In today’s online world where online presences are everything, effective branding is one of the most important steps in starting a photography business. At face value, branding shows itself in the form of a logo, tagline, consistent color palette, and all of that other marketing stuff. But before you run out and hire someone to design a logo, you need to spend time on your own conceptualizing your brand.
If you’re running in circles and don’t even know where to start, this article is for you. This post will do a brief introduction to branding as well as offer tips for developing your own personal and professional brand.
What is a brand?
According to Wikipedia:
Brand is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers.
Personal Branding is the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group or organization.
In order to come up with these branding components, get started by asking yourself the following questions. Sound a bit like job interview questions? In a way they are! You’re creating and defining your ideal job position, so be very honest and insightful with your answers.
Why is branding for photography important?
Branding is one of the best and only ways for individuals to stand out among the masses. We might think of brands only applying to products and major corporations, but the truth is, individuals and people can be brands too. Thus, you need to visualize yourself as a brand while developing your photography business. Your brand is a visual representation of your personality and professional service and is often both the first and lasting impression that others have of you.
The objective of this post is to help you initiate a self-discovery process to determine what your best qualities are and how they line up with your ideals. You must have a very clear picture of your brand before you create your physical marketing materials, or else you run the risk of wasting time and money by doing the process over again.
1. What are you selling?
The very first step in developing an effective photography brand is to define what you are selling to your prospective client. Don’t just say “photography.” Get really specific. Are you selling corporate photography headshots or intimate wedding portraits? There’s a big difference between how you would sell these two services, and thus the branding for each type of photography is very different. All you have to do is look at a wedding photographer’s website or business card and compare it to that of a corporate photographer. There’s probably a night and day difference.
2. Are you passionate about what you’re selling?
After you define what your photography business is selling, ask yourself if you actually enjoy producing that product or delivering that service. Do you love shooting weddings? If not, don’t strive to be a wedding photographer. It doesn’t matter if you think weddings are the easiest way to make money on photography. If you don’t enjoy it, your displeasure will come across to your client, and there’s nothing worse than leaving your client with a bad experience. Bottom line: don’t make a business doing something you aren’t passionate about. Pursuing professional food photography or concert photography may seem a million times harder than building a wedding photography business, but it’s not impossible if you have passion and skill.
3. What are your core values and how do they drive your business?
When a client is considering hiring you, the certainly evaluate you on skill, but there’s a level of trust that also has to be earned as well. The client wants to know what you believe in and how this will play out during the experience of working with you. Thus, you need to quickly and effectively reassure your client that you are the best person for the job.
Everything comes down to core values. They define your essence as a person and they guide many of your life decisions. While you don’t need to have every single one of your personal core values reflected in your brand, you should pick and choose the most important ones that relate to your business and make sure they come across in your branding elements.
In our example, Photographer Jay is going for a dark, almost sexy look in his branding materials. This might appeal to a corporate client, but it probably won’t convince a bride to hire him to photograph her wedding or kids’ birthday party.
4. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
This honest assessment helps you figure out what you’re best at and what could use some improvement. Identifying your traits will also help you develop a realistic brand promise and services that are in line with what you want to and can do. One good thing to do is to ask friends, family, and even your social networks for feedback on the character traits they already perceive you as having. This will help reaffirm your perceptions of yourself.
As an example, carefully consider the character demands of a corporate photographer versus a wedding photographer. At face value, these two roles are similar in the sense that they both deal with cameras and photos. But aside from that, it takes different personalities and mindsets to effectively run these types of businesses. A corporate photographer must be comfortable working with other professionals such as Art Directors, Public Relations firms, and sometimes even CEOs. On the other hand, a wedding or family photographer works with families and people of all ages, generally in a more intimate setting.
To be clear, some people can easily do multiple types of photography. Most photographers prefer and are naturally drawn to one of these scenarios over another. Consider what type of photo shoot conditions best suit your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t build a photography business on a service you don’t enjoy delivering.
5. Why should you be hired over your competition?
When answering this last question, consider all of the other responses you collected above, paying particular attention to your strengths and passions. What sets you apart from your competitors? Maybe it’s your vast skill set and impressive client list. Or perhaps it’s the fact that you are just in love with the idea of romance and being involved in capturing someone’s treasured moments on the most important day of his or her life. Whatever your answer, turn your passion into words.
Your brand is more than just your logo. Before you design the visual elements of your photography brand, it’s important to do some soul-searching. Figure out what defines your brand, and then put a face to it.
Do you have any photography branding techniques that work well for you? I’d love to hear other opinions. Feel free to comment below or shoot me a message!