire life.
We used the alliteration of his name and created a double flower mark logo as the starting point. Where the “M”s intersect is where the magic happens. This is the way I saw him in his photoshoot, interacting and pulling a gorgeous flower out of the shy senior. The visual of his brand supports the soul of his studio and who he is as an artist. We created a typeface for him to continue that story in the most unique way possible. There is no one like Mario Masitti and we wanted to make sure his brand supported this fact.
If you have followed these steps you should arrive at a brand that is unique, because it is you. If it is true and it is you, then it is right. Oscar Wilde said it best,
Be yourself, because everyone else is already taken.